Hanna Reitsch (29 March 1912 - 24 August 1979) was an aviator and a leading female German pilot in the 20th century, being the first women in many positions and breaking many records.
In World War II, she was a test pilot, but did not fly combat missions. She was the first German woman to be awarded the Iron Cross. At the end the war, she was one of the last persons to see Hitler and flew the last German warplane out of Berlin in late April 1945.
Former British test pilot and Royal Navy officer Eric Brown said he received a letter from Reitsch in early August 1979 in which she said, "It began in the bunker, there it shall end." Within weeks, she was dead. Brown speculated that Reitsch had taken a cyanide capsule Hitler had given her in the bunker, and that she had taken it as part of a suicide pact with her lover Robert Ritter von Greim, the last Luftwaffe commander, who is stated to have killed himself while in American captivity.
And what have we now in Germany? A country of bankers and car-makers. Even our great army has gone soft. Soldiers wear beards and question orders. I am not ashamed to say I believed in National Socialism. I still wear the Iron Cross with diamonds Hitler gave me. But today in all of Germany you can't find a single person who voted Adolf Hitler into power ... Many Germans feel guilty about the war. But they don't explain the real guilt we share – that we lost.—Hanna Reitsch, last interview in the 1970s.
I asked Herman Goering one day, "What is this I am hearing that Germany is killing Jews?"
Goering responded angrily, 'A totally outrageous lie made up by the British and American press. It will be used as a rope to hang us someday if we lose the war.' .—Hanna Reitsch, last interview in the 1970s.
- Eric Brown's Book "Wings On My Sleeve- The World's Greatest Test Pilot Tells His Story", Pg. 113-114
- Ron Laytner, "The first astronaut: tiny, daring Hanna", The Deseret News 19 February 1981, pp. C1+, p. 12C.