Wolfram Karl Ludwig Moritz Hermann Freiherr von Richthofen, born 10-10-1895 in Gut Barzdorf in Schlesien (Silesia), at the time German territory. He was a son of the nobel General der Kavalerie Manfred von Richthofen and Therese Gotz von Olenhusen (1862–1948), the second child and oldest son of four children. His older sister, Sophie-Therese, was born in 1891 (and died in 1971). His brother Manfred was born in 1898 and Gerhard in 1902. He was a distant cousin of the brothers “Red Baron” Manfred and Lothar von Richthofen, two well known aces from the First World War. In 1913, He became good friends with his cousins, Lothar and Manfred von Richthofen, and he hunted game at the estate with them regularly. By the end of his teens, he had become an established hunter and horse rider – interests which remained with him for the rest of his life.
As the son of a nobleman, he enjoyed a life of privilege. The family’s noble status dated back to the 1500s, and by the 1700s the Richthofens owned 16 estates in Lower Silesia. When Frederick the Great annexed Silesia in 1740, he personally granted the title of Baron (Freiherr) to one of Richthofen’s direct ancestors. The family remained in Silesia for a further three generations.
Richthofen’s home, an eighteenth-century estate, was only one of 25 Richthofen-owned properties totalling 140 square kilometres (35,000 acres; 54 sq mi). Barzdorf, where he lived, was a modest 350 hectares (860 acres; 1.4 sq mi), of which 269 was farmed and the rest was forest. Wolfram, as the oldest son did not inherit the estate. Instead, on the death of his father in 1922, it was given to his younger brother, Manfred. Some years before, Wolfram’s uncle General of Cavalry Manfred von Richthofen, his father’s brother, had asked him to inherit his estate to keep it in the family, as he himself had no children. Wolfram inherited the estate after Manfred legally adopted him. The General died in 1939.
Wolfram followed his father’s footsteps and joined the army and became squadron commander in Hussarenregiment 4. of the cavalry. In 1913 he entered Kriegsschule in Kassel and was promoted to Leutnant in 1914 after graduation. He fought in World War I and in September 1917 he was transferred to the Kaiserliche Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial Air Force) at his own request. On 04-04-1918, he was posted to Jagdstaffel 11, a squadron his cousin Manfred served in too. Towards the end of the war, Wolfram had shot down eight enemy aircraft, making him an ace. He was also awarded the Eisernes Kreuz II and I (Iron Cross). On 29-02-1920, Von Richthofen resigned from the air force in the rank of Oberleutnant and on September 18 he married Jutta von Selchow. They had been introduced by her brother Gunther. Jutta was also of Silesian nobility, and had moved in the same circles. She had served as a nurse in the war. They lived in an apartment in Hanover while Wolfram restarted his academic career in Engineering. During their marriage they rarely travelled abroad in the 1920s. In the 1930s they took skiing holidays in Switzerland. The couple had three children; Wolfram (born 25-05-1922), Götz (27-11-1925) and Ellen (15-02-1928). Wolfram was posted missing in action over northern Romania on 05-06-1944. He was never found. Dr. Ing. Jutta von Seichow born 23-03-1896 in Ratibor, died age 95 on 28-03-1991 in Bad Reichenhall.
Von Richthofen took up a study in engineering, graduating from Technical University Berlin-Charlottenburg in 1924 and made his engineering degree in 1929, netting him the title On 01-11-1923, Von Richthofen rejoined the army as a Leutnant in the mountain corps. He was promoted to Oberleutnant in 1925 and to Hauptmann in 1929. Subsequently he served as military attaché in Rome for a few years. 01-10-1933 he decided to be transferred to the air force once again. After a few postings as a Major at the Reichsluftfahrtministeriun , the department responsible for development and production of aircraft, Von Richthofen, meanwhile risen to Oberleutnant, was appointed Chief of Staff of the Legion Condor under command of General Hugo Otto Sperrle, in January 1937. This Legion was dispatched to Spain in support of the Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War. Hence, Von Richthofen was also closely involved in the bombing of the Bask capital Guernica . The Basque Autonomous Government claimed that there were 1,654 dead and 889 injured. After his return from Spain in October 1937 he was promoted to Oberst on 23-01-1938. On 0-11-1938he was promoted to Generalmajor and he became chief of operations of the Legion Condor.
03-10-1939, Von Richthofen was appointed commander of VIII Fliegerkorps. This unit supported the operations in the Netherlands, Belgium and France in connection with Fall Gelb. Due to the success of this operation, he was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knight’s Cross) on 17-05-1940. In July 1940, shortly after the beginning of the Battle of Britain, he was promoted to General der Flieger.
Early 1941, VIII Fliegerkorps was transferred to Romania for the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece in April. Here, Von Richthofen was directly responsible for the heavy bombardment on Belgrade during which the city was destroyed and 17,000 civilians killed. After the war, his commander, Generaloberst Alexander Löhr
was to be executed for this by the Yugoslavs. In May 1941, the corps carried out air raids on Crete, turning the buildings in Chania and Heraklion, dating back to the Venetian period, to rubble.
In June, the operations on the Balkans and in Greece had also been completed successfully and on 17-07-1941, Von Richthofen was awarded the Eichenlaub (Oak Leaves) to his Ritterkreuz. On 01-02-1942, he was promoted to Generaloberst and in March, the corps was transferred to the Eastern Front and from March 20 onwards, the corps supported the operations of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Center) under command of Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge but from April onwards, the corps operated in the southern sector of the front. From May onwards, the corps supported the operations against Sebastopol on the Crimea. Early July, these attacks reached a climax and the corps was responsible for a massive bombardment on the city itself. This cleared the way for the troops of 11. Armee, commanded by Generaloberst Erich von Manstein
who captured the city on July 4. The very same day, Von Richthofen was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Luftflotte 4 and he remained in support of the operations in the southern sector of the front with this corps. Here he was also responsible for the heaviest bombardment of the battle at the Eastern Front so far, the bombing of Stalingrad on 23-08-1942. The bombers of Luftflotte 4 flew 2,000 sorties over the city that day and continued bombing the city for a week, claiming the lives of an estimated 40,000 civilians.
Von Richthofen’s reputation of mercilessness had now overtaken him. The intelligent man with the stern facial expression had been directly responsible for the horrendous bombings of Guernica, Belgrade, Crete and Stalingrad.
The 6th Armee, commanded by General der Panzertruppen Friedrich Paulus, charged with the capture of Stalingrad, was unable to capture the city however. Von Richthofen wrote in his diary: “The Russians are sending in reinforcements from all directions.” He could not hide his impatience to capture the city. He urged Paulus to make better use of his air support. “Use today’s day,” he wrote, “I cannot offer you this tomorrow.” On August 25, an intolerant Von Richthofen spoke to a nervous Paulus again. He pressed him again for a quick victory at Stalingrad now the Soviet troops were still weak. Von Richthofen’s bombings had not broken the spirit of the enemy however, on the contrary, they had turned the ruined city into a perfect defensive position for the Soviet troops.
Early November, Soviet troops began assembling on the flanks of 6. Armee. Reconnaissance aircraft of Von Richthofen’s Luftflotte 4. had already spotted these troops, it was just a question of waiting for the counter-attack to begin. When it started on November 19, rain and hail prohibited attacks from the air. The Axis forces were soon encircled and Von Richthofen’s Luftflotte 4. was ordered by Reichsmarschall Herman Goering to resupply the encircled troops by air. Von Richthofen countered immediately by arguing he had an insufficient number of aircraft at his disposal but Göring was unreachable. The lack of a sufficient number of aircraft, supply lines being way overstretched, the bad weather, few air fields and poorly trained ground crews caused the air lift to turn into a disaster. On 10-01-1943, the Soviet armies launched their last offensive against the ever shrinking pocket. 6th Armee surrendered on January 31: 530,000 Axis soldiers had been killed during the battle for Stalingrad and 130,000 made prisoners-of-war.
Following the battle of Stalingrad, Von Richthofen was promoted to Generalfeldmarschall on 16-04-1943; at age 47 the youngest ever in German and Prussian military history. On June 26, he was given command over Luftflotte 2 operating in the Mediterranean theatre. On 27-10-1944 he fell ill and went on sick leave. In November he was transferred to the reserve, never to be given a command again.
Death and burial ground of Richthofen, Wolfgang Karl Ludwig Moritz Hermann Freiherr von.
Before and after the war, Von Richthofen was awarded various German, Romanian and Spanish decorations. He was made a prisoner-of-war by American troops after the war. Dr. Ing. Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen died in captivity 12-07-1945 at the age of 49 from a brain tumor.
Wolfgang Karl Ludwig Moritz Hermann Freiherr von Richthofen is buried at the Friedhof Bad Ischl, in Bad Ischl, Gmunden Bezirk, Upper Austria (Oberösterreich), Austria.
Wolfgang Linke, a German friend from Frankfurt am Main, visited the cemetery and sent me the grave photo’s, with great thank.