From Nazi Test Pilot to Hitler’s Bunker: the Fantastic Flights of Hanna Reitsch
From Nazi Test Pilot to Hitler’s Bunker: the Fantastic Flights of Hanna Reitsch, Dennis Piszkiewicz, 1997, ISBN 0-275-95456-0, 149 pp.
Dennis Piszkiewicz’s book on famed, highly accomplished and somewhat infamous pilot Hanna Reitsch is fruit from another labor. We are fortunate for this book as it objectively addresses her life and her very real accomplishments. Piszkiewicz also writes of her beliefs and likely romance without going into psychological hypothesizing, thankfully.
Most of the book concerns the war years as well as those surrounding WW II. Reitsch, like most Germans in her time, began flying gliders and stood out as a pilot from early on. Her skill and fame brought her close to those in power in the Luftwaffe and especially the Nazi party. This gave her opportunity to fly Germany’s advanced aircraft designs like the Me 163 Komet, piloted V-1 “Buzz Bomb” and the early helicopter Focke-Wulf Fw 61. Not mentioned is her yeoman work was with the Ju 87 Stuka, military gliders and bomber modifications. Perhaps her most spectacular work was in flying Luftwaffe commanders into as well as out of harm’s way in Russia as well as besieged Berlin using the Fiesler Fi 156 Storch—and this is addressed quite well by Piszkiewicz, including her time in the Führerbunker in the last days of Hitler.
Her time flying sailplanes, and setting world records, after the end of WW II is also described well by the author. This book is a concise explanation and description of Reitsch’s flying and personality—serving well as an anchor for deeper understanding of this accomplished aviator who lived through tumultuous times, if not cleanly.