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Hanna Reitsch
Birth: Mar. 12, 1912
Dolnoslaskie, Poland
Death: Aug. 24, 1979
Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurter Stadtkreis
Hessen, Germany

Pioneering German Aviatrix, she was the first female stunt pilot and test pilot in aviation history. Born into a middle class German family in an area now part of Poland, her father was an ophthalmologist and her mother a homemaker with a simple belief in God. Hanna's early goals were to be a flying doctor, but her passion for flying soon overtook her desire for a career in medicine and she left medical school to become a full time glider pilot. Because of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, Germany was not allowed to build powered aircraft, so Hanna learned to fly gliders. In the 1920s, she went on to become an instructor in glider pilot school, but quickly distinguished herself as a pilot and got jobs in German government films as a stunt pilot. Because she was the first female helicopter pilot and first human to ever fly a helicopter indoors, this attracted the attention of the Third Reich and the Luftwaffe. In 1940, the British Balloon Barrage had taken a number of fatalities on German pilots; the barrage balloon was deadly in that it could be flown 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. Hitler was invited to see the testing of this new device. During the testing of devices to shear the cables, a snapped cable tore through the ends of her propeller and yanked the engine from her aircraft. Reitsch skillfully landed the crippled plane and in 1941 she was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class by Hitler for her bravery and skill. She was the first woman and ONLY woman to ever be awarded the Iron Cross during World War II, and the Luftwaffe diamond clasp, becoming a heroine of the Third Reich. Because of her fame, she was able to develop a close relationship with Hitler. During the war the Luftwaffe employed Reitsch to test a variety of planes, gliders, and flying bombs. Upon hearing the news that Nazis were killing Jews in concentration camps, she called SS Chief Heinrich Himmler and demanded to know the truth; Himmler lied, saying that it was all propaganda. Reitsch was fiercely patriotic and an ardent supporter of Hitler, and believed in Hitler's grandiose plans for the Third Reich, although she never expressed an opinion about the extermination of Jews. In the last days of the war, Reitsch was asked to fly her lover, General Robert Ritter von Greim, into Russian Army surrounded Berlin to meet with Hitler, and to try to persuade Hitler to fly with her to German controlled territory to carry on the war. Hitler refused to leave Berlin. So when she expressed her desire to die with Hitler in his Bunker, Hitler refused her request and ordered her to fly out of Berlin. Hitler used the excuse that she was to arrest Heinrich Himmler, whom Hitler accused of treachery for his attempt to orchestrate a separate surrender of Germany to the western allies (leaving out the Russians). The city of Berlin was already surrounded by Russian troops who had made progress into the downtown area where Reitsch had boldly landed her plane three days earlier. Reitsch escaped Berlin by taking off through heavy Russian anti-aircraft fire, flying the last plane out of Berlin before it fell to the Russians. Her eyewitness account of the last days of Hitler is an important part of history. Held for interrogation for 18 months by the American military after the war, she was eventually released. During her internment Reitsch testified to the "disintegration" of Hitler's personality in the last days of the war. In the presence of Reitsch Hitler was heard denouncing the treachery of Hermann Goering, the Luftwaffe Commander-In-Chief. Reitsch said in an interview: "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." After the war she was doggedly unrepentant about her support for Hitler and the Nazis. She wore her Iron Crosses proudly and wrote a somewhat defensive and self-serving memoir, "Fliegen, mein Leben" (1951), which was 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 reviewers called it "an exercise in selective memory, rationalization, and denial." Hanna Reitsch was interviewed and photographed several times in the early 1970s in Germany by US investigative photojournalist Ron Laytner. At the end of her last interview she told Laytner: "And what have we now in Germany? A land of bankers and carmakers. 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 that 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 many feel 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." She spent her remaining post war years as an outcast. She spent her last years quietly in Ghana as an instructor in a flying school that she helped establish. Two years before she died, at 65 years of age she set a new women's distance record in a glider. Hanna Reitsch died quietly in bed of a massive heart attack at age 67 in Frankfurt, Germany one year after setting a new women's distance record in a glider. (bio by: Ron Greenberg) 
 
Burial:
Kommunalfriedhof
Salzburg
Salzburg Stadt
Salzburg, Austria
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Bernadette Loeffel - At...
Record added: May 01, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 14141351
Hanna Reitsch
Added by: Anonymous
 
Hanna Reitsch
Added by: Bernadette Loeffel - Atkins
 
Hanna Reitsch
Added by: Bernadette Loeffel - Atkins
 
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Hanna, Du bist Dir treu geblieben bis zum (bitteren) Ende. How many people can say that about themselves?Rest in Peace.
- Weisenberger
 Added: Sep. 9, 2014

- Ryan Curtis
 Added: Aug. 24, 2014

- Mike
 Added: Aug. 24, 2014
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