Fe­male pilots who fought for the Fa­ther­land

The Korea Times - - BOOKS - By Vir­ginia Kopas Joe Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette)

We know — and adore — sto­ries of The Great­est Gen­er­a­tion. But what about their en­e­mies — their fe­male en­e­mies? Ac­claimed au­thor Clare Mul­ley tack­les this long over­due sub­ject in “The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soar­ing Am­bi­tion and Sear­ing Ri­valry,” a spell­bind­ing, scrupu­lously re­searched dual bi­og­ra­phy of Nazi Ger­many’s most highly dec­o­rated women pilots.

One was a Nazi apol­o­gist. One wanted the Fuhrer dead.

Hanna Reitsch and Melitta von Stauf­fen­berg were tal­ented, coura­geous and strik­ingly beau­ti­ful women who fought con­ven­tion and class to make their names in the male-dom­i­nated field of flight in 1930s Ger­many.

Both be­came pi­o­neer­ing test pilots and were awarded the Iron Cross for ser­vice to the Third Re­ich. But they could not have been more dif­fer­ent — and they ab­so­lutely hated each other. One even re­fused kind words for the other’s eu­logy.

Hanna Reitsch was mid­dle-class, vi­va­cious and dis­tinctly Aryan, while the darker, more self-ef­fac- ing Melitta von Stauf­fen­berg came from an aris­to­cratic Prus­sian fam­ily with Jewish roots. Still both were driven by deeply held con­vic­tions about honor and pa­tri­o­tism; but ul­ti­mately, while Reitsch tried to save Hitler’s life beg­ging him to let her fly him to safety in April 1945, von Stauf­fen­berg covertly sup­ported a fa­mous at­tempt to as­sas­si­nate him.

Biog­ra­pher Ms. Mul­ley gives a full and largely un­known ac­count of the avi­a­tors’ con­trast­ing yet strangely par­al­lel lives along with his­toric back­drop of the 1936 Olympics, the Eastern Front, the Ber­lin Aero Club and Hitler’s bunker. The book is yet another bru­tal les­son about Nazi Ger­many’s at­ti­tudes to­ward race, class and women.

The hard­cover in­cludes al­most two dozen glossy pho­to­graphs that il­lus­trate the story and the times. Some are charm­ing; fam­ily photos, Bavar­ian style pic­nics and wed­dings.

There is even a nod to the dar­ing new 1930s “bob” hair­cut. But others, such as a self-de­scribed “beam­ing” Reitsch with Hitler are hard to take. The au­thor does not shy from Reitsch’s re­fusal to crit­i­cally ex­am­ine her role in the Third Re­ich and the moral dilemma of the times.


Cover of “The Women Who Flew for Hitler”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Korea, Republic

© PressReader. All rights reserved.