Putzi Hanfsteangl whose relationship with Hitler had grown strained, was rumoured to have been o Hitler’s list of targets. Providently, he was in America to take part in the twenty-fifth reunion of his class at Harvard. The invitation to attend had caused an outcry in America, and until the last moment Hanfsteangl had offered no indication as the whether he actually would attend. On the night of June 10 1934, he threw a dinner party, whose timing in retrospect seemed all too convenient given that surely he knew the purge was coming. In midmeal, he stepped from the dining room, disguised himself in a raincoat and sunglasses and left. He took a night train to Cologne, where he climbed into a mail plane that took him directly to Cherbourg, France and there he boarded his ship, the Europe, bound for New York. He brought five suitcases and three crates containing sculptural busts meant as gifts.
The New York City police department, fearing threats to Hanfsteangl from outraged protesters, sent six young officers aboard to guide him from the ship. They were dressed in Harvard Jackets and ties.
On June 30,1934, the day of the purge, Putzi attended the New-port, Rhode Island, wedding of Ellen Tuck French and John Jacob Astor III, said to be the richest bachelor in America. His father had been lost with the Titanic in 1912. A crowd of about a thousand people gathered outside the church to catch a glimpse of the bride and groom and the arriving guests. One of the first “to cause the crowd to gasp with excitement,” wrote a gushing society reporter for the New York Times, was Hanfsteangl, “in a top hat, black coat and striped gray trousers.”
Hanfsteangl knew nothing about events back home until asked about them by reporters. “I have no comment to make,” he said. “I am here to attend the wedding of my friend’s daughter.” Later after learning more details, he stated, “My leader, Adolf Hitler, had to act and he acted thus as always. Hitler has proven himself never greater, never more human, than in the last forty-eight hours.”
Inwardly, however, Hanfsteangl worried about his own safety and that of his wife and son back in Berlin. He sent a discreet inquiry to Foreign Minister Konstatin Neurath.
Putzi Hanfsteangl, assured of his safety by Foreign Minister Neurath, sailed for home. When he arrived at his office he was struck by the sombre, dazed aspect of those around him. They behaved, he wrote, “as if they were chloroformed.
As the NSDAP consolidated its power, several disputes arose between Hanfstaengl and Germany’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. Hanfstaengl was removed from Hitler‘s staff in 1933. He and Helene Elise Adelheid Niemeyer divorced in 1936. Hanfstaengl fell completely out of Hitler’s favour after he was denounced by Unity Mitford, a close friend of both the Hanfstaengls and Hitler.
In 1937, Hanfstaengl received orders to parachute into an area held by the nationalist side of the Spanien Civil War, to assist in negotiations. While on board the plane he feared a plot on his life and learned more details from the pilot about the mission, who eventually admitted he had been ordered to drop Hanfstaengl over republican-held territory, which would have meant almost certain death. The pilot eventually landed on a small airfield after claiming an engine malfunction following a brief talk with Hanfstaengl, which allowed him to escape. He made his way to Switserland and after securing his son Egon’s release from Germany, he moved to Britain where he was imprisoned as an enemy alien after the outbreak of the WWII. He was later moved to a prison camp in Canada. In 1942, Hanfstaengl was turned over to the U.S.
In 1944, Hanfstaengl was handed back to the British, who repatriated him to Germany at the end of the war. Livng in Munich Hanfsteangl died old age 88 on 06-11-1975