Walter Graf

Memorial Speech held by Government Coucillor Walter Graf on 25/11/2012 at Vienna's Central Cemetery

 
 
In memory of Walter Nowotny
 
We are commemorating the aviation hero Major Walter Nowotny. For that, we do not need any background of politics or ideology. We are guided only by the facts of history and reject any form of dictatorship, extremism, demagoguery, violation of personal rights and incitement to hatred.
 
Our remembrance focuses on a young man who was born in Gmünd (near the Czech border) and grew up in Mistelbach (Lower Austria) who, being intelligent, in love with technology and gifted in sports, took the only way to aviation that was open to him in 1939. His career has been extremely successful. By the year 1943, he became the world's first fighter pilot to achieve his 250th victory against enemy aircraft. After two more victories, he was even prohibited from flying any further sorties - much against his own will. After that, he was in charge of the first German Me 262 jet fighter squadron. On November 8, 1944, in a state of excitement, Nowotny ignored the prohibition imposed on him, ascended in his Me 262 without an escort, shot down a four-engine U.S. aircraft and eventually became himself the victim of two American Mustangs. His parachute got tangled up in the tail unit of his burning plane which in its vertical fall to the ground buried Nowotny underneath and put him to death. Nowotny owes his glory, his symbolic aura and his myth exclusively and really exclusively to his bravery as a soldier, and not to politics. He was a soldier of the German Wehrmacht and did not commit any war crimes. He did not throw bombs, but prevented enemy aircraft from throwing bombs on cities and civilians. He was not on a command post from where soldiers were sent to a meaningless death. But it is true that he fought like a knight in the air, all on his own, and put his life at risk during each sortie against the enemy. He was, in a word, an impeccable aviator hero.
 
Here at this cemetery, peace should prevail. We see it as our task to preserve this peace. Hostilities and maliciousness, dishonesty, slander, frivolous judgments, desecration of graves and disturbance of the peace of the dead have no business here. Those who committed or plan to commit such acts will be punished by God. We express our thanks to the Association for the care of the grave of Major Walter Nowotny for the acquisition, restoration and re-erection of the tombstone. We also thank the Austrian Ministry of the Interior for its decision to maintain the present location of this warrior grave.
 
The renovated and re-erected tombstone on the surface of which the traces of vandalism
from the previous year are unfortunately still visible
 
Nowotny's fame is undisputed. What has to be disputed is how, after so many wars that have taken place since 1945, one can prevent further warfare. Given more than 200 wars and millions of human victims after those two world wars, it must be said that humanity has learned absolutely nothing. Hence our call is: stop military armament, and instead fight poverty and hunger. Solve disputes without violence, acknowledge the right of people to think differently and resign from all greed for money, power, acquisition of land, raw materials, inequitable distribution of wealth, war profits and lies. And let Nowotny rest in his grave.
 
I thank all patriotic fellow countrymen who joined our commemoration party as witnesses or out of compassion or because they feel bound to their home country. Long live our Fatherland Austria!