Graf, Hermann, born 24-10-1912 in Engen, Baden,
the son of Wilhelm Graf, a small farmer, and his wife Maria, born Sailer. He was the third of three children
, with two older brothers, Wilhelm Wilhelm who was a Wehrmacht officer
and Josef Wilhelm. Wilhelm Graf fought in World War I as an artillery soldier and was awarded the Iron Cross
and did not return home until Hermann was six years old. Hermann’s main reference point in his life was therefore his mother forming a very close relationship which prevailed the remainder of her life. The inflation in the Weimar Republic
wiped out all the family savings in 1923. From a very early age Hermann learned to work very hard to make a living as a young boy was fascinated by football as a goalkeeper of FC Höhen,
a broken thumb ended all of Graf’s early hopes for a career in the national football team of trainer Sepp Herberger.
Sepp Herberger died old age 80, on 28-04-1977. Hermann saw his first aircraft when he was twelve years old causing an emotional conflict between his passion for football and aviation. Since the savings for Graf’s higher education had been lost in the 1923 inflation he had no option but to apply for a professional education. For the next three years Graf worked as a locksmith apprentice at a local factory. A locksmith had a low income and when he received an offer to work as a clerk apprentice he gladly accepted a change in careers. In this position Graf helped Jewish families escape to Switzerland at a time when the “J” stamp in German Jews’ passport had been demanded by Germany’s neighboring countries. He took a great personal risk and came close to getting caught. Graf was saved by SS Gruppenführer
Albert Keller of the Nazi Sailplane Club NSFK
in Engen, who cleared all the tracks that Graf had left. Graf had started working at the Engen town Hall in 1930, saving all his money to buy a sailplane. In 1935 when Adolf Hitler
(see Alois Hitler
(see William Hitler
) nullified the Treaty of Versailles, Hermann Graf applied for flight training in the newly created Luftwaffe. He visited tank designer, Claude Dornier’s
and aircraft designer, Willi Messerschmitt’s
factories. In 1938 Graf completed the advanced flying training. He was originally selected for multi-engine aircraft training, but he wanted to fly fighters and was assigned to 2./Jagdgeschwader 51
, under General der Flieger, Werner Vatti Molders
31-05-1939 with the rank of Unteroffizier. At the outbreak of World War II, on 01-09-1939 JG 51 was stationed at the French border. Graf, now a Feldwebel, flew many patrols, but had no opportunity to engage the enemy during this phony war. On 6 October Graf was assigned to 9./Jagdgeschwader 52
. His wingman at the time was Leopold Steinbatz. Steinbatz crashed age 23, on 23-06-1942. Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) was the most successful fighter wing of all time, with a claimed total of more than 10.000 victories over enemy aircraft during World War II. It was the unit of the top three scoring Fighter aces of all time, Major, Erich Hartmann
General Seidemann. Leopold Steinbatz.
A few days later JG 52 was transferred to Romania, to help train Romanian pilots. In May 1941 III./JG 52 was transferred to Greece to support Operation Merkur, the invasion of Crete. By early 1942 he had 45 victories, for which he was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 24-01-1942, by Hermann Göring
The rise of General Ion Victor Antonescu
in Romania in 1940 led to a reorganization of his country’s armed forces. In this, he was supported by a military mission from Germany, the Luftwaffenmission Rumänien (Luftwaffe Mission Romania)
under the command of Generalleutnant der Flieger, Wilhelm Speidel.
Handrick’s III./JG 52 was transferred to Bucharest in mid-October and temporarily renamed I./Jagdgeschwader 28 (I./JG 28) until 4 January 1941. Its primary task was to train Romanian Air Force personnel. Here, the trio of Graf, Leutnant Heinrich Füllgrabe
and Oberleutnant Alfred Grislawski
was joined by Oberleutnant Ernst Süß,
and later by Leutnant Leopold Steinbatz
and Leutnant Edmund “Paule” Roßmann
. Generalleutnant Wilhelm Speidel died 03-06-1970, age 74, in Nürtingen The airmen of 9./JG 28
spent a couple of relaxing months in Bucharest, outside the close scrutiny of Berlin. Graf even managed to play football when a Luftwaffe team played against Cyclope Bucharesti at the Bucharest Sports Arena before 30,000 spectators. During its time in Romania, the unit was witness to a major earthquake in November and an abortive civil war in January Leutnant Heinrich Füllgrabe was killed on 30-01-1945, age 28, by Soviet anti-aircraft fire near Brieg in Silesia. Oberleutnant Alfred Grislawski survived the war and died 19-09-2003, aged 83, Herne. Oberleutnant Ernst Süß, was killed in battle, age 31 on 20-12-1943, in Wardenburg, Oldenburg. Leutnant Leopold Steinbatz Bf 109F4 “Yellow 2” was hit by Soviet AA fire and plummeted into the forests near Volzhansk, killing Steinbatz, age 23, although his body was never found. Leutnant Edmund “Paule” Roßmann also survived the war and died 04-04-2005, age 23, in Krefeld.
On 23 March Graf was appointed Staffelkapitän of 9./JG 52. In early 1943 Graf, now a major, was sent to France to command Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe Ost. He managed to bring his tally to 212 before he surrendered to the Americans on 08-05-1945. Graf had disobeyed an order from General Hans Seidemann, Seidemann died age 66, on 21-12-1967. Seidemann had ordered him and Erich Hartmann to fly to the British sector, to avoid capture by the Russians. Along with most of the JG 52 personnel, Graf was handed over to the Russians shortly after his surrender. He was imprisoned until 29-12-1949. After Hermann Graf had returned from Soviet captivity in December 1949 his marriage with Jola Jobst
collapsed and they were divorced. Initially Graf had a hard time obtaining work but his relationship in the football community helped him. Sepp Herberger introduced Graf to Roland Endler, an electronics manufacturer. Endler employed Graf as a salesman in his company, and Graf would eventually advance to branch leader in Baden Wurtemberg and Chief of Sales Graf was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s disease affected many of those who had flown high-altitude missions during the war. Graf eventually re-married twice. His third marriage from May 1959 with Helga Graf
resulted in the birth of his son, Hermann-Ulrich born in 1959, and his daughter Birgit born in 1961.
Death and burial ground of Graf, Hermann
Like numerous pilots of the Second World War who flew at great heights, Graf also contracted Parkinson’s disease (paralysis), which slowly but surely restricted his health from 1965 onwards. Hermann Graf died, age 75, in his hometown Engen on 04-11-1988 and is buried on the village cemetery in Engen, in the right corner. Memorials of Graf are displayed in the museum of Speyer,
Hermann Graf’s leather jacket and the Me 109 tail rudder from his famous 9./JG 52 Bf 109 G-2 “Karaya 1”, Yellow 1 .
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