The Red Fighter Pilot - Webpage 1, pages 5-15


Manfred, Baron von Richthofen

Family and Childhood

by Bolko, Baron von Richthofen


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Does not the parent tree harken back to the ancient times,
And is it not of a sturdy elder race?
Crystal clear, unsullied remains its name,
Holding fast to truth, honor and justice.
True to its father's nature - piety, bravery, strength,
Preserving God's blessed hero from harm.
Do not stray from the path of christian duty,
Carry your name proudly in true knightly fashion!
May the family grow strong, be the paragon of honor,
Never allowing a shadow to fall on the noble coat of arms!

This verse serves as the motto for the history of the von Richthofen family. It was written down by German ambassador Emil, Baron von Richthofen († 1895).


My brother Manfred

Even if a man is destined to live a long life he remains the product of his heritage and education. However when he is tragically fated to depart this earthly existence early on, thoughts and actions from his childhood and youth must serve to commemorate the spiritual and physical inheritance from his parents and other ancestors. Thus it is for my beloved brother Manfred, Baron von Richthofen, taken before he had finished his twenty-sixth year on earth. He met with a hero's death. Whosoever would wish to describe his life must return to the history of the family from which he sprang, must describe the environment and the people with whom he grew up. He must make manifest the thoughts and demonstrate the character which enabled the young man to achieve extraordinary deeds for his people and his fatherland.


The Richthofen family originally came from Bernau in the Mark, which at one time was larger than Berlin. Now it is merely a small township neighboring our capitol city. Sebastian Schmidt, born in Koblenz and once a student of Luther's in Wittemberg, was a Lutheran deacon in Bernau from 1543 to 1553. As was the custom of the time and his clerical profession, he latinized his name and called himself Faber. It is from him and his wife, Barbara Below, daughter of a councilman from Berlin, that the Richthofen family sprang. Most certainly his rise in social status would not have occurred if Pastor Sebastian Faber had not had a friend of roughly the same age, who was part of the Brandenburg elite. His name was Paulus Schultze or Schultheiss, who came from the Schulz family of Bernau and whose father and grandfather, Andreas and Thomas Schulzte had been mayors of Bernau since before the beginning of the 16th century. Paulus Schultze also latinized his name and was thus called in the written records of the region Paulus Praetorius. He was born in Bernau on January 24, 1521 and died in Moritzburg near Halle on June 16, 1565 as Brandenburg imperial councilman, secret privy counselor to the archbishop of Magdeburg and Halberstadt, heredity lord and court officer


of various holdings acquired in a relatively short span of time. Beneath old pictures of him are the words: Virs prudents et orator gravissimus, or A prudent man and powerful orator.

Indeed Paulus Praetorius must have been an important and well-educated man. Early in life he was appointed information officer to the Margraves Friedrich and Sigismund of Brandenburg, sons of Crown Prince Joachim II who both later became archbishops of Magdeburg. Paulus won the absolute trust of his prince, was appointed his closest advisor and sent on many diplomatic missions especially to the imperial palace in Prague of his majesty, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. In July 1561 this same emperor bestowed upon Paulus and his heirs a coat of arms, which corresponded with his name Praetorius - a black-cloaked judge sitting at the bench. However Paulus had no male heirs so he decided to adopt the son of his friend, Sebastian Faber. This child, Samuel Faber, was born in Bernau in 1543 and renamed Samuel Praetorius. Paulus Praetorius left him


not only his newly acquired coat of arms but also his rather substantial property holdings. Samuel Praetorius was a learned man. He settled in Frankfurt on the Oder and became a councilman, a city judge, and eventually the mayor. He died in 1605. His son, Tobius Praetorius (1576-1644) increased the family's finances and acquired an estate in Silesia. Through his marriage to a noblewoman he entered into a ever increasing circle of learned patricians with royal estates. His son, Johann Praetorius (1611-1664), moved permanently to Silesia. In 1661 Kaiser Leopold I bestowed Bohemian hereditary knighthood upon him and "von Richthofen" ["from the Court of Judgment"] was added to the family name. Today's burgeoning von Richthofen family descends from Johann Praetorius von Richthofen. From the middle of the 17th century to today the family has resided in Silesia, particularly in the Striegau, Jauer, Schweidnitz and Liegnitz areas. As grateful as the family was to the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna for all his help and honors, its Brandenburg ties still lived on. When about a century later Frederick the Great annexed Silesia to become a Prussian province, the family gained a new domain, which for them was old and familiar.


Frederick the Great bestowed this annexed territory to us on November 6, 1741 and granted the title of Baron of the Prussian Empire.

The better portion of the von Richthofen family has remained active in agriculture since the days of the acquisition of the first Silesian estate. The generations have dedicated themselves to the management and maintenance of the estates entrusted to them while at the same time promoting the common good through their activities in the provincial government of Silesia. In war and peace members of the family have done their duty in defense of their province and empire. General of the Cavalry Manfred, Baron von Richthofen, who was my brother's godfather, led an army in the World War. However within the decendents of these councilmen, pastors and mayors the desire for learned vocations has never disappeared. In imitation of our adopted forefather Paulus Praetorius many members of the family have become politicians and diplomats. Even today the name of German law professor from the University of Berlin Karl, Baron von Richthofen is still known to jurists specifically for his expertise in the field of old German and especially Friesian law. And Ferdinand von Richthofen's great reputation as one of the first geographers not only of Germany


but of the entire world remains unchanged almost thirty years after his death. The name of this explorer of China lives on in the names of the mountains and rivers he visited and named. Several members of our family have had an impact on the history of our fatherland up to the most recent times. Oswald, Baron von Richthofen was for many years Prussian state minister and secretary of state at the time of Prince Bülow. In the time of the National Assembly of Weimar and in the pre and post war era Barons Karl, Ernst, Hartmann and Praetorius von Richthofen have served.

Over the past centuries the original family has developed several lines -- breaking off into various branches since the beginning of the 18th century, yet our forefathers remained on the acquired and inherited estates. Their wives came predominantly from Sileisan aristocratic families such as the families from Reibniz, Heintze-Weissenrode and Lüttwitz. Our great-grandmother, Thecla von Berenhorst was born in 1808 in Dessau. She was a granddaughter of the Prussian Field Marshall to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau and of famous old Dessau lineage. Her father, Georg Heinrich von Berenhorst


was a senior court minister to the Duke of Anhalt-Dessau. He descended from a love match between Prince Leopold and a young subject. One may even believe that the blood of the victor of Höchstädt, Turin and Kesselsdorf still flows pure in his descendents. Our grandmother's maiden name was Marie Seip. She came from a family with estates in Mecklenburg but they were of Hessian origin which stood in close relationship with the Goethe family. We grandchildren dearly loved our grandmother, who died in the year the World War broke out. Our fondest childhood memories revolve around vacation stays at our grandparents' Romburg estate near Breslau. At the beginning of our stay in that shingled farmhouse our grandmother used to say, "Here you can do anything you like!" You didn't have to tell us boys twice. The pleasures of country life - riding, hunting, swimming and everything else it entails - were enjoyed in full measure.

Our father Albrecht, Baron von Richthofen was born in 1859. He was the first actively serving officer of our line and was stationed in the cavalry unit in Breslau. Both my brothers Manfred (1892) and Lothar (1894) were born there. He retired as a Major at a relatively early age as a result of


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Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks