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I was Hitler's Pilot

Lt-Gen Hans Baur

Frontline, 13 March 2013

ISBN: 9781 84832 6965

Buy It Here

Memoirs of those in Hitler’s inner circle are very rare.  The first German edition of this book appeared in 1955, the (well translated) English version, two years later. This volume is a welcome reprint of the latter. It includes a very useful introduction by Roger Moorhouse, who is an historian who specialises in Berlin and the last days of the Reich.

 

Baur distinguished himself in WW1, securing just enough victories to be classified as an ace. After Versailles, Germany was allowed to build up its civil air transport infrastructure only slowly, and competition for the few piloting jobs was intense. But Baur’s  flying skills were already evident (at least in his own words!), and he secured one of the small number  of available slots, starting  in Munich in 1922  with Bavarian Luft-Llloyd .  It is soon evident that Baur is vulnerable to being star struck: amongst his early passengers Toscanini and Rudolf Hess are mentioned, amongst others.

 

There is a saying that there are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old and bold pilots. It is soon clear that Baur  survives due to his caution, and well withstands the commercial pressures of this embryonic airline. That aside, his survival into old age was also due to plenty of good fortune, as well as high levels of skill.

 

One of the joys of this book is the occasional anecdote, inserted almost in passing. For example, after the harsh winter of 1928 Baur and his airline transport across the Alps large numbers of swallows,  which had been unable to migrate in time.

 

By now in the newly formed Lufthansa, Baur is the beneficiary of the Germans’ predilection for awarding medals, receiving several through the course of his civil career marking milestones in   terms of number of kilometres flown.

 

Skill marked him out for selection as being personal pilot for Hitler, even before the latter began electioneering for the role of Chancellor. Even at this early stage, Hitler’s magnetic attraction to thousands of German women is evident (and why he sought to sustain it by remaining unmarried, and ostensibly celibate, until almost the end). Baur allows the pressures of the electioneering tour to put him under great duress – flying VFR in challenging terrain in very bad weather. Baur’s by now intimate knowledge of German geography, and its airfields, is a life saver.

Baur 1

A young Baur pre WW2