The “Udetzeile” was so named on April 29, 1957 in honor of the fighter pilot and NSDAP member Ernst Udet (1896 – 1941) and is part of the “Fliegerviertel”.
Born in Munich, Ernst Udet said he became enthusiastic about airplanes at an early age and performed at air shows. At the beginning of World War I, he voluntarily joined the military, obtained his pilot’s license and began his career as a fighter pilot. Second only to Manfred von Richthofen (1892 – 1918), he scored the most kills, but unlike the latter, left the war alive.
In the following years Udet was active as an aerobatic pilot and founded a company for advertising flights. From 1929 to 1933, Udet played pilot roles in various feature films with Leni Riefenstahl (1902 – 2003). On May 1, 1933, he joined the NSDAP and in 1935, at the instigation of Hermann Göring (1893 – 1946), he became a colonel in the newly formed Luftwaffe. He became an active part of Nazi propaganda, appearing at air shows for the Luftwaffe and playing himself in the propaganda film “Miracle of Flying” in 1935.
Shortly thereafter, Udet was promoted to head of the Technical Office of the Reich Aviation Ministry and was responsible for equipping the Luftwaffe. However, his work had been inefficient and he himself had been easily influenced, which had manifested itself in the increasing failure of the Luftwaffe. Udet used drugs such as alcohol and Pervitin in the last years of his life. The “Fliegermarzipan” was actually methamphetamine (Crystal Meth) and was used to increase soldiers’ concentration and lower their anxiety.
After failures in the Battle of Britain and the associated hostility from Göring and some other Nazi men, Udet shot himself in his apartment in Berlin on November 17, 1941. On the front wall of his bed, he had written a reproach addressed to Goering, “Eiserner, you have abandoned me!” The NSDAP leadership covered up the suicide and ordered a state funeral. The official reason given was that Udet had died while testing a new weapon. For propaganda purposes, the newly established Luftwaffe training and testing area in the district of Warthenau in then-occupied Poland was also named after him as “Udetfeld.” In the same year, Fighter Squadron 3 was given the traditional name “Udet”.
The devil’s general
A year after the end of the war, the play “The Devil’s General” by Udet’s friend Carl Zuckmayer (1896 – 1977) was premiered in Zurich. The story is set in 1941 and revolves around Harras, a fighter pilot modeled on Udet, who is opposed to National Socialist ideology and does not want to join the NSDAP, but works for it. Due to material defects in the production of airplanes, he comes under pressure and is given ten days by the NSDAP to rehabilitate himself. On the last day, he uncovers an attempted sabotage of the planes by the resistance, in which his best friend is also involved. Harras then takes sole blame and flies to his death on a sabotaged plane.
In a statement dated March 15, 1963, screenwriter Zuckmayer forbade a revival of the drama in some parts of Germany, fearing the play could be interpreted as an “apologia of a certain type for going-along.” The newly revised version was first performed at Berlin’s Schiller Theater in January 1967. Based on the first version of the play, the U.S. film version of the play appeared in 1954 under the title “Tollkühne Flieger.” Shortly thereafter, in 1957, the street in the “Fliegerviertel” was named after Ernst Udet.
Status of the Renaming
An initiative was started by Christoph Götz to rename the Udetzeile but was unsuccessful.