Reitsch, Hanna

PILOT (GERMANY)
BORN 29 Mar 1912, Hirschberg im Riesengebirge, Silesia (now: Jelenia Góra, Poland) - DIED 24 Aug 1979, Frankfurt am Main, Hessen
CAUSE OF DEATH heart attack
GRAVE LOCATION Salzburg: Kommunalfriedhof, Gneiser Strasse 8 (Gruppe 60, Reihe 20, Nummer 3 (Familiengrab))

Daughter of the physician Dr. Wilhelm Reitsch (1878-1945), who was the manager of an ophthalmology clinic. Her mother Emy Helff-Hibler von Alpenheim (1879-1945) came from a noble family. As a child Hanna already dreamed of flying. From 1932 onwards she studied medicine in Berlin and Kiel. During the same year she attended the School of Gliding in Grunau and she made her first flights. In 1933 she left the medical school after she was invited by Wolf Hirth to become a glider pilot and instructer at Hornberg in Baden-Württemberg. In 1934 she broke the world's altitude record for women and further records followed.

In 1935 she became a test pilot and in 1936 she met Ernst Udet. In 1937 she was employed by the Luftwaffe as a civilian test pilot. After a request by Udet she made the first helicopter flight ever inside a closed room in the Deutschlandhalle in Berlin in February 1938. During the Second World War she tested the Messerschmitt Me-163 and she was seriously wounded in 1942, resulting in five months in hospital and plastic surgery. She resumed flying long before she received formal mediacal permission in August 1943. In 1945 she flew to Berlin with Ritter von Greim in an attempt to convince Hitler, whom she admired, to leave Berlin. He refused to join them and they returned to Bavaria, where they were arrested by the Americans.

She was imprisoned for 18 months, but since she had never joined a nazi organisation she was eventually released. During her time in prison she found out that her parents had committed suicide in Salzburg for fear of the Russians. After the war Germans weren't allowed to fly, but gliding was soon permitted. She took it up again and became German Champion in 1955. In 1959 she visited Nehru in India to start a gliding center and in 1961 she was received by John F. Kennedy at the White House. From 1962 tot 1966 she lived in Ghana, where she ran a gliding school and was the private pilot of Kwame Nkrumah, the president of Ghana.

She published books in which she mentioned her many meetings with Hitler, Göring, Himmler and other nazis, but she never spoke out against them and was critizised for that. In 1974 she left Germany and became an Austrian citizen.

Related persons
• travelled with Hirth, Wolf
• has a connection with Udet, Ernst

Events
0/2/1938Hanna Reitsch flies a helicopter inside the Deutschlandhalle in Berlin. It was the first helicopter flight ever inside a building. She did it after a request by Ernst Udet and the helicopter was a Focke-Achgelis FA-61. She had previously demonstrated this helicopter to Charles Lindbergh in Bremen. [Udet, Ernst]
28/2/1944Hanna Reitsch suggests a kamikaze squad to Adolf Hitler. She was a well known test pilot and visited him in Berchtesgaden to receive an Iron Cross First Class. She suggested to create a kamikaze squad of suicide bombers. Hitler's wasn't enthousiastic about the idea but he gave permission to go ahead with experimental work. Nothing came to it after the factory where the ME-328B planes were developed was bombed by the Allied forces. 

Images

The grave of Hanna Reitsch at the Kommunalfriedhof, Salzburg.
Picture by Androom (29 Aug 2009)

 

The grave of Hanna Reitsch at the Kommunalfriedhof, Salzburg.
Picture by Androom (29 Aug 2009)

 

Sources
Hanna Reitsch – Wikipedia


Reitzenstein, Franziska, Freifrau von

Published: 26 Sep 2009
Last update: 12 Mar 2022