The Crane under the Swastika
Lufthansa, the »Servant of the People and the State«, such was the honorary title
of the company in Nazi Germany. On the backdrop of its complicity
in the exploitation and murder of many forced laborers, Lufthansa
swiftly joined the compensation fund for forced laborers of the
German industry. Lufthansa had every reason to do this as
inconspicuously and quiety as possible. After all, a public
discussion on an international level about its participation in
the crimes of the National Socialists could lead to the public
image of the company being damaged.
The Lufthansa was involved in the war preparations of the Nazis.
Since it was founded in 1926 the airline company has participated
in the planning and implementing of armament programs. When the
Nazis came to power, increased efforts were spent on developing
a Luftwaffe fit for war. Hermann Göring and his Secretary of State
in the Reich's Aviation Ministry Erhard Milch, the director of
Lufthansa, were the main persons responsible for the secret
building up of the German Luftwaffe. The civilian planes
of the Lufthansa were planned for use as so-called emergency
bombers from 1933 on. On the order of the »Führer« the Lufthansa
1936 sent planes for Franco's troops in the Spanish civil
war. At the beginning of the »Sudeten Crisis«, Lufthansa planes with SS teams were ready to intervene in the case that the occupation of »Sudetenlandes« would meet resistance. These »peace interventions« were substantially increased after the official beginning of the war.
Lufthansa crews participated in military operations and secret commando operations. From the beginning of the war on the workshops of the Lufthansa worked exclusively for the Luftwaffe. Early on, the first prisoners of war and civilian »foreign workers« were forced to work in these war-relevant shops.
In München 248 prisoners of war had to work for the Lufthansa. In
Lübeck the Luftwaffen equipment office maintained three camps for 480 civilian »foreign workers«. In Echterdingen near Stuttgart,
247 Dutch forced laborers were employed at the airport for the maintainance of the planes. In 1942 another 477 Russians were deported to this camp. The forced laborers from the Lufthansa camps have been waiting for 55 years for an adequate compensation.
The discussion on the involvement of the Lufthansa in the crimes of the Third Reich failed not least because the company refused to open its archive to historical research.