Graf, Hermann, born 24-10-1912 in Engen, Baden, the son of Wilhelm Graf, a small farmer, and his wife Maria, née Sailer. He was the third of three children
, with two older brothers, Wilhelm Wilhelm 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, a broken thumb ended all of Graf’s early hopes for a career in the national football team of 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 352 victories
, Major, Gerhard Barkhorn
, 301 victories,
and Major, Günther Rall.
Günther Rall, 275 victories
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 Goering
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
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 .
Cemetery and grave location of Graf, Hermann