Secrets of the Göring Collection

In the Polish Aviation Museum in Kraków you can find real collector’s gems of a world class standard, including planes from the so-called Göring collection. The question is where are the remaining exhibits from the Reich Marshal’s rich collection.

The planes originally belonged to the Deutsche Luftfahrt Sammlung (German Air Show), a collection that had been built up since the 1920s. In the 1930s, Hermann Göring, then Minister of Aviation of the Third Reich, took an official interest in the entire collection. He cared for enlarging its holdings, which is why over time it came to be known as the “Göring Collection”.

Evacuation to safer regions

Göring’s involvement was so serious that at the outbreak of World War II, the collection was supplemented by aircraft acquired from German-occupied areas. Polish aircraft also found their way to the Deutsche Luftfahrt Sammlung. Two of them, PWS-26 and PZL P-11c, have survived to the present day.

In November 1943, during one of the carpet bombing raids on Berlin, part of the machines in the collection – and there were already over 120 of them – was destroyed. Therefore, the decision was made to evacuate the surviving collection to regions not exposed to the activity of the Allied air forces.

Several dozen planes retrieved from the ruins were evacuated to Bavaria and Szczecin Pomerania, among other places. Twenty-four of them were taken by the Germans east of the Oder River, near Kuźnica Czarnkowska near Poznań. It was there, in 1945, that Polish soldiers found several dozen dismantled machines, among them planes that had survived the September defeat.

A priceless collection mistreated

As Anna Bugajska, a journalist, writes “(…) among them were very rare objects created before 1918, machines from the period of the First World War and a few interwar constructions, such as the “Flying Machine”. the first-ever French Levasseur Antoinette monoplane from 1909, a German AEG Eule (Owl) from 1914, a Geest Möwe 4 from 1913, and a Russian Grigorovich M-15 flying boat from 1917. The Germans also had particularly valuable Polish aircraft in their collection – a PZL P-11c fighter, which fought in the September Campaign, and a PWS-26 training aircraft (. )”.

After many adventures and changes of place of storage, the unique collection of airplanes was brought to the Cracow Aviation Museum in 1963, where it has been kept ever since. Unfortunately, somewhat depleted. “In the 1970s a particularly expensive English De Havilland DH 9a of 1918, donated by an Indian prince to the British Air Force, was exchanged for an incomparably less valuable Spitfire Mk XVI LF fighter. Another priceless object, a 1913 Fokker Spinne, was offered as a courtesy to the Dutch,” reads Bugajska’s article entitled “A Priceless Collection – The Museum of Aviation in Kraków.

Where were the remaining planes taken?

These basic facts about the Kraków collection are well known to a wide circle of history and aviation enthusiasts. Not everyone, however, knows about the German efforts to recover the planes, which have been going on for over 20 years, or about the fact that the planes collected in Kraków are only a part of the planes that survived the bombing. Seemingly, both topics are separate from each other, but only seemingly.

According to available information, the planes that survived the bombing were transported out of Berlin in three railroad transports – one of them was supposed to be in the area of Kuźnica Czarnkowska, where it was found on a railroad siding in 1945. The whereabouts of the other two transports is unknown.

The story of the collection, in this form, has been repeated for years by the media and internet forums close to the mysteries of history, including the “Discoverer” forum. However, certain facts indicate that it could have been otherwise. While reading this “official” information, questions multiply. Why should the planes still be in the railroad cars when a year and a half has passed since they were taken out of Berlin? What is the fate of the two remaining transports? What was their destination? The more questions there are, the more likely it becomes that the repeated “official” data may not necessarily be true?

A peculiar kind of settlement

In 1982, Professor Holger Steinle, a historian and head of the aviation department at Berlin’s Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Communication and Technology), visited the Krakow museum. According to the German press, he did it incognito. On the spot, he made a “grand discovery” of aircraft previously on display in Berlin. Since then, the German side, specifically the Deutsches Technikmuseum, has been making efforts to recover the planes.

In 1986, a settlement of sorts was reached. The idea was that two planes from the collection would be sent to Berlin for restoration. In exchange for the cost of restoration, one of each pair was to remain in Berlin, in a so-called “permanent deposit”.

However, after the first “exchange”, it turned out that a low-value German Albatros L30 from 1919, additionally renovated in a not very professional way, was returned to Poland, while an extremely valuable Jeannin Stahltaube was left there. As a result, contacts with the German side were broken and the remaining planes were refurbished in Poland.

Professor on the trail of the collection

To this day, Germany has been trying to recover the planes through diplomatic channels. The Polish side, on the other hand, counters the accusations by emphasizing the fact that the planes were abandoned and that in 1939 the Germans destroyed several Polish aircraft collections.

In 2004. A few weeks before Poland’s accession to the European Union, the aforementioned Professor Holger Steinle appeared in the small village of Nowe Dwory located in the administrative district of Czarnków andtrzcianecki. It should be noted that he appeared there with a specific purpose, as he was looking for the remaining planes from the “Göring collection”.

He began by searching for still living witnesses of the events at the end of World War II. This proved to be quite a problem, as before the war the village was located on the German side of the border and was inhabited exclusively by the German population. During the war, however, many forced laborers were drafted to help on the farms.

The question was: Where is the barn?

Prof. Steinle was hoping to meet just such a person. He found a man who, as a child in those years, had moved with his parents to a neighboring village shortly after the war. During the conversation, the professor asked the man if he knew anything about airplanes hidden in the village of Nowe Dwory. He asked the man if he knew anything about the planes hidden in Nowe Dwory, or more precisely, where they had been hidden, because according to the documents in his possession, four planes had been deposited in the village, probably in a barn by the road.

But where was it? That was what the professor wanted to find out. The older man replied that yes, he knew something about it, but that the planes were no longer standing, they had been burned and what was left of them taken away for scrap. Then, at Steinle’s request, he pointed out to him the location ? Not the barn, but the village hall building. For it was in this building that the machines were to be hidden.

They found only a rifle

Another visit by a German professor occurred on April 30. This time the historian from Deutsches Technikmuseum was not alone. Together with him Wolfgang Tyroller, a conservator from the same museum, and several other people came to Poland. From early morning they set to work on the search. After digging through an area that was about half of the former common room, they found an airplane machine gun and a large pile of burnt aircraft remains.

Practically after pulling the rifle out of the ground, the team packed up and left. What remained after the visit of the museum workers from Berlin was ripped up soil and the remains of aircraft structures abandoned on the ground. They did not explore the other half of the site because the work they were doing was illegal, so they decided to leave as soon as possible with what was most valuable.

A site inspection, conducted a week later, revealed many distinctive fragments of airframe structures (some of considerable size) in the unexcavated portion of the site.

In an interview given in June 2004. “Gazeta Wyborcza” interview, Professor Steinle states that he is currently searching the world for Polish aircraft in order to exchange them for exhibits stored in Krakow. His statement is consistent with the position of the German government, but does not mention illegal searches conducted on Polish territory.

There is no trace left of them

Professor Holger Steinle’s visit to the village of Nowe Dwory explains a lot in the history of the missing planes. First of all, it unequivocally proves that the complete documentation with the places where all three transports were hidden, or even individual caches, may be in German hands. It is also likely that all the planes were transported from Berlin to the Czarnków area, and not just one transport.

Kuźnica Czarnkowska is about 20 km from Nowe Dwory. The fact that the dismantled planes were hidden under a roof indicates that the Germans attached great importance to securing them. Therefore, it is unlikely that the dismantled airframes were left in crates for almost 1.5 years. It should be assumed that just as in Nowe Dwory, planes from the other two transports were hidden in other nearby villages. And not necessarily in the vicinity of the railroad line. Why, then, is there no trace of them left to this day?

To forget as soon as possible

Troops of the 1st Mechanized Corps, part of the 2nd Strike Army, entered Novy Dvor in the afternoon of January 26, 1945. According to the memoirs, behind the rear troops, security units entered the village and set up a hospital.

The Soviet soldiers, having seen the stored airplanes and other aviation equipment, let the common room go up in smoke. The fire completely consumed the entire building, including the planes. Wooden airframes and canvas covers were burned. Only engine blocks, remnants of melted aluminum and other few fragments survived. The population arriving after the war wanted to forget about the war as soon as possible and removed all its remnants. The preserved engines were taken away for scrap.

Did the professor from Berlin get ahead of us?

For several years, the only remnant of the unique aircraft was a wooden propeller, which circled from house to house and was used during weddings to break bottles. Over the years, it too disappeared.

We must assume that a similar fate befell the other planes from the missing transports. And the planes in Kuźnica Czarnkowska were saved only by a gift of fate? The Red Army did not stay in this village for long.

Maybe it is time to try to find the other places where the planes were stored? Maybe there is still something left of them, some bigger fragment. Unless a professor from Berlin has already beaten us to it and in time all the remains will be displayed in the Deutsches Technikmuseum.

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