Military Wiki
Erhard Milch
Milch in 1944
Nickname The Jew Nazi (after the war)
Born (1892-03-30)30 March 1892
Died 25 January 1972(1972-01-25) (aged 79)
Place of birth Wilhelmshaven, Germany
Place of death Düsseldorf, Germany
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Years of service 1910–1922; 1933–1945
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Unit Luftwaffe
Commands held Battle of Britain
Norwegian campaign
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Relations Werner Milch (brother)
Joachim Schlichting (son in law)
Other work Retirement spent in Landsberg prison on account of his conviction for war crimes

Erhard Milch (30 March 1892 – 25 January 1972) was a German field marshal who oversaw the development of the Luftwaffe as part of the re-armament of Germany following World War I, and served as founding Director of Deutsche Luft Hansa. He was one of the few high ranking Mischling ("crossbreed") in the Wehrmacht. He achieved high rank despite a partial Jewish background.

Early life

Milch was born in Wilhelmshaven, the son of Anton Milch, a pharmacist of Jewish descent,[1][2] in the Kaiserliche Marine, the Imperial German Navy, and Clara Milch, née Rosenau.

World War I

Milch enlisted in the German Army in 1910, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant in the artillery. He later transferred to the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial Air Force) and trained as an aerial observer. Although not a pilot,[citation needed] he was appointed to command a fighter wing, Jagdgruppe 6, as a captain in the waning days of the war.[3]


Milch resigned from the military in 1920 to pursue a career in civil aviation, and with squadron colleague Gotthard Sachsenberg, formed a small airline in Danzig under the banner of Lloyd Luftdienst. Norddeutscher Lloyd's union of regional German airlines. The airline, which linked Danzig to the Baltic States was simply called Lloyd Ostflug. In 1923, he became managing director of its successor company, Danziger Luftpost when Lloyd Luftdienst merged with its rival firm Aero Union to form Deutsche Aero Lloyd. From there, Milch and Sachsenberg went to work for rival Junkers Luftverkehr, where Sachsenberg had been appointed managing director. Sachsenberg only held the position until 1925, when Milch took over from him. It was in this position that Milch oversaw the merger of Junkers Luftverkehr with his previous firm of Deutscher Aero Lloyd in 1926, making him the first managing director of Deutsche Luft Hansa.[4]


In 1933, Milch took up a position as State Secretary of the newly formed Reichsluftfahrtministerium ("Reich Aviation Ministry" – RLM), answering directly to Hermann Göring. In this capacity, he was instrumental in establishing the Luftwaffe, originally responsible for armament production, although Ernst Udet was soon making most of the decisions concerning contracts for military aircraft. Milch quickly used his position to settle personal scores with other aviation industry personalities, including Hugo Junkers and Willy Messerschmitt; specifically, Milch banned the latter from submitting a design in the competition to choose a modern fighter aircraft for the new Luftwaffe. Nevertheless, Messerschmitt proved Milch's equal in political manipulation skills and managed to circumvent his ban to successfully submit a design. As the Messerschmitt-designed Bayerische Flugzeugwerke corporate entry, the Bf 109, proved to be the winner, Messerschmitt retained a very high position within the German aircraft industry, until the failure of the Me 210 aircraft. Even after that it was not necessarily Milch as the leader who did not depose of him, but, put him in an inferior position.[5] The score against Messerschmitt is one of the likely reasons that Willy Messerschmitt was not allowed to personally acquire the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke [BFW] until July 1938, resulting in the continued use of the 'Bf' prefix throughout the war for Messerschmitt aircraft designed before Messerschmitt's acquisition of the company, hence the "Bf-" prefix being used for the Messerschmitt Bf 109, as one example, in all official German documents throughout World War II, dealing with all pre-July 1938 origin Messerschmitt aircraft designs.

In 1935, Milch's ethnicity came into question because his father, Anton Milch, was rumoured to be Jewish.[citation needed] This prompted an investigation by the Gestapo that Göring suppressed by producing an affidavit signed by Milch's mother stating that Anton was not really the father of Erhard and his six siblings, and naming their true father as Karl Brauer, her deceased uncle. These events and his being issued a German Blood Certificate by Adolf Hitler, prompted Hermann Göring to famously say "Wer Jude ist, bestimme ich" (I decide who is a Jew).[citation needed]

World War II

Milch (centre) meets Minister of Armaments Albert Speer (left) and aircraft designer Willy Messerschmitt (right)

At the outbreak of World War II Milch, now with the rank of general, commanded Luftflotte 5 during the Norwegian campaign. Following the defeat of France, Milch was promoted to Generalfeldmarschall (field-marshal) and given the title Air Inspector General. As such, Milch was in charge of aircraft production. The lack of a long-term strategy and a divisive military command structure, led to many mistakes in the operational and technical ability of the Lufwaffe in the war and were key to the continued loss of German air superiority as the war progressed.[6] The frequent and often conflicting changes in operational requirements led to numerous changes in aircraft specification and designs such that manufacturers like Messerschmitt were unable to focus outright on few aircraft types and most importantly output. The Germans failed to put their production on a war footing, continuing to run factories only for eight hours a day and failing to include women in the workforce. German aircraft production did not rise as steeply as the Allied and especially the Soviet ones, who outproduced the Germans in 1942 and 1943. By the summer of 1943 Germany's lack of a truly "four-engined" heavy bomber to retaliate against Great Britain was finally addressed by Milch in his 10 August 1943 endorsement for Arado Flugzeugwerke to be the subcontractor for the Heinkel He 177B separately engined heavy bomber design, which only saw three flyable prototypes completed by early 1944.[7] In 1944 Milch sided with Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister and Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer SS, in attempting to convince Adolf Hitler to remove Göring from command of the Luftwaffe following the failed invasion of the Soviet Union. When Hitler refused, Göring retaliated by forcing Milch out of his position.[citation needed] For the rest of the war, he worked under Albert Speer.

Following Hitler’s suicide, Milch attempted to flee Germany, but was captured by Allied forces on the Baltic coast on 4 May 1945. On surrendering, he presented his baton to the Commando Brigadier Derek Mills-Roberts, who was so disgusted by what he had seen when liberating the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp that he broke the baton over Milch's head.[8]

Trial and conviction at Nuremberg

In 1947, Milch was tried as a war criminal by a United States Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. He was convicted on two counts:

  1. War crimes, by participating in the ill-treatment and use of the forced labour of prisoners of war (POWs) and the deportation of civilians to the same ends.
  2. Crimes against humanity, by participating in the murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, and the use of slave labour of civilians who came under German control, German nationals and prisoners of war.

Milch was sentenced to life imprisonment at Landsberg prison. His sentence was commuted to 15 years imprisonment in 1951, but he was released in June 1954. He lived out the remainder of his life in Düsseldorf, where he died in 1972.

Dates of rank

See also


  1. Bryan Mark Rigg (2004)
  2. "Half-shadows of the Reich". Anita Bunyan. Times Higher Education. 
  3. Franks, Norman L. R.; Bailey, Frank W.; Guest, Russell (1993). Above the Lines: The Aces and Fighter Units of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service and Flanders Marine Corps, 1914–1918. London: Grub Street. p. 32. ISBN 0948817739. 
  5. Tooze, A. (2007). The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670038261. 
  7. Griehl, Manfred; Dressel, Joachim (1998). Heinkel He 177-277-274. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing. p. 162. ISBN 1-85310-364-0. 
  8. Neillands, Robin; Normann, Roderick de (1993). D-Day 1944 – voices from Normandy. New York: Cold Spring Press. ISBN 1593600127. 



  • Rigg, Bryan Mark (2004). Hitler's Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military. Osijek: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-070-061-358-8. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of Luftflotte 5
12 April 1940 – 10 May 1940
Succeeded by
Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen Stumpff

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