Hajo Herrmann (1913-2010) was an outstanding German Luftwaffe pilot who also distinguished himself during the Second World War as a courageous air force commander and innovative air defense tactician. After the war he built a new career as an attorney, and became known for his role in civil rights cases, defending patriots and so-called “Holocaust deniers” accused of violating German laws against free speech. Until his death at the age of 97, he remained steadfastly loyal to his people, his heritage, and the ideals of his youth.
After beginning his military career as an infantry officer, he was commissioned in the newly formed Luftwaffe in 1935. From 1936 until 1937, he was a bomber pilot in the Condor Legion, which aided the Nationalists in the Spanish civil war.
After the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, he flew planes in the campaigns in Poland and Norway. By 1940 he was Commander of the 7th Staffel KG-4 combat squadron, and led many air attacks on England during the “Battle of Britain.” In February 1941, his group went to Sicily, where it flew against British forces in Malta and Greece. In one attack, Herrmann dropped a bomb on an ammunition ship that set off a explosion so devastating that it sank eleven ships and rendered the Greek port of Piraeus unusable for months. In early 1942, he was Commander of III/KG 30, which struck from Norway against Allied Arctic convoys, including attacks on convoy PQ-17
In mid-1942 he was assigned to the Luftwaffe Operational Staff, where he soon made a name for himself as a outstanding tactical and operational innovator in strengthening Germany’s air defenses.
In response to the ever more devastating attacks by British and American bombers, Herrmann created Luftwaffe night fighter attack squadron Jagdgeschwader 300, nicknamed Wilde Sau (German: wild boar), which used an innovative freelance fighter technique. Experienced night flying pilots and ex-instructors in Fw 190 fighters would visually “free-hunt” enemy bombers by the light of fires below, and with the aid of special 'flare-carrier” Junkers JU 88 s following the bomber streams, as well as the use of the Naxos radar detector unit on some of these single-engined fighters to find British night bombers when they were using radar.
In December 1943, the 30-year-old Herrmann was appointed Inspector of Aerial Defense. By 1944, he was Inspector General of night fighters. At the end of 1944, he led the “9. Flieger-division (J).”
During the war, all Germans were targeted for death in a ruthless bombing effort that Allied authorities themselves called a terror campaign. More than half a million were killed, and many more were maimed or wounded. More than seven million were made homeless. Herrmann’s important role in strengthening his homeland’s air defenses helped to save the lives of many women, children and other civilians from horrific suffering and death.
As a bomber pilot, Herrmann flew 320 missions and sank twelve ships totaling 70,000 tons. He also flew more than 50 night fighter missions, destroying nine Allied bombers He was shot down four times, and wounded twice. For his valor and skill, he earned a number of decorations, including the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, the German Cross in Gold, and the Iron Cross, first and second class.
At the end of the war Herrmann became a Soviet captive, and was held for ten years in Soviet Russian prison camps.
After returning to his homeland in 1955, he studied law and settled in Düsseldorf., where he worked as an attorney. He served as a civil rights lawyer in defending such “thought criminals” as Otto Ernst Remer, David Irving and Fred Leuchter, who were charged with violating German laws against free speech. In the case of Irving, Herrmann defended the British historian at no charge in three “thought crimes” trials, 1990-1993.
Herrmann was a friend of the Institute for Historical Review. On Nov. 8, 1998, he addressed an IHR meeting in southern California, where he provided fascinating details about his remarkable life, and insights into the climate of intellectual repression in Germany. On several occasions he sought help and advice from IHR director Mark Weber.
Herrmann was the author of two volumes of memoirs. An English-language edition of his memoirs was published in 1991 under the title Eagle’s Wings.
He remained active into the final years of his life, practicing law and addressing meetings.