World War II Flying Ace
Beate Uhse was born in 1919 in East Prussia, at that time a part of Germany, though now in Poland. Youngest of three children, she decided early on she wanted to become a pilot, and her father humoured her, thinking she would grow out of it and end up in more "feminine" pursuits. But no; after a brief trip to England, where she worked as an au pair, she returned to Germany in 1937 to enter flying school, the only woman on the roster of 60 pilots. In 1939 she married her flying instructor Hans-Jurgen Uhse, just before he joined the Luftwaffe as a fighter pilot. Her husband off flying for the military, Beate at first had a civilian career, but soon after the birth of her son Klaus in 1943 was called up herself. She became a Luftwaffe captain and was responsible for delivering new planes to the front, sometimes under fire. In spite of her first-hand experience of war, she professed herself devastated when her husband was killed in 1944, for she had looked up to and loved him, and he had protected and cared for her. Nevertheless, she carried on with her duties, flying pursuit planes and bombers for Hitler's doomed effort to dominate Europe. On April 22, 1945, one week before Hitler killed himself, Beate piloted the last Luftwaffe plane known to have left Berlin to safety, accompanied by her son, then two, his nanny, a mechanic and two soldiers. Landing near the Danish border, the cohort joined in the throng of refugees.
She soon had a business of her own, selling pamphlets on birth control techniques that she had learned from her mother, a doctor; later, she added contraceptives to her stock and started a mail order business. In 1948 she published a calendar which featured contraceptive advice about the rhythm method, and in 1951 began giving marriage and sex advice. From there, her sex-counselling and promoting business expanded; she opened what was arguably the first sex shop in Flensburg, Germany, in 1962. Though she faced many complaints and lawsuits, her business grew; more and more shops opened throughout Europe and her mail order business thrived. In 1999 the company began trading on the public market; Beate celebrated by having scantily-clad women hand out sex toys at her stores. She launched a sex TV channel, put stores on the autobahns, and established a huge internet presence for her business, as a quick web search can verify. But her business was about more than just making money; she believed in sexual liberation for men and women, and fought the middle-class morality and double standards of postwar Germany. She faced over 2000 lawsuits in her life, and celebrated each one, whether won or lost, as another step on the road to sexual freedom and honesty. She continued to fly planes until well into her seventies, and once flew the world's first operational jet fighter. Beate Uhse died on July 28, 2001, of pneumonia; until her death she was chair of the company she had built into an empire, Beate Uhse AG.