The German Grand Prix of 1952 and 1953 have always fascinated me. Firstly, at 34 starters, the 1953 race holds the record for the biggest starting grid in World Drivers Championship history. More notably, both races featured a long list of local entrants in home-built German specials in what was, for many, their only Grand Prix appearance. Over the past decade, personal data, biographies and even photographs of these obscure German drivers have slowly been uncovered. Theo Fitzau remains one of the last to be revealed.
This article, written by Fitzau himself in 1951 for the East German newspaper Neue Zeit and transcribed by us into English, finally allows motor racing aficionados to put a ‘voice’ to Fitzau’s name.
Theodor Heinrich Fitzau Jr. was born in 1923 into a family of soap manufacturers in Köthen, Germany (later part of the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic / DDR). He was one of a series of post-war DDR drivers who travelled across to West Germany to compete in national motorsport events. In 1953, he took part in the German GP, driving an AFM entered by Helmut Niedermayr. He retired for unreported reasons after three laps and retired from racing for good soon after.
“Yes, I used to have no thoughts at all of auto racing. Although I had read several books and I had been involved in off-road driving as a boy, I had never seen a real race. The idea of becoming a racer myself never came to me for many years.
One day, after a long period of work, I finished a beautiful little convertible, which the Dessau racer and sportsman Arthur Rosenhammer – already well-known from the pre-war period – was interested in. So, through him I got into motorsport. Arthur Rosenhammer also had a 1.5-litre BMW sports car, which I got stuck into. Well, nothing came out of either project, but then I bought Rosenhammer’s now virtually famous 750cc home-built special. It was a rear-engine car with a completely new design.
Rosenhammer won at the Grenzlandring in 1948 and was thus the first athlete from the then Eastern zone to take up motorsports. I was able to claim “fame” for myself as the second man from the zone who was actively involved in motorsports, followed by the well-known sportsman and designer Kurt Baum from Hainspitz, then the old master [Paul] Greifzu, followed a little later by my friend and stablemate Kurt Straubel.
My first race was at the so-called little AVUS in Berlin. It was a race that gathered cars of all classes in one single heat. Well, I flew off the track in practice and into the straw bales, which had been set up to catch unsuspecting drivers. This was a serious blow to my conviction that I was already an expert. I did the race anyway and was running super good at first, then the powers of fate took over. A tank strut broke and I became acquainted with the straw bales while my car was in the best position [in the race]. I was completely crestfallen for days afterwards, because I didn’t think that this could happen. The damage was soon repaired at home and my then guardian and manager recommended the Nürburgring as my next race. Said, and done – I was officially the first DDR driver with an Interzone pass to start in the West.”