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Featured Olaf Karriere Christian (FDP) Kiew ChinaWirtschaft

For Hitler, the first flight of his life was worth it

The most important utensil was a false beard.

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For Hitler, the first flight of his life was worth it

The most important utensil was a false beard. Unfortunately, it is not exactly known what kind of copy the almost 31-year-old corporal with Austrian roots stuck on his face on March 16, 1920 to conceal his own upper lip hair, which was trimmed to the width of his nose. In any case, he wanted to cover up his style, which was already characteristic of him, at least in right-wing extremist circles in Munich.

Adolf Hitler boarded a plane for the first time in his life on Tuesday, a rickety double-decker. Together with the writer Dietrich Eckart, he was to fly to Berlin as an emissary. The driving force behind the project was Reichswehr Captain Karl Mayr, Hitler's superior in the military and a spider in the web of right-wing extremist groups in Upper Bavaria.

Mayr wanted to immediately inform the supposedly "strong man" of German politics, the putschist and self-proclaimed Chancellor Wolfgang Kapp, about the political situation in Bavaria. Three days earlier, soldiers from the Freikorps Marinebrigade Ehrhardt had occupied the Berlin government district; the Reich government had fled, and a general strike paralyzed almost all of Germany.

At the beginning of June 1919, Mayr "discovered" the oratory talent of a private who had been stranded by defeat and revolution and made him his protégé. In the spring of 1920, Hitler had made a name for himself as a talented rhetorician in some circles in the Bavarian metropolis. Nevertheless, he naturally obeyed the order of his superior and patron to fly to Berlin. The second passenger, Dietrich Eckart from the reactionary Thule Society, was well connected in Berlin's upper class.

The machine was provided by the Augsburg industrialist Gottfried Grandel, who supported ethnic, reactionary, anti-democratic forces with money and connections. Therefore, Hitler and Eckart first had to take the train from Munich to Augsburg, where the double-decker was waiting for them.

With Hitler and Eckart on board, the machine then took off towards the capital. But their pilot, the active Fliegerleutnant Robert Ritter von Greim (he was to become the last commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe on April 23, 1945) lost his way and had to land in Jüterbog, about 60 kilometers south of the target, due to a lack of fuel. There, angry workers surrounded the two passengers, pro-government officials questioned them skeptically. After all, they were on their way to the center of a coup in one of the then extremely rare private planes.

Eckart posed as a Munich merchant on an urgent business trip, and he described his companion as his "accountant". They were allowed to continue flying, but only arrived at Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin in the late afternoon. Too late to accomplish anything that day.

So Eckart went with Hitler to appointments with reactionary members of high society in Berlin – with Edwin and Helene Bechstein and with Erich Ludendorff. Hitler made important contacts here: the Bechsteins became two of his most important financiers until 1930, and Ludendorff supported him in his putsch in 1923.

The following day, Wednesday, March 17, 1920, Eckart and Hitler were driven to the Hotel Adlon on Pariser Platz. This is where Kapp set up his headquarters, where Captain Waldemar Pabst sat, one of the instigators of the attempted putsch (and primarily responsible for the double murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in January 1919). Apparently Hitler was supposed to make himself available to him as press chief.

But when they arrived in Berlin-Mitte, the failure of the coup was already obvious: the general strike had effectively paralyzed life in Germany, and almost all officials refused to support Kapp. Nor had he succeeded in winning over the Reichswehr in the other regions of Germany to his putsch. Because on the instructions of the de facto chief of staff, Hans von Seeckt, the regular troops kept their distance, taking a position neither against nor for the putschists. The Ehrhardt naval brigade was thus able to continue to occupy the government district, but beyond that it was not effective.

Upon entering the "Adlon", Hitler met Wolfgang Kapp and his daughter. The two were about to flee – first to acquaintances in the Mark Brandenburg, then via Denmark to Sweden, where Erich Ludendorff had already gone into hiding for a few months in 1918/19.

Around two decades later, Hitler told an anecdote that is said to have happened on that day. After that, when Eckart saw the putschists' press officer on the stairs in the hotel foyer, a man of Jewish-Hungarian descent, he said: "Come on, Adolf, we have nothing more to do here." However, that is unlikely, because the ethnic reactionary Wolfgang Kapp was a hard anti-Semite.

On March 18, 1920, Eckart and Hitler boarded Grandel's plane again and flew the approximately 560 kilometers from Tempelhofer Feld to Oberwiesenfeld in Munich - a distance of almost five hours for the heavily laden and slow biplane.

Apparently Hitler was depressed because he hid himself for the next few days; In any case, Harald Sandner, the author of the important “Hitler Itinerary”, which systematically records every known activity of the later dictator, was only able to make a public appearance again at a party event on March 29, 1920.

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This article was first published in 2020.

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