Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It was also the official name for the Nazi air force founded in 1935. Led by Hermann Goering, it became the largest and most powerful in Europe by the start of World War Two.
Photo: The aircrew of a Heinkel 111 bomber look out on an accompanying plane, circa 1940. (Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
Eyewitness Joanna Roberts describes Christmas 1940 spent sheltering from the bombs.
Eyewitness Joanna Roberts describes Christmas 1940 spent sheltering from the bombs and the time spent thinking about relatives killed in the Blitz.
Richard Holmes describes how St. Paul's Cathedral was saved from the bombing that was destroying the City of London.
Richard Holmes describes how St. Paul's Cathedral was saved from the bombing that was destroying the City of London on 29 December 1940.
Alan Bennett describes the devastating bombing raid on London on 29 December 1940.
Alan Bennett describes the devastating bombing raid on London on 29 December 1940 with eyewitness testimony from Joanna Roberts.
Alan Bennett recounts future MP Michael Foot's view of Christmas 1940.
Alan Bennett recounts future MP Michael Foot's view of Christmas 1940 in his editorial for the London Evening Standard.
Wing Commander Robert Standford Tuck discusses aerial combat over Dunkirk.
Wing Commander Robert Standford Tuck, a highly decorated Spitfire and Hurricane pilot, is interviewed in 1979 by David Jacobs. They discuss the Wing Commander’s combat flights over Dunkirk and how a penny saved his life.
The Luftwaffe was the aerial warfare branch of the German Wehrmacht during World War II. After the German Empire's World War I-era army air force, the Luftstreitkräfte, and the Kaiserliche Marine naval air units had been disbanded by May 1920 under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the Luftwaffe was reformed on 26 February 1935 and grew to become one of the strongest, most doctrinally advanced, and most battle-experienced air forces in the world when World War II started in Europe in September 1939. After the defeat of the Third Reich, the Luftwaffe was disbanded in 1946.
Luftwaffe is also the generic term in German speaking countries for any national military aviation service, and the names of air forces in other countries are usually translated into German as "Luftwaffe" (e.g. Royal Air Force is often translated as "britische Luftwaffe"). However, Luftstreitkräfte, or "air armed force", is also sometimes used as a translation of "air force" for post-World War I air arms, as it was used as the first word of the official German name of the former East German Air Force, disbanded the day before German reunification was achieved in October 1990. Since "Luft" translates into English as "air", and "Waffe" may be translated into English as either "weapon" or "arm", "Air Arm" may be considered the most literal English translation of Luftwaffe (cf. Fleet Air Arm).
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