Hanna Reitsch in 1940s
|Born||29 March 1912|
|Died||24 August 1979 (aged 67)|
|Known for|| Aviator, test pilot |
Hanna Reitsch (29 March 1912 – 24 August 1979) was a German aviatrix and test pilot. During the Nazi era, she and Melitta von Stauffenberg flight tested many of the regime's new aircraft.
A test pilot is an aircraft pilot with additional training to fly and evaluate experimental, newly produced and modified aircraft with specific manoeuvres known as flight test techniques.
She set more than 40 flight altitude records and women's endurance records in gliding and unpowered flight, [ better source needed ] before and after World War II. In the 1960s, she was sponsored by the West German foreign office as a technical adviser in Ghana and elsewhere, and founded a gliding school in Ghana, where she worked for Kwame Nkrumah.
This listing of flight altitude records are the records set for the highest aeronautical flights conducted in the atmosphere, set since the age of ballooning.
Gliding is a recreational activity and competitive air sport in which pilots fly unpowered aircraft known as gliders or sailplanes using naturally occurring currents of rising air in the atmosphere to remain airborne. The word soaring is also used for the sport.
Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means "Warrior King" in the Soninke language.
Reitsch was born in Hirschberg, Silesia (today Jelenia Góra in Poland) on 29 March 1912 to an upper-middle-class family. She had a brother, Kurt, and a sister. She began flight training in 1932 at the School of Gliding in Grunau. 14 While a medical student in Berlin she enrolled in a German Air Mail amateur flying school for powered aircraft at Staaken, in a Klemm Kl 25. :30,33–34:
Jelenia Góra is a city in Lower Silesia, south-western Poland. Jelenia Góra is located within the Lower Silesian Voivodeship, close to the Krkonoše mountain range running along the Polish-Czech border – ski resorts such as Karpacz and Szklarska Poręba are situated 10 to 15 kilometres from the town. The city constitutes a separate urban gmina and city county, as well as being the seat of surrounding Jelenia Góra County. In 2009 the population of Jelenia Góra was 84,564. The area, including the oldest spa district of Cieplice Śląskie-Zdrój, is one of the most valued recreational and leisure spots in Poland.
The Province of Silesia was a province of Prussia from 1815 to 1919. The Silesia region was part of the Prussian realm since 1740 and established as an official province in 1815, then became part of the German Empire in 1871. In 1919, as part of the Free State of Prussia within Weimar Germany, Silesia was divided into the provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. Silesia was reunified briefly from 1938 to 1941 as a province of Nazi Germany before being divided back into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia.
Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.
In 1933, Reitsch left medical school at the University of Kiel to become, at the invitation of Wolf Hirth, a full-time glider pilot/instructor at Hornberg in Baden-Württemberg. 55 Reitsch contracted with the Ufa Film Company as a stunt pilot and set an unofficial endurance record for women of eleven hours and twenty minutes. :59,61,63 In January 1934, she joined a South America expedition to study thermal conditions, along with Wolf Hirth, Peter Riedel and Heini Dittmar. :64–65 While in Argentina, she became the first woman to earn the Silver C Badge, the 25th to do so among world glider pilots. :75:
Kiel University is a university in the city of Kiel, Germany. It was founded in 1665 as the Academia Holsatorum Chiloniensis by Christian Albert, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp and has approximately 27,000 students today. Kiel University is the largest, oldest, and most prestigious in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. Until 1864/66 it was not only the northernmost university in Germany but at the same time the 2nd largest university of Denmark. Faculty, alumni, and researchers of the Kiel University have won 12 Nobel Prizes. Kiel University is a member of the German Universities Excellence Initiative since 2006. The Cluster of Excellence The Future Ocean, which was established in cooperation with the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in 2006, is internationally recognized. The second Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces" deals with chronic inflammatory diseases. The Kiel Institute for the World Economy is also affiliated with Kiel University.
Wolfram Kurt Erhard Hirth was a German gliding pioneer and sailplane designer. He was a co-founder of Schempp-Hirth, still a renowned glider manufacturer.
Hornberg is a town in the Ortenaukreis, in western Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated in the Black Forest, 35 km southeast of Offenburg, and 25 km northwest of Villingen-Schwenningen.
In June 1934, Reitsch became a member of the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug (DFS) and became a test pilot in 1935. 76,101,105 Reitsch enrolled in the Civil Airways Training School in Stettin, where she flew a twin-engine on a cross country flight and aerobatics in a Focke-Wulf Fw 44. :78–87 In 1937, Ernst Udet gave Reitsch the honorary title of "Flugkapitän" after she had successfully tested Hans Jacobs' divebrakes for gliders. :108–11 At the DFS she test flew transport and troop-carrying gliders, including the DFS 230 used at the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael. :155–156:
The Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug, or DFS, was formed in 1933 to centralise all gliding activity in Germany, under the directorship of Professor Georgii. It was formed by the nationalisation of the Rhön-Rossitten Gesellschaft (RRG) at Darmstadt.
Szczecin is the capital and largest city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland. Located near the Baltic Sea and the German border, it is a major seaport and Poland's seventh-largest city. As of June 2018, the population was 403,274.
Aerobatics is the practice of flying maneuvers involving aircraft attitudes that are not used in normal flight. Aerobatics are performed in airplanes and gliders for training, recreation, entertainment, and sport. Additionally, some helicopters, such as the MBB Bo 105, are capable of limited aerobatic maneuvers. An example of a fully aerobatic helicopter, capable of performing loops and rolls, is the Westland Lynx.
In September 1937, Reitsch was drafted in the Luftwaffe and posted at the testing centre at Rechlin-Lärz Airfield by Ernst Udet. 117:
The Luftwaffe was the aerial warfare branch of the combined German Wehrmacht military forces during World War II. Germany's military air arms during World War I, the Luftstreitkräfte of the Army and the Marine-Fliegerabteilung of the Navy, had been disbanded in May 1920 as a result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which stated that Germany was forbidden to have any air force.
Ernst Udet was a German pilot and air force general during both World War I and World War II.
Her flying skill, desire for publicity, and photogenic qualities made her a star of Nazi propaganda. Physically she was petite in stature, very slender with blonde hair, blue eyes and a "ready smile". 123She appeared in Nazi propaganda throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s. :
Reitsch was the first female helicopter pilot and one of the few pilots to fly the Focke-Achgelis Fa 61, the first fully controllable helicopter, for which she received the Military Flying Medal. 119–123 In 1938, during the three weeks of the International Automobile Exhibition in Berlin, she made daily flights of the Fw 61 helicopter inside the Deutschlandhalle . :123:
In September 1938, Reitsch flew the DFS Habicht in the Cleveland National Air Races. 129–138:
Reitsch was a test pilot on the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber and Dornier Do 17 light/fast bomber projects, for which she received the Iron Cross, Second Class, from Hitler on 28 March 1941. 166, 170–171 Reitsch was asked to fly many of Germany's latest designs, among them the rocket-propelled Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet in 1942. :173–174 A crash landing on her fifth Me 163 flight badly injured Reitsch; she spent five months in a hospital recovering. :175–179 Reitsch received the Iron Cross First Class following the accident, one of only three women to do so. :179:
In February 1943 after news of the defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad she accepted an invitation from Col. Gen. Ritter von Greim to visit the Eastern Front. She spent three weeks visiting Luftwaffe units, flying a Fieseler Fi 156 Storch. 185–187:
On 28 February 1944, she presented the idea of Operation Suicide to Hitler at Berchtesgaden, which "would require men who were ready to sacrifice themselves in the conviction that only by this means could their country be saved." Although Hitler "did not consider the war situation sufficiently serious to warrant them...and...this was not the right psychological moment", he gave his approval. The project was assigned to Gen. Günther Korten. 189,191–193 There were about seventy volunteers who enrolled in the Suicide Group as pilots for the human glider-bomb. :193 By April 1944, Reitsch and Heinz Kensche finished tests of the Me 328, carried aloft by a Dornier Do 217. :194 By then, she was approached by SS- Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny, a founding member of the SS-Selbstopferkommando Leonidas (Leonidas Squadron). They adapted the V-1 into three models, a two-seater, and a single-seater with and without the mechanisms to land. :195–196 The plan was never implemented operationally, "the decisive moment had been missed." :198:
In her autobiography Fliegen, mein Leben Reitsch recalled that after two initial crashes with the V-1 flying bomb she and Heinz Kensche took over tests of the prototype Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg. She made several successful test flights before training the instructors. "Though an average pilot could fly the V1 without difficulty once it was in the air, to land it called for exceptional skill, in that it had a very high landing speed and, moreover, in training it was the glider model, without engine, that was usually employed." 196–198:
In October 1944, she was shown a booklet Peter Riedel had obtained while in the German Embassy in Stockholm, concerning the gas chambers. She claims she believed it to be enemy propaganda, but agreed to inform Heinrich Himmler about it. Himmler asked her if she believed it, and she replied, "No, of course not. But you must do something to counter it. You can't let them shoulder this onto Germany." "You are right," Himmler replied. 184:
During the last days of the war, Hitler dismissed Hermann Göring as head of the Luftwaffe and appointed Reitsch's lover, Generaloberst Robert Ritter von Greim, to replace him. Greim and his mistress Reitsch flew from Gatow Airport into embattled Berlin to meet Hitler in the Führerbunker , arriving on 26 April as the Red Army troops were already in the central area of Berlin. 205–210 Reitsch landed on an improvised airstrip in the Tiergarten near the Brandenburg Gate. :206 Hitler gave Reitsch two capsules of poison for herself and von Greim. :211 She accepted the capsule.:
During the evening of 28 April, Reitsch flew von Greim out of Berlin in an Arado Ar 96 from the same improvised airstrip. This was the last plane out of Berlin. 203,213 Von Greim was ordered to get the Luftwaffe to attack the Soviet forces that had just reached Potsdamer Platz and to make sure Heinrich Himmler was punished for his treachery in making unauthorised contact with the Western Allies so as to surrender. Troops of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army, which was fighting its way through the Tiergarten from the north, tried to shoot the plane down fearing that Hitler was escaping in the plane, but it took off successfully.:
Reitsch was soon captured along with von Greim and the two were interviewed together by U.S. military intelligence officers. ..." She was held for eighteen months. :219 Greim killed himself on 24 May 1945.When asked about being ordered to leave the Führerbunker on 28 April 1945, Reitsch and von Greim reportedly repeated the same answer: "It was the blackest day when we could not die at our Führer's side." Reitsch also said: "We should all kneel down in reverence and prayer before the altar of the Fatherland." When the interviewers asked what she meant by "Altar of the Fatherland" she answered, "Why, the Führer's bunker in Berlin
Evacuated from Silesia ahead of the Soviet troops, Reitsch's family took refuge in Salzburg. 202 During the night of 3 May 1945, after hearing a rumour that all refugees were to be taken back to their original homes in the Soviet occupation zone, Reitsch's father shot and killed her mother and sister :215 and her sister's three children before killing himself.:
After her release Reitsch settled in Frankfurt am Main. Following the war, German citizens were barred from flying powered aircraft, but within a few years gliding was allowed, which she took up again. In 1952, Reitsch won a bronze medal in the World Gliding Championships in Spain; she was the first woman to compete. 220 and in 1955 she became German champion. :220 She continued to break records, including the women's altitude record [6,848 m (22,467 ft)] in 1957 and her first diamond of the Gold-C badge. :220:
During the mid-1950s, Reitsch was interviewed on film and talked about her wartime flight tests of the Fa 61, Me 262, and Me 163.
In 1959, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru invited Reitsch who spoke fluent English to start a gliding centre, and flew with him over New Delhi. 220:
In 1961, United States President John F. Kennedy invited her to the White House. 221:
From 1962 to 1966, she lived in Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah invited Reitsch to Ghana after reading of her work in India. At Afienya she founded the first black African national gliding school, working closely with the government and the armed forces. The West German government supported her as technical adviser.The school was commanded by JES de Graft-Hayford, with gliders such as the double-seated Schleicher K7, Slingsby T21, and a Bergfalk, along with a single-seated Schleicher K8. She gained the Diamond Badge in 1970.
The project was evidently of great importance to Nkrumah and has been interpreted as part of a "modernist" development ideology.
Reitsch's attitudes to race underwent a change. "Earlier in my life, it would never have occurred to me to treat a black person as a friend or partner ..." She now experienced guilt at her earlier "presumptuousness and arrogance". She became close to Nkrumah. The details of their relationship are now unclear due to the destruction of documents, but some surviving letters are intimate in tone.
In Ghana, some Africans were disturbed by the prominence of a person with Reitsch's past, but Shirley Graham Du Bois, a noted African-American writer who had emigrated to Ghana and was friendly towards Reitsch, agreed with Nkrumah that Reitsch was extremely naive politically.Contemporary Ghanaian press reports seem to show a lack of interest in her past.
Throughout the 1970s, Reitsch broke gliding records in many categories, including the "Women's Out and Return World Record" twice, once in 1976 [715 km (444 mi)] and again, in 1979, [802 km (498 mi)] flying along the Appalachian Ridges in the United States. During this time, she also finished first in the women's section of the first world helicopter championships.
Reitsch was interviewed and photographed several times in the 1970s, towards the end of her life, by Jewish-American photo-journalist Ron Laytner. In her closing remarks she is quoted as saying:
And what have we now in Germany? A country 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 of Germany you can't find a single person who voted Adolf Hitler into power ... Many Germans feel guilty about the war. But they don't explain the real guilt we share – that we lost.
In a little known statement in the same interview, she is quoted as saying,
I asked Herman Goering one day, "What is this I am hearing that Germany is killing Jews?"
Goering responded angrily, 'A totally outrageous lie made up by the British and American press. It will be used as a rope to hang us someday if we lose the war.'
Reitsch died of a heart attack in Frankfurt at the age of 67, on 24 August 1979. She had never married.
Former British test pilot and Royal Navy officer Eric Brown said he received a letter from Reitsch in early August 1979 in which she said, "It began in the bunker, there it shall end." Within weeks she was dead. Brown speculated that Reitsch had taken the cyanide capsule Hitler had given her in the bunker, and that she had taken it as part of a suicide pact with Greim. No autopsy was performed, or at least no such report is available.
This section needs additional citations for verification . (August 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Reitsch has been portrayed by the following actresses in film and television productions.
The Fieseler Fi 103R, code-named Reichenberg, was a late-World War II German manned version of the V-1 flying bomb produced for attacks in which the pilot was likely to be killed or at best to parachute down at the attack site, which were to be carried out by the "Leonidas Squadron", V. Gruppe of the Luftwaffe's Kampfgeschwader 200.
Peter Riedel was a German gliding champion, and was Air Attaché for the Nazi government in Washington, D.C., before and during World War II. Between 1977 and 1985 he published the definitive history of the German gliding movement prior to the war.
The Messerschmitt Me 328 was originally designed as a parasite aircraft to protect Luftwaffe bomber formations during World War II. During its protracted development, a wide variety of other roles were suggested for it. Late in the war, the design was resurrected for consideration as a Selbstopfer aircraft, but was judged unsuitable even for this purpose. The tiny fighter was to have been propelled by pulsejets, but the unsuitability of these engines doomed the Me 328 from the start.
Robert Ritter von Greim was a German Field Marshal and pilot. In the last days of World War II, Adolf Hitler appointed Greim as commander of the Luftwaffe in place of Hermann Göring, whom he had dismissed for treason. When Germany surrendered, Greim was taken prisoner by American forces; he committed suicide in prison on 24 May 1945.
The Ghana Air Force (GHF) is the aerial warfare organizational military branch of the Ghanaian Armed Forces (GAF). The GHF, along with the Ghanaian army (GA) and Ghanaian navy (GN), make up the Ghanaian Armed Forces (GAF) which are controlled by the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Hans Baur was Adolf Hitler's pilot during Hitler's political campaigns of the early 1930s. He later became Hitler's personal pilot and leader of the Reichsregierung squadron. Apprehended by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II in Europe, he was imprisoned in the USSR for ten years before being extradited to France on 10 October 1955, where he was imprisoned until 1957. He died in Herrsching, Bavaria, in 1993.
Captain Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS, RN was a British Royal Navy officer and test pilot who flew 487 types of aircraft, more than anyone else in history. He was also the most-decorated pilot in the history of the Royal Navy.
The Rhön-Rossitten Gesellschaft (RRG) or Rhön-Rossitten Society was a German gliding organization, the first one in the world that was officially recognised. The Rhön-Rossitten Gesellschaft was mainly responsible for establishing gliding as a sport, not only in Germany but eventually throughout the world.
Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, born Melitta Schiller, was an aviatrix who served as a test pilot in the Luftwaffe before and during World War II.
The DFS Habicht was designed in 1936 by Hans Jacobs as an unlimited aerobatic sailplane, with support provided by the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug. Four planes were made available for the Olympic Games of 1936, where the maneuvers of the Habicht over and literally inside the Olympic stadium enthralled spectators.
The Leonidas Squadron, formally known as 5th Staffel of Kampfgeschwader 200 was a unit which was originally formed to fly the Fieseler Fi 103R (Reichenberg), a manned version of the V-1 flying bomb, in attacks in which the pilot was likely to be killed, or at best to parachute down at the attack site. The Reichenberg was never used in combat because Werner Baumbach, the commander of KG 200, and his superiors considered it an unnecessary waste of life and resources, and preferred instead to use the Mistel bomb, piloted from a regular Luftwaffe single-seat fighter used as an integral parasite aircraft, as the only manned part of the composite aircraft Mistel ordnance system, which released the lower, unmanned flying bomb component aircraft towards its target and returned.
Ann Courtenay Welch OBE, née Edmonds, was a pilot who received the Gold Air Medal from Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) for her contributions to the development of four air sports - gliding, hang gliding, paragliding and microlight flying.
Karl Koller was a German General der Flieger and the Chief of the General Staff of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe during World War II.
Heini Dittmar was a record-breaking German glider pilot.
Rivalen der Luft – ein Segelfliegerfilm is a German movie released in January 1934, which in 1945 got banned by the Allied Control Council as Nazi Propaganda film, although it was later removed from the list of so-called Conditional Films.
The Horten H.II Habicht (Hawk) was a German flying wing glider built in Germany in 1935. Four, including one flown mostly as a motorglider, were built. One of the gliders was used to test the aerodynamics of a prototype World War II Horten jet fighter-bomber.
The question whether Adolf Hitler is dead or alive may be answered by the testimony of Hanna Reitsch, woman Luftwaffe pilot, who was in a Berlin bomb shelter with him a few hours before the Russians captured it. She was arrested in the United States zone of occupation today and is being interrogated.
Hanna Reitsch, the leading German female pilot and a much-decorated favorite of Hitler who flew the last plane out of Berlin hours before the city fell in 1945, died Friday at her home in Bonn, West Germany. She was 67 years old.
Aviation pioneer Hanna Reitsch, 67, who flew the last plane out of burning Berlin before the fall of the Nazis in 1945, died Aug. 24, the West Germany radio has reported.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hanna Reitsch .|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Hanna Reitsch|