Mulley Clare - The women who flew for Hitler

Author : Mulley Clare
Title : The women who flew for Hitler The true story of Hitler’s Valkyries
Year : 2017

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Preface : truths and lives. Hey, history this, history that … why should millions of viewers and readers of … films and magazines not be conned for the sake of drama? … If anyone had really wanted to tell the truth, they only needed to ask me. HANNA REITSCH, 1973. History doesn’t develop following a concept; it follows its own, often random, path. You can’t put either people or historical events into boxes that have been preprepared or constructed afterwards. People, events, and progress have their own dynamic. NINA VON STAUNFFENBERG, 1997. Hanna Reitsch believed that she was an honest woman. Her American interrogator concluded his October 1945 report with the statement that her information had been ‘given with a sincere and conscientious effort to be truthful and exact’. ‘She claims that the only reason she remained alive is for the sake of the truth,’ he added.3 Having died six months earlier, Melitta von Stauffenberg never had the equivalent opportunity to add her voice to the historical record. Her surviving sister Klara, however, testified that Melitta would not have been ‘capable of promoting anything against her better knowledge’.4 Yet it is unlikely that, had Melitta been able to reflect on wartime events, the accounts of these two extraordinary women would have agreed. The only female test pilots actively to serve the Nazi regime, Hanna Reitsch and Melitta von Stauffenberg were in many ways the mirror image of one another. One fair, fun, loud and irrepressible, the other dark, serious and considered; on the face of it there were few obvious similarities between them. Yet both were great patriots, with deeply held views on the importance of honour, duty and sacrifice, and both were to some extent misfits, whose love of sensation, adrenaline and personal freedom drew them to defy all social expectations. Hanna and Melitta were born during the pioneering air age, when it was hoped that flight would bring nations together. The First World War changed that, giving pilots new roles in military reconnaissance and in combat, but the romance associated with flight persisted. Pilots prided themselves on their honour as well as their valour in the air, and aces including the ‘Red Baron’, Manfred von Richthofen, became legendary figures. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, a defeated Germany was forced to demobilize its air force and destroy its military aircraft. The manufacture of engine-powered planes was also temporarily forbidden, but gliders were exempt. As a result, in the years immediately after the war, gliding became the aspirational sport for the country’s youth, symbolic not only of peace and freedom but also of renewed national pride. Soon crowds of thousands were gathering to watch displays and competitions. ...

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