Hans Baur (19 June 1897–17 February 1993) was Adolf Hitler's pilot during Hitler's political campaigns of the early 1930s. He later became Hitler's personal pilot and leader of the Reichsregierung squadron. Apprehended by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II in Europe, he was imprisoned in the USSR for ten years before being extradited to France on 10 October 1955, where he was imprisoned until 1957. He died in Herrsching, Bavaria, in 1993.
World War I and interwar period
Baur was born in Ampfing, Bavaria. He was called up to the Bavarian Army in 1915, and trained in field artillery. He then joined the Luftstreitkräfte (air force) as an artillery spotter. After the war, Baur joined the Freikorps under Franz von Epp. He went on to become a courier flier for the Bavarian airmail service. Beginning in 1922, Baur was a pilot for Bayrische Luftlloyd, and then Junkers Luftverkehr.
In 1926, Baur became a pilot of Deutsche Luft Hansa. In the same year, Baur also became a member of the NSDAP (Nazi Party No. 48,113). On 1 April 1931, Baur flew the opening flight of the Berlin-Munich-Rome route, known as the Alpine flight, whose passengers included Nuntius Eugenio Pacelli, Arturo Toscanini and Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria.
Hitler's personal pilot
Hitler was the first politician to campaign by air travel, deciding that travel by plane was more efficient than travel by railway. Baur first served as his pilot during the 1932 General Election.
Hitler obtained his first private aeroplane, a Junkers Ju 52/3m with registration number D-2600 (Werk Nr. 4021), in 1933, after becoming German Chancellor. The same registration number continued to be used for all aircraft used by Hitler, even during the war years. The Ju 52 was named Immelmann II after the First World War pilot Max Immelmann. Baur was personally selected by Hitler to be his official pilot in 1933 and was consequently released from service by Luft Hansa.
Fliegerstaffel des Führers
Baur was appointed head of the Hitler's personal squadron, initially based at Oberwiesenfeld, Munich. As the Luftwaffe was not yet officially established, Hitler wanted Baur to be able to command sufficient power and respect to assure his security, therefore, Baur was commissioned a Standartenführer (colonel) in the Schutzstaffel (SS No. 171,865) by Heinrich Himmler in October, 1933.
Baur was given the task of expanding and organising Hitler's personal squadron and the government "flying group". In 1934, Baur was promoted to the rank of SS-Oberführer. Hitler allowed Baur to fill his squadron with experienced Luft Hansa pilots, including Georg Betz who became co-pilot for Hitler's aircraft and Hans Baur's substitute. By 1937, Hitler had three Ju 52 airplanes for flight use. Then in 1937, Hitler obtained a new aircraft, the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor which was named, "Immelmann III". The Condor had a much greater range and was faster than the Ju 52. In 1942, an improved model of the Condor was put into use for Hitler's travels and Baur continued to be his primary pilot. A Ju 290 was assigned to Hitler's renamed squadron, Fliegerstaffel des Führers (FdF) in late 1944. Modifications were completed by February 1945 at the FdF's base at Pocking, Bavaria. Baur tested the aircraft, but Hitler never flew in it. Still by the end of the war, Baur commanded a total of 40 different aircraft, including Ju 52, Condors, Ju 290 and the little Fieseler Fi 156 Storch.
Although he tried to convert Baur to vegetarianism, Hitler also invited him to the Reich Chancellery for his favourite meal of pork and dumplings for his 40th birthday, and gave him a Mercedes Benz to replace his personal Ford.
Führerbunker and Soviet detention
On 31 January 1944, Baur was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer (brigadier general) and major general of the police; and on 24 February 1945, he became an SS-Gruppenführer (major general) and Generalleutnant of the Police.
During the last days of the war, Baur was with Hitler in the Führerbunker. Baur had devised a plan to allow Hitler to escape from the Battle of Berlin; a Fieseler Fi 156 Storch was held on standby which could take off from an improvised airstrip in the Tiergarten, near the Brandenburg Gate. However, Hitler refused to leave Berlin. On 26 April 1945, the improvised landing strip was used by Hanna Reitsch to fly in Colonel-General Robert Ritter von Greim, appointed by Hitler as head of the Luftwaffe after Hermann Göring's dismissal. During the evening of 28 April, Reitsch flew von Greim out on the same road-strip to Plon.
On 29 April 1945, the Soviet Red Army launched an all-out attack on the centre of Berlin. The Soviet artillery opened up with intense fire in and around the Reich Chancellery area. That evening in the bunker complex below the Chancellery garden, Hitler said his farewell to his personal pilots, Baur and Betz. Baur pleaded with Hitler to leave Berlin. The men volunteered to fly Hitler out of Germany in a Ju 390 and to safety. It was in vain as Hitler turned Baur down, stating he had to stay in Berlin.
Baur stayed in the bunker complex until Hitler killed himself on the afternoon of 30 April. After Hitler's suicide, Baur found the improvised road-strip too pot-holed for use and overrun by the Soviet 3rd Shock Army. A plan was devised to escape out from Berlin to the Allies on the western side of the Elbe or to the German Army to the North. SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke split up the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker soldiers and personnel into ten main groups. Baur, Betz and Martin Bormann left the Reich Chancellery as part of one of the groups. During the escape attempt, Baur was shot in the legs, and the wound was so serious that his right lower leg was later amputated in Posen on 10 June 1945, while a Soviet prisoner-of-war.
Baur was of great interest to his captors, who believed he might have flown Hitler to safety before the fall of Berlin. They also believed he had information concerning stolen art, specifically about the plundering of the Amber Room (Bernsteinzimmer) in Leningrad. He was taken to the Soviet Union and imprisoned there for ten years before being released on 10 October 1955. The French then imprisoned him until 1957.
Later life and book
Baur returned to West Germany and in 1957 wrote his autobiography Ich flog mit den Mächtigen der Erde, which literally translates as "I flew with the mighty of the earth" The book was later lengthened and the title was changed to Mit Mächtigen zwischen Himmel und Erde, which translates as "Between Heaven and Earth with [the] Mighty." The French translation is more softly titled J'étais pilote de Hitler: Le sort du monde était entre mes mains, which translates to "I was Hitler's pilot: The fate of the world was in my hands."
The book contains a collection of eyewitness accounts of Hitler's daily activities and conversations and is unique because Hans Baur, as his private pilot and personal friend, was in Hitler's presence practically every day from 1933 to 1945. The book contains an account of the events surrounding the arrest of Ernst Röhm, by Hitler himself, on 30 June 1934 at Bad Wiessee in which Baur took part. The book also tells of Baur's dislike for Hermann Göring (whom Baur describes as a "thick headed glutton"). Hans Baur was one of the few people who was truly close to Hitler and was one of the last people to see Hitler alive in the Berlin bunker. The book has since been translated into English – with the title "I was Hitler's Pilot" – and is an insider look into Hitler's daily life and doings as leader of the German Reich.
Baur died in Germany on 17 February 1993.
Hans Baur married Elfriede Baur in 1923. Their only daughter, Ingeborg, was born the following year. After Elfriede Baur's death from cancer in 1935, Baur married again, with Hitler as his best man. His second wife, Maria, by whom he had two daughters, died while he was in captivity in the Soviet Union. His third wife, Cresentia, survived him.