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Veltjens - called "Seppl" by his family and close friends - was never lionized in the popular press or the subject of books during his lifetime. So, it is a landmark event that, at last, his book-length biography has appeared. And who better to write it than his son Klaus, who drew on his own memories and a wealth of family oral and written history? This very readable book trace's "Seppl" Veltjens' life from his rebellious youth to his "maturational" experiences in the German Army and World War I Luftstreitkräfte, and on to the Luftwaffe of World War II. Along the way, Veltjens and his wife Leni shared a good business sense that led to financial success. But this reviewer found the most interesting portions of this book to be Veltjens' military contacts, notably with fellow Pour le Mérite recipient Hermann Göring.
Sadly, Veltjens' combination of financial and military connections led to his demise. Refuting a popular misconception that Veltjens was killed when his Ju-52 transport was "shot down by Yugoslav partisans" in 1943, the book hints at a more sinister turn of events to that fatal plane crash. While carrying out a Göring-authorized delicate negotiation between Swiss bankers, Italian nationalists and Nazi officials, the fiercely independent-minded Oberst [Colonel] Veltjens ran afoul of equally tough-minded SS goons who had the means and opportunity to terminate someone who got in their way. It was a classic case of perverted Nazi power politics at work.
That misfortune and other stories of Josef Veltjens' event-filled and richly-lived life are well told in this book. It is recommended highly. (This review appears in the Winter issue of "Over the Front," the quarterly journal of the non-profit League of World War I Aviation Historians.)