Hanna Reitsch [29 March 1912 – 24 August 1979] The German WWII test pilot who has been called "The Century’s Greatest Pilot"
While the "Right Stuff" men were still sitting behind conventional engines and looking through the arcs of their propellers, a pilot in Germany was routinely setting records in exotic jet- and rocket-powered aircraft and helping draft the first blueprints for a trip to Mars.
While the Allied air forces were pounding Germany's industrial infrastructure to dust during World War II, Germany turned in desperation to its best test pilot--arguably the most professional and courageous who ever lived--to push aviation technology far beyond anything the Allies ever dreamed of in a last-ditch effort to defeat them.
These are but a few of the incredible exploits of Hanna Reitsch.
Had Hanna Reitsch never lived, a hypothetical screenplay of her adventures would probably be dismissed as being "too far-fetched to be believable".
In the very last days of The Third Reich, when a powerful Russian army was only scant yards from Hitler's Bunker, she landed a bullet-riddled plane [with a freshly wounded comrade, Generaloberst [Colonel-General] Robert Ritter von Greim, writhing in the cockpit] on a shell-cratered Berlin street. She spent three days in the "Führerbunker," leaving not long before the suicide of the Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, successfully taking off from the same street through a hailstorm of heavy Russian gunfire, again swerving around the shell craters.
She surrendered to the Americans in Kitzbühl on 9 May 1945, and later gave testimony to Captain Robert F. Work, Chief Interrogator, regarding the 'Last Days of Hitler'.
Throughout the remainder of her life, Hanna Reitsch remained a controversial figure, tainted by her ties -- both real and suppositious -- to the dead Führer and his henchmen. The circumstances surrounding her 1945 sojourn in Hitler's Berlin Bunker especially haunted her.
In a postscript to a new edition of her memoirs, published shortly before her death from a heart attack in 1979, she wrote that "so-called eyewitness reports ignore the fact that I had been picked for this mission because I was a pilot and trusted friend [of Greim's], and instead call me 'Hitler's girl-friend'....I can only assume that the inventor of these accounts did not realize what the consequences would be for my life. Ever since then I have been accused of many things in connection with the Third Reich".
Hanna Reitsch was interviewed and photographed several times in the early 1970's in Germany by US investigative photo journalist Ron Laytner. At the end of her last interview she told Laytner:
"When I was released by the Americans I read historian Trevor Roper’s book, 'The Last Days of Hitler'. Throughout the book like a red line, runs an eyewitness report by Hanna Reitsch about the Final Days in the Bunker. I never said it. I never wrote it. I never signed it. It was something they invented. Hitler died with total dignity.
"And what have we now in Germany? A land of bankers and car-makers. Even our great army has gone soft. Soldiers wear beards and question orders. I am not ashamed to say I believed in National Socialism. I still wear the Iron Cross with Diamonds Hitler gave me. But today in all Germany you can't find a single person who voted Adolf Hitler into power".
Then she uttered the words that for so long kept her out of the history books:
"Many Germans feel guilty about the war. But they don't explain the real guilt we share - that we lost".
Hanna Reitsch came to flying by an indirect route. Born in Hirschberg, Germany in 1912, she originally pursued a career in medicine, and dreamed of becoming a flying missionary doctor in Africa. Her father was an ophthalmologist and wanted her to be a doctor. Her mother taught her a simple faith in God.
From early on, Hanna Reitsch was an intense, determined and intelligent individual. She became fascinated with flying at a young age, reportedly attempting to jump off the balcony of her home at age 4 in her eagerness to experience flight. Looking back on her childhood, she wrote in her 1955 autobiography "The Sky My Kingdom":
"The longing grew in me, grew with every bird I saw go flying across the azure summer sky, with every cloud that sailed past me on the wind, till it turned to a deep, insistent homesickness, a yearning that went with me everywhere and could never be stilled".
Hanna started with gliders, Her passion for the air soon overtook her interest in medicine, and she left medical school to become a full-time glider pilot,. (Germany had been forbidden to build "war planes" after WWI, which meant that most of the planes constructed in Germany were built without engines). She went on to become an instructor in gliding at the Horngerb in Swabia and also worked as a stunt pilot in films, but she really distinguished herself in competition.
1937 seems to have been a very crowded year -- she test flew the Junkers Ju-87 and Dornier Do-17, both on dive brake trials. That same year she visited the Focke-Wulf facility at Bremento to see the Focke-Achgelis Fa-61, arguably the world's first practical helicopter, the brainchild of Professor Focke, it behaved as a helicopter should. Based on the Fw-44 fuselage the aircraft was fitted with a 160hp [119W] Siemens-Halske Sh 14A tractor engine driving, via a series of gears, two large rotors mounted on outriggers. Karl Franke flew the Fa-61 first and then Hanna was invited to fly it. Franke had some trouble in keeping the helicopter steady, but Hanna got the hang of the rotorcraft almost at once and was soon flying quite steadily.
Impressed by her ability, she was encouraged to make several more flights and soon established initial records for helicopters including altitude, speed, endurance and range. Hitler was keen to show off the proficiency of German technology and plans for something special were made for the 1938 Berlin Motor Show. This was held in the vast Berlin Deutschlandhalle and would most certainly attract the world's press. So it was decided to fly the Fa-61 inside the auditorium.
Hanna Reitsch flew the helicopter nightly for three weeks inside the hall during February 1938 in a variety of maneuvers, from normal take-off and hover to sideways flying and then ascending to the ceiling and slowly descending. At the end of this she would hold the helicopter in the hover and slowly turn through 360 degree ending the performance with the Nazi salute from the cockpit. Certainly, it was an impressive, but foolhardy, circus stunt. The slightest miscalculation or malfunction would result in a crash and in a crowded hall would have claimed several lives, but it gave the Nazis considerable publicity. Once she demonstrated this revolutionary aircraft for Charles Lindbergh. The Luftwaffe gave her the Military Flying Medal for this and accomplishments with other aircraft. She was the first woman to receive it.
In 1939 Reitsch suffered through a three-month bout with scarlet fever, followed by muscular rheumatism. On recovering, she went right back to work, becoming involved in the development of large cargo-, troop- and fuel-carrying gliders. The work was largely abandoned after the 180-foot wingspan Messerschmitt Me-321 'Gigant' crashed and killed the pilots of its three Me-110 tow planes, the Gigant's six-man crew and 110 troops in the glider.
When Germany went to war, she became a test pilot for the Fatherland. She flew missions, as well. In 1940, she brought German troops to the Maginot Line via glider transport.
The British Balloon Barrage in 1940 had notched up a series of fatalities on the German pilots. The barrage balloon was deadly in that it could be flow at heights of 10,000 feet and the cable on which it was attached was very hard to spot when flying. The barrage balloon was a brilliantly simple idea and it was thought that there might be a way to use a simple technology to cut through the cables.
Hans Jacobs designed a cutting device to be fitted to the wind tips of bombers using an arrow shaped fender that it was hoped would cause the cable to slide along the fender in front of the wing and then come up against the wing tip where a special cutting edge had been placed. The fender would act as a deflector and also a protector of the pilot, cockpit, wings and engines. Hanna started with a cable of 2.7 mm in diameter and slowly worked up to 8.9 mm thick cables.
On her first trial she flew straight into the glinting cable and instruments on board the aircraft recorded the impact, allowing adjustments to be made so that each thicker cable type could be dealt with effectively. She suddenly developed scarlet fever and was hospitalised for 3 months. On her recovery the preliminary trials had been completed. The fender was abandoned as the extra weight was sufficient to make the aircraft unsafe if it lost an engine as then it would not have enough power to lift the aircraft correctly. The final tests were an expensive drain. Each one needed a new balloon and when balloons were free floating they quickly became a hazard to pilots and electricity power lines.
Ernst Udet arrived at the airfield with Hitler just as Hanna was about to attack a balloon cable from a genuine British Balloon captured by the Germans after it had drifted from it base.
She had to fly very low into the 5.6 mm cable in her twin-engined Dornier. She hit the cable and the strands exploded shaving off the lower edge of two propeller blades the result was the engine tore loose and she began to lose height rapidly from the unbalanced power of the aircraft. She landed safely and in March 1941 was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class and a military gold medal in recognition of her aviation services in wartime. the first such award to a woman and a civilian.
She became the twenty-fifth pilot and first woman to earn the Silver Soaring Medal [for a cross-country flight of fifty kilometers], setting the women's world record for non-stop gliding in 1931, [a record she more than doubled in 1933], the women's world record for point-to-point gliding in 1939, the women's record for non-stop distance flight in 1936, and the women's altitude record in 1934, and was invited by professor Walter Georgi to give up medical studies and become a test pilot at the Darmstadt Gliding Insititute. The Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Segelflug (DFS) was considered the top research establishment for motorless flight not just in Germany but throughout the world. In 1935 she carried out tests on Kranich and See Adler gliders designed by Hans Jacobs. It was at this time that Germany began to produce 200 aircraft per month notably the Messerschmitt fighters, Junkers, Dornier and Heinkel bombers. The infamous Stuka dive-bombers were being rapidly developed. In 1936 she was doing dive-brake tests in gliders and took part in the famous Berlin Olympics. 1937 saw her seconded to Rechlin where she tested dive brakes on Stukas.
She was the first person to cross the Alps in a glider in 1937. In 1938, she won the German long-distance gliding championships. and set the Women's World Record for distance and the Women's World Altitude record for gliders.
Holders of the Combined Pilot-Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds
Marschall Ion Antonnescu [Romania] Luftmarschall Italo Balbo [Italy] Oberstleutnant Werner Baumbach General Oberst von Brauchitsch General der Flieger Friedrich Christian Christiansen Großadmiral Karl Dönitz Generalissimo Francisco Franco [Spain] Generalleutnant Adolf Galland Generalfeldmarschall Robert Ritter von Greim Generalmajor Martin Harlinghausen Hauptmann Erich Hartmann RFSS Heinrich Himmler General der Flieger Günther Korten Generaloberst Alexander Löhr Feldmarschall Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim [Finland]Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch Oberst Werner Mölders Benito Mussolini (Italy) Generalmajor Dietrich Peltz Flugkapitän Hanna Reitsch Generalfeldmarschall Wolfram von Richthofen Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Sperrle Generaloberst Kurt Student
She flew in South America, Finland, Portugal, and in the U.S. at the National Air races at Cleveland, Ohio in 1938. By this time she had moved to powered flight.
When Hanna met Heinrich Himmler, she, still a believer in God, found that Himmler was not.
Hearing rumors that the Nazis were exterminating Jews, she confronted Heinrich Himmler with that. He made her believe he was as outraged as she was that the Allies would spread such Propaganda.
It must be remembered that the gassing accusation was never raised officially or seriously during the war by the Allies. Seriously and officially Germany was only accused, during the war, of having murdered ten thousand Polish officers in Katyn; a charge that was only withdrawn in the light of Gorbachev’s "Glasnost". The gassing charges were only accepted unanimously after the war. During the war, they only appeared sporadically in small newspapers and obscure brochures.
The following extract is from "The Sky, My Kingdom", by Hanna Reitsch:
"That is the rope by which they will hang us in case of defeat".
As a consequence Himmler refuted the accusation, posting inserts in various large newspapers in neutral countries.
In Nazi Germany Hanna Reitsch was a role-model, her earlier fame had by then spread beyond national boundaries, and in 1937, General Ernst Udet appointed her as a civilian flight captain and test pilot at the Luftwaffe. the Luftwaffe test center at Rechlin. This was not an officially published appointment, but a private gesture from Udet. It meant that she could fly only under the direction of Karl Franke, the chief test pilot at Rechlin, largely because her background experience did not justify her appointment. She had been, after all, promoted to the role by Nazi propaganda and it has to be admitted that she reveled in the 'star' treatment afforded her. She was thrilled; to her, the Luftwaffe were "guardians of the portals of peace." Her skill and dedication made her a powerful symbol for the Reich. The Luftwaffe made full use of her talents.
The Me 163 'Komet'
Wolfgang Späte was a respected and decorated fighter pilot, commander of V/JG54, pulled out of the front line fighting on the Russian front in 1941, and selected by no lesser person than Adolf Galland as the first commander of Operational Test Unit 16, and tasked with transforming the Me-163 from little more than a prototype concept aircraft that few believed in, into the worlds first rocket propelled fighter.
This highly dangerous machine that was a cross between a sheer rocket powered adrenaline rush, and a glider. The prime requisite established very early on in the test programme was that the test pilots all had to have glider experience. This small cadre featured several well known glider champions from the immediate pre-war period. Späte and his little band of pioneers, worked closely with other names such as Walter Horten and Alexander Lippisch - the 163s designer - from delivery problems with the Walter rocket engines to interference from higher authorities, keen to kill the project and use the resources on better things like ‘ordinary’ fighter production.
Even Hanna Reitsch, the famed test pilot came and flew the DFS-194, but later came up against Späte who forbade her from flying the Me-163B as very few complete aircraft were available, and he did not want her wrecking one of his highly precious development airframes and causing further setbacks with the programme. Reitsch, whom Späte regarded as a "prima-donna" went and whined to those in very high authority in an attempt to have Späte thrown out on his ear, and to get her a joyride in this new machine. Späte won the day.
The turns of war meant that the programme was moved to Peenemünde, where the development work was already being done on the V1 and V2, but which at that time was unknown to the Allies and therefore development work could continue unaffected by air raids, a situation which did not last.
The OTU16 team took a raw design and moulded it into a formidable fighting machine – fighting all the time against bureaucracy, political enemies and the Allies, as well as interference from the SS. As their immense effort and sacrifice was finally beginning to pay dividends and the 163 was finally entering service as an operational machine with KG 400, they saw the programme virtually rolled up overnight, despite their pleas and protestations, in favour of the admittedly superior Me-262, which was the favoured child of Messerschmitt right from the very beginning.
When Späte watched the landing of the US Space Shuttle, a glider of tailless configuration, he felt a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that all the hard work and effort he and his team put into the 163 had finally made a lasting contribution to aviation. Here was a combat veteran with some 72 confirmed and as many as another 20 unconfirmed aerial kills to his credit, who did his duty as an officer and a gentleman for his country in war, yet the developments they pioneered have had a lasting effect even now sixty years later in peace.
The fastest and most dangerous plane, Reitsch tested was the top secret German rocket plane, after three male pilots had died in their attempts. First she flew the prototype without the motor, the Me 163A. Then she flew the militarized version, the Me 163B, Komet. [This experimental interceptor, in a minute and a half after takeoff climbed at a 65-degree angle to 30,000 feet. It traveled 500 mph -- the fastest any human had ever gone]. Reitsch launched behind a tow plane at Regensburg, and the takeoff gear failed to drop away from her aircraft. The little fighter was supposed to land on a tough skid in its belly, but now the heavy axle with outsized wheels hung canted to one side beneath the fuselage. The plane vibrated alarmingly and was very heavy on the controls. Flares from the airfield alerted Reitsch that she indeed had an emergency. Radios of the time were heavy, unreliable devices, and Reitsch couldn't get hers to work. She had no way of contacting either the ground or the towplane. With no communications, the despairing tow plane pilot grimly pulled her up to 3,000 meters altitude, and Reitsch cut loose.
Built with swept wings for a rocket-blast climb to altitude and a near-sonic glide attack on Allied bomber formations, the Komet was fast. With its heavy landing gear still attached, it was even faster. It dropped like an anvil with wings. "Bale out?" Unthinkable. The Me-163 was too new, too advanced for such a waste. So at great risk and without the foggiest guess about how the landing gear had configured itself in the airstream, Reitsch attempted a landing. Hanna managed to land it in a plowed field, but the plane flipped. In the sliding, smashing, grinding mass of twisting, tearing metal and breaking glass, Reitsch's face catapulted into the instrument panel. Finally, everything stopped. There was no fuel aboard, or the little Komet surely would have burned and exploded. Astounded to be alive and upright in the wreckage, Reitsch tried to get out. The canopy was jammed, so all she could do now would be wait for the rescue crew to arrive. She killed time until the ambulance and fire truck could get to her by sketching and labeling the details of her accident. Shifting the clipboard to avoid more blood splashes from her face, she noticed a rubbery object in her lap and picked it up. It was her nose. At the hospital, doctors discovered that Reitsch had fractured her skull in six places. She'd smashed the bones of her detached nose irretrievably and displaced her upper jawbone. She'd broken several vertebrae and bruised her brain severely. She nearly died. It took Regensburg Surgeon Doctor Bodewig five months of plastic surgery and neurosurgery to repair the Führer's most valuable aviator. It took Reitsch's own iron will five more months to rip her free of physical weakness and mental despair.
As he awarded Reitsch the Iron Cross of the Knight's Cross, First Class, the only woman to receive this medal, Adolf Hitler himself forbade her ever again to attempt such a foolhardy feat.
"When she went to receive her Iron Cross, first class from Hitler he raved about the new miracle weapons, but she knew very well what developmental stage they were in and said, 'But my Führer, you are talking about the grandchildren of an embryo!' After that she was told that was the last time she had been summoned to see the Führer. He didn't take it well and she told me so".
-- Helmut Heuberger [Hanna's cousin]
She tested the prototypes of the V-1, in 1944. The first powered flight only went a kilometer, and the early prototypes showed a distressing tendency to crash. To resolve these problems, a piloted flying bomb was developed, with the warhead replaced by a cockpit in which a test pilot could fly the machine while lying prone. Test flights were performed with the tiny and daring female test pilot Hanna Reitsch at the controls, and helped resolve the problems.
Soon her faith began to shift from God to the Fatherland. Her faith changed from humble acceptance of God's blessings to a perverted patriotism in support of the Nazi cause. This shift of allegiance led Hanna, in the waning days of the Third Reich, to call for suicide missions against the Allies.
Reitsch had been dreaming of a suicide force attack on the Allied invasion fleet, "piloted by healthy young men who believe that through their deaths, thousands of soldiers and civilians can be saved". She was thinking in terms of one thousand volunteers. Hanna Reitsch was able to fulfill this dream (at least in part) due to the ranking status of her lover, General von Greim, commander of Luftflotte 6. Von Greim was the first man to ever take the Führer up in a plane, and the oldest living fighter pilot. The Führer secretly wanted to make von Greim head of the Reich's air force. This would have replaced Göring and quite possible saved Germany from defeat. The Führer, fatefully, felt too close to Göring from the early years of the struggle, so von Greim was promoted to "Deputy Commander in Chief" on 21 September 1944 and warned by the Führer of Göring's manifold "sins".
On 28 February 1944, Reitsch took the project to Herr Hitler at the Berghof. Hitler was skeptical of the idea, believing that such a squadron would not be an effective use of Germany's limited resources. "It is not in keeping with German character," he told her, but the delicate blonde's enthusiasm finally won him over; he agreed to investigate the possibility. Reitsch promptly formed a Suicide Group, and was herself the first person to take the pledge:
"I hereby...voluntarily apply to be enrolled in the suicide group as a pilot of a human glider-bomb. I fully understand that employment in this capacity will entail my own death".
Hanna test-flew the most likely candidate, a piloted V-1 bomb.
Himmler wanted to use condemned criminals for the project, although this was never done. An aviator doctor at Rechlin was asked to investigate how close to a suicide a man could go and still function properly. At the top Luftwaffe level, Hanna Reitsch found little support, but General Günther Korten did instruct Colonel Heigl of KG 200 [Special Weapons Squadron] to take the project up. Reichsmarschall Göring, however, showed no enthusiasm.
Criticizing the spirit with which the Reichsmarschall had imbued the Luftwaffe, Reitsch later said: "We needed strong leadership. Leadership, tempered with an idealism to match our own."
Göring chose such people to fill positions around him as mirrored his own personality; men who were self-centered, incompetent and accommodating. It was men like these who influenced the spirit and manner of the Luftwaffe. Often they possessed not the slightest knowledge of technical understanding of their jobs and held them only because they were friendly, congenial or hero-worshippers of Göring.
Among these were Oberst Ulrich Diesling, Generalmajor Dietrich Peltz, Generalmajor Walter Storp.
Come 6 June 1944, and the Allied invasion of Normandy. Göring recalled Hanna Reitsch and her suicide squadron. Colonel Heinz Heigl of KG 200 proposed using souped up FW 190 fighter bombers: each could carry as much as a 1,800 or 1,400 - kilo armor-piercing bomb, since no fuel for return was needed, to crash into the hulls of aircraft carriers.
Heigl's squadron had at that time thirty-nine volunteers to carry out what was referred to as "total operation". Himmler and Göring, however, intervened to ask the Führer to forbid the mission.
Shortly after Lieutenant Colonel Werner Baumbach replaced Heigl at KG 200, and the FW 190 plan was quietly shelved.
Adolf Galland eventually told his men: "If you're going close enough to ram [a bomber] anyway, you can shoot them down and have a fifty-fifty chance of coming down alive".
By late 1944 a spirit of self-sacrifice was being imbued in the German pilots. On November 8 Colonel Galland was heard issuing order 2159 to his squadron commanders, creating an elite shock of troops within the fighter force: "The Reichsmarschall has ordered the setting up for a Sturm Staffel (Storm Unit). It is to scatter the enemy bombers using heavily armored fighters in level, close formation attack, pressed home to point blank range".
Galland continued, quoting Göring's order: "Once initiated, the attack by storm units will be carried right to the heart of the enemy without regard to losses".
Galland asked for volunteers: "Pilots who are absolutely determined to take their opponent down with them rather than land without a victory".
By April 1945, the Luftwaffe was under pressure from every side. Göring then made the decision to authorize suicide missions.
The Luftwaffe formed an ‘Elbe Special Commando’ air unit, Volunteer pilots would ram the remaining ME 109's into Allied bombers. Göring's orders read out secretly to all pilots who had completed fighter training:
"The fateful struggle for the Reich, our people, and our native soil is at its climax. Virtually the whole world is fighting against us and is resolving to destroy us and, in blind hatred, to exterminate us. With our last and utmost strength we are standing up to this menacing onslaught. Now as ever before as in the history of the German fatherland we are threatened with final annihilation from which there can be no revival. The danger can be arrested only by the utmost preparedness of the Supreme German warrior spirit. Therefore I turn to you at this decisive moment. By consciously staking your own lives, save the nation from extinction! I summon you for an operation from which you will have only the slenderest chance of returning. Those of you who respond will be sent back at once for pilot training. Comrades, you will take the place of honor beside your most glorious Luftwaffe warriors. In the hour of supreme danger, you will give the while German people hope of victory, and set an example for all time".
The first mission was code named "Werwolf" and the Führer gave the go ahead. Several hundred volunteers were given ten days of ideological training at Stendal, and on 4 April 1945, General Pelz, whose IV Air Corps would control the mission, reported all ready for "Werewolf". For psychological reasons, Pelz told the Luftwaffe high command: "We should not delay too long with the actual operation".
Three days later, "Werewolf" was executed. 183 fighters, the bulk of them Me Bf 109G, challenged some 1,300 American bombers, accompanied by about 850 fighters. They were headed for Desau along the Elbe River. The German suicide unit engaged the Allied formations at 11.45 a.m. over Steinhude, near Hannover and the aerial duel lasted 45 minutes. Astonished Allied radio monitors heard patriotic marches flooding the fighter-control wavelengths and a female choir singing the German national anthem, while anonymous voices exhorted these 180 pilots to die now for the Führer and for Germany. Seventy of them did. Only 15 ‘Elbe Special Commando’ planes survived. Only a few smashed into the enemy bombers but most were shot down. The suicide unit was moved to a base near Passau in southern Germany but all planes were later destroyed by the Allied bombings.
Göbbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, makes several diary entries about the suicide pilots. On 4 April 1945 he mentions the attempted use of "suicide fighters" but suggests that inclement weather apparently worked against a favourable outcome.
Four days later Göbbels wrote:
"Yesterday . . . our fighters conducted crash attacks on enemy bombers. Results are yet to be confirmed but it seems that the attack did not meet our expectation. However . . . we should not give up".
Göbbels it seems was adopting a wait-and-see attitude regarding the idea of suicide units. In his diary entry he notes with dismay the lack of success of Germany’s suicide volunteers in their contact with American heavy bombers and fighters and explains the failure, saying that the US planes did not fly in a tight formation, making the German pilots engage the enemy individually. Moreover, the resulting heavy counter-fire was so devastating to the German attackers that only in a few cases were they able to ram the US bombers.
At 5:00 am. 16 April 1945, the final Soviet push across the Oder began. Sixty more suicide pilots crash-bombed their planes into the Oder bridges in a desperate attempt to save Berlin. There is no way of telling if Colonel Heigl's "total operation" would have stopped the Allied invasion, had it not been shelved, Germany may have had the time to have completed their "jet" and "laser" projects. Projects that, if completed, would have won the war for Germany.
Hanna ended up undertaking a dangerous flight to Hitler's Bunker in Berlin. Since November 1943, Reitsch had been stationed along the Eastern front in Russia, with General Robert Ritter von Greim. On 26 April 1945 they flew to Berlin, where Greim was supposed to take command of the Luftwaffe. Their plane was hit by Soviet anti-aircraft fire. Greim was badly wounded and Hanna landed the plane. They stayed in Berlin for 3 days, as Hitler's guests.
During her internment by the American Army, Reitsch testified to the "disintegration" of Hitler's personality in the last days of the war. Hitler in the presence of Reitsch was heard denouncing the treachery of Hermann Göring, the Luftwaffe Commander-in-Chief. This concerned a message received from Göring about taking over the Reich leadership from Hitler. Reitsch recorded Hitler’s remarks when she was interrogated by the US Army, on 8 October 1945. According to her testimony Hitler said at the time: "Now nothing remains. Nothing is spared to me. No allegiances are kept, no honour lived up to, no disappointments that I have not had, no betrayals that I have not experienced – and now this above all else. Nothing remains. Every wrong has already been done me".
That same night Hitler summoned Hanna Reitsch and handed her a vial of poison. According to her interrogation, Hitler said: 'Hanna, you belong to those who will die with me. Each of us has a vial of poison such as this. I do not wish that one of us falls into the hands of the Russians alive, nor do I wish our bodies to be found by them". [Earlier Hitler had told his top generals and Albert Speer, his Armaments Minister, that he intended to shoot himself in his Bunker to avoid falling into enemy hands]. At another Hitler–Reitsch encounter, Hitler said reassuringly, if her report is to be believed: "But, my Hanna, I still have hope". Hitler’s hope rested with the future success of his forces to the south and east of Berlin. Reitsch describes Hitler waving a road map that was fast coming to pieces from the sweat of his hands.
Meanwhile, on the field of battle Hitler’s forces were denied any success by swiftly advancing Allied armies. On 29 April Hitler ordered Reitsch to fly out of Berlin immediately with Greim and arrest Heinrich Himmler whom he accused of treachery. In addition, Reitsch was to carry Hitler’s orders to organize new bombing raids against the Allies. Reitsch protested, at first. She wanted to be allowed to die with her Führer. In the end, though, she and Greim did as they were told, escaping Berlin just as the Russian noose tightened around it. They made it to Admiral Karl Dönitz's headquarters, but both of them were eventually captured by the Allied forces.
Hanna survived the war, but she found herself somewhat alone. Greim had committed suicide, the swallowing poison on 25 May 1945, obviously preferring an early death, rather than submit to the victors torture tactics for information, and possible death at their hands. Her father had killed her mother, her sister, and her sister's children. Then he turned the rifle on himself. She happened to meet the famous film maker, Leni Riefenstahl, in a cemetery soon after the war, but the two never met again. Hanna was doggedly unrepentant.
She wore her Iron Crosses proudly and wrote her memoirs, "Fliegen, mein Leben" , which were translated in 1954 as "Flying is My Life". In this book she presents herself as a patriot, and makes no moral judgments about Hitler and Nazi Germany. Some call it "an exercise in selective memory, rationalization, and denial".
Was she a Nazi to the end, or just a proud woman? We don't know.
In later writings Reitsch sought to explain her activities as a loyal member of the Nazi regime. She has described in a memoir what she calls "my offence":
"I was a German, well known as an aviator and as one who cherished an ardent love of her country and had done her duty to the last. Legends formed about my last flight into Berlin. Might I not perhaps have hidden Hitler away somewhere?"
Because Hitler’s body was never seen by the allies it was widely believed for years that Hanna Reitsch flew out of Berlin with Hitler or his secretary Martin Bormann.
Although she may ultimately have been disillusioned by Nazism, Reitsch never lost her love of the skies. She continued to fly and was generous in helping other women pilots from other countries. She set dozens of world records, and participated in a number of competitions. She was often the only woman competin
In 1953 Hanna won the bronze medal in the International Gliding Championships in Madrid, Spain. In 1957 she set two women's altitude records for gliders. She also continued to work as a research pilot. In 1959, she traveled to India, where she became friends with Indira Ghandi and Prime Minister Nehrum, whom she took on a glider flight over New Delhi. In 1962, she founded the National School of Gliding in Ghana, where she stayed until 1966. Always drawn to people in power, she was friends with Ghana's president, Kwame Nkrumah and flew for him until he was deposed in 1966. She reported these experiences in a 1968 book, "Ich Flog für Kwame Nkrumah".
She was accepted as a member of the American Test Pilots’ Association and was received by President John Kennedy in the White House in 1961. A photo shows her standing near Kennedy, not wearing her self-designed uniform but a dress and carrying a woman's handbag.
She spent her last years quietly. The darling of Nazi Germany was a post-war outcast. Germans who adored her later shunned her.
She never married, saying her man died in the war.
"But there are millions in Germany who love me. It is only the German press which has been told to hate me. It is Propaganda helped by the government. Germans have not been allowed to write about me since 1945. They are afraid I might say something good about Adolf Hitler.
"But why not? Because of Hitler we Germans were the pioneers of space travel, ahead of our time, ahead of the world. The first space rockets were copies of our V2 bombs which climbed 50 miles up. After the war my dear friend Wernher von Braun helped the Americans. He was brilliant with the V2 rocket and the father of all space travel and satellites.
"I am surprised I am still alive. So many of my friends were killed. Ten of us test flew the VI rocket. Five were killed and three severely injured.
"The V1 was built to fly as a robot controlled by an early auto-pilot – something else we designed. It was almost impossible to fly with fins or wings just three feet long. But I flew it ten times.
"Catapulted from a sled, it produced more than 24 G’s acceleration force, enough to burst body organs as we learned from experiments and dead pilots.
"In 1965 they made a movie in England called "Operation Crossbow" with Sophia Loren playing me. They pictured me flying off a catapult in the film. It was all technically wrong and made without my permission.
"For our tests the bomb was attached under the left wing of a Heinkel 111 bomber and we were dropped at high altitudes. The Americans copied us years after with their X15 Rocket Plane, even tracking me to Africa and asking for technical advice.
"The bomb was complex to fly and had just so much time available in the air. We used an early on-board computer, another German invention, plotting the power of the pulse jet engine, weight of explosive cargo, wind factor and remaining fuel.
"The VI handled like a piano. It wasn’t designed to be landed, but to fall as a bomb. Only my training as a glider pilot kept me alive.
"We landed at a military test base north of Berlin on Germany’s longest runway at over 100 miles an hour just a few feet off the ground on a tiny metal skid.
"Later when the Americans invaded Germany we fled our launch pads at Peenemünde and began dropping VI’s from bombers, just as I had tested them".
At the age of 65, the year before she died, she set a new women's distance record in a glider. Hanna died of a massive heart attack in 1979 at age 67. As she wished, she was buried near her family in Salzburg, Austria. So ends the sad story of a heroine of the Third Reich.
Her 67-year-old body bore faded scars of long-ago plane crashes. Her mind held memories of Adolf Hitler and her heart still carried Nazi pride which kept her out of history.
If this tiny woman had died 40 years earlier hundreds of Londoners killed by Nazi buzz bombs might still be alive. Scores of dead Allied airmen shot down by well-designed German fighter planes could be playing with their great grand-children. The jet age would have taken longer to arrive. And man might still be striving to walk on the moon.
She began by wanting to be a flying missionary but laws kept her from flying airplanes and she began in gliders, winning dozens of competitions and attracting the attention of Hitler.
She soon became Nazi Germany’s ideal woman, young and vivacious, daring and highly publicized by the Nazi propaganda machine.
If she hadn’t been on the losing side and if she had been later willing to admit the horrors of the Nazi regime, Hanna Reitsch would be honored in history books as the greatest woman pilot.
She was probably the mother of Women’s Liberation, having bested men in every flying competition. She was photographed rarely after the war and she is mentioned more than 60,000 times on the Internet.
At a time when women were expected to stay in the kitchen, she was one of the world’s top glider pilots. She held 40 world aviation records; was the first to cross the Alps in a glider, first to fly a helicopter and first to fly a jet plane. She was the first woman awarded the Iron Cross and was the world’s first woman test pilot.
History records she flew into a burning Berlin at night in the last days of the war and landed a small plane safely on a street full of firing Russian tanks. A direct hit on her plane mangled the foot of the pilot, Ritter von Greim, who had been summoned by Adolf Hitler.
Hanna stayed three days in the Hitler underground Bunker then flew the last plane out of Berlin before it fell to the Russians. Her eye-witness account of the last days of Hitler are an important part of history and her flights in the VI rocket are a first chapter in space travel.
The British interrogation centre at Bad Nenndorf, formally known as No. 74 Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre Western European Area [CSDIC WEA] where Hanna Reitsch was interrogated under American supervision
COPY OF DOCUMENT 3734-PS 8 October 1945 Summary of Interrogation of Hanna Reitsch THE LAST DAYS IN HITLER'S AIR RAID SHELTER
Name: Fräulein Hanna Reitsch Rank: Flugkapitän [Captain of the Air -- Honorary title given for outstanding aeronautical achievement] Date of birth: 29 March 1912 Marital Status: Single Occupation: Test-pilot and aeronautical research expert Citizenship: German. Address: Leopolds Krone Castle, Salzburg, Austria Political Status: Non-party member Decorations: Iron Cross first class
This report is the story of the last days of the War as they were experienced by Hanna Reitsch, the well known German test-pilot and aeronautical research expert. Her story does not pretend to add any sensational details to what is already known of those days; it is rather an eye-witness account of what actually happened in the highest places during the last moments of the War.
Her account of the flight into Berlin to report to Hitler and of her stay in the Führer's Bunker is probably as accurate a one as will be obtained of those last days, although the "is he dead or is he not dead" fate of Hitler is only answered to the extent of describing the mental state and the hopelessness of the last-minute situation, from which individual opinions must be drawn. Her own opinion is that the tactical situation and Hitler's own physical conditions made any thoughts of his escape inconceivable.
Her story is remarkable only in that she played a small part in the events of the War's end and that she had personal contact with the top-bracket Nazis as that end descended upon then. It is also of interest as it is likely that Reitsch is one of the last, if not the very last person who got out of the shelter alive. Her information is evaluated as reliable and it is possible that her story may throw some light or perhaps serve as an aid to a fuller knowledge of what happened during the last days of Berlin and of the War.
At times she is not certain as to names and specific times. Names escape her. In many cases the contacts herein related were quite limited inasmuch as they have to do only with the last few days. Her times may be inaccurate as the events of those days followed each other with such tumult that she is often unable to remember the proper sequence of events.
It will be noted that much of the report concerns itself with the Nazi and German interpretation of "honor". Reitsch herself, in answering queries, carefully weighs the "honor" aspects of every remark and then gives her answers carefully but truthfully. The use of the word amounts practically to a fetish complex with the source and is almost an incongruous embodiment of her entire philosophy. Her constant repetition of the word is in no manner as obvious to her as it is to the interrogator, nor is the meaning the same, nor does she recognize the incongruous use she makes of the word. Therefore, each time "honor" appears it is apologetically submitted in quotations.
She tells her story in conversational form, and although it is, in part, reproduced in that manner here, no pretence is made that the quotations are in all cases exact; they are simply given as she remembers them. If it is kept in mind then that this material is a statement of her own opinions and observations, the information may be considered as completely reliable.
The Trip to Berlin:
Hitler had sent a telegram to Munich on 24 April  to Lieutenant General Ritter von Greim, instructing him to report to the Reichschancellery on a highly urgent matter. The problem of getting into Berlin was then already a very precarious one, as the Russians had practically encircled the city. Greim however, decided that by availing himself of Hanna Reitsch as pilot, the entrance might be accomplished by means of an autogiro, which could land on the streets or in the gardens of the Reichschancellery.
During the night of the 25 to 26 April Reitsch and Greim arrived at Rechlin, prepared immediately to fly into Berlin. As however, the only available autogiro had been damaged that day, it was decided that a Feldwebel pilot, who had taken Albert Speer to the Führer two days before. should fly Greim in because of the experience the previous flight had given him. Some sense of responsibility to Greim, as his personal pilot and friend, made Reitsch beg to be taken along. A Focke-Wolf 190 was to be used, which had a pig-a-back space for one passenger arranged behind the pilot's seat. Reitsch was stuffed into the tail through a small emergency opening.
Forty fighters were taken to fly cover.
Almost immediately upon take-off they were engaged by Russian aircraft. A running, hedgehopping flight got them to the Gatow airfield, the only Berlin field still in German hands. Their own craft got through with nothing more than a few wing shots but the cost was heavy to the supporting fighters.
The landing at Gatow was made through further heavy attacks by Russian fighters who were strafing the field when they, arrived. What was left of the German planes engaged the Russians while the Greim craft made a successful landing. Immediately attempts were made to phone the Chancellery but as all the lines were out, it was decided to fly an available Fieseler Storch for the remaining distance and land within walking distance of Hitler's shelter.
With Greim at the controls and Reitsch as passenger, the plane took off under a whirling cover of German-Russian dog-fights. At a height of a few meters Greim managed to get away from the field and continue at tree-top level toward the Brandenburger Tor. Street fighting was going on below them and countless Russian aircraft were in the air. After a few minutes of flight, heavy fire tore out the bottom of the plane and severely injured Greim's right leg. By reaching over his shoulders, Reitsch took control of the craft and by dodging and squirming closely along the ground, brought the plane down on the East-West axis. Heavy Russian artillery and small-arm fire was sheeting the area with shrapnel as they landed. A passing vehicle was commandeered to take them to Hitler's shelter, with Greim receiving first aid for his shattered foot on the way.
Arrival at Hitler's Shelter:
Greim and Reitsch arrived in the Bunker between 6 and 7 o'clock on the evening of the 26 April. First to meet them was Frau Göbbels, who fell upon Reitsch with tears and kisses, expressing her astonishment that anyone still possessed the courage and loyalty to come to the Führer, in stark contrast to all those who had deserted him. Greim was immediately taken to the operation room where Hitler's physician tended the injured foot.
Hitler came into the sick room, according to Reitsch, with his face showing deep gratitude over Greim's coming. He remarked something to the effect that even a soldier has the right to disobey an order when everything indicates that to carry it out would be futile and hopeless. Greim then reported his presence in the official manner. Hitler's Denunciation of Göring
Hitler: "Do you know why I have called you?"
Greim: "No, mein Führer".
Hitler: "Because Hermann Göring has betrayed and deserted both me and his Fatherland. Behind my back he has established connections with the enemy. His action was a mark of cowardice. And against my orders he has gone to save himself at Berchtesgaden. From there he sent me a disrespectful telegram. He said that I had once named him as my successor and that now, as I was no longer able to rule from Berlin he was prepared to rule from Berchtesgaden in my place. He closes the wire by stating that if he had no answer from me by nine-thirty on the date of the wire he would assume my answer to be in the affirmative".
The scene Reitsch describes as "touchingly dramatic," that there were tears in the Führer's eyes as he told them of Göring's treachery, that his head sagged, that his face was deathly pallid, and that the uncontrolled shaking of his hands made the message flutter wildly as he handed it to Greim. The Führer's face remained deathly earnest as Greim read. Then every muscle in it began to twitch and his breath came in explosive puffs; only with effort did he gain sufficient control to actually shout: "An ultimatum!! A crass ultimatum!! Now nothing remains. Nothing spared me. No allegiances are kept, no honor lived up to, no disappointments that I have not had, no betrayals that I have not experienced, and now this above all else. Nothing remains. Every wrong has already been done me".
As Reitsch explains it, the scene was in the typical "et tu Brute" manner, full of remorse and self-pity. It was long before he could gather sufficient control to continue.
With eyes hard and half-closed and in a voice unusually low he went on: "I immediately had Göring arrested as a traitor to the Reich, took from him all his offices, and removed him from all organizations. That is why I have called you to me. I hereby declare you Göring's successor as OberbefehIshaber der Luftwaffe. In the name of the German people I give you my hand".
"To Die For the 'Honor' of the Luftwaffe"
Greim and Reitsch were deeply stunned with the news of Göring's betrayal. As with one mind they both grasped Hitler's hands and begged to be allowed to remain in the Bunker, and with their own lives atone for the great wrong that Göring had perpetrated against the Führer, against the German people, and against the Luftwaffe itself. To save the "honor" of the flyers who had died, to reestablish the "honor" of the Luftwaffe that Göring had destroyed, and to guarantee the "honor" of their land in the eyes of the world, they begged to remain. Hitler agreed to all of this and told them they might stay and told them too that their decision would long be remembered in the history of the Luftwaffe.
It had been previously arranged with operations at Rechlin that an aircraft was to come in the next day to take Greim and Reitsch out of Berlin. Now that they decided to stay it was impossible to get the information out. Rechlin, in the meantime, was sending plane after plane, each shot down in turn by the Russians. Finally on 27 April a JU 52, loaded with SS guards and ammunition, managed to land on the East-West traffic axis, but because Reitsch and Greim had intended to stay, was sent back empty.
Hitler Sees the Cause As Lost
Later that first evening Hitler called Reitsch to him in his room. She remembers that his face was deeply lined and that there was a constant film of moisture in his eyes. In a very small voice he said, "Hanna, You belong to those who will die with me. Each of us has a vial of poison such as this," with which he handed her one for herself and one for Greim. "I do not wish that one of us falls to the Russians alive, nor do I wish our bodies to be found by them. Each person is responsible for destroying his body so that nothing recognizable remains. Eva and I will have our bodies burned. You will devise your own method. Will you please so inform von Greim? "
Reitsch sank to a chair in tears, not, she claims, over the certainty of her own end but because for the first time she knew that the Führer saw the cause as lost. Through the sobs she said: "Mein Führer, why do you stay? Why do you deprive Germany of your life? When the news was released that you would remain in Berlin to the last, the people were amazed with horror. 'The Führer must live so that Germany can live,' the people said. Save yourself, Mein Führer, that is the will of every. German".
Hitler: "No Hanna, if I die it is for the 'honor' of our country, it is because as a soldier, I must obey my own command that I would defend Berlin to the last. My dear girl, I did not intend it so, I believed firmly that Berlin would be saved at the banks of the Oder. Everything we had was moved to hold that position. You may believe that when our best efforts failed, I was the most horror-struck of all. Then when the encirclement of the city began the knowledge that there were three million of my countrymen still in Berlin made it necessary that I stay to defend them. By staying I believed that all the troops of the land would take example through my act and come to the rescue of the city. I hoped that they would rise to super-human efforts to save me and thereby save my three million countrymen. But, my Hanna, I still have hope. The army of General Wenck is moving up from the South. He must and will drive the Russians back long enough to save our people. Then we will fall back to hold again".
It appeared almost as if he believed this himself and as the conversation closed he was walking about the room with quick, stumbling strides, his hand clasped behind him and his head bobbing up and down as he walked. Although his words spoke of hope, Hanna claims that his face showed that the War was over.
Hanna returned to Greim's bedside, handed him the poison and then decided with him. should the end really come, that they would quickly drink the contents. of the vial and then each pull the pin from a heavy grenade and hold it tightly to their bodies.
Late in the night of 26 to 27 of April the first heavy barrage bracketed the Chancellery. The splattering of heavy shells and the crashing of falling buildings directly above the air-raid shelter tightened the nervous strain of everyone so that here and there deep sobbing came through the doors. Hanna spent the night tending Greim, who was in great pain, and in getting in the Chancellery grounds before morning.
Hitler's Guests in the Shelter
The next morning she was introduced to the other occupants and learned for the first time the identity of all those who were facing the end with the Führer. Present in the elaborate shelder on the 27 April were Göbbels and his wife with their six children; State Secretary Naumann: Hitler's right hand, Reichsleiter Martin Bormann; Hewel from Ribbentrop's office; Admiral Voss as representative from Dönitz; General Krebs of the infantry and his adjutant Burgdorf; Hitler's personal pilot, Hans Baur; another pilot Beetz; Eva Braun; SS Obergruppenführer Fegelein as liaison between Himmler and Hitler and husband of Eva Braun's sister; Hitler's personal Physician, Dr. Stumpfegger; Oberst von Below, Hitler's Luftwaffe Adjutant; Dr. Lorenz representing Reichspresse chief Dr. Dietrich for the German press; two of Hitler's secretaries, a Frau Christian, wife of General der Flieger Christian and a Fräulein Krüger; and various SS orderlies and messengers. Reitsch claims that these composed the entire assembly.
A regular visitor during the last days was Reichsjugendführer Axman who was commanding a Hitlerjugend division committed to the defense of the city. From Axman came current information as to the ground situation against the Russians which was well mirrored by the increasingly despondent manner of each visit.
Late in the afternoon of the 27th Obergruppenführer Fegelein disappeared. Shortly thereafter it was reported that he had been captured on the outskirts of Berlin disguised in civilian clothes, claiming to be a refugee. The news of his capture was immediately brought to Hitler who instantly ordered him shot. The rest of the evening Fegelein's betrayal weighed heavily on the Führer and in conversation he indicated a half-way doubt as to Himmler's position, fearing that Fegelein's desertion might have been known and even condoned by the SS leader.
Observations on Shelter Occupants
Reitsch had little contact with most of the people in the shelter, being mostly occupied in nursing von Greim, but she did have the opportunity to speak to many of them and observe their reaction, under the trying conditions of the last days in the Bunker. It is believed that she attempts to relate her observations truthfully and that her reactions are honestly conceived. It must be remembered that prior to her arrival in the Bunker Reitsch had but small contact with most of these individuals and that her previous opinions regarding them were at a rather low level. Of the people she was able to observe closely the Göbbels family probably stands out.
She describes Göbbels as being insanely incensed over Göring's treachery. He strode about his small, luxurious quarters like an animal, muttering vile accusations concerning the Luftwaffe leader and what he had done. The precarious military situation of the moment was Göring's fault. Their present plight was Göring's fault. Should the war be lost, as it certainly now seemed it would be, that too would be Göring's fault.
"That swine," Göbbels said, "who has always set himself up as the Führer's greatest support now does not have the courage to stand beside him. As if that were not enough, he wants to replace the Führer as head of the State. He, an incessant incompetent, who has destroyed his Fatherland with his mishandling and stupidity, now wants to lead the entire nation. By this alone he proves that he was never truly one of us, that at heart he was always weak and a traitor".
All this, as Hanna saw it, was in the best theatrical manner, with much hand waving and fine gestures, made even more grotesque by the jerky up-and-down hobbling as he strode about the room. When he wasn't railing about Göring he spoke to the world about the example those in the Bunker were setting for history. As on a platform and gripping a chair-back like a rostrum he said: "We are teaching the world how men die for their 'honor.' Our deaths shall be an eternal example to all Germans, to all friends and enemies alike. One day the whole world will acknowledge that we did right, that we sought to protect the world against Bolshevism with our lives. One day it will be set down in the history of all time".
It appears that Göbbels exercised his greatest ability to the very last. The rooms of Göbbels and Reitsch adjoined each other and the doors were usually open. Through them the Göbbels oratory would sound out at any hour of the day or night. And always the talk was of "honor" of "how to die," of "standing true to the Führer to the last," of "setting an example that would long blaze as a holy thing from the pages of history".
One of the last things Reitsch remembers hearing from the lips of the Propaganda master was: "We shall go down for the glory of the Reich so that the name of Germany will live forever". Even Reitsch was moved to conclude that the Göbbels display, in spite of the tenseness of the situation, was a bit overdrawn and out and out theatrical. She claims that in her opinion Göbbels, then as he always had, performed as if he were speaking to a legion of historians who were avidly awaiting and recording every word. She adds that her own dubious opinions regarding Göbbels' mannerisms, his superficiality, and studied oratory, were well substantiated by these outbursts. She claims too, that after listening to these tirades she and von Greim often asked each other, with a sad, head-shaking attitude, "Are these the people who ruled our country?"
Frau Göbbels she described as a very brave woman, whose control, which was at most times strong, did break down now and then to pitiful spasms of weeping. Her main concern was her children, and in their presence her manner was always delightful and cheery. Much of her day was occupied in keeping the children's clothes clean and tidy, and as they had only the clothes they wore this kept Frau Göbbels occupied. Often she would quickly retire to her room to hide the tears. It appears from Hanna's description that Frau Göbbels probably represented the epitome of Nazi indoctrination.
If the Third Reich could not live she preferred to die with it, nor would she allow her children to outlive it. In recognition of the example she embodied of true German womanhood, Hitler, in the presence of all the occupants of the Bunker, presented her with his personal golden party insignia. "A staunch pillar of the 'honor' upon which National Socialism was built and the German Fatherland founded," was his approximate remark as he pinned it to her dress.
Frau Göbbels often thanked God that she was alive so that she could kill her children to save them from whatever "evil" would follow the collapse. To Reitsch she said, "My dear Hanna, when the end comes you must help me if I become weak about the children. You must help me to help them out of this life. They belong to the Third Reich and to the Führer and if those two things cease to exist there can be no further place for them. But you must help me. My greatest fear is that at the last moment I will be too weak".
It is Hanna's belief that in the last moment she was not weak.
Conclusions that can be safely drawn from Hanna's remarks is that Frau Göbbels was simply one of the most convinced subjects of her own husband's rantings; the most pronounced example of the Nazi influence over the women of Germany.
The Göbbels Children
The Göbbels children numbered six. Their names and approximate ages were: Helga, 12; Hilda, 11; Helmut, 9; Holde, 7; Hedda, 5: Heide, 3.
They were the one bright spot of relief in the stark death shadowed life of the Bunker. Reitsch taught them songs which they sang for the Führer and for the injured von Greim. Their talk was full of being in "the cave" with their "Uncle Führer" and in spite of the fact that there were bombs outside, nothing could really harm them as long as they were with him. And anyway "Uncle Führer" had said that soon the soldiers would come and drive the Russians away and then tomorrow they could all go back to play in their garden. Everyone in the Bunker entered into the game of making the time as pleasant as possible for them. Frau Göbbels repeatedly thanked Reitsch for making their last days enjoyable, as Reitsch often gathered them about her and told them long stories of her flying and of the places she had been and the countries she had seen.
It seemed to Reitsch that Hitler's "girl friend" remained studiously true to her position as the "showpiece" in the Führer's circle. Most of her time was occupied in finger nail polishing, changing of clothes for each hour of the day, and all the other little feminine tasks of grooming, combing, and polishing. She seemed to take the prospect of dying with the Führer as quite matter of fact, with an attitude that seemed to say: "...had not the relationship been of 12 long years duration and had she not seriously threatened suicide when Hitler once wanted to be rid of her. This would be a much easier way to die and much more proper..." Her constant remark was "Poor, poor Adolf, deserted by everyone, betrayed by all. Better that ten thousand others die than that he be lost to Germany".
In Hitler's presence she was always charming, and thoughtful of his every comfort. But only while she was with him was she completely in character, for the moment he was out of earshot she would rave about all the ungrateful swine who had deserted their Führer and that each of them should be destroyed. All her remarks had an adolescent tinge and it appeared that the only "good" Germans at the moment were those who were caught in the Bunker and that all the others were traitors because they were not there to die with him. The reasons for her willingness to die with the rest were similar to those of Frau Göbbels. She was simply convinced that whatever followed the Third Reich would not be fit to live in for a true German. Often she expressed sorrow for those people who were unable to destroy themselves as they would forever be forced to live without "honor" and reduced instead to living as human beings without souls.
Reitsch emphasizes that Braun was very apparently of rather shallow mentality, but she also agrees that she was a very beautiful woman. Beyond fulfilling her purpose, Reitsch considers it highly unlikely that Braun had any control or influence over Hitler. The rumor of the last minute marriage ceremony Reitsch considers as highly unlikely, not only because she believes that Hitler had no such intention, but also because the circumstances in the Bunker on the last days would have made such a ceremony ludicrous. Certainly, up to the time Reitsch left the Bunker, hardly a day before Hitler's death was announced, there had not been the slightest mention of such a ceremony. The rumor that there had been children out of the union, Reitsch quickly dismisses as fantastic.
Martin Bormann moved about very little, kept instead very close to his writing desk. He was "recording the momentous events in the Bunker for posterity". Every word, every action went down on his paper. Often he would visit this person or that to scowlingly demand what the exact remark had been that passed between the Führer and the person he had just had an audience with. Things that passed between other occupants of the Bunker were also carefully recorded. This document was to be spirited out of the Bunker at the very last moment so that, according to the modest Bormann, it could, "take its place among the greatest chapters of German history".
Throughout Hanna's stay, in the Bunker Hitler's manner and physical condition sunk to lower and lower depths. At first he seemed to be playing the proper part of leading the defence of Germany and Berlin. And at first this was in some manner possible as communications. were still quite reliable. Messages were telephoned to a Flak tower and from there were radioed out by means of a portable, balloon-suspended aerial. But each day this was more and more difficult until late on the afternoon of the 28th and all day on the 29th communications were almost impossible. On about 22 April, at what was probably the last Hitler war-council in the Reichschancellery, the Führer is said to have been so overcome by the persistently hopeless news that he completely broke down in the presence of all the gathering. The talk in the Bunker, where Hanna heard of the collapse, was that with this display even the most optimistic of Hitler's cohorts tended toward the conviction that the War was irretrievably lost. According to Reitsch, Hitler never physically nor mentally recovered from this conference room collapse.
Occasionally he still seemed to hold to the hope of General Wenck's success in breaking through from the South. He talked of little else, and all day on the 28th and 29th he was mentally planning the tactics that Wenck might use in freeing Berlin. He would stride about the shelter, waving a road map that was fast disintegrating from the sweat of his hands and planning Wenck's campaign with anyone who happened to be listening. When he became overly excited he would snatch the map from where it lay, pace with a quick, nervous stride about the room, and loudly "direct" the city's defence with armies that no longer existed (as even Wenck, unknown to the Führer, had already been routed and destroyed).
Reitsch describes it as a pathetic thing, the picture of a man's complete disintegration. A comic-tragedy of frustration, futility and uselessness. The picture of a man running almost blindly from wall to wall in his last retreat waving papers that fluttered like leaves in his nervous, twitching hands, or sitting stooped and crumpled before his table moving buttons to represent his non-existent armies, back and forth on a sweat-stained map, like a young boy playing at war.
The Possibility That Hitler Still Lives
The possibility that Hitler might have gotten out of the Bunker alive, Reitsch dismisses as completely absurd. She claims that she is convinced that the Hitler she left in the shelter was physically unable to have gotten away. "Had a path been cleared for him from the Bunker to freedom he would not have had the strength to use it," she says. She believes too, that at the very end he had no intention to live, that only the Wenck hope stayed his hand from putting the mass suicide plan into operation. News that Wenck could not get through, she feels, would immediately have set off the well rehearsed plans of destruction.
When confronted with the rumor that Hitler might still be alive in Tyrol and that her own flight to that area, after she had left the Bunker, might be more than coincidental, she appears deeply upset that such opinions are even entertained. She says only: "Hitler is dead! The man I saw in the shelter could not have lived. He had no reason to live and the tragedy was that he knew it well, knew it perhaps better than anyone else did".
Hanna's Opinion of the Führer
It is apparent from Reitsch's conversation that she held the Führer in high esteem. It is probably also true when she says that her "good" opinion suffered considerably during the closing stages of the War. She is emphatic when she describes the apparent mismanagement she observed and learned of in the Bunker. For instance, Berlin had been depleted of arms to hold the Oder. When that line fell it appeared that no coherent defence plan of Berlin had been prepared, certainly adequate arrangements had not been made to direct the defence from the Bunker. There was no other communication equipment available than the telephone that led only to the Flak tower. It appears that only in the last moment had he decided to direct the battle from the shelter and then did not have the first tools with which to operate. No maps. No battle plans. No radio. Only a hastily prepared messenger service and the one telephone were available. The fact that unknown to Hitler, the Wenck army had been destroyed almost days before, was only one example of the inadequacies. All of which resulted in the Führer of Germany sitting helplessly in his cellar impotently playing at his table-top war.
Reitsch claims that Hitler the idealist died, and his country with him, because of the incompetence of Hitler the soldier and Hitler the statesman. She concludes, still with a faint touch of allegiance, that no one who knew him would deny his idealistically motivated intentions nor could they deny that he was simply infinitely incompetent to rule his country, that one of his great faults was proper character analysis in the people about him which led to the selection of persons equally incompetent to fill important positions. [Most important example: Göring]
She repeatedly remarked that never again must such a person be allowed to gain control of Germany or of any country. But strangely enough she does not appear to hold him personally responsible for many of the wrongs and evils that she recognizes completely and is quick to point out. She says rather, "A great part of the fault lies with those who led him, lured him, criminally misdirected him, and informed him falsely. But that he himself selected the men who led him can never be forgiven".
A Criminal Against the World
"Hitler ended his life as a criminal against the world," but she is quick to add, "he did not begin it that way. At first his thoughts were only of how to make Germany healthy again, how to give his people a life free from economic insufficiencies and social maladjustments. To do this he gambled much, with a stake that no man has the right to jeopardize - the lives of his people. This was the first great wrong, his first great failure. But once the first few risks had been successful, he fell into the faults of every gambler; he risked more and more, and each time that he won he was more easily, led to the next gamble". According to Reitsch it all began with the occupation of the Ruhr. This was the first and most difficult gamble of all and when the world did not answer his Ruhr bluff with war, every succeeding risk became progressively easier.
Each success made the enthusiasm of the people greater and this gave him the necessary, support to take the next step. The end-result, Reitsch claims, is that Hitler himself underwent a character change that transformed him from an idealistically motivated benefactor to a grasping, scheming despot, a victim of his own delusions of grandeur. "Never again, she concludes, "in the history of the world must such power be allowed to rest with one man".
On the night of the 27th to 28th the Russian bombardment of the Chancellery reached the highest pitch it had yet attained. The accuracy to those in the shelter below, was astounding. It seemed as if each shell landed in exactly the same place as the one before, all dead-center on the Chancellery buildings. As this indicated that the Russian ground troops could over-run the area at any, moment, another suicide council was called by the Führer. All plans as to the destruction of the bodies of everyone in the shelter were gone over again. The decision was that as soon as the Russians reached the Chancellery grounds the mass suicide would begin. Last instructions were given as to the use of the poison vials.
The group was as hypnotized with the suicide rehearsal and a general discussion was entered into to determine in which manner the most thorough destruction of the human body could be performed. Then everyone made little speeches swearing allegiance again and again to the Führer and to Germany. Yet, through it all, still ran the faint hope that Wenck might get in the hold long enough to effect an evacuation. But even on the 27th, Reitsch claims, the others paid lip-service to the Wenck hope only to follow the lead of the Führer. Almost everyone had given up all thoughts of being saved, and said so to each other whenever Hitler was not present. Closing the discussions on the destruction of the bodies there was talk that SS men would be assigned to see that no trace remained. Throughout the day of the 28th the intensity, of the Russian fire continued while the suicide talk kept pace with the shelling in the shelter below.
The greatest blow of all
A telegram arrived which indicated that the staunch and trusted Himmler had joined Göring on the traitor list. It was like a death blow to the entire assembly. Reitsch claims that men and women alike cried and screamed with rage, fear and desperation, all mixed into one emotional spasm. Himmler the protector of the Reich, now a traitor was impossible. The telegram message was that Himmler had contacted the British and American authorities through Sweden to propose a capituluation to the San Francisco conference. Hitler had raged as a mad man. His color rose to a heated red and his face was virtually unrecognizable. Additional evidence of Himmler's "treachery" was that he had asked not to be identified with the capitulation proposals; American authorities were said to have abided by this request, while the British did not.
After the lengthy out-burst Hitler sank into a stupor and for a time the entire Bunker was silent.
Later came the anti-climatic news that the Russians, would make a full force bid to over-run the Chancellery on the morning of the 30th. Even then small-arm fire was beginning to sprinkle the area above the shelter. Ground reports indicated that the Russians were nearing the Potsdamer Platz and were losing thousands of men as they fanatically prepared the positions from which the attack of the next morning was to be launched.
Reitsch claims that everyone again looked to their poison.
Orders to Leave the Shelter
At one-thirty on the morning of 29 April, Hitler, with chalk-white face, came to Greim’s room and slumped down on the edge of the bed. "Our only hope is Wenck," he said, "and to make his entry possible we must call up every available aircraft to cover his approach". Hitler then claimed that he had just been informed that Wenck's guns were already shelling the Russians in Potsdamer Platz.
"Every available plane," Hitler said, "must be called up by, daylight, therefore it is my order to you to return to Rechlin and muster your planes from there. It is the task of your aircraft to destroy the positions from which the Russians will launch their attack on the Chancellery. With Luftwaffe help Wenck may get through. That is the first reason why you must leave the shelter. The second is that Himmler must be stopped," and immediately he mentioned the SS Führer his voice became more unsteady and both his lips and hands trembled. The order to Greim was that if Himmler had actually made the reported contact, and could be found, he should immediately be arrested. "A traitor must never succeed me as Führer! You must get out to insure that he will not".
Greim and Reitsch protested vehemently that the attempt would be futile, that it would be impossible to reach Rechlin, that they preferred to die in the shelter, that the mission could not succeed, that it was insane.
"As soldiers of the Reich," Hitler answered, "it is our holy duty to exhaust every possibility. This is the only chance of success that remains. It is your duty and mine to take it".
Hanna was not convinced. "No, no," she screamed, Nothing can be accomplished now, even if we should get through. Everything is lost, to try to change it now is insane". But Greim thought differently. "Hanna," he said, "we are the only hope for those who remain here. If the chance is just the smallest, we owe it to them to take it. Not to go would rob them of the only light that remains. Maybe Wenck is there. Maybe we can help, but whether we can or cannot, we will go". Hanna, still convinced as to the absurdity of attempting an escape went alone to the Führer while Greim was making his preparations. Through her sobbing she begged, "Mein Führer why, why don't you let us stay?" He looked at her for a moment and said only: "God protect you".
The Leave Taking
Preparations were quickly made and Reitsch is graphic in her description of the leave taking. Below, late Göring's Liaison officer with the Führer and now a staunch Greim-man said, "You must get out. It depends upon you to tell the truth to our people, to save the 'honor' of the Luftwaffe: to save the meaning of Germany for the world". Everyone gave the departing duo some token, something to take back into the world. Everyone wrote quick, last minute letters for them to take along. Reitsch says that she and Greim destroyed all but two letters which were from Göbbels and his wife to their eldest son, by Frau Göbbels first marriage who was then in an Allied prisoner of war camp. These Reitsch still had. Frau Göbbels also gave her a diamond ring from her finger to wear in her memory>
Thirty minutes after Hitler had given the order they left the shelter.
The Flight Out of Berlin
Outside the whole city was aflame and heavy small-arm fire was already plainly audible a short distance away. SS troops, committed to guarding Hitler to the end, were moving about. These men brought up a small armored vehicle which was to take Reitsch and Greim to where an Arado 96 was hidden near Brandenburger Tor. The sky was filled with the thunder of shells, some of which landed so close that their vehicle was knocked out several hundred yards short of the revetment where the Arado was stationed.
Reitsch claims that she is certain that this was the last craft available. The possibility of another plane having gotten in and possibly out again with Hitler as passenger, she dismisses as highly unlikely as Greim would certainly have been informed. She knows that such a message was never delivered. She knows too, that Greim had ordered other planes in but that each craft was shot down in the attempt and as Russian troops already solidly ringed the city, she is certain that Hitler never left Berlin.
James P O'Donnell, in his book "The Berlin Bunker"  writes about interviews with Reichsminister Albert Speer and Hitler's pilot Hans Baur.
In his book O'Donnell cited Speer saying that Baur had serious plans to fly Hitler out on 23, 28 and 29 April 1945. He also quoted Baur himself after the war saying "right up to the last day I could have flown the Führer anywhere in the world". Hitler however was determined to stay and commit suicide.
O'Donnell refers to a steady shuttle of Storches or trainers from Rechlin after Gatow and Kladow airports closed after 27 April.
Until 29 April aircraft could still land or depart close to Hitler's Bunker. At midnight April 28/29 April a replacement airplane for Reitsch and von Greim arrived: "A Luftwaffe pilot landed an Arado 96 trainer on the Charlottenburg Chaussee between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column in what can only be termed a masterpiece of aeronautics…"
-- Bill O'Reilly, "Hitler's Last Days"
About 1.00 a.m. 29 April, shortly before Hitler's wedding to Eva Braun, von Greim and Reitsch departed Berlin in the replacement airplane. As they left they observed a Ju-52 off the runway and a pilot waiting. O'Donnell concludes that this Ju-52 was waiting for SS LtGen Hermann Fegelein, Eva's brother in law, who never reached it, being instead executed for desertion.
On 29 April 1945 seven couriers left Hitler's Bunker: SS Col Wilhelm Zander [Bormann's aide], Heinz Lorenz of the Propaganda Ministry Wehrmacht Major Wili Johanmeier [with Corpl Heinz Hummerich], Major Freytag von Löringhoven [Kreb's aide], Hauptmann Gerhard Boldt [von Löringhoven's aide], LtCol Weiss [Burgdorf's aide] and Luftwaffe Col. Nicolaus von Below (with Corpl Heinz Matthiesing). Zander and Lorenz had instructions to deliver Hitler's Last Will and Testament to Dönitz at Plön to the north.
The standard account, is that these couriers all escaped 50 miles on foot through Russian lines along the Havel river to the Elbe, but in his book O'Donnell said that the last of these seven couriers to leave, von Below, flew from Berlin on 29 April 1945.
Why is it that von Below flew when others before him were said to have escaped by foot?
Did he fly out on Fegelein's Ju-52?
When Speer and Baur claimed after the war that there were serious plans to fly Hitler out on 28 and 29 April 1945, did they mean on the Ju-52 which had flown in for Fegelein on the evening of 28 April and left again in the morning of 29 April?
The Ju 52 that had "successfully managed to land" on the Ost-West-Achse on 28 April and then take-off again was apparently flown by one Oberfeldwebel Böhm from II./TGr 3. This was reported by another young Ju 52 pilot from this unit, Uffz. Johannes Lachmund who described events in his 2009 memoir. Although a pilot Lachmund flew on this sortie as a gunner. Lachmund records that this mission was flown from Güstrow to Berlin with five aircraft to evacuate high-ranking personnel from Berlin, including Ritter von Greim. As Lachmund reports, three of the five Ju 52s had to return after missed approaches, chiefly because the visibility was so poor from the heavy smoke from the fires everywhere on the ground. One Ju-52 was shot-down by the Soviets during the approach.
Lachmund mentions discussions via telephone from the "air traffic control" command-post at the Siegessäule [Berlin's Victory column] between Ofw Böhm and the Bunker in the Reichskanzlei. There was apparently some dispute over the passengers to be flown-out, chiefly because Hanna Reitsch wanted to fly out Ritter von Greim herself at the controls of the Arado Ar-96, and not leave Berlin as a passenger on this Ju-52 flight. Eventually, the Ju 52 boarded only a few other wounded passengers but not the VIPs. Because of damage to the "runway" from shelling, the Junkers transport had only 400 metres in which to get airborne.
[It is worth noting perhaps that Deutsche Lufthansa record the minimum take-off distance for their lighter [unarmoured and unarmed] Ju 52/3m as 500 metres].
-- Johannes Lachmund : "Fliegen; Mein Traumberuf – bis zu den bitteren Erlebnissen des Krieges", Verlagshaus Monsenstein und Vannerdat OHG Münster, 2009.
Hans Baur saw Hitler on the morning of 30 April and offered to fly him out in a Fieseler Storch, but Hitler declined the offer.
Germany, in 1945, possessed several giant Junkers Ju-390 — ultra-modern, fast, 6-engined and capable of flying 6000 miles. One was stationed at Rechlin airfield 90 km north of Berlin, according to O'Donnell. This could have reached Japanese Manchuria or, with a refuelling stop, South America.
There are Russian claims of a Ju-390 flight to Tokyo on 28 February 1945, corroborated by Albert Speer and Wolfgang Hirschfeld in their books. Speer said: "A Luftwaffe test pilot had flown a Ju-390 non-stop from Germany to Japan over the polar route. Baur would have known of this secret flight..."
Baur however was denied use of the Ju-390 for Hitler, on 17 April, by Hans Kammler. The world learned in 2004 from then 93 year old Hauptmann Ernst König that on 1 May 1945 he received orders from Baur to prepare a six engined Bv222 flying boat to fly VIP passengers from Norway to Greenland.
A 20 June 1945 report reads:
"A huge four-engine plane which carried 30,000 gallons of gasoline has been found near Travemünde and German ground crews said they were ordered in the last week of the war to keep it ready to carry Hitler non-stop to Japan."
Clearly, Hitler's escape from Berlin by airplane was feasible.
Hitler's Final Hours James Collier Pageant November 1960
Last May, a man named Adolf Eichmann was picked up in Argentina by members of a select Israeli Intelligence unit, whisked out of the country, and subsequently revealed to the world as a long-sought Nazi who had played a major role in the extermination of some six million Jews. Immediately upon the heels of the announcement of Eichmann's capture, an ancient but hardy rumor sprang up from a five-year's sleep. Adolf Hitler, the one-time evil genius of Germany, was alive and healthy in Patagonia, Argentina, a mountainous area in the province of Chubut. The rumor, of course, had been only quiescent. Since the collapse of Nazi Germany in the spring of 1945, it had risen over a dozen times. Reports that Hitler was still alive began before he could possibly have been dead. On 27 April 1945, a Swedish dispatch stated that Wilhelm Bartholdy, a Hitler double, was to be filmed dying on the barricades of Berlin as Hitler escaped elsewhere.
"Stand-In" to Die for Hitler on Berlin Battlefield From Our Own Correspondent in New York The Argus [Melbourne, Vic.] 28 April 1945
A carefully coached grocer, resembling Hitler, has been sent to Berlin in the Führer's place "to die on the barricades," says the "Free German Press Service" in Stockholm.
The journalist Robert Sturdevant, "Associated Press of America" correspondent in Stockholm, quotes the news agency as saying that the stand-in is August Wilhelm Bartholdy, former grocer, of Plauen [Saxony], who was specially trained to speak like Hitler during a long association with the Führer at Berchtesgaden. He will act as Hitler's "trump card", creating a legend around the Führer's death, while Hitler himself goes underground.
Bartholdy will appear in the final fighting for Berlin, and Hitler's photographer, Heinrich Hoffman, will film "The Führer's last moment in the battlefield," says the news agency. ["Agencia" AP 25 April 1945].
The press service mentioned also speculated with the possibility that in addition the Nazis filmed a film with that double to prove that it had died in Berlin, while Hitler disappeared of scene
Meanwhile, the "New York Times" newspaper, on 19 April of that year, had already reported reported that the Führer's "doubles" had been trained to "be" Hitler and to die the martyrs' death on the battlefield so that Hitler could be glorified without dying.
This were only the first of the rumors.
On 10 June 1945, Russian General Georgi Zhukov, conqueror of Berlin, echoed Stalin: Hitler still lived.
On 16 July 1945, a "Chicago Times" correspondent in Montevideo, Uruguay, told his paper that he was "virtually certain" that Hitler and his consort Eva Braun were on a German-owned estate in Patagonia. The following day two unidentified submarines were seen off San Clemente del Tuya, Argentina, giving credence to the rumors.
On 30 July 1945, General Alexander Gorbatov, the Soviet military chief of a Berlin occupied by the Allied forces, told the international press that Hitler could "be alive and hidden" in some part of the world [Reuter, Berlin, 30 July 1945]. Shortly afterwards, while suspicions grew that Hitler's suicide had been a Nazi farce, on 3 August the news agency EFE released information that stated: "The Western allies maintain a special surveillance service over 125,000 square miles in case Hitler had not died and was hidden somewhere in Germany".
In that context, on 13 August of the same year, US Senator Theo Bilbo announced that he would present a bill in the US Congress to establish a one million dollar reward for "anyone who captured Hitler alive".
Bilbo said that if passed, the legislative initiative "would grant immunity against his persecution, as a war criminal, of any person who contributed to the capture of Hitler". That is to say, if some fugitive and repentant Nazi hierarchy wanted to "cleanse himself," all charges against him would be annulled if, in return, he gave the authorities the exact information that would enable him to catch the Führer.
"I do not think Hitler is dead. I believe that he should be captured, tried and executed as a war criminal," Bilbo said. He also said that "if anyone opposes Congress paying the reward, he will gladly pay his share of the million". [Associated Press, Mississippi, 13 August 1945]
On 14 August 1945, the "New York Times" reported that a number of British officers believed that Hitler was in the North German province of Schleswig-Holstein with bogus army papers, awaiting discharge. Three days later it was discovered that port authorities in Boston were screening passengers against the chance that Hitler was among them.
Seeking Hitler Tweed Daily [Murwillumbah, NSW] 18 August 1945
NEW YORK. The correspondent of the "New York Times" at Boston - says: "Hitler and other leading Nazis who may have escaped from Europe are being sought in Boston and other seaports on incoming ships". This was disclosed during an examination of the passengers and crew of a Swedish freighter.
On the same day rumors were published that he was in Japan, Argentina, and Sweden. The next November he was "seen" in Hamburg. On 6 October 1947, a woman test pilot named Hanna Reitsch, who had been a confidante of Hitler's,recanted previous Nuremburg trial testimony and declared he was still alive. The day before, the Polish paper "Wieczor" quoted German Air Force Pilot Captain Peter Baumgart as saying that he flew Hitler and Eva Braun to Denmark on the eve of the collapse of Berlin. On 11 December 1947, the Russians blew up Hitler's Bunker in Berlin, destroying any further ef forts to examine the Führer's last residence and thereby giving credence to another batch of rumors that he was still alive. Rumors flourished again in 1952 when Hitler's sister, Paula Wolf, penniless and on relief, tried and failed to get a death certificate for the former Führer so she could share his meager estate. And there were reports he was still alive in October of 1955 when the Russians released some of the men who had been with Hitler in the last days. Even the issuance of Hitler’s death certificate at Berchtesgaden by Judge Henrich Stephanus did not put a halt to the rumors, as the report last June from Patagonia shows. In spite of voluminous investigation by trained officials of three nations, the story that Hitler is alive will not die.
A Bavarian Court has ruled, aT last, 'Hitler is Dead' The World's News (Sydney, NSW] 18 December 1954
The myths about the Führer's last minute escape from Death have been ignored...
A weird drama is being played out at Berchtesgaden [Bavaria], Hitler's old alpine retreat.
A Bavarian magistrate's court is primly going about the task of declaring Hitler legally dead. The Berchtesgaden court has refused to speculate that Hitler may be a prisoner of the Russians; that he escaped to Argentina or some South Sea isle on a submarine; or that, his features altered by plastic surgery, Hitler has gone back to housepainting in some German village as plain "Fritz Krause". The court has even refused to issue a death certificate merely "presuming" Hitler to be dead. Hitler, the court has ruled, is dead beyond all doubt.
Almost since the day the war ended, the Germans have regarded Hitler with a strange detachment that has consistently baffled a wide assortment of Allied sociologists who have sought to probe the German mind.
Fanatical surviving Nazis and the slim crop of neo-Nazis are not afraid to get up in public and advocate the salvaging of the "good" from National SD socialism, or to defend Nazi atrocities. But Hitler they never mention —neither in praise, extenuation nor defence.
At the opposite pole, the Germans who suffered most under Hitler similarly have little to say about Hitler personally. They still furiously denounce the Nazis, but there is a void in comment on Hitler directly. When the German cartoonists touch Hitler—which is not often— they treat him as a figure for ridicule. Occasionally Hitler is lampooned in carnival parades. Recently, in Bonn, police picked up a souvenir stand proprietor who had been vending wine bottle corks with a bust of Hitler. It is singular that when Germans discuss the atrocities and horrors perpetrated by the Hitler regime they are always referred to as the works of "the Nazis", never of Hitler personally.
At the war's end the Allies burned Hitler's uniforms, amid seriocomic secrecy, fearing they might become the "holy cloth" of a Nazi resurgence. But these fears have proved ground less.
Now the Allies treat Hitler's persdonal possessions as they would those of any other German. The Bavarian Government was permitted recently to return to Hitler's former house keeper, Anni Winter, two autographed luxury edition copies of "Mein Kampf", one of Hitler's briefcases and several Hitler watercolors and sketches. The court handling the case ruled, "these items have sensation value only, but are of no historic importance".
Appraising Hitler's likely future historical importance to the Germans, American occupation officials long have had a pat answer, "Hitler will be remembered as the man who built the Autobahns". Said half-jestingly, this appraisal probably has more than a kernel of truth. This magnificent system of express highways, linking virtually every corner of Germany, remains Europe's finest road net. It will be many years before any other European country can match it.
The chief beneficiary from Hitler's death certificate will be his sister, Mrs. Paula Hitler-Wolf, 58. Penni less and living on public relief, Hit ler's sister has been battling for six years for a share in the Nazi Führer's sizable fortune and personal effects, all impounded by the Bavarian Gov ernment. Oddly enough. Hitler's native country—Austria, has pushed the hardest to give Hitler a definite post war legal status.
The Austrians have ruled that Hitler was a war criminal, and they have pressed the Berchtesgaden court for a death certificate to lay the legal basis for seizing Hitler's property in Austria.
If there exists a "German attitude" toward Hitler today, it might be said to be that Hitler was a man with "some good ideas" who bamboozled the German people, whose movement was taken over by thugs and degenerates who wound up, betrayed By those he trusted, a madman.
There is one common-sense reason why the rumors of Hitler's existence persist: The suspicion that where there is so much smoke there must be fire. This attitude is enormously strengthened by one clear and indisputable fact: not so much as one single inch of Hitler's flesh has ever been publicly displayed anywhere.
The broad street leading from Brandenburger Tor was to be used for take-off. About 400 meters of uncratered pavement was available as run-way. The take-off was made under hailing Russian fire and as the plane rose to rooftop level it was picked up by countless searchlights and at once bracketed in a barrage of shelling. Explosions tossed the craft like a feather, but only a few splinters hit the plane. Reitsch circled to about 20,000 feet from where Berlin was a sea of flames beneath her. From that altitude the magnitude of the destruction of Berlin she describes as stark and fantastic. Heading north, 50 minutes saw them in Rechlin, where the landing was again made through a screen of Russian fighter craft.
The Last German Reports
Greim at once issued the orders calling all available craft to the aid of Berlin. Having performed the first of Hitler's commands he immediately decided to fly to Plön, near Kiel, to determine what information Dönitz might have regarding Himmler. A Bucker 18I was used and by the time they got into the air German aircraft were already arriving in compliance with Greim's order. The entire heavens were soon a seething mass of German and Russian planes. Reitsch kept her own plane at 2 meters altitude and even with such protection against visibility she was twice unsuccessfully attacked. Landing at Lübeck still necessitated an automobile trip to Plön, during which time they were again under constant Russian attack. On arrival they found that Dönitz knew nothing of Himmler's actions. The next move was to see Keitel in the event that a change in air tactics should be employed in helping Wenck in his entry into Berlin.
The News of Wenck's Non-Existence
Keitel was found in the early morning of the first of May and gave them the news that Wenck's army had long been destroyed or captured. And that he [Keitel] had sent word to Hitler to that effect the day before. [30 April].
Greim and Reitsch now knew that Hitler must surely have given up all hope and both fully expected that the well rehearsed suicide plans had already been put into operation. The "New" Government
The advance of the English necessitated a retreat into Schleswig late on the first day of May. Here, the same evening, Reitsch and Greim learned that the announcement of Hitler's death had been made and that he had been succeeded by Dönitz. On 2 May the new government was called to Plön. Greim and Reitsch, to receive orders from Dönitz as to immediate Luftwaffe activities, had the additional purpose of meeting Himmler and confronting him with the betrayal story.
Himmler's Capitulation Explanation
Himmler arrived late so that all the others were in the conference room, leaving Reitsch alone when he walked in. "One moment Herr Reichsführer, a matter of the highest importance, if you can spare the time?" Reitsch asked. Himmler seemed almost jovial as he said, "Of course".
"Is it true, Herr Reichsführer, that you contacted the Allies with proposals of peace without orders to do so from Hitler?"
"But, of course".
"You betrayed your Führer and your people in the very darkest hour? Such a thing is high treason, Herr Reichsführer. You did that when your place was actually in the Bunker with Hitler?"
"High treason? No! You'll see, history, will weigh it differently. Hitler wanted to continue the fight. He was, mad with his pride and his 'honor'.' He wanted to shed more German blood when there was none left to flow. Either was insane. It should have been stopped long ago".
"Insane? I came from him less than 36 hours ago. He died for the cause he, believed in. He died bravely and filled with the 'honor' you speak of, while you and Göring and the rest must now live as branded traitors and cowards".
"I did as I did to save German blood, to rescue what was left of our country".
"You speak of German blood, Herr Reichsführer? You speak of it now? You should have thought of it years ago, before you became identified with the useless shedding of so much of it".
A sudden strafing attack terminated the conversation.
The Last Orders-To Hold the Russians
Greim indicated that little had been decided at the first Dönitz war council. However everyone was in accord that at best, resistance would only be possible for a few days longer. In the meantime commanders against the Russians were to hold to the last to enable as many civilians as possible to flee from the advance. Reitsch claims that Greim, whose leg was becoming increasingly worse, insisted upon flying immediately to Feldmarschall Schörner, in command of troops in Silesia and Czechoslovakia, to instruct him that he should resist even after the capitulation order. On the flight to Schörner, Greim's foot became so bad that he had momentary lapses of unconsciousness. Upon arrival Schörner indicated that he had already decided to hold as long as possible and had issued orders to that effect even before Greim's arrival.
It was then decided to fly on to Kesselring with the same instructions, but Greim's leg was by now so critical that further movement was impossible. From the 3 to 7 May it was necessary to remain at headquarters in Königratz where Reitsch nursed Greim until he could move about again. On the night of 7 May. they took off in a Dornier 217 to fly to Graz where Kesselring was reported to be. Directly over the field German flak severely damaged their craft which crash landed at the edge of the field. Reitsch and Greim were of the understanding that the capitulation would come on the night of 9 May and when it was learned that Kesselring had left Graz for Zell am See they flew on in an effort to instruct him.
The End at Zell am See
They arrived at Zell am See flying a Fieseler-Storch, and reported to General Koller, Chief of the GAF General Staff, who was to tell them of Kesselring's whereabouts. Here they learned that the capitulation was to be on the 8th instead of the 9th. They still wanted to locate Kesselring but Koller either chose not to tell them where Kesselring was, because it was already too late or else he did not know, that Kesselring was in the village of AImdorf, a few miles north of Zell am See. At this news Reitsch and Greim decided that any, further efforts on their part were quite useless. Just before the capitulation they left Zell am See for Kitzbühl to place themselves under the care of a well known Doctor who had just opened his hospital there.
Reitsch claims that had it not been for the severe agony of Greim's foot she would not have been able to convince him to save his limb. To the last he wanted to encourage resistance against the Russians.
Why the "Redoubt" Was Not Utilized
In response to the question as to why the Austria-Southern Germany last stand of resistance was never put into operation, Reitsch has little to add to what is already known. She states that as late as 15 April it still seemed that there was every intention of moving the government and military headquarters to Berchtesgaden. All of the bureaus and headquarters in Berlin at that time were on a constant 2 hour alert. From what she heard from Oberst Below and others it appeared that the conference [of 22 April] was to decide on the full particulars covering the move. She claims that the reports Hitler received at that time were so shocking that he was convinced that preparations to make "Redoubt" resistance a success would never be completed in time. It was believed that the realization that the "Redoubt," of which so much was expected, would have to be crossed off as useless was the major cause of Hitler's breakdown. It was also said that Göring and Hitler had had a strained conversation regarding this, with Göring insisting on an early evacuation to the "Redoubt" area and Hitler declining in the hope that the Oder would hold. Göring was to have claimed that "Redoubt" was ready for occupancy while Hitler preferred to wait until he could have its readiness confirmed at the above mentioned conference. It was the talk later at the Dönitz war council and elsewhere that Göring's departure was governed solely by his realization that the Oder would be crossed and by his unfulfilled hope that the partially completed "Redoubt" area would hold. Had Göring's coup succeeded, it is believed that "Redoubt" might have been more actively defended. The reasons that it was not: First -- Göring's failure. Second -- Hitler's belief that continued resistance in Berlin might be more eventful than the sure collapse he saw in an uncompleted "Redoubt". Reporting to the Americans
They arrived in Kitzbühl on the morning of 9 May and reported to American Military authorities shortly thereafter. Greim was under treatment until 23 May when he was taken to Salzburg, prior to being taken on to Germany as a prisoner of War. He committed suicide with Hitler's poison capsule in Salzburg on the night of 24 May. Although he was much less known than his corpulent predecessor, both in Germany or the world, in Hanna's opinion he should have had Göring's position years ago. The fact that he disagreed with Göring on almost every count is, to her, evidence enough of his capabilities.
Hanna Reitsch was held and interrogated for eighteen months. Her father shot and killed her mother, her sister, and her sister's three children before killing himself during the last days of the war after expulsion by the Polish communists from their hometown of Hirschberg.
Evaluation of Source
It is the opinion of the interrogator that the above information is given with a sincere and conscientious effort to be truthful and exact. The suicide of her family, the death of her closest friend, von Greim, the physical pain of Germany, and the trying nature of her experiences during the closing days of the war combined themselves to seriously tempt her to commit suicide as well. She claims that the only reason she remained alive is for the sake of the truth; to tell the truth about Göring, "the shallow showman," to tell the truth about Hitler, "the criminal incompetent," and to tell the German people the truth about the dangers of the form of government that the Third Reich gave them. She believes that she is fulfilling much of this mission when she speaks to the interrogator. It is therefore felt that her remarks may be considered as her deepest efforts at sincerity and honesty. At the moment she is undergoing a severe mental struggle in an effort to reconcile her conception of "honor" with her denunciations of Göring, of Himmler, and of Hitler himself. This difficulty appears less great when she is speaking to the interrogator than it is when she speaks to civilians, but from civilians who have led her conversation and then unknown to her, reported the results to the interrogator it appears that she is striving to exert a progressively more democratic influence over her countrymen.
Air Interrogation Unit [USBIC] APO 777 US ARMY INTERROGATION SUMMARY 16 November 1945 CONDEMNATION OF HERMANN GÖRING BY HANNA REITSCH
This report concerns itself with the condemnation of Hermann Göring as lender of the German Luftwaffe as expressed by Hanna Reitsch, the prominent German lest-pilot and aeronautical research expert. Ii is felt that her close contacts and constant movement through the top brackets of the Luftwaffe ranks her opinions of value in determining the collapse of the GAF to the extent that it is contributable to Göring. Inasmuch as Reitsch is closely familiar with the orders, ideas, and mannerisms of Göring it is believed that her opinions may be illuminating and accurate. Her complete cooperation and sincere effort to tell the truth should also be considered, in properly evaluating the following material. This account was prepared partly from a paper written by Reitsoh and partly through interrogation. It is important to note that remarks Reitsch has made on the subject to civilians and to non-interrogating American officers have been checked and found to completely confirm her own written report as well as her statements during interrogation.
a. The report is written to conform to her own paper and to the remarks she made, both under direct and indirect interrogation. It is a composite account of her opinions as obtained through these methods.
b. It is felt that the material may be of value to help clarify various phases of Göring's guilt at the coming trial and also to assist in more clearl y evaluating Göring'a role in the disintegration of the Luftwaffe.
Göring - The Gross Incompetent
"I cannot and will not pretend to give a complete picture of Göring," says Reitsch, "I can only tell of Göring as I knew him and of the things he did that must be told in the name and for the sake of the truth. It is difficult after the down-fall of one's country to attack a former great and to expose him before his own countrymen and in the eyes of the world for the gross incompetent that he is. But in spite of these qualifying scruples, anyone in a position to tell the truth to present and future generations must speak up, particularly if it is about a man who had such a high-ranking position, who was generally considered as a shining example of sacrificial loyalty and fulfillment of duty, but who nevertheless caused the greatest of harm and finally descended to the most shameful treachery. Anyone, particularly a German, who possesses knowledge to place Göring in his proper light owes it to himself and to the world to impart it. Therefore, I must make this burning accusation against the man who let the decisive weapon (the GAF) be destroyed through his own fault, and who through, his personal attitude, example, and character betrayed his own people, thus loading upon himself the immeasurable blame for the suffering of a whole nation".
Hitler Removes Göring and calls his Succesor
"On 24 April 1945 Adolf Hitler called General Oberst Ritter von Greim, the Commanding: General of Luftflotte 6, to the Reichschancellory in Berlin in order to appoint him successor to Göring, The radiogram did not state the reason but simply ordered hin to come to Berlin immediately. Although it was known that the Russians already encircled the city, General von Greim believed that it might still be possible for me to fly him in".
Arrival at Hitler's Shelter
Greim and Reitsch arrived in the shelter "between 1800 and 1900 hours on the evening of 26 April. First to meet them was Frau Göbbels, who fell upon Reitsch with tears and kisses, expressing her astonishment that anyone still possessed the courage and loyalty to come to the Führer, in stark contrast to all those who had deserted him. Greim was immediately taken to the operating room where Hitler's physician tended a foot injury, that Greim had received from Russian ground fire as they flew low over Berlin.
a. Hitler came into the operating room, according to Reitsch, with his face showing deep gratitude over Greim's coming. He remarked something to the effect that a soldier has a right to disobey an order when everything indicates that to carry it out would be futile and hopeless. Greim then reported his presence in the official manner and then told Hitler what had happened and how they had managed to get into Berlin and to the shelter.
b. "The Führer quietly listened", says Reitsch, "and at the end of the report tears came into his eyes. He took von Greim by the hand and clasped me around the shoulders and said, 'There is still some loyalty and courage left in the world' and then turning to von Greim, he asked whether he had any idea why he had been called in. Von Greim said that he did not".
Hitler's Denunciation of Göring
"I have called you to me," Hitler said, "because Göring has betrayed and deserted both me and his Fatherland. Behind my back he has established connections with the enemy. His action was a mark of coward. And against my orders he has gone to save himself at Berchtesgaden. From there he sent me a most disrespectful telegram. He said that I had once named him as my successor and that now, as I was no longer able to rule from Berlin, he prepared to rule from Berchtesgaden my place. He closes the wire by stating that if he had no answer from me by nine-thirty on the date of the wire he would assume my answer to he in the affirmative".
a. "It was an Ultimatum! A crass Ultimatum!! Now nothing remains. Nothing is spared me. Ho allegiances are kept, no honor lived up to, no disappointments that I have not had, no betrayals that I have not experienced, and now this above a ll else. Nothing remains. Every wrong has already been done me".
b. With eyes hard and half closed and in a voice unusually low he went on: "I Immediately had Göring arrested as a traitor to the Reich, took from him all offices, and removed him from all organizations. That is why I have called you to me. I hereby declare you Göring's successor as Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwnffe. In the name of the German people I give you my hand".
"To Die for the Honor of the Luftwaffe"
Greim and Reitsch were deeply.stunned with the news of Göring's betrayal. As with one mind they both grasped Hitler's hands and begged to be allowed to remain in the Bunker and with their own lives atone for the great wrong that Göring had perpetrated against the Führer, against the German people, and against tho Luftwaffe itself. To serve the honor of the flyers who had died, to reestablish the honor of the Luftwaffe that Göring had destroyed, and to guarantee the honor of their land in tho eyes of the world, they begged to remain. Hitler agreed to all this and told then they might stay, and told them too that their decision would long he remembered in the history of the Luftwaffe.
a. "In this manner," says Reitsch, "did Göring's betrayal open the door to von Greim and to me so that suddenly we found ourselves as part of the small circle of people who were now prepared to die with the Führer".
b. "As Hitler asked me to undertake the nursing and caring for the wounded von Greim I spent most of the time in the shelter at his bed-side, until the Führer, one day before his reported death, sent us out again".
The Blame Belongs to Göring
"The conversations Greim and I had in the Bunker", says Reitsch, "were mainly of the misfortunes that had befallen Germany, and through Germany, had befallen the world. As far hack as we let our thoughts go, even hack the very beginnings of the Third Reich and of the Luftwaffe itself, we could find only a long chain of injustice and evil of which most could be directly traced to the guilt of Göring. I do not write these lines out of indiscretion or without long and painful consideration. I write them solely for the sake of the truth, with the full understanding that we Germans must practically relearn the definition of the word. Hardly any of us are free from the insidiousness of the phrase 'the end justifies the means'. This is because the honor of our land was slowly and persistently propagandized, that we hardly saw how that. Propaganda actually robbed us of the very honor the Propaganda spoke of and how it garbled the truth into a long series of falsehoods".
For the Sake of the Truth
"It is for the sake of the truth, and to he able to tell the world about it that I remained alive when the terrible things of the last days of the war went on all about me. In fulfilling that purpose I must loudly declaim that Göring is in no way representative of the German people as I know they can one day be, nor is he representative of the greatest part of the Luftwaffe. He is rather an unfortunate apparition who has brought untold misery to humanity. Now that we are at last able, we (the peonle and the Luftwaffe) must divorce ourselves entirely from all his ideas and everything he represented. The Allies must not judge all Germans as counterparts of the Göring pattern. Through Göring and the position he held, the Allies must also recognize that Hitler did not possess the slightest ability of proper character and personality evaluation. And that with eyes closed by idealism and a false conception of honor he would not or could not remove 'old followers' even when he suspected, and,in some cases, knew of their inefficiencies and criminal mishandlings. This false sense of honor led him to believe in and support old comrades even after they had long been of great harm to him and to Germany. This same false sense forced him to keep Göring long after he began to suspect Göring's stupidities and failings".
Göring's Caesar Complex
"Much of the conduct and manner of Göring is in my opinion, governed by his abnormal physical condition, Actual functionial diasturbances could easily be the fundamental cause for his Caesar-complex. No doubt these disturbances are also the cause of his feminine manner which was in such stark contrast to his apparently 'iron commands,' his manner of dress, his use of cosmetics, his personal vanity, his perfume drenched, person and clothing, all created an actually decadent impression".
Morphine as a Contributing Factor
"Much of this abnormality was always attributes, to his constant use of Morphine. Undoubtedly the drug drove him to spasms of ecstasy during which he was known to over-rate and regard as fact such things as were solely the product of his drug-doped wishful thinking. During such spells of elation he certainly presented Hitler with a picture that far over-estimated the strength and potentialities of the Luftwaffe. Hitler therefore possessed an entirely erroneous picture of his air strength and was deluded thereby into a false sense of security that prolonged the war much further than might have' been the case had he known the true situation".
Göring Sells Germany a "Bill of Goods"
"A striking example of, Göring's falsification occurred when he invited Hitler, a group of ministers, Gau leaders, and other government officials to Rechlin to attend a showing of the newest Aircraft types. Göring demonstrated new and capable planes of which not more than a few experimental models existed, and then passed them off as examples of aircraft that were, momentarily to come off the production lines in battle-ready thousands. He then conducted sham airbattles with out-moded Allied fighter craft to show the tremendous superiority of the German air-arm. The assembled officials returned to their respective communities where they quieted the fears of the populace with glowing accounts of the new planes and weapons that would soon cleanse the air of Allied bombers. This bolstered the faith of the people in final victory and through their resultant concentration of effort, certainly prolonged the war".
Göring Dreams Up A/C Production Figures
"Whenever Göring was confronted with aircraft production figures that were less than those he imagined or hoped existed, he would rant and fume and deluge the individual with accusations of sabotage, suspicions of non-support of the war effort. An illustration of this I experienced personally:
a. "In August 1943, after my recovery from a crash with a He-163 I received a luncheon invitation to his home on Obersalzburg, There were three of us at the table; Göring, his wife, and I. As opening remark of the table conversation Göring wanted to acauaint his wife with the plane in which I had been injured".
b. "'Do you know", he said, "the 163 is our newest rocket craft, which climbs with fantastic speed almost straight into the air. Thousands are now ready to sweep the heavens clean and shoot down the bomber formations wherever we can find them".
c. "I was astounded and almost disbelieved my ears. I knew that at that moment we did not have a single 163 ready for combat and at the very best we could not expect a single craft to be ready before the end of the year. Assembly line production would, for a long time, be out of the question. Even if all the factories designated to produce this craft were set in full and immediate production, the figures he was suggesting were fantastic. I wasn't certain if Göring was joking or if, with intentional exaggeration, he was merely attempting to reassure his wife. That he himself believed whpt he had said seemed ridiculous".
d. "With a half-laugh, I said, that would be fine, were it true".
e. "Göring seemed astounded at my remark and loudly demanded what I meant by the statement. With stupefied amazement I realized from his retort that he actually believed we did have thousands of the Me-163's. As I felt it to be my duty to tell him the truth I explained what I knew about the production figures and what we could hope for in the way of assembly-line production. Thereupon Göring flew into a rage and viciously pounding his fist upon the table he screamed that I didn't have the slightest idea, that I didn't know what I was speaking about, and strode angrily out of the room. With horror I realized why no one dared tell him the truth. I became sick with dread when I realized what a completely false impression he must have of the strength and power of his own weapon. As Göring came back into the room I made another attempt to discuss the matter rationally, but i t was of no avail. I had simply fallen into the poor graces of the Reichsmarschall and was never again called to see him or consulted on aeronautical matters".
Göring Selects his Aides in his Own Image
"Göring chose such people to fill the positions about him as mirrored his own personality ; men who were self-centered, incompetent, and catering. It was men like these who influenced the spirit and of the Luftwaffe. Often they possessed not the slightest knowledge or technical understanding of their jobs and held them only because they were friendly, congenial or hero-worshippers of Göring. Even when one of these dared give Göring information that did not laud or reflect the superiority of the Luftwaffe, they were immediately removed. An example is Udet who was certainly one of Germany's greatest flyers. His appointment by Göring as Chief of the Luftwaffe's Technical Branch was an error that even Udet realized. His inevitable failure in the position, Hitler's evidenced disgust with that failure, and the personal denunciation of Göring drove Udet to suicide".
a. "The one-time Chief of the General Staff, General Jeschonneck, also took his life over despair of Göring's mismanagement. Göring, grief stricken, attended the funeral of both, and with tears in his eyes bewailed the loss of 'beloved airmen'.
b. "Jeschonnek's successor, General Korton, later killed for his participation in the 20 July assassination attempt, and his successor, General Koller, were both driven almost insane through Göring's stupid inefficiencies. I am sure that General Koller can and would be glad to give full information regarding Göring's character and mishandlings. I am also sure that Major Krogmann, General Korton's Chief of Staff, would be able to give further information on the deceased Korton's relations and opinions of Göring".
c. "That-Feldmarschall Greim took his life on 24 May 1945 as he was being taken to Germany as a prisoner of war was also largely due to Göring. I am sure that Greim was not able to reconcile his honor as a soldier with giving the information he would have had to give regarding the despicable traits and blunderings of Göring, his former Commanding Officer, who in his own mind he damned as the incompetent who bore the greatest guilt for the useless continuation of the war
Göring's Technical Shortcomings
"An air force is a technical weapon and in its development engineers, research men, scientists, and industrialists must be allowed to speak. If this is not understood, as Göring did not understand it, it was inevitable that the Luftwaffe would crumble through leadership that was not short of criminal".
a. "As Research Director of the Luftwaffe, Prof. Dr. Walter' Georgii of Ainring, Germany, can give a full picture of Göring's lack of interest and awareness in research matters".
b. "Of Göring's relations with Luftwaffe engineers and technicians both Feldmarschall Milch and Dipl. Ing. Otto Fuchs, Berlin-Köpenick, Wendenschlosstrasse, can give complete information".
c. "The fact that Göring made himself into the well known 'Hermann Meier' is only superficial, but indicative evidence of what can be documented by those named above. Goering always heeded the psuedoscientists and engineers who gave him glowing accounts and promised other wonders for the immediate future that would be even mote glowing, in spite of the fact that competent men saw the pitfalls and impossibilities. But as always these uncolored accounts were consistently disregarded and eventually even forbidden entrance".
The "Volksjäger" Blunder
"A shocking example of Göering's faulty judgment was the matter of-the 'Volksjäger'. It was in favor of this new plane that Göring allowed himself to almost destroy the last hope left to the Luftwaffe in the fall of 1944—namely the hope that-lay in the Me-262. The Me-262 was at this time fully tested and found to possess flight characteristics that were almost flawless and certainly exceeded those of any other German craft and of any known Allied plans. It was then of the gravest importance, in the fall of 1944, to get the Me-262 on an immediate assembly-line production basis. With everything ready, Göring gave ear to the proposed 'Volksjäger' plan, for which only the roughest, first—stage drawings had been accomplished; and from which a plane was to evolve that admittedly possessed poorer flight qualities and more limited potentialities than the Me-262".
a. "Ambitious construction men, motivated by interests of self-gain, promised Göring than the 'Volksjäger' couid be perfected from the basic drawing-board sketches, in the fall of 1944, to assembly-line production by March 1945 without affecting the Me-262 program. Countless aircraft engineers warned Göring of the plan's impracticability and fell into immediate disfavor as a result. Every designer, test-pilot, and constructor knew how much time would be required to develop an entirely new craft. Only Göring and his momentary favorites did not, or would not, recognize this actuality. Result, of course, was that the 'last-hope' Me-262 did suffer through the 'Volksjäger' program. The main reason, for this was that Generaldirektor Kessler, long connected and acquainted with the Me-262's evolution and in charge of its assembly-line production planning was removed by Göring and put to work on the 'Volksjäger' project".
b. "The final result was that the Me-262 program was irreparably damaged, and that the 'Volksjäger' an everyone suspected, was another 'too-late' and a complete failure". [Full information on Göring's role in the "Volksjäger" affair, Reitsch claims, could be obtained, from Dipl. Ing, Voigt of Messerschmitt].
Göring the Collector and Abnormal Egotist
"If is general information," claims Reitsch, "that Göring was the greatest corruptionist of the Third Reich, that he used his position without restraint to collect and cinfiscate treasures of art, castles, villas, and untold sums of money. In his personality and Morphine-sickened egotism, I see the blame for his inefficiencies and despicable characteristics. Through this came his excesses, his blunderings, the loss of the trust of most of his officers, the contempt of research and technical men, and finally even the one-time good humored faith on the part of many of the people changed to outright disgust".
The Anti-Göring Trend
"Complaints against Göring came from all possible sources and usually found their way to Himmler's desk. Through Himmler I became acquainted with many of these. Often they begged Himmler to take control of the Luftwaffe himself or at least to impress Hitler with the stringent need of replacing Göring. These were sent to Himmler because it was known that of the big-four he was the only one who would at least read such complaints; a thing that had long been impossible with the others, least of all with Hitler, as all such information was short-circuited long before it reached his desk".
Hitler Attempts to Remedy the Göring Situation
"Through Himmler's intervention Hitler finally called General Oberst von Greim to him in September 1944. and told him in secrecy of his misgivings regarding some of Göring's activities. Hitler, then asked Greim to take control of all military air operations in such a manner that he would not have to remove Göring altogether. Greim agreed, but indicated that he could accept only if he were given complete freedom to fill responsible positions as he saw fit and in, addition that he. should have suqh other rights and authority as would, ensure that the operational control would.be exercised in the manner he deemed necessary. He was sent by the Führer to Göring to arrange some sort of a division of duties".
Göring vs. Greim
"In presenting his matter to Göring; Greim was met with a terrific harangue and out-burst of rage. Greim at once saw that any form of co-operation with Göring was impossible, reported this to Hitler, and asked to be sent back to his post as Commanding Officer of Luftflotte VI".
The Last Days
"Through his sickened egotism and selfishness, Göring held to his position to the last, in spite of the fact that he himself was beginning to see that he was gradually slipping in his position, and because of this a people was practically destroyed and a terrible war continued long after it had been fully lost. Until just before the end he fought with the same determination to keep the trust of Hitler, a trust that he knew was fast waning. Then when he saw the end at hand, he deserted. A man who accepts every honor, every title, every decoration, and every position with constant avowals of his faithfulness, must be more than a scoundrel when turns traitor the moment the Führer had nothing more to give him".
Göring's "Pleasant" Personality
"Many people have always enamored by his strange personal charm, by his sense of humor, by his apparent appreciation of tradition and culture. This danger still been exists. These same people have considered him as a picture of faithfulness to Hitler as well as the Führer's greatest protector. These people may not understand his betrayal and his character and may still be of their former opinions. It is true that even the greatest criminal,.. the most dangerous human being, has his acceptable characteristics. The danger is that many people have seen only this 'display-side' and not the proper, odious side of Göring. No doubt his household servants, chauffeurs, and orderlies, who lived practically as well as he did himself, are still firmly convinced of his congeniality and goodliness, as at first the whole nation was convinced. But such opinions should never be allowed to influence a proper judgment of the man. One must never forget the danger that such abnormal vanity, such gross incompetence, and pitiful inefficiency represents against the peoples of any nation and thereby against humanity".
Only Survivor of the "Big-Four"
"In Göring's case the danger is particularly great, as he is the only survivor of the four leaders of the Third Reich. It is possible that the hopes of such people who are still sympathetically inclined to the Nazi regime and its ideology night hope that through Göring some aspects of the Nazi philosophy could be kept alive. Such a thing must never be allowed to occur. The people must know what sort of crininal Göring was, a criminal against Germany and against the world".
Reitsch draws two sharp conclusions out of her analysis of Göring that she feels condemn him in her eyes, in the. eyes of the Gernan people, and in the eyes of the world. The first is that through his ignorance he misused the Luftwaffe to such an extent that thousands of lives were lost, both through the improper defensive and offensive use of the weapon. The second is that through his vanity and warped ego ho allowed hinself to be informed falsely and in turn informed Hitler falsely as to the strength and capabilities of the air-arm. Reitsch believes that this false picture that Göring carried to the Führer night easily have been drawn from Göring's actual impressions as it was simply forbidden to bring any pessimistic accounts to his attention. If this was the case Göring's guilt is all the greater, in Reitsch's opinion, because she believes that if Hitler had currently known the true status of his airweapon he would have been forced to recognize the inevitable defeat much earlier than he did. She therefore holds Göring responsible for the useless continuation of the war for many months after it was, in the eyes of almost everyone, completely and irretrievably lost.
a. Every life lost on either side during that time, is in her opinion, to be unquestionably chalked up against Göring.
b. Reitsch draws a third conclusion in which she charged Hitler with the final and overall responsibility of Göring's failures. Hitler's crime was that he did not possess the necessary insight to realize the incompetency of Görlng and that even when he did begin to realize it in the last stages, Hitler was motivated by a false and criminal sense of allegiance to one of his old-guard, long-time supporters to the extent that he could not bring himself to remove Göring while there was still time.
c. In her opinion Hitler's removal of Göring during the early stages of the war would not have vindicated Göring but would substantially have shortened the duration of the war
-- Robert E. WORK Captain, Air Corps Chief Interrogator
Hanna Reitsch died in Frankfurt at the age of 67 on 24 August 1979, allegedly after a heart attack. She had never married.
That same month Eric Brown, a British test pilot who had known her before the war, was surprised to receive a letter from Reitsch in which she reminisced about their shared love of flying, the letter ending with the words; "It began in the Bunker and there it shall end". Brown speculated that this may have referred to a suicide pact with von Greim, who may well have been Reitsch's lover: they had both been given cyanide pills by Hitler while in the Bunker and Reitsch was known still to have hers. It is possible that she had made a pact with von Greim to follow him in committing suicide, albeit at a different time in order to dampen any rumours of their affair. Her death was announced shortly after Brown received this letter, which led him to wonder whether she had finally carried out her side of the pact and had used the suicide pill at last: apparently no post-mortem inquest was carried out on her body.