Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
At 6.30 PM on February 20 1935 a Lufthansa machine, a by now legendary Junkers Ju52/3m also known as “Tante Ju” (Auntie Ju), landed in Berlin-Tempelhof after a same-day flight from Cairo. This pioneering flight, which began at 2 AM German time in Egypt and took the plane on a three-leg journey (Cairo-Athens, Athens-Vienna, Vienna-Berlin) proved that such service were indeed possible and that “Tante Ju’s” deserved every word of praise ever bestowed upon them.
The machine, a tri-engine model whose captain, Robert Untucht would become the first pilot to take his aeroplane (also a Junkers Ju52) over the Hindu Kush and the Pamir Mountains in central Asia thus opening a new flight route from Berlin to Sian in China, was produced by Junkers Fluggesellschaft AG in Dessau from 1932. The first “Tante Ju” flew in March the same year. Funnily enough, the first air-line to employ Junkers Ju52/3m was not German but Bolivian: it used two machines with serial numbers 4008 and 4009.
The first “Tante Ju” to fly with a Kranich logo – the stylised crane created in 1918 by an architect and designer Otto Firle remains Lufthansa’s symbol until this day – took off in May 1932. It proved to be not only a visually impressive object but also an absolutely reliable, relatively low-maintenance machine which considering its size and the fact that it could carry up to 15 (or even 17, if need be) passengers, required an astoundingly short runway to start. It was perfect for the old Tempelhof Airport, opened in 1923 and gradually expanded by 1935 but size-wise still nothing like its successor, Sagebiel’s Zentralflughafen Tempelhof.
By 1938 over 75% of Lufthansa’s fleet consisted of Junkers Ju52’s. In 1942/43 all their machines were impounded by the military and given to the army. They were used to provide supplies to Hitler’s 6th Army during the Battle of Stalingrad (which, as we all know, it did not help as Nazi Germany suffered a massive military debacle).
The interesting thing about the Tante Ju is that although officially it was built as a passenger plane it could be easily converted into a military machine, too: the first 700 of them were equipped with special hatches in the hull’s floor where two bomb bays could be installed. If need be. And that need was clearly taken into account by Germany’s Reichswehrministerium (Reich Ministry of Defence which, not coincidentally, in 1935 was re-named Reich Ministry of War): they pushed for the production of a tri-engine machine with exactly that option. Later more “specialised” (mostly for war) models of the Tante Ju appeared. All in all over 4,800 of them were produced, 1,900 before the outbreak of the Second World War.
But back in February 1935 the machine was still first and foremost an example of brilliant engineering, excellent design and proof that the sky was no longer the limit.
The video below, presented and made available by Periscope Film, will allow you to peek through time and see the magnificent Tante Ju landing at the old Berlin Tempelhof airport and, after the obligatory servicing and cleaning, taking off in the direction of Vienna again. Enjoy it!