June 2, 2023
Hanna is seen here with Kwame Nkrumah

In Ghana, the name Hanna Reitsch may not readily mean much to most people, but it is a name that has relevance because of her direct link to Kwame Nkrumah.

The German pilot is considered one of the few people to have seen Adolf Hitler, the German dictator who ruled with iron hands, alive.

But more relevant to Ghana is that while Hanna Reitsch was Hitler’s pilot, she also served as Ghana’s presidential pilot, flying the country’s first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, until his government was toppled.

Hanna Reitsch’s link to Ghana:

The first time Hanna came to Ghana was in the 1960s.

This was after she was sponsored by the West German foreign office as a technical adviser in Ghana and elsewhere, according to wikipedia.com.

Other details shared by the Daily Graphic showed that Hanna Reitsch, described as a “mysterious” woman, arrived in the country during the 1962 independence celebration.

In its caption on her arrival, the newspaper captioned it as, “The Lady Who Dares the Heaven,” with the general assumption that she was in for a visit and would leave after the anniversary.

However, it emerged that Kwame Nkrumah had other plans. The details showed that Nkrumah had sold the idea of relocating to Ghana and overseeing the country’s aviation development to Hanna Reitsch.

As a German war hero, she is reported to have agreed and went on to pitch camp in Ghana for the rest of Nkrumah’s government.

With Reitsch in the saddle, Nkrumah is said to have set in motion his plans for Ghana’s aviation. Historical records also show that Reitsch founded the first African national gliding school at Afienya.

While overseeing her training of male and female pilots at the school, Hanna Reitsch also worked with the Ghana Armed Forces as an instructor and imparted her knowledge.

Reitsch’s operation in Ghana had the approval of the then-West German government.

Reitsch’s official role was as a technical advisor, but she went beyond that. History indicates that she became Nkrumah’s most preferred and trusted pilot.

Between 1962 and 1666, when the Kwame Nkrumah government was toppled, Reitsch lived in Ghana and flew with Kwame Nkrumah.


Who was Hanna Reitsch?

Born in Hirschberg, Silesia, of the German Empire, on March 29, 1912, to an upper-middle-class family, Hanna Reitsch, was the daughter of Dr. Wilhelm (Willy) Reitsch, who was an ophthalmology clinic manager, and his wife, Emy Helff-Hibler von Alpenheim, who was a member of the Austrian nobility.

Details on wikipedia.com show that her mother was a devout Catholic, and so she was raised as a protestant. She had two siblings, her brother Kurt, a frigate captain, and her younger sister Heidi. Reitsch began flight training in 1932 at the School of Gliding in Grunau.

While a medical student in Berlin, she enrolled in a German Air Mail amateur flying school for powered aircraft at Staaken, training in a Klemm Kl 25.

Along with Melitta von Stauffenberg, she flight tested many of Germany’s new aircraft during World War II and received many honours. Reitsch was among the very last people to meet Adolf Hitler alive in the Führerbunker in late April 1945.

Reitsch set more than 40 flight altitude records and women’s endurance records in gliding and unpowered flight, before and after World War II.

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