The Nazi things in life

This can be of almost zero interest to anyone lacking my own Mitford sisters obsession, but I’m going to forge on and go public with it anyway, as I’ve mentioned this anomaly a couple of times before, but never got round to scanning in the evidence. Anyway … Above is the cover of the 1978 Star paperback edition of Unity Mitford: A Quest by David Pryce-Jones, first published in 1976. Take a look at the black and white head shot of Unity, between the Union and Nazi flags. Here it is in close-up.

Unity Mitford, right? Wrong. Here is the same photo, uncropped, as it appears inside the book. Read the caption.

“The mysterious Erich, nominally a photographer, who perhaps had a watching brief on Unity, waiting with Diana at Nuremberg airport.”

So, had the publishers captioned the photo incorrectly? I think not. This is indeed a photo of Unity’s elder sister Diana Mitford (later Diana Mosley, after she married the British Union of Fascists leader, Oswald). Unity and Diana were the Nazi Mitfords, and often seen and photographed together. Both went to Munich before the war to hang out with Hitler, and attended the first Nuremberg rally, but it was Unity who actually stayed on until war was declared. (That said, Diana and Oswald were married in 1936 the house of the Goebbels, Joseph and Magda, with Hitler in attendance, so they were no slouches in the Nazi department.)

Above is another photo, also featured in this edition, which shows Unity on the left, with her squarer jaw; Diana in the centre, with those piercing eyes; and their oldest sister Nancy, who has a completely different shaped face and didn’t hang around in Germany at all. Unity and Diana do look alike, and do have similarly bobbed hair. But I think the evidence is clear. Look at the picture of Diana above and then compare with the picture of “Unity” on the cover. I say: when you’re publishing a book about one Mitford sister, it’s as well to double check you’ve got the right one on the cover before you send it to the printers.

By the way, this howling error make this book even more dear to me. It’s a forensically fascinating account of the life of the shortest-lived Mitford sister, although Decca is skeptical about some of the author’s conclusions about she and Unity’s poles-apart political destinations because, as she notes, he was born in 1936 and can’t possibly know as they did what a crazy decade the 1930s was.

The publishers changed the cover, anyway, presumably realising their little cock-up. Or perhaps not? This is how the book looks now, and this is definitely Unity, at a Nazi Youth camp in Hesselberg.


3 thoughts on “The Nazi things in life

  1. Great post. Don’t apologise – this is how you find out about new stuff. Now I’m into attractive lady Nazis. I love the sloppiness of the cover pic – usually it’s the photo sections of books that are riddled with typos. Getting a whole photo wrong is an achievement. The dvd of 70s clunker when Time Ran Out has an extras option that outlines the characters. One of them is headlined “Joe Blow”, obviously a placeholder for the copywriter to find out what he was really called. Bet he woke up screaming when he realised he never changed it.

  2. Not quite the same thing but here’s my favourite front cover quote (on a snappily titled computer textbook):

    “…no book like ‘Tomes Of Delphi: Win32 Core API’ can help you understand Windows from the Delphi perspective.”

  3. Well, Diana and Unity did look a lot alike. I’ve got the “Letters Between Six Sisters” book, and it would be hard to tell, sometimes, if they weren’t specifically labeled.

    FWIW I have a paperback copy of “Quartered Safe Out Here” – George Macdonald Fraser’s memoir of his time in Burma in WWII – and my edition has a photo of *American* soldiers in the jungle. Sometimes the people doing the cover art aren’t as on-the-ball as they should be.

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