Beate Uhse-Rotermund

Beate Uhse-Rotermund [], born Beate Köstlin [] , October 25 1919 – July 16 2001) was a German pilot and entrepreneur. The first and only female stunt pilot in Germany in the 1930s, after World War II she started the first sex shop in the world. The company she started, Beate Uhse AG, is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and is the world leader in sales of sexual aids. The company also started a television channel on the Premiere network of television channels.


Uhse was born in Cranz, East Prussia. She was the youngest of three children of the farmer Otto Köstlin and the doctor Magarete Köstlin (one of the first five female doctors in Germany).

When she was eight years old, her older brother told her the myth of Icarus. Beate was fascinated by the story-and by the idea of flying. So much so that she gathered chicken feathers and glued together some wings and jumped from the roof of her parents' veranda. Beate was a wild child. Her parents did not try to control her, instead they encouraged their daughter in her interests and desires. They assisted her in getting a good education. They informed their kids on sexual matters early, and spoke with them openly about sexuality and sexual hygiene. At fifteen, athletic Beate became the Hessian javelin champion.

She did not want to follow in her parents' footsteps under any circumstances, to become either a farmer or doctor. Her dream profession was to be a pilot.

War-time pilot

At age sixteen Beate Köstlin went to England for one year, to learn English as an au pair. Afterwards, she returned to her parents' home, where she, to satisfy her parents, obtained a "proper" education (in Home Economics). During a trip to Berlin, her father coincidentally met a Mr. Sachsenberg, a lecturer on motor sports from the German Aero-Club (a nonprofit organization dedicated to flying), and complained to him of his "fly crazy" daughter and the "nonsense" concept of a female pilot. Sachsenberg was, instead, excited by the idea, and sent the seventeen year old Beate information about obtaining a pilot license.

Finally her parents gave in to her demands, and in 1937 Beate joined the Rangsdorf pilot school near Berlin. In October, on her 18th birthday, she received her pilot license. In 1938 she passed the stunt pilot exam, and shortly thereafter competed in a race in Belgium. She won in her category, and won 2nd place overall in target landing and 3rd in "punctual flight."

She then worked for the Bücker aircraft company as a test pilot, then, at age nineteen, as a delivery pilot for the aircraft factory Friedrich. Soon thereafter she was asked by the UFA film company, whether she would like to work as a double in films, and naturally she did. She worked with Hans Albers, a film star she particularly admired, and with numerous others. In the film "Wasser für Canitoga" (Water for Canitoga) she performed a stunt as a double for René Deltgen in which she flew through a balloon barrier and simulated an uncontrolled dive.

Beate fell in love with her stunt piloting instructor, Hans-Jürgen Uhse, but repeatedly rejected his proposals of marriage. She swore she would "never ever give up flying for a man." Since Hans-Jürgen strongly supported her ambitions, however, she finally accepted; but her father resisted. For one whole year, her father refused to bless their union. Finally the wedding was scheduled for October 10 1939. The wedding was cancelled because of the beginning of the war, however. On September 28, Hans-Jürgen Uhse was to be deployed; the couple married four hours before his departure.

Because of the war, stunt piloting became impossible, and Beate Uhse was forced to remain grounded. In her small home in Rangsdorf, she felt claustrophobic, and so she thankfully accepted an offer by the Luftwaffe (German air force) to fly in an aircraft transport squadron. She was able to fly aircraft that she "otherwise would not be able to get to": the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, and the Messerschmitt. She felt that after the war, with this experience, she would be able to have a career as a pilot.

In 1943 her son Klaus was born. Because she was in a role vital to the war effort, she was permitted to continue working, and received permission to hire a nanny. In 1945, her husband Hans-Jürgen had a fatal crash, and left Beate as a twenty four year old widow with a one year old son. After her husband's death, she achieved the rank of captain, and transported and accompanied aircraft to the front. She frequently came under allied fire, and had several close brushes with death.

In April 1945, Berlin was surrounded by allied forces. The commander of Beate Uhse's battalion wanted to move the battalion further west. Beate made her way through the destroyed city to her house in Rangsdorf and picked up her son and his nanny. She brought both to the airport, but her battalion had already left, along with her airplane. She found a plane that was being fueled to transport the wounded, but did not have a pilot. She loaded the injured, her two year old son and his nanny, and left Berlin to the west, finally landing in Leck in North Friesland. She was captured there by British troops. After her release, she settled in Flensburg with her son.

Second career: business woman

Beate Uhse's career as a pilot ended after the war: former members of the Luftwaffe were not permitted to fly. The young widow therefore had to find some other way to earn money to feed her son. First, she made a living on the black market. She was selling products door-to-door and met many housewives and learned of their problems: the men returning from the front were impregnating their wives, not caring that there was "no apartment, no income and no future" for the kids. Many of the women went to untrained abortionists to "get rid" of their children. Beate Uhse remembered lectures her mother (who had died during the war) had given her on sexuality, sexual hygiene and contraception. She searched for information on the Knaus-Ogino method of contraception (rhythm method), and put together a brochure which explained to the women how to identify their fertile and infertile days.

By 1947 she had sold "Pamphlet X" 32,000 times through her "Betu" mail order company, and began to expand to larger cities such as Hamburg and Bremen. Many people wrote her letters, to ask for advice on sexuality and eroticism. "These people were unaware of the facts of life," she wrote in her autobiography. Soon she was also selling condoms and "marriage guides."

In 1951, with four employees, she started the "Beate Uhse Mail Order" company, offering condoms and books on "marital hygiene." Just two years later, the company had fourteen employees. Beate Uhse married retailer Erns-Walter Rotermund and had a second child, Ulrich.

In 1962, in Flensburg, she opened her "specialty store for marital hygiene," the first sex store in the world. She offered, both in her store and her catalog, more and more "articles for marital hygiene." It didn't take long for the police to start acting against the items in her store which served "the whipping up and satisfaction of sexual desires, [which was] against good manners and morality." By the year 1992, her store had been indicted more than 2,000 times. She was also discriminated against by other organizations: the "Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels" (a financial organization of the German book industry) refused to admit her Stephensen publishing house due to "moral concerns." The Flensburger tennis club refused to admit her due to "general concerns."

In 1979 she divorced her second husband. In 1983, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, but survived. At age seventy five she obtained a diving license. In 1996, she fulfilled a long-held dream, and opened the Beate Uhse Erotic Museum in Berlin. Three years later, in 1999, her company, Beate Uhse AG, was listed on the German stock exchange, which was met with great interest in the financial community. The stock went up to sixty four times its initial offering price. The stock certificates are greatly desired because of the depiction of two nearly naked women.

Uhse died of pneumonia in a clinic in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Like Oswalt Kolle, Uhse was one of the most important people for sexual liberation in the German-speaking world. In 1989 she received the "Bundesverdienstkreuz" (German Cross of Merit), and in 1999 she was declared an honorary citizen of the city of Flensburg.


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