Werner Mölders

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Werner Mölders, Nazi propaganda photo 1941

Werner Mölders (born March 18, 1913 in Gelsenkirchen , † November 22, 1941 in Breslau ) was an officer and fighter pilot in the German Air Force during the Nazi era . The Mölders deployed in the Spanish Civil War and World War II was one of the most highly decorated soldiers in the Air Force.

The so-called Möldersbrief , a document launched by the British secret service, in which Mölders distanced himself from National Socialism for Christian reasons , gave him a certain popularity even in the years after the end of the war in 1945. The letter was clearly identified as a forgery in 1962. In 1968 the German Navy named a destroyer after him. Controversies about Mölders' honor in the context of maintaining the military tradition of the Bundeswehr continue to the present day. In 2004, Defense Minister Peter Struck decided not to let Bundeswehr facilities continue to bear the Mölders name. The reasons given include a lack of distance from National Socialism and Mölders' role in the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.


Origin and school

Werner Mölders was the third of four children of school counselor Viktor Mölders and his wife Annemarie, geb. Riedel. After his father fell as a lieutenant in the King's Infantry Regiment (6th Lorraine) No. 145 during the First World War in Vauquois on March 2, 1915 , his mother, who came from a well-known Brandenburg merchant family, moved to Brandenburg with the children (Havel) . In addition to school, he was involved in the Catholic youth group " Bund Neudeutschland " and in the Brandenburg rowing club.

Reichswehr and establishment of the Air Force

Even as a child he was drawn to the military. After passing the Abitur at the Saldria , Mölders volunteered for the Reichswehr . Of 60 officer candidates in his class, three were hired in 1932, among them Mölders. He initially received training as a pioneer officer in Allenstein ( East Prussia ) and volunteered as a senior ensign in the then still secret air force .

The pioneer lieutenant, who was taken over into the Air Force in 1935, was given the task of setting up a dive fighter squadron together with some older officers . In May of the same year he was awarded the pilot insignia of the Air Force. In 1937 Mölders took over the 1st squadron as first lieutenant in Jagdgeschwader 334 in Wiesbaden .

Condor Legion and pre-war

Due to his unplanned transfer to the fighter pilot group, Mölders had to wait a long time for the order to report to the Condor Legion . It was not until April 1938 that he set foot on Spanish soil and on May 25, 1938, he took over Adolf Galland's 3rd Squadron of Jagdgruppe 88 , which fought on Francisco Franco's side in the Spanish Civil War.

Mölders' squadron was initially equipped with the Heinkel He 51 fighter plane , which was used to combat ground targets close to the front by means of deep attacks.

In July 1938, the 3rd squadron was also equipped with the new Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter aircraft . The Messerschmitts of the entire hunting group flew in the battle for the Ebro-Bogen from La Sénia as hunting protection for the bomber and Stuka units. The massive bombing of troops, positions, river crossings and towns played a large part in the defeat of the troops of the left Popular Front government of the Spanish Republic under President Manuel Azaña against the coup nationalists.

During its operation in Spain refined Molders by Günther Lützow previously developed in new air combat tactics as the four-aircraft Finger-four , in NATO -english today Finger Four Formation. This combat formation offered advantages in self-defense and attack and gradually became standard with all air forces in the world.

In Spain Mölders scored 14 confirmed kills, making it the most successful fighter pilot fighting on the nationalist side. He received the Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds and was promoted to captain early at the age of 25 .

After his return, Mölders initially worked in the staff service at the Reich Aviation Ministry , where he documented the new tactics and passed on his knowledge to his fellow pilots during various squadron visits in 1939.

Second World War

Werner Mölders (left), 1940

Mölders experienced the beginning of the Second World War as a squadron captain of the 1st squadron of Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53) "Ace of Spades". In October 1939 he was with the establishment of the III. Group of JG 53 in Wiesbaden - Erbenheim and charged with border surveillance tasks. After seven victories in the air, he received the Iron Cross First Class in April 1940 , and at the end of May he was the first German fighter pilot to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross after 20 victories .

During the western campaign , Mölders was shot down over France on June 5, 1940 and was taken prisoner by the French . After the Armistice of Compiègne on June 22, 1940 he was released.

In the presence of Theodor Osterkamp (right) and Adolf Galland (left), Mölders describes the course of his last aerial battle, 1941

For Major transported, took Molders on July 20, 1940 as the Commodore , the fighter squadron 51 in Saint-Inglevert . This squadron bore the brunt of the Battle of Britain at the time . Mölders achieved his 40th victory in the air on September 21 of the same year. He was the first fighter pilot in World War II to achieve this number, and was the second Wehrmacht soldier to receive the oak leaves for the Knight's Cross. His squadron was the most successful in the Air Force at the time. In October 1940 he scored his 50th victory in the air and was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Immediately before the war against the Soviet Union began , his squadron was relocated to Poland. Mölders' squadron belonged to Luftflotte 2 , which was deployed in the section of Army Group Center . In addition to escorting the bomber squadrons and the so-called free hunt, the pilots' tasks also included fighting ground targets with weapons and bombs.

When the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union, he cheered: “A huge war is in progress, and I am proud to be deployed with my squadron in the focus of the fighting.” On the first day of the campaign against the Soviet Union, Mölders defeated four opponents in the Air fight, whereupon he was awarded the knight's cross with oak leaves as the second Wehrmacht soldier after Adolf Galland . It was his aerial victories 69 to 72. On July 15, 1941 he achieved five more aerial victories and thus increased the total number of his kills to 101. Thus he exceeded the achievements of the most successful fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen up to then . As a first officer in the Wehrmacht, he was then awarded by Adolf Hitler with the then highest award for bravery in Germany, the diamonds for the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.

Shortly afterwards, at the age of 28, he was promoted to colonel . At the same time Mölders was banned from flying and was transferred to the General Staff of the Air Force in the Reich Ministry of Aviation in Berlin as Inspector of the Fighter Pilots, later renamed General der Jagdflieger . During this period he married Luise Baldauf in the small Taunus town of Falkenstein . In the autumn of 1941 he was given the task of conducting the hunting protection of the units attacking the Crimean peninsula from the ground.


Burial of Mölders, 1941

During an inspection trip to the Eastern Front, Mölders was ordered to go to Berlin for the state funeral of General Airman Udet . On the flight from the Eastern Front to Berlin on November 22, 1941, the left engine of the Heinkel He 111 , in which Mölders was a passenger, failed shortly before Breslau . When the right engine also failed during the approach to landing at the Breslau-Schöngarten airfield , the plane crashed. Mölders and the pilot, First Lieutenant Georg Kolbe, died in this crash. His adjutant Major Paul Wenzel and the radio operator Oberfeldwebel Tenz survived the accident.

After a state ceremony in the hall of honor of the Reich Aviation Ministry, Mölders' coffin was transported in a funeral procession through the city of Berlin to the Invalidenfriedhof . He was buried next to Ernst Udet and Manfred von Richthofen and Wolff von Stutterheim .

Adolf Galland was entrusted with Mölders' function as general of the fighter pilots . Mölders' old squadron, the JG 51 , was named "Jagdgeschwader Mölders" and thus became a traditional squadron , whose members were allowed to wear the corresponding cuff .

The so-called Möldersbrief became known posthumously in January 1942, which only 20 years later turned out to be a forgery of the British Secret Intelligence Service . In the alleged letter to a Catholic provost from Szczecin named Johst, shortly before his death, the war hero identified himself as a devout Catholic (Mölders was very religious throughout his life) with a deep religious conviction that kept his distance from National Socialism . The letter had a high level of publicity, especially in Catholic and Protestant circles, which continued well into the post-war period.


Nazi propaganda postcard designed by Wolfgang Willrich . Original signature: Lieutenant Colonel Mölders one of our most successful fighter pilots, Volksbund Verlag für das Deutschtum Abroad , 1941
Honor during the time of the Third Reich

From 1941 to 1945 the city ​​of Brandenburg (Havel) renamed Steinstrasse, the most important east-west axis of the Neustadt Brandenburg , to Werner-Mölders-Strasse.

Evaluation after 1945

Initial appreciation

On April 13, 1968 Mölders' mother christened a guided missile destroyer of the German Navy with the name " Mölders ". The name was given by then Defense Minister Gerhard Schröder (CDU) . The ship was in service from 1969 to 2003 and has been open to the public since June 24, 2005 as a central exhibit of the German Naval Museum in Wilhelmshaven .

On November 9, 1972, the barracks of the 2nd Division Telecommunications Regiment 34 of the German Air Force in Visselhövede was named after Werner Mölders. The barracks bore this name until January 2005.

From 1973 to 2005 the Air Force Fighter Wing 74 (JG 74) stationed in Neuburg on the Danube bore the traditional name Werner Mölders. As with JG 51 of the Wehrmacht, this designation was associated with the right to wear a cuff with the honorary name on the uniform .

There is a Möldersstraße in eight German cities. In 2007, the CSU State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Defense, Christian Schmidt , campaigned against the removal of Mölders, decided by former Defense Minister Peter Struck in 2005, as a role model for the Federal Armed Forces. The magazine of the Jagdgeschwader 74 (JG 74) is still called Der Mölderianer .

Opinion of the Military History Research Office and consequences

In April 1998, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica , the German Bundestag passed a motion that obliged the federal government to ensure that members of the Condor Legion were not given honorable remembrance, for example in the form of barracks from the Bundeswehr. Barracks already named after members of the Condor Legion should be renamed. The decision was based on a request from the parliamentary groups of the SPD and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen . In the lead interior committee , the majority (CDU / CSU, FDP) pushed through the deletion of the section on naming barracks. In the decisive parliamentary session, the PDS succeeded in winning a majority for its motion to reinstate the deleted passage. In addition to the PDS, the Greens agreed, the SPD abstained. Since only a few MPs were present, a majority was achieved against the votes of the CDU / CSU and FDP . The motion, which was restored to its original state, was then passed with a dissenting vote from the CDU / CSU parliamentary group.

This decision was initially not implemented in relation to Mölders because he was not involved in the bombing of Guernica. The restrictive interpretation of the decision met with severe criticism both inside and outside Parliament. Therefore, the Military History Research Office (MGFA) of the Bundeswehr was asked for an expert opinion on Werner Mölders.

The report submitted in August 2004 came to the conclusion that Mölders had always acted in accordance with the warfare policy of the Nazi regime until his fatal aircraft accident and had displayed an attitude that conformed to the system. He is said to have corresponded prototypically to the performance-oriented officer of the National Socialist character who was not subject to class aspects, but claimed and maintained allegiance. Mölders himself got involved in the media staging as a war hero. A distance Mölders' to National Socialism, for example due to his Christian background, cannot be proven. In the view of the MGFA authors, Mölders accepted the death of non-combatants in the low-flying attacks in Spain at least approvingly. The report comes to the conclusion that the naming by the unquestioned takeover of Mölders as a soldier role model in the armed forces ignored the basic principle of inner leadership . In addition, the military achievements, which were considered exemplary, were stripped of their historical and political context and at no point were problematized that they were performed in the context of a war of aggression and extermination for the Nazi regime.

In January 2005, the Federal Minister of Defense, Peter Struck, decided on the basis of the expert report that Bundeswehr facilities should not bear the Mölders' name. As part of an appeal, Jagdgeschwader 74 "Mölders" was renamed Jagdgeschwader 74 on March 11, 2005 .

Individual members of the Bundeswehr protested against this decision, including the first commander of the destroyer "Mölders", on the grounds that Mölders was not involved in the attack on Guernica and that the sources on the attitude of the Christian Mölders towards National Socialism were otherwise very thin. Another argument against a name change was that the name JG 74 "Mölders" was introduced and known in Germany. A petition by the soldiers of JG 74 had to be canceled under pressure from the ministry; the protest of some celebrities such as B. Horst Seehofer , retired Bundeswehr officers, air force inspectors and NATO generals like Günther Rall , Roderich Cescotti and Jörg Kuebart and the Mölders Association ultimately remained ineffective.

Despite the renaming ordered by Struck, Mölders still enjoys a great reputation in parts of the Bundeswehr, which is repeatedly met with sharp criticism. Attempts in 2005 to rename streets in Geilenkirchen and Ingolstadt failed because of the city council majority of the CDU and CSU.


See also

Web links

Commons : Werner Mölders  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Mölders celebrations and the Bundeswehr , response of the federal government to the minor question from the MPs Ulla Jelpke, Eva Bulling-Schröter, Wolfgang Gehrcke, other MPs and the Die Linke parliamentary group, accessed on May 24, 2017
  2. Viktor Mölders' personal form in the personnel file of the BIL reviewer in the archive database of the Library for Research on Educational History (BBF)
  3. ↑ List of casualties: King Infantry Regiment (6th Lothringisches) No. 145 (officer corps) on denkmalprojekt.org, accessed on May 22, 2017
  4. Report of the Military History Research Office on the person of Colonel Werner Mölders ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), p. 14, accessed on May 24, 2017
  5. a b Report of the Military History Research Office on the person of Colonel Werner Mölders ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), p. 13, accessed on May 24, 2017
  6. The Spanish Civil War on dhm.de, accessed on May 22, 2017
  7. ^ Opinion of the Military History Research Office on the person of Colonel Werner Mölders ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), p. 15 f., Accessed on May 24, 2017
  8. ^ Antony Beevor : The Spanish Civil War. Translated from the English by Michael Bayer, Helmut Ettinger, Hans Freundl, Norbert Juraschitz and Renate Weitbrecht. 1st edition. Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-442-15492-0 . P. 448.
  9. a b Report by the Military History Research Office on Colonel Werner Mölders ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), p. 12, accessed on May 24, 2017
  10. Reports of the High Command of the Wehrmacht of October 23 and 26, 1940.
  11. Jakob Knab: "Timeless Soldier Virtues" , in: Die Zeit , No. 46/2005, accessed on May 22, 2017
  12. ^ Special report of the High Command of the Wehrmacht from July 16, 1941.
  13. Yann Stahmer (Red.): 40 Years of Jagdgeschwader 74 Mölders , Neuburg an der Donau 2001
  14. Norman Franks, Greg Van Wyngarden: Fokker D VII Aces of World War 1 , Osprey Publishing, 2003, p. 47 digitized version ( Memento from July 4, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  15. Weal, John A .: Jagdgeschwader 51 "Mölders" . Osprey Pub, Oxford, OX 2006, ISBN 978-1-84603-045-1 .
  16. Helmut Witetschek: The fake and the real Mölders letter. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte , volume 16, issue 1 (January 1968), p. 63 ( online )
  17. ^ Jörg Nimmergut : German medals and decorations until 1945. Volume 4. Württemberg II - German Empire. Central Office for Scientific Order Studies, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-00-001396-2 , p. 2092.
  18. ^ Jörg Nimmergut: German medals and decorations until 1945. Volume 4. Württemberg II - German Empire. Central Office for Scientific Order Studies, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-00-001396-2 , p. 2441.
  19. Veit Scherzer : Knight's Cross bearers 1939-1945. The holders of the Iron Cross of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and armed forces allied with Germany according to the documents of the Federal Archives. 2nd Edition. Scherzers Militaer-Verlag, Ranis / Jena 2007, ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2 , p. 548.
  20. Report of the Military History Research Office on the person of Colonel Werner Mölders ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), p. 34, accessed on May 24, 2017
  21. Map24 query Möldersstrasse , accessed on May 24, 2017
  22. a b c Strange maintenance of tradition: Nazi hero as a role model for the Bundeswehr , rbb Kontraste, June 7, 2007, accessed on May 22, 2017
  23. The Mölderianer in the German National Library , accessed on May 24, 2017
  24. a b Tradition worthiness of Werner Mölders , answer of the federal government to the small question of the MPs Günther Friedrich Nolting, Helga Daub, Jörg van Essen, other MPs and the parliamentary group of the FDP, p. 2 f., Accessed on May 24, 2017
  25. Plenary minutes 13/231: German Bundestag Stenographic Report 231st Session Bonn, Friday, April 24, 1998
  26. a b Resistance against renaming of the Mölders squadron demanded by Struck - news print-welt - WELT ONLINE
  27. Renaming of Bundeswehr barracks , response of the federal government to the minor question from the MP Heidi Lippmann and the parliamentary group of the PDS, p. 4, accessed on May 24, 2017
  28. Oak leaves with swords and diamonds - maintaining the tradition of the Bundeswehr , on freitag.de, accessed on May 22, 2017
  29. ^ Opinion from the Military History Research Office on Colonel Werner Mölders ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on May 24, 2017
  30. Olaf B. Mäder et al .: 50 years of the 1st Air Force Division - A Division through the ages , Fürstenfeldbruck 2007, p. 90, accessed on May 24, 2017
  31. ^ FAZ of March 22, 2005
  32. The good soldier Mölders - dispute over a "traditional name" , on freitag.de, accessed on May 22, 2017
  33. Udo Stüßer: Mölders Soldat and No War Criminal , Aachener Zeitung, April 7, 2005, accessed on May 22, 2017
  34. Agenda of the meeting of the Ingolstadt Culture and School Committee on April 27, 2005 , accessed on May 22, 2017
  35. See the negative review by Martin Moll in MGZ 68, 2009, pp. 224–226 (“The work is therefore unable to meet scientific standards”, p. 226), as well as the positive review by Heiner Möllers: Review of: Braatz , Kurt: Werner Mölders. The biography. Moosburg 2008 . In: H-Soz-u-Kult , February 18, 2009, accessed on February 21, 2011 (“the most balanced biography to date”).