The ban on German aviation and the creation/fabrication of its history The article traces the origins of two central features of the historiography of the German aircraft industry: while its contribution to technical progress by the end of World War II tends to be grossly exaggerated – particularly in the case of the so-called Wunderwaffen, the jet fighters of Messerschmitt and Heinkel – its industrial basis und its role in the German war economy are played down to an impression that, until 1945, the industry consisted of tiny workshops of mere handicraft character. It is shown that this narrative was carefully constructed between 1945 and 1953, highlighted by memoirs of former military leaders of the Luftwaffe like Adolf Galland and Werner Baumbach, but predominantely through the memoirs of Ernst Heinkel, the leading industrialist during the Nazi period. These memioirs appeared at a time when it seemed unlikely – due to a total ban on German aviation under the Allied occupation – that a German aircraft industry would ever rise again. By exaggerating the German technological lead in 1945 they eased the idea that the industry was outdated when the chances grew for its return to the international market in 1953. Meanwhile, the outright denial of the size and importance of the industry during the war indirectly provided a chance to gloss over the participation of the industrialists in the Nazi crimes, highlighted by the use of concentration camp inmates and slave labourers who formed the bulk of the workforce in the production of the Wunderwaffen.
© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston