Deutsche Luft Hansa

This article is about the airline in operation between 1926 and 1945. For other airlines of that name, see Lufthansa (disambiguation).
Deutsche Luft Hansa
Founded 1926
Ceased operations 1945
Hubs Berlin Tempelhof Airport
Headquarters Berlin, Germany

Deutsche Luft Hansa A.G. (from 1933 styled as Deutsche Lufthansa and also known as Luft Hansa, Lufthansa, or DLH) was a German airline, serving as flag carrier of the country during the later years of the Weimar Republic and throughout Nazi Germany.

Even though Deutsche Luft Hansa was the forerunner of modern German airline Lufthansa (founded in 1953), there is no legal connection between the two.



A Deutsche Luft Hansa Albatros L 73, named Brandenburg, at Stettin Airport (1927). In the foreground is Yngve Larsson, the then mayor of Stockholm.
A preserved Junkers F.13, a type which was operated by Luft Hansa.

Deutsche Luft Hansa was founded on 6 January 1926 in Berlin. The name of the company was a composite of "Deutsche Luft" ("German Air" in German), and "Hansa" (after the Hanseatic League, a powerful mediaeval trading group). The airline was created by a merger between Deutscher Aero Lloyd (an airline formed in 1923 as a co-operation between the shipping companies Norddeutscher Lloyd and Hamburg America Line) and Junkers Luftverkehr, the in-house airline of Junkers.[1] This action was taken due to an initiative of the German government which hoped to reduce the amount of financial support it provided to the two partly state-owned airlines, which were both plagued by heavy debts at that time.

The foundation of the airline coincided with the lifting of restrictions on commercial air operations imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. This allowed the route network to be quickly expanded to cover major European cities. The initial fleet consisted of 162 aircraft, nearly all of them outdated World War I types, and the company had 1,527 staff. The most important airfield for DLH was Berlin Tempelhof. From there a Fokker F.II took off on 6 April 1926 for the first scheduled flight to Zürich via Halle, Erfurt and Stuttgart. In the same year, Deutsche Luft Hansa acquired a stake in Deruluft, a joint German-Soviet airline, and launched non-stop flights from Berlin to Moscow, which was then regarded as an exceptionally long distance. Shortly after that flights to Paris were commenced. Deutsche Luft Hansa was one of the first airlines to operate night flights, the first of which connected Berlin with Königsberg using Junkers G 24 aircraft. This route proved so successful that the night train connection was discontinued some years later. During its first year, the airline operated more than six million flight kilometres, transporting a total of 56,268 passengers and 560 tons of freight and mail.

Over the following years, the domestic network grew to cover all the important cities and towns of Germany. More international routes were added through co-operation agreements. With the newly founded Iberia in Spain its longest scheduled route was 2,100 kilometres from Berlin to Madrid (though with several stopovers). The establishment of Syndicato Condor in Brazil served the airline's interests in South America where there were important German minorities at that time. The first East-West crossing of the Atlantic Ocean (from Baldonnel Aerodrome in Ireland to Greenly Island, Canada) was made by the Luft Hansa pilots Hermann Köhl and Ehrenfried Günther Freiherr von Hünefeld and the Irish pilot James Fitzmaurice using the Junkers W 33 aircraft Bremen in April 1928. The airline launched scheduled multi-leg flights to Tokyo. A Heinkel HE 12 aircraft was launched (by catapult) off the NDL liner Bremen during her maiden voyage crossing the Atlantic in 1929, shortening the mail delivery time between Europe and North America.


Junkers Ju 52/3mte delivered to DLH in the mid-1930s. Painted as 'D-2201', the first of many examples operated by the airline
A scale model of a Deutsche Lufthansa Focke-Wulf Fw 200.

Even though the early years of the decade saw a difficult financial situation due to the Great Depression, Deutsche Luft Hansa further expanded its international route network in South America, and launched scheduled flights from Germany to the Middle East. Politically, the company leaders were linked to the rising Nazi Party; an aircraft was made available to Adolf Hitler for his campaign for the 1932 presidential election free of any charge. Erhard Milch, who had served as head of the airline since 1926, became a high-ranking official at the Aviation Ministry when Hitler came to power in 1933.

A key interest of Deutsche Luft Hansa at that time was the reduction of mail delivery times. In 1930, the Eurasia Corporation was established as a joint-venture with the Chinese transport ministry, granting Luft Hansa a monopoly position for mail transport between Germany and China, as well as access to the Chinese market. To this end, the Shanghai-Nanjing-Beijing route was launched in the following year using Junkers W 34 specially deployed there. A record was set in 1930 when the mail route from Vienna to Istanbul (with stopovers in Budapest, Belgrad and Sofia) was completed in only 24 hours. By comparison, the first transatlantic passenger flight by the airline (from Warnemünde to New York City using a Dornier Wal flying boat) took roughly one week.

After several years of testing, the first scheduled postal route between Europe and South America was inaugurated in 1934. For this purpose, catapult-launched Wal flying boats were used.[2] These were replaced by the Dornier Do 18 in 1936 making operations in non-visual conditions possible. The European network saw the introduction of the Junkers G.38 (at that time the largest passenger aircraft in the world) on the Berlin-London route via Amsterdam, as well as the Junkers Ju 52/3m and Heinkel He 70, which allowed for faster air travel. This was promoted by so-called "Blitz Services" (German: Blitzstrecken) between Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Frankfurt. In 1935, the first aircraft not manufactured in Germany were introduced into the Luft Hansa fleet: two Boeing 247s and one Douglas DC-2.

The grip on the domestic South American markets was further tightened in 1937, when the Sociedad Ecuatoriana de Transportes Aéreos (SEDTA)[3] and Lufthansa Perú were founded as Luft Hansa co-operations in Ecuador and Peru respectively, operating Junkers W 34 aircraft. The Middle Eastern network was expanded with the launch of the Berlin-Baghdad-Tehran route in the same year. In 1938 the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 long range aircraft was introduced making it possible to fly non-stop between Berlin and New York and from Berlin to Tokyo with only one intermediate stopover. This last year prior to the outbreak of World War II turned out to be the most successful one in the history of the airline, with 19.3 million flight kilometres on the scheduled European routes and a total of 254,713 passengers and 5,288 tons of mail transported.

On 1 April 1939, Deutsche Luft Hansa launched scheduled transatlantic flights between Port Natal, South Africa and Santiago de Chile using Fw 200 aircraft, a route which had previously been operated by Syndicato Condor. With Bangkok, Hanoi and Taipeh, further Asian destinations were added to the route network.

During the 1930s, Luft Hansa aircraft had also been deployed on a number of experimental and survey missions, most notably for developing the best airborne crossing of the South Atlantic, and during the Third German Antarctica Expedition in 1938-39, when two Dornier Wal aircraft performed a photographic survey of 350,000 square kilometres, an area which became known as New Swabia.

During World War II

With the outbreak of the war on 1 September 1939 all civilian flight operations of Luft Hansa came to an end, and the aircraft fleet came under command of the Luftwaffe, along with most staff as well as maintenance and production facilities. There were still scheduled passenger flights within Germany and to occupied or neutral countries, but bookings were restricted and served the demands of warfare. During the later years of the war, most passenger aircraft were converted to military freighters.

The Luft Hansa co-operations in foreign countries were gradually dismantled: Deruluft ceased to exist in March 1940, and by November of that year, the Eurasia Corporation had to be shut down following an intervention by the Chinese government. Syndicato Condor was nationalised and renamed Cruzeiro do Sul in 1943, in an attempt to erase its German roots.

The last scheduled flight of Deutsche Luft Hansa - from Berlin to Munich took place on 21 April 1945, but the aircraft crashed shortly before the planned arrival. Another (non-scheduled) flight was performed the next day, from Berlin to Warnemünde, which marked the end of flight operations. Following the surrender of Germany and the ensuing Allied occupation of Germany, all aircraft in the country were seized and Deutsche Luft Hansa was dissolved. The remaining assets were liquidated on 1 January 1951.


A Junkers Ju 52 preserved by Lufthansa in the colours of Deutsche Luft Hansa (2000).

Lufthansa, today's German flag carrier, acquired the name and logo of the 19261945 airline upon its foundation in 1953 and considers the former airline to be part of its history, even though there is no legal link between the two companies. Between 1955 and 1963, the newly founded East German national airline operated under the same name but, having lost a lawsuit with the West German company, it was liquidated and replaced by Interflug.

Route network

European passenger flights

From 1926 until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Deutsche Luft Hansa built up an extensive network centred on its base at Berlin Tempelhof Airport covering many German cities and towns, as well as the major European cities. There were early interline agreements which granted Luft Hansa passengers access to the flight network of leading European airlines of that time and vice versa. The agreements were with air lines including Aerotransport, Ad Astra Aero, Adria Aerolloyd, Aero Oy, Air Union, Balair, CIDNA, CSA, DDL, Imperial Airways, KLM, Lignes Aeriennes Latécoère, LOT, ÖLAG, Malert, SABENA, SANA, SGTA, and Ukrvozdukhput, as well as Syndicato Condor from Brazil and SCADTA from Colombia.

During that period, the following European destinations saw scheduled passenger flights:[4][5]



The Netherlands
Soviet Union
United Kingdom

Middle east passenger flights


During World War II

Due to the war and the de facto end of commercial air transport in Germany, Luft Hansa operated scheduled passenger flights only on some domestic trunk routes and international services on a limited number of routes to occupied or Axis-affiliated countries. These routes deteriorated during the war as Germany came closer to defeat.

As of 1940/41, the following destinations were served. At that time, interline agreements were in force with Iberia, Aeroflot, Malert, LARES (Romania), Aero Oy (Finland), DDL (occupied Denmark), ABA (Sweden), and CSA (occupied Czechoslovakia).

Additionally, there were scheduled sea plane flights along the Norwegian coast (from Trondheim to Kirkenes), which was then part of the Atlantic Wall.


The Deutsche Luft Hansa Ju 52 Otto Falke with running engines at Belgrade-Dojno polje Airport, Kingdom of Yugoslavia. (1941)

Over the years of its existence, Deutsche Luft Hansa operated the following aircraft types:

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
Deutsche Luft Hansa fleet history
Aircraft Introduced Retired Notes
Arado V I 1929 1929 1 only, cargo, lost in crash
BFW M.20 1929 1943 14
Blohm & Voss Ha 139 1937 1939 cargo floatplane
Blohm & Voss BV 142 1939 1940 cargo
Boeing 247 1935
Dornier Do 18 1937 1939 cargo flying boat
Dornier Do R 1928 1932 flying boat
Dornier Komet III 1926 1933
Dornier Wal 1926 1940 cargo flying boat
Douglas DC-2 1935
Douglas DC-3 1940 1944
Focke-Wulf A 17 1927
Focke-Wulf A 32 1934 2 aircraft from NOBA
Focke-Wulf A 33 1937 1938 1 only
Focke-Wulf A 38 1931 1934 4 aircraft
Focke-Wulf Fw 58 1938 1943 5 aircraft
Focke-Wulf Fw 200 1938 1945
Fokker-Grulich F.II
Fokker-Grulich F.III
1926 1935
Heinkel HE 12 1929 1931 mail plane, 1 only, written off after crash
Heinkel He 58 1930 1932 mail plane, 1 only
Heinkel He 70 1934 1937 passenger, mail
Heinkel He 111 1936 1940 passenger
Heinkel He 116 1938 mail plane
Junkers F.13 1926 1938
Junkers G 24 1926 1938
Junkers G 31 1928 1935 8 aircraft
Junkers G.38 1930 1939 2 only, one written off after crash in 1936.
Junkers Ju 46 1933 1939 mail plane
Junkers Ju 52 1935 1945
Junkers Ju 86 1936 1945 5 aircraft
Junkers Ju 90 1938 1940
Junkers Ju 160 1935 1941 21 aircraft
Junkers Ju 290 1943 1945 3 examples
Junkers W 33
Junkers W 34
1929 mail plane
Rohrbach Ro VIII 1927 1936
Rumpler C.I 1926
Udet U-11 1929 1929 1 only, lost in crash

Accidents and incidents





  1. Lufthansa Chronicle
  2. "First Tranatlantic air line", Popular Science, February 1933
  3. "Sedta Cuts Rates". Time Magazine. January 27, 1941. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
  4. Deutsche Luft hansa 1927 timetable at
  5. Deutsche Luft Hansa 1932 timetable at
  7. 1 2 3 4
  8. Accident description for D-1473 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 March 2013.
  9. "Luft Hansa disaster", Flight, 15 November 1929
  10. Accident description for D-903 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 2015-10-01.
  11. Accident description for D-2201 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 March 2013.
  12. "Airport News - Croydon". Flight. No. 3 November 1932. p. 1027.
  13. Accident description for D-AZUR at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  14. Accident description for D-APOO at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  15. Accident description for D-ASUI at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  16. Accident description for D-AGAV at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  17. Accident description for D-ABUR at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 March 2013.
  18. Accident description for D-AVFB at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  19. Accident description for D-AIVI at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  20. Accident description for D-AIAV at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  21. Accident description for D-AAIH at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 20 March 2014.
  22. Accident description for D-AQUB at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  23. Accident description for D-ADQW at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 March 2013.
  24. Accident description for D-AWAS at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  25. Accident description for D-AURE at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 March 2013.
  26. Accident description for D-AUAW at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 March 2013.
  27. Accident description for D-AMHL at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  28. 1944 crash at the Aviation Safety Network
  29. Nøkleby, Berit. Politigeneral og hirdsjef. Karl A. Marthinsen (in Norwegian). Oslo: Aschehoug. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-82-03-29226-2.
  30. Accident description for D-ASHE at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 29 March 2013.
  31. ASN Aircraft accident Focke-Wulf Fw 200 D-ARHW Målkläppen at the Aviation Safety Network
  32. Accident description for D-ANAJ at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 13 December 2012.
  33. ASN Aircraft accident Focke-Wulf Fw 200KB-1 D-ASHH Piesenkofen Aviation Safety Network
  34. German article on the 1945 aircrash

Further Reading

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