Erhard Milch

Erhard Milch : Nazi Germany

Erhard Milch was born in Wilhelmshaven, Germany on 30th March 1892. He joined the German Army and became an artillery officer. In the First World War he served on the Western Front until being transferred to the German Army Air Service where he trained as a aerial observer. Promoted to captain he became commander of Flight Squadron 6 in October 1918.

Milch resigned from the army in 1921 and entered the aviation industry. He worked for the Junkers Aviation until 1926 when he became director of the national airline, Deutsche Lufthansa.

Milch joined Hermann Goering in secretly establishing the Luftwaffe. In 1933 he became Goering's deputy as State Secretary in the Reich Air Ministry. In this post Milch was responsible for managing armament production.

Rumours circulated that Milch's father was Jewish and his family was investigated by the Gestapo. Goering solved the problem by persuading Milch's mother to sign a legal affidavit stating that her husband was not Erhard's true father. The authorities were then able to certify him as a honorary Aryan.

In 1938 Milch was promoted to colonel general and the following year commanded Luftflotte V during the Norwegian campaign. After the successful defeat of France in June 1940, Milch, along with two other Luftwaffe officers, Albrecht Kesselring and Hugo Sperrie, was granted the title field marshal. The following year he was given the title Air Inspector General.

After the poor showing of the Luftwaffe in the Soviet Union Milch joined Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler in suggesting to Adolf Hitler that Hermann Goering showed be replaced. Hitler refused and in June 1944 Goering forced Milch to resign as director of air armament. Milch now served under Albert Speer, who was minister of armaments. After the suicide of Adolf Hitler Milch fled to the Baltic Coast but was arrested on 4th May 1945.

Found guilty at Nuremberg of war crimes he was sentenced life imprisonment. He was released in June 1954, and during his retirement wrote The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe. Erhard Milch died at Wuppertal-Barmen on 25th January 1972.

Primary Sources

(1) Ernst Hanfstaengel first met Anton Drexler in 1922.

Anton Drexler, the original founder of the Party, was there most evenings, but by this time he was only its honorary president and had been pushed more or less to one side. A blacksmith by trade, he had a trade union background and although it was he who had thought up the original idea of appealing to the workers with a patriotic programme, he disapproved strongly of the street fighting and violence which was slowly becoming a factor in the Party's activities and wanted to build up as a working-class movement in an orderly fashion.