Max Holtzem was born on December 1st, 1892, at Elberfeld. He lost his mother when he was 9.
On October 14 Octth 1913, he joined Flieger Battalion 3 and became a pilot on April 22nd, 1914. On April 17th, 1915, he was assigned to the Pfalz factory. He was promoted to Unteroffizier on January 27th, 1916 and assigned back to Pflaz as a test pilot on July 21st 1916.
Max Holtzem joined Jasta 16b on September 22nd, 1917, and fought as part of it for the rest of the war. As a symbol of his mother's protection he painted a comet on all his planes. He never claimed the victories he contributed to - the only one assigned to him is for a Se5a on March 18th, 1918. He became Vizefeldwebel on April 11th, 1918. On December 16th 1918 he acquired his Fokker D.VII 402/18 and flew it home, where he hid it. He later removed the machineguns and added a second seat to it.