A spokesperson for the city of Lachute said she is ‘99 per cent sure’ an event celebrating women who made significant contributions to aviation history will be removing a planned honour of a Nazi luminary.
As part of Women Aviation Worldwide Week, the Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide was set to hold a ceremony this Saturday at Lachute Airport in which it would honour, among others, Hanna Reitsch.
In 1937, Reitsch became the first woman in the world to fly a helicopter. She later flew planes as well, holding multiple records and setting the standard for aviation at that time.
The aviation pioneer also, however, had close personal ties with Adolf Hitler and was “a firm believer in National Socialism herself until her dying day,” explained McGill University historian Colin Gilmour in an interview Wednesday.
On Thursday Jewish advocacy group B’Nai Brith Canada learned that there will lbe no honour and likely no mention of Reitsch at the ceremony.
The decision to honour her was overturned after the City of Lachute and the Argenteuil region released a joint statement saying they would not allow the event to take place in the area.
"The city and the MRC (of Argenteuil) will not tolerate at any time and under any circumstances activities that glorify people having a history associated with Nazism," the statement read.
The event is slated to continue, as hundreds of other women will be honoured for their contributions to aviation. About 800 people are expected to attend.
Lachute spokesperson Alexandra Montminy told B’Nai Brith she is "pretty confident" that Reitsch’s name will not be mentioned.
"I'd say we're 99 per cent sure that there will be no mentions at all of this person," she told them. "We have not cancelled the event strictly because we have received a letter from the organizing committee in which they have assured us that there will be no mention of this person whatsoever during the entire celebration."
Women of Aviation Worldwide Week initially stood by its decision to honour Reitsch despite criticism, with Marguerite Varin saying: “She's the first. I can’t change history. I can’t change the facts. I will not invent an alternative fact. She’s the first woman to have flown a helicopter, and we are this year having the theme on helicopters.”
The group conceded to public pressure.
B’nai Brith Chief Executive Officer Michael Mostyn said regardless, he is dissatisfied with the organizers’ response.
“It is unfortunate that they are not taking the opportunity to produce a learning moment by educating the young women who will be in attendance against the evils of the Nazis,” he said.