Gestapo in the Luftwaffe Cockpit

by Eugene Tillinger
The author, a journalist of two continents. presents us with a scoop. He describes how Hitler, and the Gestapo have made the Luftwaffe their ace-in-the-hole. If won't win the war — but …

Herman Goering, Nazi Number Two and Chief of the German Air Force, has no particular love for Gestapo boss Heinrich Himmler. But then Himmler doesn't care much for Goering either. The mutual aversion is nothing new; it has been brewing behind the scenes for a good many years.

When Goering organized the Luftwaffe, soon after Hitler came to power, Himmler made the request that his Storm Troopers (the SS) be given the privilege of entering the new Air Force training schools. Goering flatly refused. He knew very well that all Himmler wanted was a chance to infiltrate his specially trained Gestapo agents into the Luftwaffe.

In those days Goering was top dog, and Himmler's efforts to have Hitler intercede for him were without avail. Goering told his men to make sure that no Gestapo member came near the Luftwaffe. Himmler saw that he had lost the first round, but he didn't give up.

Himmler's next step was to try to get the Fuehrer's consent to the establishment of a special Air Force inside the SS. Again he ran up against Goering's veto. The latter hadn't the slightest intention of allowing any part of Himmler's SS to form its own flying group.

Years went by. Goering was busy boasting that his Luftwaffe would one day be the terror of the world. He juggled gigantic figures; and it was no wonder that the much-decorated pursuit flyer of World War One remained the white-haired boy of the Nazi hierarchy. Hitler wouldn't hear of anything being done contrary to Goering's wishes. He had blind faith in fat Herman's Luftwaffe. Himmler, meanwhile, was occupied with organizing Fifth Columns in the various European countries.

But times changed. After Goering's first critical defeat, Himmler again began his old intrigues. When the German Air Forces lost the Battle of Britain the Gestapo Chief saw his great chance.

The first indication we had that the Gestapo was operating inside the Luftwaffe came with the capture of a German flyer by the name of Gottfried Leske by the British. In Leske's diary, I was a Nazi Flyer, there is a quite casual sentence which reads: "They (these German pilots) had worked for the Gestapo before they ever got into the Luftwaffe.…"

Since then there have been curious rumors in neutral countries to the effect that "unreliable" Air Force crews were being secretly watched by Himmler's Gestapo agents, and were even occasionally accompanied by them on flights.

In November 1941, the German Luftwaffe within one week lost three of its most prominent aces. Only one of them, Franz von Werra, the flier who previously had made a sensational escape from a Canadian war prison camp, lost his life in a regular air battle. The other two, Ernst Udet and Werner Moelders, met their death under quite mysterious circumstance.

When Udet's death was announced in German newspapers, the story was that he had cracked up while making a test flight. At the same time, the Berlin Radio reported that Udet had had an accident while trying out a new kind of weapon for the newest type of Messerschmitt. A magnificent state funeral was held for the dead flyer, at which Goering delivered an oration in praise of the man's great service.

In spite of all this, people were inclined to regard these official Nazi explanations with some scepticism. It seemed unlikely that Udet's death had been the result of an accident. A 45-year-old Major General doesn't fly a machine that has not already been thoroughly tested by test pilots attached to the plane factory. Ernst Udet was known as a daredevil, but it was also known that the one thing he was cautious about was test-flying.

The other famous German flier who died only a few days after Udet, and also under circumstances never entirely clear, was Colonel Werner Moelders, recipient of the Iron Cross, whom Nazi propaganda credited with having downed 115 enemy planes. Goebbels had given the 28-year-old Colonel a buildup. He was the idol of every Hitler Youth, and had a fan mail like a movie star's. The publication of his autobiography in Der Adler, official organ of the Luftwaffe, had turned him into a national hero. Incidentally, without the traitors of Vichy, Moelders would never have reached such heights of popularity. At the beginning of this war, he was shot down in France, instead of shipping him to England before the conclusion of the armistice, the Vichy regime sent him back to Germany.…

It was significant that Moelder's "accident" occurred while he was flying back to the front after Udet's funeral. Pretty soon, it began to leak out in neutral capitals that the Gestapo had somehow had a hand in these events. Moelders and Udet had been close friends. Neither was a member of the Nazi Party.

Udet, as a matter of fact, had never been regarded as entirely "reliable". Long before Hitler came to power, while I was working as a foreign correspondent in Berlin I often had had the opportunity to meet him. I know that above all, Udet liked to drink. He was often inclined, when he'd had one drink too many, to speak his mind too freely.

Later on, I think it was in 1935, I was told in Paris of a scene which had taken place in the bar of the Hotel Adlon. Udet was overheard making some indiscreet remarks about certain top-flight Nazis; and when an SS man tried to arrest him, Udet turned and knocked him down.

Moelders, for his part, had allowed himself a luxury which Himmler could not forgive. In a radio interview. he described the Russian Air Force as bril1iant. He had taken the script prepared for him and had given his own version of a sentence in which he was supposed to have said that Russian flyers were "cowards and fools". He was, moreover, a believing Catholic, and never lent himself to the Nazi racial policy.

But where these men probably made their worst mistake was to belong to a committee of twelve high-ranking Luftwaffe officers who secretly appeared before Herman Goering and begged him to put an end to the spying activities of the Gestapo inside the Air Force.

The immediate occasion for the above was a dramatic affair that took place at a Luftwaffe base in France where HvD-women (Nazi service aid girls) were employed. One of these was a Himmler spy. She had been planted there to watch a certain oflicer, and her technique was to pretend to fall in love with him. When the officer found out that she was in Himmler's service, he shot her, and followed it by shooting himself. The affair didn't rest there, and the result was that all HvDs were subsequently removed from the base.

Since then, there have been repeated incidents to prove that Himmler's Gestapo has in the last two years, actually succeeded in infiltrating their agents into the Luftwaffe.

When, for instance, Stephen Horthy, the son of the Hungarian Regent, was killed in a strange plane crash at the Russian front, the Hungarian anti-Nazi Radio (the underground Kossuth Station) announced quite openly that the young man had been put out of the way by Himmler's order. It was discovered that a time bomb had been installed in Horthy's plane which exploded just as he climbed aboard.

More recently, in August 1943 two Luftwaffe generals have died mysteriously within two days of each other. They were Co1onel-General Hans Jeschonnek, Luftwaffe Chief of Staff and Major General Chamier-Glisensky, head of the secret research laboratory of the Luftwaffe at Peenemuende.

The German radio, announcing Jeschonnek's death said that he died after "a serious illness". But only a few days before Berlin had mentioned his attending a meeting at Hitler's headquarters together with other high-ranking German Chiefs. The strange speech of Goering's at Jeschonnek's funeral was almost unnoticed. Said Goering: "Colonel Jeschonnek, who was working in a responsible position, has, in the real meaning of the word, sacrificed his life for Fuehrer and Fatherland."

Again, neutral capitals got some interesting inside-information about Jeschonnek's death. It was rumored that he too was eliminated by orders of Himmler. Jeschonnek had been a devoted friend of Goering's and didn't like to take orders from the Gestapo boss.

Major General Chamier-Glisensky was murdered one night, while the RAF. was attacking his secret research station on the Baltic near Stettin. The Nazis found him after the bombers had gone, shot dead, killed by a bullet fired into his back.

The German radio announced this by saying that "Chamier-Glisensky was killed in an accident at the post to which he was called in the spring of 1943."

There is no more denying that Himmler's victory in the past two years has been complete. At the end of 1942, he succeeded in carrying out his scheme for his own Air Force. After the crushing German defeat at Stalingrad, he convinced Hitler that an SS Air Force might become an absolute necessity in the event that the Nazi Party itself might one day have to be defended. Himmler assured the Fuehrer that "there could be no revolt and no collapse on the home front as long as he had air power of his own at his disposal."

Some of the divisions which at present make up Goering's Luftwaffe are already directed by officers who can safely be called Himmler's men. Take, for instance, Luftflotte Number 4. Covering the Eastern and Southeastern front, it is directed by Colonel von Richthofen, a cousin of Manfred and Lothar von Richthofen, Germany's famous aces of World War One. The 47-year-old colonel has just been made a Field Marshal, the youngest man ever to have held that rank in Germany. His promotion is significant. There are many other and certainly not less efficient Major Generals, but von Richthofen is known to be a particular friend of Himmler's.

The Gestapo Chief's influence is not confined to the Luftwaffe, but has lately reached out to other related organizations.

Among other things, he has succeeded in snatching the Luftschutz Polizei (Air defense police) away from Goering and has named as its new head one Colonel Schaub, a brother of Hitler's personal adjutant, SS Leader, Johann Schaub.

Himmler Luftwaffe spies now undergo a specialized training. They have their own school, located near Berlin. It is a large mansion protected by barbed wire and a close cordon of heavily armed SS guards.

Except for a very few SS and Gestapo leaders, no one is permitted to enter. The head of the school is a certain SS General Heissmeyer. His name is little known even in Germany; the Nazi papers rarely mention him. Heissmeyer is an old Party member who as early as 1922 helped Hitler organize the 1st Nazi Secret Service. Himmler's Lu-Gestapo, as the Luftwaffe spies are now called, have their hands full, particularly of late. Whether they are keeping an eye on Air Force morale, or noting how often Goering's special planes are used to bring his wife's personal commissions from neutral capitals — it all goes down in Himmler's files.

It has reached a point where the Lu-Gestapo has eyes and ears everywhere. When a German flyer is interviewed by an Air Force intelligence officer after his return from a mission, he can be sure that one of Himmler's undercover men, is not far away.

It was Himmler who brought about the surprising purge of high-ranking Luftwaffe officers after the American landing in North Africa. He decided who was to be responsible for the failure of the Luftwaffe reconnaissance to spot the British-American fleet.…

In the face of this evidence, one may well ask for what purpose Himmler has become the behind-the-scenes dictator of the Luftwaffe. And what plans the former school teacher with the gold-rimmed pince-nez — the man who will go down in history as the most atrocious large-scale murderer of all time — has worked out for Germany's Air Force. That some plan is in preparation and will be put into effect with Hitler's consent there can be no doubt.

The conviction must be growing on Himmler and Hitler that Germany is losing the war. And we know in a general way what the Nazi leaders intend to do under those circumstances. They have never made any secret of it. On the contrary, they have always boasted that, "if we lose the war, we will drag Europe and the whole world down with us."

It therefore becomes clear now that the Luftwaffe (or what will be left of it) will play a large role in carrying out this villainous plot. For the final terrible act of the drama of this second world war, Heinrich Himmler is now grooming the Luftwaffe.

The Luftwaffe used to be regarded as the formidable weapon with which the Germans would intimidate and conquer the world. In the last stages of the war, when they are confronted with certain defeat, the Nazis will use the Luftwaffe for a final, suicidal assault on civilization. Against that time, there probably are on Himmler's desk precise plans for the suicide bombing of New York, Washington, or Detroit. It may be that in an access of hysterical fury Himmler will give the word to let loose poison gas on the capitals of the democracies.

Whatever is in prospect, this much is certain: Now that Himmler is in the saddle, we have to reckon with the possibility that Hitler's threat to civilization may become dire fact. Germany's preparations for the zero hour are now under way. Himmler knows that he can count on his own men among the Luftwaffe pilots. Specially trained and prepared, they are 100% fanatical Hitlerites and are prepared to carry out any mission at any cost. One need only examine the reports from the various war prison camps in the United States, England and Russia to learn that it is in every case the German airmen who behave with the greatest bravado and arrogance. If this temper is any indication, then it must be generally known among themselves that there will be some kind of last ditch settling of accounts in the cards from which Hitler and Himmler are now dealing.

One can picture Himmler's agents checking up on the reliability of every Luftwaffe officer, high-ranking and low. And it goes without saying that the secret orders for this day of reckoning will only be allowed to reach the hands of the most trustworthy and fanatical among them.

To make the Luftwaffe the spearhead of a terror mission is characteristic of the fiery and mystic depths of Der Feuhrer's cockeyed imagination — a "fire and flame" finale in the grand manner of a Wagner opera — the Immolation Scene a la Siegfried, a hero's death and the last glaring explosion of his empty ego.

That is why the arguments which have been going on for months as to whether or not the Luftwaffe is "finished" are not to the point. The Luftwaffe has been considerably beefed up by its purges of the "unreliable" elements, and at the same time, this is an indication of cracking morale. However, its morale as a military weapon is not as important as its ultimate use as a spite and terror weapon. It cannot any longer bring about a German victory, nor can it now prevent a German defeat. But one thing it can still do: it can carry out Hitler's fiendish design, and in one last Blitz — by gas and bomb — attempt to lay our world in ruins.

We may have a hard time intercepting this gesture, should the Nazis so choose to make their exit from the world. The one chance of doing anything lies with the German people. But if they are unaware of it, if they make no move while Hitler and Himmler strike to bring the rest of civilization down about their ears, then Germany will have signed her own death warrant.

This article was originally published in the February, 1944,issue of Aircraft Age magazine, vol 2, no 3, pp 6-7, 48-49.
The original article includes a cartoon and two portraits.
Photos are not credited.