CONTRBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
This one goes out to all of you history buffs! There is a humbly marked grave in Wiesbaden that holds the remains of one of the most famous men in military aviation history. His name was Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, better know as The Red Baron. In modern American culture the Red Baron conjures up pizza, Snoopy, and a stereotypical video game character. What do you know about the real man?
Manfred von Richthofen was a German World War I flying ace who quickly rose up as a talented aviator. He is credited with the most aviation kills in WWI (officially 80, but that is probably a low number). By the age of 25 he was a commanding officer, a national hero in Germany, and legendary threat to his enemies. He was killed in battle before he reached his 26th birthday. It was reported that his final word was “kaputt.”
The Australian Army was responsible for burying Richthofen’s remains. He was buried with a full military funeral near the place where he was shot down in France. Video footage still survives of the funeral. You can see it on the Wikipeda entry for the Red Baron. Just after the war, his body was moved to a French military cemetery, and five years later his family wanted to move his remains again, this time back to Germany. The German government requested that instead of a private family plot, the war hero receive a state funeral and be buried in a cemetery in Berlin with other German war heroes. He was buried under a large stone with only his last name.
But this site did not always allow him to lie in peace. This cemetery was near the Berlin Wall and bullets intended for escapees to the west hit his gravestone instead. His body was moved for the last time after 50 years in this spot at the request of his sister. It was taken to a family plot at the Südfriedhof Cemetery Wiesbaden. His younger brother Lothar, who was also a flying ace, is buried in the same plot.
If you’d like to see the plot, it’s not too difficult to find. The address for the cemetery is below. Enter the cemetery through the Trauerhalle gates. Turn right on the first path (paved). Go to the third gravel path on the right. Follow that into a semi circle. The family plot is on the right side of the path if you come from that direction. It is marked with a large stone with the family name “von Richthofen.” The front stone bears his name.
The stone reads,
“Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen
Kommand. des Jagdgeschw. Nr.1
2.5.1892 in Breslau, 21.4.1918 in Frankreich”
Translated this is,
“Captain Manfred Baron von Richthofen
Commander of the Jagdgeschwader 1 [better known as the “Flying Circus”]
Born 2 May, 1892 in Breslau [modern day Wrocław, Poland], Died 21 April, 1918 in France”
Other than the mention of rank and being the commander of his unit, there is very little adornment of this site. There are many grander stones and plots in this cemetery. When we visited there was a small sign near the side of the plot that mentioned that flowers were presented on this site by an American soldier stationed at Weisbaden “For your courage and valor… [with] mutual respect and admiration.”
Tips For Your Trip:
65189 Wiesbaden, Germany
There is a free lot (2 hours with your parking circle) in front of the main entrance.
Note: Click the picture of von Richthofen for photo credit.