He flew 530,000 Kilometers, dropping 1,000,000 Kg of bombs.
Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords & Diamonds,
German Cross in Gold,
Hungarian Medal of Bravery,
Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor
(The only person ever to be awarded Golden Oak Leaves)
Born 2 July 1916 in Konradswaldau, Silesia.
Joined the Luftwaffe in August 1936.
At first a poor pilot, he was sent away to recon flying school.
He was an observer when the war started but he earned himself an Iron Cross 2nd Class on 11 Oct. 1939.
He kept requesting dive bombers & eventually got posted back to his old unit but upon his return, he was refused a plane and sent for further training.
Eventually sent off to ferry Stukas to front line units, he was given a chance to fly combat by one of the squadron commanders.
24 July 1941 - 100 sorties
24 September 1942 - 500 Sorties
10 February 1943 - 1000 sorties
1 June 1944 - 2000 sorties
5 May 1945 - 2530 - sorties
Fired 1,000,000 rounds of MG ammo, 150,000 rounds of 20mm ammo & 5,000 rounds of 37mm ammo.
He is credited with destroying the battleship 'Marat', a destroyer, two cruisers, 518 Tanks, 150 Artillery pieces, 70 landing craft, 700 other vehicles, four armored trains, some bridges & nine enemy aircraft.
Iron Cross 2nd Class (10 November 1939), Iron Cross 1st Class (18 July 1941), Knight's Cross (6 January 1942), Oak Leaves (14 April 1943), Swords (25 November 1943), Diamonds (29 March 1944), Golden Oak Leaves 29 December 1944)
After the war he help Juan Peron set up the Argentine Air Force (Adolf Galland was another Peron advisor)
"In November a radio message is received: I have been awarded the Knight's Cross with
Oak Leaves and Swords and am to report at once for the investiture to the Führer's H.Q.
in East Prussia.
It is about this time that I destroy my hundredth tank. Personally I am glad of this new
decoration, not least because it is a tribute to my squadron's achievement, but at the
same time I am distressed that sanction for my recommendation of Henschel's Knight's
Cross has not come through. It must be held up somewhere. I therefore decide in any
case to take my rear gunner with me when I report. Henschel has just completed his
thousand operational sorties, and with a recent bag of several Soviet fighters is easily
our best gunner. We fly to East Prussia, over Winiza, Proskurow, Lemberg and Crakow,
to the Führer's H.Q. near Goldap.
First we land at Lotzen. I report to Wing Commander von Below. He tells me that
Sqdn./Ldr. Hrabak is to receive the Oak Leaves at the same time as I; he is due to report
with me. I have brought Henschel along with me and ask Below whether Henschel's
recommendation has reached his office. He tells me it has not, but immediately
promises to find out from the Reichmarschall how the matter stands. There also the
papers cannot be found. They suppose they have been submitted to the Reichmarschall
for sanction. This obtained by word of mouth from Goering himself by von Below, who
goes straight to the Führer and reports to him that I have brought Henschel with me for
the aforementioned reasons, and that the Commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe has
approved the award. The answer is: "Henschel is to come with the others." This is a
great occasion for my faithful rear-gunner. Only a few receive the Knight's Cross at the
Führer's hands, as personal investiture by the Commander-in-Chief begins with the Oak
And so Sqdn./Ldr. Hrabak, Henschel and I stand in the presence of the Führer. First he
pins on our decorations and then drinks tea with us in his study. He speaks of past
operations in the East and of the lessons to be learnt from them; he tells us about the
creation of new units now in progress which will certainly be needed to meet the
coming invasion by the Western Allies. The country will still be able to raise a large
number of divisions and our industry can equip them with sufficient armament.
Meanwhile German inventive genius, he informs us, is still working on stupendous
projects, and we must succeed in wresting victory from Bolshevism. Only the Germans
are in a position to do this, he affirms. He is proud of his Eastern Front soldiers, and he
knows their tremendous exertions and the difficulties they face. He is looking well; and
is full of ideas, and of confidence in the future."
Hrabak, Rudel & Hentschel receive awards from Hitler
Hentschel's Death & Rudel's Escape
"I take a look round. There come the Ivans, in droves, four hundred yards away. Out we
must get. "Follow me," I shout - and already we are sprinting southward as fast as our
legs can carry us. When flying over I have seen that we are about four miles from the
Dniester. We must get across the river whatever we do or else we shall fall an easy prey
to the pursuing Reds. Running is not a simple matter; I am wearing high fur boots and a
fur coat. Sweat is not the word! None of us needs any spurring on; we have no mind to
end up in a Soviet prison camp which has already meant instant death to so many dive
We have been running for half an hour. We are putting up a pretty good show; the Ivans
are a good half a mile behind. Suddenly we find ourselves on the edge of almost
perpendicular cliffs at the foot of which flows the river. We rush hither and thither,
looking for some way of getting down them ... impossible! The Ivans are at our heels.
Then suddenly a boyhood recollection gives me an idea. We used to slide down from
bough to bough from the tops of fir trees and by braking our fall in this way we got to
the bottom safely. There are plenty of large thorny bushes, like our dog-rose, growing
out of the stone face of the cliff. One after the other we slide down and land on the river
bank at the bottom, lacerated in every limb and with our clothes in ribbons. Henschel
gets rather jittery. He shouts:
"Dive in at once. Better to be drowned than captured by the Russians."
I advise common sense. We are aglow from running. A short breather and then strip off
as many garments as we can. The Ivans have meanwhile arrived panting at the top.
They cannot see us because we are in a blind angle of their field of vision. They rush up
and down unable to imagine where we have disappeared to. It is a cinch they think it
impossible that we have leapt over the precipice. The Dniester is in flood; the snows are
thawing out, and here and there a lump of ice drifts past. We calculate the breadth of the
river as six hundred yards, the temperature as 3-4 degrees above freezing. The three
others are already getting into the water; I am just divesting myself of my fur boots and
fur jacket. Now I follow them, clad only in shirt and trousers; under my shirt my map,
in my trousers pockets my medals and my compass. As I touch the water, I say to
myself: "You are never going in here" - then I think of the alternative and am already
In a very short while the cold is paralyzing. I gasp for breath, I no longer feel that I am
swimming. Concentrate hard, think of the swimming strokes and carry out the motions!
Only imperceptibly the far bank draws nearer. The others are ahead of me. I think of
Henschel. He passed his swimming test with me when we were with the reserve flight at
Graz, but if he goes all out today under more difficult conditions he will be able to
repeat that record time, or perhaps get very near it. In mid-stream I am level with him, a
few yards behind the gunner of the other aircraft; the corporal is a good distance in
front, he seems to be an excellent swimmer.
Gradually one becomes dead to all sensation save the instinct of self-preservation which
gives one strength; it is bend or break. I am amazed at the others' stamina, for I as a
former athlete am used to overexertion. My mind travels back. I always used to finish
with the 1500 metres, often glowing with heat after trying to put up the best possible
performance in nine other disciplinary exercises. This hard training pays me now. In
sporting terms, my actual exertion does not exceed ninety per cent of my capability. The
corporal climbs out of the water and throws himself down on the bank. Somewhat later
I reach the safety of the shore with the L.A.C. close after me. Henschel has still another
150 yards to go. The other two are rigid, frozen to the bone, the gunner rambling
deliriously. Poor chap! I sit down and watch Henschel struggling on. Another 80 yards.
Suddenly he throws up his arms and yells: "I can't go on, I can't go on any more!" and
sinks. He comes up once, but not a second time. I jump back into the water, now
drawing on the last ten per cent of energy which I hope is left me. I reach the spot where
I just saw Henschel go down. I cannot dive, for to dive I need to fill my lungs but with
the cold I cannot get sufficient air. After several fruitless attempts I just manage to get
back to the bank. If I had succeeded in catching hold of Henschel I should have
remained with him in the Dniester. He was very heavy and the strain would have been
too much for almost any one. Now I lie sprawled on the bank ... limp ... exhausted ...
and somewhere a deep-seated misery for my friend Henschel. A moment later we say a
Paternoster for our comrade.
The map is sodden with water, but I have everything in my head. Only the devil only
knows how far we are behind the Russian lines. Or is there still a chance that we may
bump into the Rumanians sooner or later? I check up on our arms; I have a 6.35 mm.
revolver with six rounds, the corporal a 7.65 with a full magazine, the L.A.C. has lost
his revolver whilst in the water and has only Henschel's broken knife. We start walking
southward with these weapons in our hands. The gently rolling country is familiar from
flying over it. Contour differences of perhaps six hundred feet, few villages, 30 miles to
the south a railway running E. to W. I know two points on it: Balti and Floresti. Even if
the Russians have made a deep penetration we can count on this line still being free of
The time is about 3 p.m., the sun is high in the S.W. It shines obliquely in our faces on
our right. First we go into a little valley with moderately high hills on either side. We
are still benumbed, the corporal still delirious. I advise caution. We must try to skirt any
inhabited places. Each of us is allotted a definite sector to keep under observation.
I am famished. It suddenly strikes me that I have not had a bit to eat all day. This was
the eighth time we had been out, and there had not been time for a meal between sorties.
A report had to be written out and despatched to the group on our return from every
mission, and instructions for the next one taken down over the telephone. Meanwhile
our aircraft were refuelled and rearmed, bombs loaded and off again. The crews were
able to rest between whiles and even snatch a meal, but in this respect I did not count as
one of them.
I guess we must now have been going for an hour; the sun is beginning to lose its
strength and our clothes are starting to freeze. Do I really see something ahead of us or
am I mistaken? No, it is real enough. Advancing in our direction out of the glare of the
sun - it is hard to see clearly - are three figures three hundred yards away. They have
certainly seen us. Perhaps they were lying on their stomachs behind this ridge of hills.
They are big chaps, doubtless Rumanians. Now I can see them better. The two on the
outside of the trio have rifles slung over their shoulders, the one in the middle carries a
Tommy-gun. He is a young man, the other two are about forty, probably reservists.
They approach us in no unfriendly manner in their browngreen uniforms. It suddenly
occurs to me that we are no longer wearing uniforms and that consequently our
nationality is not immediately evident. I hastily advise the corporal to hide his revolver
while I do likewise in case the Rumanians become jittery and open fire on us. The trio
now halts a yard in front of us and looks us over curiously. I start explaining to our
allies that we are Germans who have made a forced landing and beg them to help us
with clothing and food, telling them that we want to get back to our unit as quickly as possible.
I say: "We are German airmen who have made a forced landing," whereupon their faces
darken and at the same moment I have the three muzzles of their weapons pointing at
my chest. The young one instantly grabs my holster and pulls out my 6.35. They have
been standing with their backs to the sun. I have had it in my eyes. Now I take a good
look at them. Hammer and sickle - ergo Russians. I do not contemplate for a second
being taken prisoner, I think only of escape. There is a hundred to one chance of pulling
it off. There is probably a good price on my head in Russia, my capture is likely to be
even better rewarded. To blow my brains out is not a practical consideration. I am
disarmed. Slowly I turn my head round to see if the coast is clear. They guess my
intention and one of them shouts "Stoi!" (Halt!) I duck as I make a double turn and run
for it, crouching low and swerving to right and left. Three shots crack out; they are
followed by an uninterrupted rattle of quick fire. A stinging pain in my shoulder. The
chap with the Tommy-gun has hit me at close range through the shoulder, the other two
have missed me.
I sprint like a hare, zig-zagging up the slope, bullets whistling above and below me, to
right and to left. The Ivans run after me, halt, fire, run, fire, run, fire, run. Only a short
while ago I believed I could hardly put one leg in front of the other, so stiff was I with
cold, but now I am doing the sprint of my life. I have never done the 400 yards in faster
time. Blood spurts from my shoulder and it is an effort to fight off the blackness before
my eyes. I have gained fifty or sixty yards on my pursuers; the bullets whistle
incessantly. My only thought: "Only he is lost who gives himself up for lost." The hill
seems interminable. My main direction is still into the sun in order to make it more
difficult for the Ivans to hit me. I am dazzled by the glare of the sun and it is easy to
miscalculate. I have just had a lesson of that. Now I reach a kind of crest, but my
strength is giving out and in order to stretch it still further I decide to keep to the top of
the ridge; I shall never manage any more up and down hill. So away at the double
southward along the ridge.
I cannot believe my eyes: on the hill top twenty Ivans are running towards me.
Apparently they have seen everything and now mean to round up their exhausted and
wounded quarry. My faith in God wavers. Why did He first allow me to believe in the
possible success of my escape? For I did get out of the first absolutely hopeless corner
with my life. And will He now turn me over unarmed, deprived of my last weapon, my
physical strength? My determination to escape and live suddenly revives. I dash straight
downhill, that is, down the opposite slope to that by which I came up. Behind me, two
or three hundred yards away, my original pursuers, the fresh pack to one side of me.
The first trio has been reduced to two; at the moment they cannot see me, for I am on
the far side of the hill. One of them has stayed behind to bring in my two comrades who
stood still when I took to my heels. The hounds on my left are now keeping a parallel
course, also running down hill, to cut me off. Now comes a ploughed field; I stumble
and for an instant have to take my eyes off the Ivans. I am dead tired, I trip over a clod
of earth and lie where I have fallen. The end cannot be far off. I mutter one more curse
that I have no revolver and therefore not even the chance to rob the Ivans of their
triumph in taking me prisoner. My eyes are turned towards the Reds. They are now
running over the same ploughland and have to watch their step. They run on for another
fifteen yards before they look up and glance to the right where I am lying. They are now
level with me, then diagonally in front, as they move forward on a line 250 yards away.
They stop and look about them, unable to make out where I can have got to. I lie flat on
the slightly frozen earth and scratch myself with my fingers into the soil. It is a tough
proposition; everything is so hard. The miserable bits of earth I manage to scrape loose I
throw on top of me, building up a fox-hole. My wound is bleeding, I have nothing to
bandage it with; I lie prone on the ice cold earth in my soaking wet clothes; inside me I
am hot with excitement at the prospect of being caught at any moment. Again the odds
are a hundred to one on my being discovered and captured in less than no time. But is
that a reason to give up hope in the almost impossible, when only by believing that the
almost impossible is possible can it become so?
There now, the Russians are coming in my direction, continually lessening the distance
between us, each of them searching the field on his own, but not yet methodically.
Some of them are looking in quite the wrong direction; they do not bother me. But there
is one coming straight towards me. The suspense is terrible. Twenty paces from me he
stops. Is he looking at me? Is he? He is unmistakably staring in my direction. Is he not
coming on? What is he waiting for? He hesitates for several minutes; it seems an
eternity to me. From time to time he turns his head a wee bit to the right, a wee bit to the
left; actually he is looking well beyond me. I gain a momentary confidence, but then I
perceive the danger once more looming large in front of me, and my hopes deflate.
Meanwhile the silhouettes of my first pursuers appear on the ridge, apparently, now that
so many hounds are on the scent, they have ceased to take their task seriously.
Suddenly at an angle behind me I hear the roar of an aeroplane and look up over my
shoulder. My Stuka squadron is flying over the Dniester with a strong fighter escort and
two Fieseler Storches. That means that Flt./Off. Fischer has given the alarm and they are
searching for me to get me out of this mess. Up there they have no suspicion that they
are searching in quite the wrong direction, that I have long since been six miles further
south on this side of the river. At this distance I cannot even attract their attention; I
dare not so much as lift my little finger. They make one circuit after another at different
levels. Then they disappear heading east, and many of them will be thinking: "This time
even he has had it." They fly away home. Longingly I follow them with my eyes. You
at least know that tonight you will sleep under shelter and will still be alive whereas I
cannot guess how many minutes more of life will be granted me. So I lie there
shivering. The sun slowly sets. Why have I not yet been discovered?
Over the brow of the hill comes a column of Ivans, in Indian file, with horses and dogs.
Once again I doubt God's justice, for now the gathering darkness should have given me
protection. I can feel the earth tremble under their feet. My nerves are at snapping point.
I squint behind me. At a distance of a hundred yards the men and animals file past me.
Why does no dog pick up my scent? Why does no one find me? Shortly after passing
me they deploy at two yards' intervals. If they had done this fifty yards sooner they
would have trodden on me. They vanish in the slowly falling dusk.
The last glow of evening yields to blue, feebly twinkling stars appear. My compass has
no phosphorescent dial, but there is still light enough to read it. My general direction
must remain the south. I see in that quarter of the sky a conspicuous and easily
recognizable star, with a little neighbour. I decide to adopt it as my lodestar. What
constellation in the Russian firmament can it be? It is growing dark and I can no longer
see anybody. I stand up, stiff, aching, hungry, thirsty. I remember my chocolate - but I
left it in my fur jacket on the bank of the Dniester. Avoiding all roads, footpaths,
villages, as Ivan is sure to have sentries posted there, I simply follow my star across
country, up hill and down dale, over streams, bogs, marshes and stubbly harvested
maize fields. My bare feet are cut to ribbons. Again and again in the open fields I stub
my toes against big stones. Gradually I lose all feeling in my feet. The will to live, to
keep my freedom, urges me on; they are indivisible; life without freedom is a hollow
fruit. How deep is Ivan's penetration of our front? How far have I still to travel?
Wherever I hear a dog bark I make a detour, for the hamlets hereabouts are certainly not
inhabited by friends. Every now and again I can see gun-flashes on the distant horizon
and hear a dull rumble; evidently our boys have started an artillery bombardment. But
that means the Russian break-through has gone far. In the gullies which cut through the
occasionally rising ground I often lose my footing in the darkness and slump into a ditch
where the gluey mud stands knee-deep. It sucks me in so tightly that I have no longer
the strength to pull myself out, and flop with the upper part of my body sprawled on the
bank of the ditch - my legs deep in slime. Thus I am exhausted, feeling like a battery
gone dead. After lying there for five minutes I am faintly recharged and summon up the
strength to crawl up the sloping bank. But remorselessly the same mishap is repeated
very soon, at latest at the next uneven ground. So it goes on till 9 p.m. Now I am done
in. Even after longish rests I cannot recover my strength. Without water and food and a
pause for sleep it is impossible to carry on. I decide to look for an isolated house.
I hear a dog barking in the distance and follow the sound. Presumably I am not too far
from a village. So after a while I come to a lonely farmhouse and have considerable
difficulty in evading the yelping dog. I do not like its barking at all as I am afraid it will
alarm some picket in the near-by village. No one opens the door to my knocking;
perhaps there is no one there. The same thing happens at a second farmhouse. I go on to
a third. When again nobody answers impatience overcomes me and I break a window in
order to climb in. At this moment an old woman carrying a smoky oil lamp opens the
door. I am already half way through
the window, but now I jump out again and put my foot in the door. The old woman tries
to shove me out. I push resolutely past her. Turning round I point in the direction of the
village and ask: "Bolshewisti?" She nods. Therefore I conclude that Ivan has occupied
the village. The dim lamplight only vaguely illumines the room: a table, a bench, an
ancient cupboard. In the corner a grey-headed man is snoring on a rather lopsided trestle
bed. He must be seventy. The couple share this wooden couch. In silence I cross the
room and lay myself down on it. What can I say? I know no Russian. Meanwhile they
have probably seen that I mean no harm. Barefoot and in rags, the tatters of my shirt
sticky with coagulated blood, I am more likely to be a hunted quarry than a burglar. So I
lie there. The old woman has gone back to bed beside me. Above our heads the feeble
glimmer of the lamp. It does not occur to me to ask them whether they have anything to
dress my shoulder or my lacerated feet. All I want is rest.
Now again I am tortured by thirst and hunger. I sit up on the bed and put my palms
together in a begging gesture to the woman, at the same time making a dumb show of
drinking and eating. After a brief hesitation she brings me a jug of water and a chunk of
corn bread, slightly mildewed. Nothing ever tasted so good in all my life. With every
swallow and bite I feel my strength reviving, as if the will to live and initiative has been
restored to me. At first I eat ravenously, then munching thoughtfully, I review my
situation and evolve a plan for the next hours. I have finished the bread and water. I will
rest till one o'clock. It is 9:20 p.m. Rest is essential. So I lie back again on the wooden
boards between the old couple, half awake and half asleep. I wake up every quarter of
an hour with the punctuality of a clock and check the time. In no event must I waste too
much of the sheltering dark in sleep; I must put as many miles as possible behind me on
my journey south. 9:45, 10 o'clock, 10:15, and so on; 12:45, 1:00 o'clock - Getting up
time! I steal out; the old woman shuts the door behind me.. I have already stumbled
down a step. Is it the drunkenness of sleep, the pitch dark night or the wet step?
It is raining. I cannot see my hand before my face. My star has disappeared. Now how
am I to find my bearings? Then I remember that I was previously running with the wind
behind me. I must again keep it in my back to reach the South. Or has it veered? I am
still among isolated farm buildings; here I am sheltered from the wind. As it blows from
a constantly changing direction I am afraid of moving in a circle. Inky darkness,
obstacles; I barge into something and hurt my shins again. There is a chorus of barking
dogs, therefore still houses, the village. I can only pray I do not run into a Russian
sentry the next minute. At last I am out in the open again where I can turn my back to
the wind with certainty. I am also rid of the curs. I plod on as before, up hill, down dale,
up, down, maize fields, stones, and woods where it is more difficult to keep direction
because you can hardly feel the wind among the trees. On the horizon I see the incessant
flash of guns and hear their steady rumble. They serve to guide me on my course.
Shortly after 3 a.m. there is a grey light on my left - the day is breaking. A good check,
for now I am sure that the wind has not veered and I have been moving south all right.
I have now covered at least six miles. I guess I must have done ten or twelve yesterday,
so that I should be sixteen or eighteen miles south of the Dniester.
In front of me rises a hill of about seven hundred feet. I climb it. Perhaps from the top I
shall have a panorama and shall be able to make out some conspicuous points. It is now
daylight, but I can discover no particular landmarks from the top; three tiny villages
below me several miles away to my right and left. What interests me is to find that my hill is the beginning of a ridge running north to south, so I am keeping my direction.
The slopes are smooth and bare of timber so that it is easy to keep a look out for any
one coming up them. It must be possible to descry any movement from up here;
pursuers would have to climb the hill and that would be a substantial handicap. Who at
the moment suspects my presence here? My heart is light, because although it is day I
feel confident I shall be able to push on south for a good few miles. I would like to put
as many as possible behind me with the least delay.
I estimate the length of the ridge as about six miles; that is interminably long. But - is it
really so long? After all, I encourage myself, you have run a six mile race - how often? -
and with a time of forty minutes. What you were able to do then in forty minutes, you
must now be able to do in sixty - for the prize is your liberty. So just imagine you are
running a marathon race!
I must be a fit subject for a crazy artist as I plod on with my marathon stride along the
crest of the ridge in rags - on bare, bleeding feet - my arm hugged stiffly to my side to
ease the pain of my aching shoulder.
You must make it ... keep your mind on the race ... and run ... and keep on running.
Every now and again I have to change to a jog-trot and drop into a walk for perhaps a
hundred yards. Then I start running again ... it should not take more than an hour ...
Now unfortunately I have to leave the protective heights, for the way leads downhill.
Ahead of me stretches a broad plain, a slight depression in exactly the same direction
continues the line of the ridge. Dangerous because here I can be more suddenly
surprised. Besides, the time is getting on for seven o'clock, and therefore unpleasant
encounters are more likely.
Once again my battery is exhausted. I must drink ... eat ... rest. Up to now I have not
seen a living soul. Take precautions? What can I do? I am unarmed; I am only thirsty
and hungry. Prudence? Prudence is a virtue, but thirst and hunger are an elemental urge.
Need makes one careless. Half left two farmhouses appear on the horizon out of the
morning mist. I must effect an entry.
I stop for a moment at the door of a barn and poke my head round the corner to
investigate; the building yawns in my face. Nothing but emptiness. The place is stripped
bare, no harness, no farm implements, no living creature - stay! - a rat darts from one
comer to another. A large heap of maize leaves lies rotting in the barnyard. I grub
amongst them with greedy fingers. If only I could find a couple of corncobs ... or only a
few grains of corn... But I find nothing... I grub and grub and grub ... not a thing!
Suddenly I am aware of a rustling noise behind me. Some figures are creeping stealthily
past the door of another barn: Russians, or refugees as famished as I am and on the selfsame
quest? Or are they looters in search of further booty? I fare the same at the next
farm. Here I go through the maize heaps with the greatest care - nothing. Disappointedly
I reflect: if all the food is gone I must at least make up for it by resting. I scrape myself a
hole in the pile of maize leaves and am just about to lie down in it when I hear a fresh
noise: a farm wagon is rumbling past along a lane; on the box a man in a tall fur cap,
beside him a girl. When there is a girl there can be nothing untoward, so I go up to
them. From the black fur cap I guess the man is a Rumanian peasant.
I ask the girl: "Have you anything to eat?"
"If you care to eat this..." She pulls some stale cakes out of her bag. The peasant stops
the horse. Not until then does it occur to me that I have put my question in German and
have received a German answer.
"How do you come to know German?"
The girl tells me that she has come with the German soldiers from Dnjepropetrowsk and
that she learnt it there. Now she wants to stay with the Rumanian peasant sitting beside
her. They are fleeing from the Russians.
"But you are going straight in their direction." I can see by their faces that they do not
believe me. "Have the Ruskis already reached the town over there?"
"No, that is Floresti."
This unexpected reply is like a tonic. The town must lie on the Balti-Floresti railway
line which I know. "Can you tell me, girl, if there are still any German soldiers there?"
"No, the Germans have left, but there may be Rumanian soldiers."
"Thank you and God speed."
I wave to the disappearing wagon. Now I can already hear myself being asked later why
I did not "requisition" the wagon ... the idea never entered my mind... For are the pair
not fugitives like myself? And must I not offer thanks to God that I have so far escaped
After my excitement has died down a brief exhaustion overcomes me. For those last six
miles I have been conscious of violent pain; all of a sudden the feeling returns to my
lacerated feet, my shoulder hurts with every step I take. I meet a stream of refugees with
handcarts and the bare necessities they have salvaged, all in panic-stricken haste.
On the outskirts of Floresti two soldiers are standing on the scarp of a sandpit; German
uniforms? Another few yards and my hope is confirmed. An unforgettable sight!
I call up to them: "Come here!"
They call down: "What do you mean: come here! Who are you anyway, fellow?"
"I am Squadron Leader Rudel."
"Nah! No squadron leader ever looked like you do." I have no identification papers, but
I have in my pocket the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. I pull it out of my
pocket and show it to them. On seeing it the corporal says:
"Then we'll take your word for it."
"Is there a German Kommandantur?"
"No, only the rearguard H.Q. of a dressing station."
That is where I will go. They fall in on either side of me and take me there. I am now
crawling rather than walking. A doctor separates my shirt and trousers from my body
with a pair of scissors, the rags are sticking to my skin; he paints the raw wounds of my
feet with iodine and dresses my shoulder. During this treatment I devour the sausage of
my life. I ask for a car to drive me at once to the airfield at Balti. There I hope to find an
aircraft which will fly me straight to my squadron.
"What clothes do you intend to wear?" the doctor asks me. All my garments have been
cut to ribbons. "We have none to lend you." They wrap me naked in a blanket and off
we go in an automobile to Balti. We drive up in front of the control hut on the airfield.
But what is this? My squadron officer, Plt./Off. Ebersbach opens the door of the car:
"Pilot Officer Ebersbach, in command of the 3rd Squadron advance party moving to
A soldier follows him out carrying some clothes for me. This means that my naked trip
from Floresti has already been reported to Balti from there by telephone, and Ebersbach
happened to be in the control but when the message came through.
He has been informed that his colleague who has been given up for dead will shortly
arrive in his birthday suit. I climb into a Ju. 52, and fly to Rauchowka to rejoin the
squadron. Here the telephone has been buzzing, the news has spread like wild fire, and
the wing cook, Runkel, has already a cake in the oven. I look into grinning faces, the
squadron is on parade. I feel reborn, as if a miracle had happened. Life has been
restored to me, and this reunion with my comrades is the most glorious prize for the
hardest race of my life."
"Dawn reconnaissance the next morning confirms my supposition. Everything seems
quiet, almost dead. As I land after the first sortie of the day a young aircraftsman
springs onto the wing of my aircraft with wild gesticulations and congratulates me on
the award of the Diamonds. A long distance message has just been received from the
Führer, but it also includes an order forbidding me to fly any more. Some of his words
are drowned by the noise of the running engine, but I guess the drift of what he is telling
me. To avoid seeing this prohibition in black and white I do not go into the control
room, but remain close to my aircraft until the preparations for the next take-off are
completed. At noon the General summons me to Odessa by telephone.
Meanwhile telegrams of congratulations have been pouring in from every point of the
compass, even from members of the Reich government. It is going to be a hard fight to
obtain leave to continue flying. The thought that my comrades are getting ready for
another sortie and that I have to go to Odessa upsets me. I feel like a leper. This rider to
the award disheartens me and kills my pleasure at the recognition of my achievement. In
Odessa I learn nothing new, only what I already know and do not wish to hear. I listen
to the words of congratulation absently; my thoughts are with my comrades who do not
have this worry and can fly. I envy them. I am to proceed immediately to the Führer's
headquarters to be personally invested with the Diamonds. After stopping off at
Tiraspol we change over to a Ju. 87 - if only Henschel were with me, now Rothmann
sits behind. Over Foskani-Bucharest-Belgrade-Keskemet-Vienna to Salzburg. It is no
every-day occurrence for the Head of the State to receive an officer reporting in soft fur
flying boots, but I am happy to be able to move about in them, even though in great
pain. Wing Commander von Below comes in to Salzburg to fetch me while Rothmann
goes home by train, it being agreed that I shall pick him up in Silesia on my way back.
For two days I bask in the sun on the terrace of the Berchtesgadener Hotel, inhaling the
glorious mountain air of home. Now gradually I relax. Two days later I stand in the
presence of the Führer in the magnificent Berghof. He knows the whole story of the last
fortnight down to the minutest detail and expresses his joy that the fates have been so
kind, that we were able to achieve so much. I am impressed by his warmth and almost
tender cordiality. He says that I have now done enough; hence his order grounding me.
He explains that it is not necessary that all great soldiers should lay down their lives;
their example and their experience must be safeguarded for the new generation. I reply
with a refusal to accept the decoration if it entails the stipulation that I may no longer
lead my squadron into action. He frowns, a brief pause ensues, and then his face breaks
into a smile: 'Very well, then, you may fly.'"
GERMAN AIRMAN GETS RARE AWARD
LONDON, 3 Jan. 1945 - (AP) - Germany’s newest and highest decoration has been awarded to Col. Hans Ulrich Rudel, 28-year-old airman credited with destruction of 463 tanks and 700 vehicles among other accomplishments, the Berlin radio said yesterday. The decoration was described as golden oak leaves with swords and diamonds to the knight’s cross of the iron cross.
The Texts of the Day’s Communiques on the War
THE NEW YORK TIMES, SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 1945 - Fighter and bomber formations yesterday also intervened at focal points of ground fighting, destroying, apart from hundreds of vehicles, thirty-seven tanks and twenty-eight guns. Colonel Rudel knocked out eleven tanks in the last few days, thus increasing the number of his successes to 516 tanks.
Victories Include :
13 March 1944
Credited with 9 enemy aircraft destroyed
 Probably the plane of Soviet ace Lev Shestakov. Rudel's evasive action causing him to crash. From his book "Stuka Pilot":
"We are given no respite in the air, not only in the area N. of Jassy, but also in the East where the
Russians have established their bridgeheads over the Dniester. Three of us are out alone one afternoon
in the loop of the Dniester between Koschnitza and Grigoriopol where large numbers of T 34s have
penetrated our defences. Plt./Off. Fickel and a W.O. accompany me with bombers. Our own fighters are
supposed to be waiting for us, and as I approach the loop of the river I can already see fighters flying
low in the target area. Being an optimist, I jump to the conclusion that they are ours. I fly on towards
our objective, searching for tanks when I realize that the fighters are not my escort at all, but are all
Ivans. Stupidly we have already broken our formation in quest of individual targets. The other two do
not immediately close up and are slow in coming in behind me. Furthermore, as bad luck will have it,
these Ivans are up to scratch; that does not happen too often. The W.O.’s aircraft very quickly bursts
into flames and becomes a torch vanishing westward. Plt./Off. Fickel calls out that he, too, has been hit
and sheers off. A Lag 5 pilot who evidently knows his business is bang on my tail, with several others
not quite so close behind him. Whatever I do I cannot shake off the Lag; he has partly lowered his flaps
to check his speed. I fly into deep ravines so as to entice him far enough down to make the danger of
touching the ground affect his aim. But he stays up and his tracer bullets streak closely past my cockpit.
My gunner Gadermann yells excitedly that he will shoot us down. The ravine broadens somewhat S.W.
of the river loop, and suddenly I bank round with the Lag still persistently on my tail. Behind me
Gadermann’s gun is jammed. The tracers shave the underside of my left wing. Gadermann shouts:
“Higher”, I reply: “Can’t. I have the stick in my stomach as it is.” It has been slowly puzzling me how
the fellow behind me can follow my banking tactics in his fighter. Once again the sweat is running down
my forehead. I pull and pull my stick; the tracers continue to zip under my wing. By turning my head I
can look straight into the Ivan’s tensely set face. The other Lags have given up, apparently waiting for
their colleague to bring me down. This kind of flying is not their cup of tea: vertical banking at 30-45 feet
level. Suddenly on the top of the escarpment, German soldiers. They wave like mad, but have seemingly
failed entirely to grasp the situation. Now a loud whoop from Gadermann: “The Lag is down!”
Did Gadermann shoot her down with his rear M.G. or did she crash because the longerons cracked
under the terrific pressure of these high speed turns? I couldn’t care less. In my headphones I hear a
mighty yelling from the Russians, a babel of noise. They have seen what has happened and it appears to
be something out of the ordinary. I have lost sight of Plt./Off. Fickel and fly back alone. Below me a
burning Ju 87 lies in a field. The W.O. and his gunner are both standing safely near it, and German
soldiers are coming towards them. So they will be back tomorrow. Shortly before landing I catch up with
Plt./Off. Fickel. There will be ample reason for celebrating my Fickel’s and Gadermann’s birthdays.
They, too, insist upon celebrating. The following morning the Flying Control Officer of this sector rings
up and tells me how anxiously they watched yesterday’s performance, and congratulates me heartily in
the name of his division. A radio message picked up last night revealed that the fighter pilot was a quite
famous Soviet ace, several times “Hero of the U.S.S.R.” He was a good airman, that much I must give
Rudel & Gadermann
New German Army Drive Launched By Group Seeking Deal With Reds
By DON DOANE, Munich, Germany, 2 Feb, 1953 - (AP) - A new German military magazine has launched a campaign for a West German national army instead of German troops in a European army.
Its editor claims the Germans could use the army in a trade with Russia to obtain reunification of divided Germany.
With an army of its own, he says, West Germany could win Russia's consent to pull out of East Germany and let it unite with West Germany in return for a German promise not to join military forces with the West
The magazine, "Military-Political Forum," was founded by Ernst Von Reichenau, brother of the late Nazi field marshal, Walter Von Reichenau.
Von Reichenau withdrew after the magazine's first two issues when German newspapers accused him of working for Moscow and charged him with helping the Americans try German war criminals in Shanghai after the war.
Although Von Reichenau's announcement of withdrawal indicated he might return after "disposing" of these charges, the remaining staff members talk confidently of carrying on without him. They claim the magazine is gaining wide circulation.
The new editor is Anton Wickelmayer, once a Hitler youth leader and officer in the Nazis' brown-shirted stormtroopers. An Army captain in the war, he calls himself a military student.
Wickelmayer still sports a short military haircut and clicks his heels when he shakes hands.
Von Reichenau opposed German entry into the European army but it was Wickelmayer who developed the campaign for a national army.
He said in an interview he favors a national army as the only hope of achieving the reunification of Germany. He claims he is not unalterably opposed to cooperation with the West "under proper conditions," and denies any Communist connections or sympathies.
His magazine, however, pulls no punches in attacking the western powers as Germany's mortal enemies.
It refers to the European army as "Elsenhower's colonial police." It talks of German soldiers "serving under foreign masters" as "traitors." It ridicules the West German government's talk of a new "democratic" army made up of "civilians in uniform," and harps repeatedly on the past glories and the "honor of professional German soldiers."
Von Reichenau's sudden withdrawal from the magazine deepened the mystery surrounding him. Even the men who worked with him on the magazine say they cannot vouch for his past.
Wickelmayer said Von Reichenau told him he was an army lieutenant in the First World War. In 1929 he left Germany, went first to Paris, then to Canton, where he engaged in the export-import business. Later he became a military advisor to South Chinese forces. When the Americans arrived at war's end he was interned but soon released to serve as an interpreter.
He denies he had anything to do with the trial of other Germans on war crimes charges in Shanghai. He made a slow return to Germany, arriving early in 1952.
Some German newspapers charged that Von Reichenau formed some "eastern" Connections during his absence. "Von Reichenau lets the east wind blow," one paper headlined its story asking where he got the right to speak for Germany and German soldiers.
Last December, Von Reichenau sponsored a meeting in Stuttgart of more than 100 high officers in the Nazi Wehrmacht. There were many speeches against the Bonn republic's impending alliance with the West. A Luftwaffe ace, ex-Colonel Hans Rudel, charged that any German who supported the alliance was guilty of treason.
Some newspapers said Von Reichenau paid the travel expenses of those who attended the meeting and asked where he got the money.
Luftwaffe Hero Rallies Nazi Voters
Hans Ulrich Rudel Spirited into Germany
BONN, Germany, 28 Aug. 1953 — (UP) — One of Adolph Hitler's top Luftwaffe fighter aces came secretly back to Germany from a 4-year exile in Argentina today to lead a resurgent Nazi drive for votes in the Sept. 6 general election.
Former Col. Hans Ulrich Rudel, a 37-year-old ace who lost one leg in the war, hoped to electrify the campaign and lead the Nazis to a serious political comeback.
Spirited into Germany
Col. Rudel landed at Amsterdam last night and was spirited into Germany today in a car.
He is barred as a candidate, as is Werner Naumann, leader of the Nazi comeback drive.
But Col. Rudel is not barred from campaigning and he is expected to be the top man in the attempt of the ultra-rightist German Reich Party (DRP) to win power. Naumann, a onetime Hitler propagandist, was labelled a "major Nazi offender" earlier this week and stripped of his political rights. Barred from campaigning, Naumann is expected to depend heavily on Rudel.
Knocked Out 500 Tanks
The Drop newspaper “Das Ziel" (The Goal) said Col. Rudel was "the ideal of a German soldier" and that he did "more for the defense of the West by knocking out 500 Russian tanks than all the European army strategists together." The flier is credited with having destroyed 518 Russian tanks in World War II.
The DRP is concentrating its biggest effort in Lower Saxony, notoriously the hotbed of reaction in Western Germany. Adolf Van Thadden, another DRP leader, said today the former Nazis will try to get a single candidate elected on a direct vote in Lower Saxony. This would open the door for them to get a small group of deputies into the Parliament.
TENSION OVER WEST GERMAN ELECTIONS
Right Wing Clashes with Police
BONN, September 1, 1953 - (A.A.P.) - The last week of the West German general election campaign has been marked by growing tension among the contending parties.
One of the worst features has been the first violent clash between the police and right-wing extremists.
Two other developments are charges of political interference against the Roman Catholic Church and the continued infiltration of alleged East German Communist agents.
The only purely political issue to make newspaper headlines today is the acrimonious debate between the Chancellor (Dr. Adenauer) and the Social Democratic Opposition leader (Mr. Erich Ollenhauer) on how best to achieve all-German unity. They accused each other of "distortion" and "treason."
The main topic in largely Roman Catholic Southern Germany was a Social Democratic press statement accusing Catholic priests of conducting open propaganda for Catholic Dr. Adenauer and preaching hostility to other parties from the pulpits.
Mr. Fritz Heine, the party press chief, alleged that parish priests, backed by members of the Catholic Youth Organisation, were using "terror" methods to disturb Social Democratic rallies.
Mr. Heine quoted alleged sermons in which priests had likened his party to the
Nazi party and accused it of advocating the denial of God, murder, abortion, theft, lying and deceit.
The State Government of Baden Wurttemberg, a coalition of Free Democrats and Social Democrats, announced last night that it would lay charges against a Catholic priest for describing Social and Free Democrats as "liars and murderers" in a sermon.
A spokesman for the archdiocese of Freiburg denied the charge, saying the priest had been referring to the devil, not members of West German political parties.
The State Government retorted that it had three corroborative accounts from worshippers who were present.
In Bavaria, the State Social Democratic party declared that the Church was quite openly and officially using its press and pulpits to agitate for Dr. Adenauer and against his opponents.
First police clash with Right-wing extremists occurred in Nuremberg and nearby Fuerth last night.
At Nuremberg, 3000 supporters of the German Reich party, trying to hold a forbidden rally, charged police, singing the national anthem.
The police used batons to disperse them. At Fuerth, 2000 were "calmed down" with high-powered water hoses.
The cause of the civic ban on the two rallies was the scheduled main speaker, ex-Luftwaffe ace Hans Ulrich Rudel, who came from the Argentine to campaign for the Reich party.
Mr. Rudel at other rallies has advocated the restoration of a "greater German Reich," and declared that only an armed conflict would resolve the present East-West cold war
The Government of Lower Saxony, a State known to harbor more old Nazis and neo-Nazis than all the others put together, has asked the Federal Government to seek a constitutional court ban on the German Reich party, claiming that it harbored mostly ex-Nazis and aimed at overthrowing the Democratic order
Though the Federal Minister for the Interior, Mr. Robert Lehr, informed Lower Saxony that its present material against the party was inadequate for a legal ban, usually well informed sources in Bonn thought the Government would nevertheless make the application to the Constitutional Court.
The detention of alleged East German agents, said to have been sent to disturb the election campaign and agitate for Communism, continued at a slightly reduced rate throughout the night.
Total of suspects detained at all points along the east-west German border and in West German towns exceeded 4000.
Most were being pushed back across the border after their money and propaganda material had been confiscated.
The rest, still in excess of 1000, were awaiting trial on charges of possessing faked West German entry permits and illicit propaganda.
Those who had not faced a magistrate within 24 hours, as the Constitution demands, were sent back to East Germany.
German Reports Third Scaling Of Andes Peak
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Jan. 24, 1954 - (AP) - Hans Ulrich Rudel, German aviation ace of World War II, reported today he had scaled 22,015-foot Mt. Llullaillaco in the Andes for the third time but that one of his party perished. Another man was brought down in critical condition.
Rudel said his party recovered the body of Erwin Neubert, who died in an expedition led by Rudel last December, and buried it about 350 feet from the top, at the request of Neubert’s family in Germany.
The man who died on the expedition last week was identified only as a climber named Hack.
Dr. Kurt Krissman suffered severely from the high winds and bitter cold.
Nazis Pay For Eichmann's Trial
BONN (NANA) — A defense fund for Adolf Eichmann is being collected by ex-Hitler higher-ups, who hope to use Eichmann's trial for "historical vindication" of their Nazi deeds.
It is understood that the un-regenerate Hitlerites, headed by Hans Ulrich Rudel, are seeking as much as $100,000 to defend Eichmann, who will be tried in March in Israel for directing the Nazi extermination of 6,000,000 Jews.
West German security police report that Eichmann defense money is being solicited from former Nazis who have regained leading positions in Ruhr industry and West German business and financial life under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.
They are being pressured into contributing to Eichmann’s defense on the ground that if Hitler's Jew exterminator can be whitewashed, their own Nazi past will be correspondingly calcimined.
Rudel, a pilot credited with 2530 combat sorties, shooting down 11 Russian planes, destroying the battleship Marat and knocking out a fantastic 519 tanks, was awarded the Nazi Reich's highest decoration, the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Rudel was decorated by Hitler personally, who called him "my bravest soldier."
Although he lost a leg in combat, Rudel continued to fly with an aluminum artificial limb.
After the war he worked in Argentina helping dictator, Juan Peron, build an air force. Despite his artificial limb, Rudel became an expert skier.
This is the measure of the man who has emerged as West Germany's most colorful and vociferous Nazi diehard.
Rudel ranges West Germany prophesying the "historic vindication" of nazism and, it is no secret, he finds willing listeners among former Hitler higher-ups who, after incarceration by the allies as war criminals, have regained high standing in German society. High standing — and wealth.
Former Nazi Hans Rudel (UP)
Generals Bounced In Flap Over WWII Ace
BONN, West Germany, 2 Nov. 1976 - (AP) - Defense Minister George Leber fired two air force generals Monday in a political clash over the appearance of a top World War II dive bomber ace at an air force base. Ordered out of the service were Lt. Gen. Walter Krupinski, air force fleet commander, and his deputy, Lt. Gen. Karl-Heinz Franke.
They ranked directly under the overall air force commander, Lt. Gen. Gerhard Limberg, who directed the investigation into the matter.
Leber said Krupinski and Franke defended a visit by Hans Ulrich Rudel, an admirer of Nazi Dictator Adolf Hitler, to the Bremgarten air force base Oct. 23 for a reunion of World War II pilots of Stuka bombers.
Rudel, 60, was Nazi Germany's most highly decorated pilot. After the war, he supported ultra-right-wing causes and spoke admiringly of Hitler in his autobiographical book.
Defending Rudel's first visit to a post-war Luftwaffe base, the two generals said this could not be condemned when "former leftist extremists and Communists" were sitting in the West German parliament.
Luftwaffe Ace Causing Problems
By MICHAEL GETLER, The Washington Post, BONN, West Germany, 11 Nov 1976 — A World War II German flying ace whose postwar neo-Nazi activities have landed him in the midst of a bitter political controversy here, visited Washington last month to participate with U. S. generals in the assessment of a new American jet fighter.
The German officer, former Col. Hans-Ulrich Rudel, said that he went to the United States at the invitation of the U. S. Air Force to help assess the A-10, an antitank aircraft manufactured by Fairchild Industries. Rudel is credited with knocking out over 500 Soviet tanks during World War II.
A Pentagon spokesman said that Rudel had been invited to Fairchild, not by the U. S. Air Force. A Fairchild spokesman said Fairchild had invited Rudel as 'the world’s leading living expert" on air antitank warfare and considered it "entirely a non- political visit."
(The Fairchild spokesman said Rudel was one of 30 or 40 "experts" who participated in a "brainstorming session" on the A-10 at Fairchild’s Arlington, Va., offices on Oct. 14 and 15. "We felt we needed his expertise and we paid his way," the spokesman said. According to Pentagon and Fairchild spokesmen, several U.S. officers also participated in the conference.)
Rudel, the most highly decorated fighter pilot in the Nazi air force, was widely known as "Hitler's favorite pilot."
In addition to his antitank exploits, he was credited with sinking a Russian battleship and leading his famous Immelman Squadron of Stuka divebombers in devastating raids on Rotterdam and Warsaw.
Hitler designed Germany's highest decoration specifically for Rudel and in 1945 tried to have him grounded, saying that the colonel, who had already lost a leg, had done enough for the war effort.
Rudel disobeyed Hitler, went back to war, and eventually surrendered by landing his plane at an American-held airfield in Bavaria.
In a telephone interview Tuesday at his home in Austria, Rudel said he had visited the United States in October at the invitation of the U. S. Air Force, but that he preferred not to say who invited him.
The former officer, who has no connection with West Germany's postwar air force said he was invited to the United States because of his experience in knocking out tanks from the air.
Rudel, who said he now represents some West Germans and American companies in South America, said he was taken along with several American generals, to a Fairchild plant to see the new A-10 Air Force jet designed specifically to knock out tanks.
After he came back from the United States, Rudel, now 60, was the center of a controversy here that wound up with Bonn’s defense minister firing the two top officers of West Germany's air force.
After the war, Rudel was widely viewed as an unrepentant Nazi, active in the neo-fascist Socialist Reich party, which was eventually banned, and other extreme rightist causes. His pro-Nazi autobiography was also banned for younger readers.
Rudel claims his views have changed, although he is still widely viewed as a strong rightist.
The recent trouble started when Rudel was invited to an "old timer’s day" celebration for retired and active officers at a West German air force base.
The invitation itself did not cause a stir, although a Defense Ministry spokesman later said even that was "tasteless" and if the ministry had known Rudel was taking part he would have been barred.
"We do not want to see this sort of person at federal military facilities," the spokesman added.
Rudel’s presence was mentioned in press accounts and aroused criticism.
West German air force chief Lt. Gen. Walter Krupinski and his deputy, Maj. Gen. Karl-Heinz Franke, defended Rudel's presence.
Franke told reporters that Rudel was probably just as changed from his postwar views as were some leftist extremists. He used as an example Herbert Wehner, one of the most powerful figures in West Germany’s ruling Social Democratic party. Wehner, who heads the Social Democrats in Parliament, is a former Communist who left Nazi Germany for Russia and spent the war years in Sweden.
The comparison outraged many Social Democrats. The West German government, extremely sensitive to keeping its ranks pure, fired Krupinski and Franke.
Defense Minister Georg Leber said that the esteem West Germany’s forces have in NATO and outside "is of great importance for the reputation of the Federal Republic of Germany ... It must therefore be watched over vigilantly."
Although no support of Rudel's former views was voiced here, many opposition party officials fell the abrupt firing was a gross overreaction on the part of the government
Nazi Past Is Reflected
BONN, West Germany (AP) — The controversial dismissal of two Luftwaffe generals dramatizes West Germany's continued difficulty in coming to terms with World War II, 31 years after Hitler’s defeat.
“Many members of the older generation would like to cancel out the entire war retroactively and act as though it never took place,” observed a Bonn source with close ties to the military.
“The younger ones have little conception of the past and say, 'Germany is soccer world champion, so why bother us with Hitler. Sure Germany once had concentration camps, but look at what the Americans did In Vietnam.’ The thinking within the Bundeswehr (West Germany's 495,000-member armed forces) reflects that of society as a whole."
The controversy was stirred up when retired Col. Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Hitler's most decorated air ace and a postwar supporter of neo-Nazi causes, was allowed to take part in a gathering of his old Stuka dive- bomber squadron at Bremgarten Air Base on Oct. 23.
The dismissed generals — Lt. Gen. Walter Krupinski, commander of West Germany's tactical air force, and Maj. Gen. Karl-Heinz Franke, his deputy — had defended the invitation by comparing Rudel with Herbert Wehner, a 70-year-old ex- Communist who now is the leader of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt's Social Democratic party in parliament.
Rudel's participation, Franke told reporters, could not be condemned so long as "leftist extremists and Communists" were sitting in parliament. Franke singled out Wehner, who spent part of the Nazi era in Moscow but later renounced communism.
Schmidt's government tends to regard the current furor as a psychological extension of West Germany's recent election campaign. The conservative opposition almost won with an emotional appeal to nationalism and fears of communism.
The conservative Christian Democratic Union now has lined up against Schmidt's defense minister, Georg Leber, for firing the generals because he felt their remarks overstepped the constitutional line barring military interference in politics. Leber also accused them of insubordination in permitting the Bremgarten reunion.
A conservative censure motion is pending against Leber in parliament. A debate on the motion was cancelled last Wednesday when the defense minister was hospitalized for acute appendicitis.
A question posed by the controversy is whether World War II can be relegated to the dim, dispassionate past and its heroes honored even if they survived Hitler's defeat with their Nazi sympathies intact.
"The disturbing thing," a government source said, "is that the same people who are willing to see in Rudel only the brave soldier are ready to dismiss Wehner as a Communist," What they ignore, he added, is that Rudel has not changed his views, while Wehner has demonstrated for more than 23 years his commitment to parliamentary democracy.
A public opinion poll showed that 33 per cent of West Germans queried deplored the generals' comparison of Rudel and Wehner. But 46 per cent said Leber had been too harsh in firing them, while 30 per cent supported the defense minister and 24 per cent were undecided.
Manfred Woerner, the Christian Democrats' defense expert, claims soldiers are worried that they are being "muzzled" by the government.
He confirmed he had urged the Luftwaffe to allow Rudel to take part in the reunion, but said he rejects Rudel's politics and had no intention of making his "a figure of tradition and model for the Bundeswehr."
But, Woerner said, he saw no reason for barring from a "comradely meeting" the last surviving commander of the Stuka squadron — "who was an extremely valiant soldier and an exemplary leader."
"I say very clearly... that the soldiers of this Bundeswehr and my generation (I belong to the postwar generation. I was only 11 when the war ended) have demonstrated for 30 years that we are democrats. We are not in danger of being infected by Herr Rudel’s political views or of identifying ourselves with them," Woerner said in an interview.
"I react allergically to anything that smacks of Nazism or Communism, which for me are one and the same thing,'' he added." But I think that 30 years after the war we can be more dispassionate about the past."
Woerner conceded it was difficult for "our entire people to find a relaxed and clear relationship to the past. And yet no people on earth, no army in the world can live without history and tradition. And, if we artificially cut off the past, we will find it being dragged in the back door. History cannot be amputated."
Chancellor Schmidt, a former defense minister and an antiaircraft battery commander In World War II, said of German military tradition in an interview that too much emphasis has been placed on battlefield exploits and too little on keeping the peace.
Nazi War Hero Hans Rudel Dies
Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Dec 21, 1982, ROSENHEIM, West Germany (AP) - Stuka Pilot Hans Ulrich Rudel, 66, Nazi Germany's most decorated soldier, died in a Rosenheim hospital Monday. The cause of his death was not officially given, but friends said Rudel died of a brain hemorrhage.
He was one of the few German war heros who remained in the limelight after the war. He never denounced Nazi ideology and embarrassed the West German government several times with extreme rightwing activities at home and abroad. Among his activities outside West Germany was a reported role in the buildup of Argentina's air force. He had close ties to Argentina until his death.
Rudel was born July 2, 1916, the son of a clergyman. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1936, serving first as a combat observer, and became a Stuka pilot in 1940. He rose to the rank of colonel at 28, a feat rarely matched in the Nazi air corps. During 2,530 combat missions flying dive bombing planes, mainly on the Russian front, Rudel was credited with destroying 519 tanks, 150 gun emplacements and 800 combat vehicles of various types.
According to World War II Luftwaffe records, he also damaged or destroyed three large warships and 70 smaller seacraft and landing ships. For this he was awarded the "Golden Oakleaves with Swords and Diamonds to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross." He was the only German soldier to receive that award during World War II. Rudel was shot down several times, but escaped serious injury until April 1915 when he lost a leg in combat. He was captured by Allied forces at the end of the war, and released from a POW camp in April HMG. At the time of his death Rudel was living In Kufstein, in the Austrian Tyrol.
Thanks go out to
On these pages I use Hugh Halliday's extensive research which includes info from numerous sources; newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC); the Google News Archives; the London Gazette Archives and other sources both published and private.
Some content on this site is probably the property of acesofww2.com unless otherwise noted.