Greim, Robert Ritter von, born 22-06-1892 in Bayreuth, was an army cadet before World War I and initially served in the artillery before transferring to the German Air Service, Fliegertruppe, in 1915. In June 1918, Greim had an encounter with a Bristol Fighter, and his aircraft lost its cowling. This struck and damaged his top wing, along with the lower left interplane strut, but he managed to land the machine successfully. He returned to Jasta 34 in October 1918, the unit which had been commanded by WWI flyer ace, Manfred von Richthofen and brother Lothar
until his death in action on April 21. He was awarded with the Bavarian Military Order of Max Joseph
This latter award made him a Knight, Ritter, and allowed him to add both this honorific title and the style ‘von’ to his name. Thus Robert von Greim became Robert Ritter von Greim. After the war, Ritter von Greim was unsuccessful in finding a place in the Reichswehr was asked by Chiang Kai Shek’s
government to come to Canton, China to help build a Chinese air force. Before the Nazis came to power, von Greim realized that his proper place was not in the expatriate community in China, but in Germany and he returned to his native country. In 1933, Ritter von Greim was asked by Hermann Goering
(did you know
) (see Goering Peter
) to help rebuild the German Air Force and in 1934 was appointed to the command of the pilot school. Ritter von Greim was given command of a Luftflotte, Air Fleet and was involved in the invasion of Poland, the Battle for Norway, the Battle of Britain (see Bomber Arthur Harris
) and Operation Barbarossa. In late 1942, his only son, Hubert Greim, a Bf-109 pilot with 11./JG 2 “Richthofen”
, under Oberstleutnant, Walter “Gulle” Oesau
, was listed as missing in Tunisia. He was shot down by a Spitfire flown by a Royal Australian Air Force pilot, Flight Lieutenant Robert Maxwell Brinsley
, but bailed out and spent the remainder of the war in a prison camp in the United States. Jagdgeschwader
2 ‘Richthofen’ was formally de-activated near Munich on 07-05-1945 by Geschwaderkommodore, and Jagdgeschwader 2 top scorer with 112 kills, Kurt Bühligen. Bühligen was never shot down but had to make emergency landings on 3 occasions. Ritter von Greim’s greatest tactical achievement was his Luftflotte’s involvement in the battle of Kursk. On 26-04-1945, when Soviet forces had reached Berlin and the Reich was all but doomed, Generaloberst Ritter von Greim flew into Berlin landed near the Brandenburger Tor
, Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels
(did you know
) was also the Gauleiter of Berlin, from Munich with the noted female pilot, Hanna Reitsch
in response to an order from Hitler. When in the air from Gatow airport Greim steered the little spotter plane at treetop level across the outskirts of the capital in order to avoid Soviet fighters. Looking down, he and Hanna saw a hellish landscape of fire, smoke, and street fighting. “From the ground, out of the shadows, from the treetops themselves, leapt the very fires of Hell,” Hanna reported. “Below, Russian tanks and soldiers were swarming among the trees.” Dogfights raged above the Storch as it droned steadily onward.
The plane was rocked by Soviet antiaircraft bursts as it flew eastward over the Tiergarten toward the Brandenburg Gate and the Chancellery. An armor-piercing shell crashed into the underside of the Storch, and a gaping hole appeared in the cockpit flooring. Greim slumped over with his right foot shattered. As the plane began to dive out of control, Hanna reached over and grabbed the stick. She managed to right the craft as it was showered with shell splinters. Then she calmly steered downward to a safe landing, as planned, on the broad Charlottenburger Chaussee near the Brandenburg Gate. She flagged down a passing German staff car, and the pair rode to the Chancellery.
After General Greim’s foot was treated in the bunker dispensary, Hitler entered to greet his last two visitors.
Hanna was shocked to see that he appeared to have lost touch with reality. His head drooped, his eyes were glassy, and his arms twitched continually. His moods swung from despair to hope, and back again. The Führer declared bitterly that Goering (see Goering-Fock
) (see Sonnemann
) had betrayed and deserted him, and he informed the startled Greim that he had been summoned to the bunker to be named commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe. Hitler promoted him to field marshal and, in a low voice, declared, “In the name of the German people, I give you my hand.” On 28-04-1945, Hitler Adolf Hitler
(did you know
) ordered Ritter von Greim to leave Berlin and have Reitsch fly him to Plön so that he could arrest Heinrich Himmler
for treason. He handed Hanna two small blue vials of potassium cyanide, one for herself and one for Greim, and said, “Hanna, you belong to those who will die with me. I do not wish that one of us falls to the Russians alive, nor do I wish our bodies to be found by them. Eva
and I will have our bodies burned. Later Magda Goebbels
gave Hanna two letters to give to her son Harald Quandt
and took off a diamond ring and asked her to wear it in her memory. Eva Braun handed Hanna a letter for her sister. Hanna could not resist reading it later and tore it up because it was “so vulgar, so theatrical, and in such poor, adolescent taste.” After emotional farewells, Hanna and Field Marshal Greim left the bunker. That night, the two only just managed to get away from Berlin, taking off from the Tiergarten air strip in a small Arado Ar 96 aircraft, before the eyes of soldiers of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army, under command of General Vasily Ivanovich Kuznetsov
, who initially feared they had just seen Hitler himself escape. Later, in an interview, both Greim and Reitsch kept repeating: “It was the blackest day when we could not die at our Führer’s side.” Then they added, as tears kept running down Reitsch’s cheeks, “We should all kneel down in reverence and prayer before the altar of the Fatherland.” When asked what the “Altar of the Fatherland” was, completely taken aback, they responded: “Why, the Führer’s bunker in Berlin.
After emotional farewells, Hanna and Field Marshal Greim left the bunker. Around midnight on April 28, Hanna helped Greim, hobbling on crutches, to an SS armored car. The darkness was illuminated by burning buildings, and as they rode through the ruined streets to the Brandenburg Gate, they could hear the rattle of small arms fire. Hidden near the famous gate was a single-engine, two-seater Arado Ar-96 advanced trainer. The Fieseler Storch that had brought them to Berlin had been destroyed by Soviet shellfire.
Hanna hurriedly helped Greim aboard the small monoplane. There was no time to lose; Berlin was afire and swarming with Soviet troops. Hanna gunned the 12-cylinder piston engine and taxied the Arado along the smoky east-west axis road as shells crashed down nearby and Russian searchlights fingered the dark sky. Hanna increased speed and managed to lift the plane amid a hail of fire. Skimming above the shattered rooftops, she tried to dodge the persistent searchlights. Antiaircraft bursts rocked the little trainer.
“Miraculously,” the aviatrix reported later, “not a single shot touched the plane.” Switching to full power, she climbed away from the city and headed northward. On the outskirts of Berlin, she plunged gratefully into a low cloud formation, emerging 12 miles away and free of Soviet gunfire and fighters. She touched down at Rechlin at 3 am.
Field Marshal Greim duly ordered the remnants of the Luftwaffe into the air battle over Berlin and went to confront Himmler. The Gestapo leader denied that he had betrayed Hitler and admitted later that Greim had “reproved” him. Shortly afterward, Hanna and Greim learned of the Führer’s suicide. On 8 May, the same day as the surrender of the Third Reich, Ritter von Greim was captured by American soldiers in Austria.
Death and burial ground of Greim, Robert Ritter von.
He was slated to be part of a Soviet-American prisoner exchange program and, fearing torture and execution at the hands of Josef Stalin’s
NKVD, still immobilized by his foot wound, Greim made use of the cyanide capsule Hitler had given him and committed suicide at a prison in Salzburg, Austria, on 24-05-1945, age 53, His final words before taking Potassium cyanide were: ” I am the head of the Luftwaffe, but I have no Luftwaffe.” He is buried on the Communal Cemetery of Salzburg, Austria, war section, close to Hanna Reitsch,
his intimate companion, Flugkapitän and test-pilote.
Cemetery and grave location of Greim, Robert Ritter von.