Sunday, May 29, 2005

MUNICH — The extraordinary tangled love life of the American aviator Charles Lindbergh, the first pilot to fly nonstop across the Atlantic, has been revealed by the three illegitimate children whom he kept secret.

They have disclosed intimate details about Lindbergh’s affairs in which he fathered children not only by their mother, Brigitte, but also her sister, Marietta, and, possibly his private secretary.

Dyrk and David Hesshaimer and their sister, Astrid Bouteuil were born and raised in Germany but were never told their father’s identity.

They were recognized as Lindbergh’s children only in 2003 after DNA tests proved that they were related.

In a new book “The Double Life of Charles A. Lindbergh,” they reveal how the dashing aviator’s 17-year relationship with Brigitte lasted even after he fathered two children with her sister, Marietta.

Although Lindbergh had professed admiration for Nazi Germany in the 1930s and supported ideas about eugenics, his passion for the women outweighed any prejudice: The book reveals that both sisters suffered walking disabilities as a result of childhood illness.

“I am aware that our actions have tainted the image of an impeccable American hero,” said Miss Bouteuil, 44. “But they also reveal that a man once thought of as emotionless and unattainable was in fact a caring and loving father.”

Lindbergh was 55 and seemingly happily married to his American wife, Anne Morrow, when he met Brigitte and Marietta at a dinner party in Munich in 1957.

He and Anne had six children — their marriage apparently surviving the tragic death of their son, Charles, who at 20 months old was abducted and killed in 1932.

Yet according to Rudolf Schroeck, the book’s author, over dinner Lindbergh fell for Brigitte, a 31-year-old hat maker.

“The sisters were friends of his secretary, Valeska, with whom he was already embroiled in a relationship,” said Mr. Schroeck, who drew on more than 150 letters and photographs sent to Brigitte by Lindbergh that were discovered years after his death.

Their tempestuous affair ended only with his death in 1974. Although Lindbergh did not live in Germany, he regularly visited Brigitte in Munich and took her to his secret apartment in Rome, previously used for trysts with Valeska.

When the children were born, he carried on visiting his new family but never told them his real name.

“He visited about four times a year for a few days and made sure they had a wonderful time,” Mr. Schroeck said.

“He took them on trips to the country and told stories of his travels. He never failed to meet his financial duties towards their mother, for whom he built a house.

“They were told their father was an American writer, Careu Kent. She made them promise never to mention him to anyone, even friends or family, saying he would not come back if they did.”

Mr. Schroeck said Lindbergh also had two children with Valeska, his secretary, but their identities are not known. None of the three women married.

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