Nazis – WW2 rockets

The scientists who designed Germany’s  rockets in World War II were  interested not only in developing Nazi  secret weapons, but also enthusiastic  about pioneering a space program. In  fact, Wernher von Braun, who headed the  research, was briefly arrested by the  Gestapo. Allegedly von Braun had asserted,  one evening, that he was sorry he was  not working on a spaceship instead of trying  to help Hitler win a war that was lost.

A German rocket team had plans of an  A11 rocket designed to fling an astronaut  into orbit, and an A12 rocket that could  launch a payload of eleven tons. The project  head, Colonel Walter Dornberger,  was developing a rocket that would attack  the USA via outer space. Germany even  dreamt of building a space-station,  equipped with a giant parabolic mirror  that would focus the sun’s rays and fry  enemy military instillations down below.  It can easily be imagined that America  and Russia were itching to get their hands  on these scientists to develop their own  weapons and space programs.

Aware that Germany had lost the war,  von Braun assembled his colleagues who  deliberated to whom they should surrender.  If they stayed put in their Peenemünde  rocket base on the Baltic Coast,  they risked being overrun by the Russians.

Instead, they opted to flee to the  American lines. After stealing a train with  forged papers, von Braun and 500 colleagues  fled west. Although the SS got  wind of the defection and were ordered to  kill them rather than allow Nazi secrets to  fall into enemy hands, the group managed  to evade its pursuers and surrendered  itself to an American private in the Bavarian  Alps. They warned the Americans that  they should race to Peenemünde and  Nordhausen (the cave factory) to salvage  the rocket parts, before the Russians beat  them to it.

This is perhaps one of the few incidences  where the West outscored Russia  after World War II. The Soviets had to be  satisfied with lower level scientists.  As Josef Stalin protested to one of his  rocket experts, “This is absolutely intolerable.  We defeated the Nazi armies. We  occupied Berlin and Peenemünde. But  the Americans got the rocket engineers.”  Meanwhile, the SS had removed 2,000  slaves from Dora and its sub-camps under  heavy guard and forced them, on foot or  by cart and train, to the  town of Gardelegen. Less  than half survived the journey.  Then the SS herded  the survivors into a barn  and burned it to the  ground. Two days later,  American troops found a  mere 20 survivors.      On April 11, the 3rd US  Armored Division reached  the Mittelbau-Dora underground  rocket factories  and discovered, at least,  1,500 corpses and 405 living  skeletons.

In August 5706/1946,  President Harry Truman  authorized Project Paperclip,  a plan to bring selected  German scientists to  America to help in the  Cold War against Russia.  However, he expressly  excluded anyone found “to  have been a member of the  Nazi party and more than a  nominal participant in its  activities, or an active supporter of  Nazism or militarism.”

The War Department’s Joint Intelligence  Objectives Agency (JIOA) duly  investigated a first batch of potential German  scientists, and the State Department  representative on the board concluded  that they were all “ardent Nazis.”  Shocked at this development, JIOA  Director, Bosquet Wev, felt that it was  time to bend the rules and wrote a memo  warning that “the best interests of the  United States have been subjugated to the  efforts expended in ‘beating a dead Nazi  horse.’” In addition, he claimed that, back  in Germany, the scientists would be a “far  greater security threat to this country than  any former Nazi affiliations which they  may have had or even any Nazi sympathies  that they may still have.”

To solve the impasse, Military Intelligence  “whitewashed” the scientists’ files.  In 5745/1985, an investigator studied 130  Project Paperclip scientist reports and  found that every one of them “had been  changed to eliminate the security threat  classification.”

For example, a report on Wernher von  Braun, dated September 18, 5707/1947,  stated: “Subject is regarded as a potential  security threat by the military governor.”

But by the following February, a  revamped report stated: “No derogatory  information is available on the subject…  It is the opinion of the Military Governor  that he may not constitute a security  threat to the United States.”

Arthur Rudolph benefited from a similar  whitewashing. He was operations  director of the underground Mittelwerk  rocket factory at Dora-Nordhausen,  where thousands of slaves worked 72  hours a week on 1,100 calories a day, and  20,000-30,000 workers died from beatings  and starvation. Rudolph had  belonged to the Nazi Party since  5691/1931, and his 5705/1945 military  file warned: “100% Nazi, dangerous  type, security threat..!! Suggest internment.”

But the JIOA’s final assessment sang a  different tune, claiming that there was  “nothing in his records indicating that he  was a war criminal or an ardent Nazi or  otherwise objectionable.”

Von Braun and 120 ‘Peenemünders’  were brought to America and assembled  at Fort Bliss, Texas, and at the White  Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, to  help the U.S. army reassemble the V2s  and study German technology. As the  Cold War heated up, the scientists were  moved, in 5710/1950, to a new rocket  center in Huntsville, Alabama.

On January 31, 5718/1958, von  Braun’s team launched Explorer I, America’s  first earth-orbiting satellite, marking  America’s entry into the space race. Two  years later, President Eisenhower made  the Huntsville group a part of NASA and  von Braun helped develop their Saturn  multi-stage rockets.

The Saturn V launch vehicle that landed  the first men on the moon, in July  5729/1969, was largely designed by German  engineers in Huntsville. Its manager  was Arthur Rudolph.

As a slave laborer, Jean Michel, commented  about that small step for man and  giant leap for mankind, “I could not  watch the Apollo mission without  remembering that that triumphant walk  was made possible by our initiation to  inconceivable terror.”

Von Braun developed guided missiles  for the U.S. Army and became director of  NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. In  5730/1970, he was appointed NASA’s  associate administrator. He and his associates  were heaped with honor and prestige,  their association with a notorious  death-camp conveniently forgotten.  Thanks to the Cold War and space race,  their Nazi past was disregarded.

“Many years have passed since Dora  ended,” another former slave laborer,  Yves Béon, concludes in his book, Planet  Dora. “You would think that its story was  over and done with. It isn’t. At the end of  the war, the great powers shared the engineers,  the creators, and the fathers of  theV1s and V2s.

“Far from punishing them, they supplied  them with laboratories, study  offices and factories. They were also  showered with praises and with money,  honor and glory. Nothing was too good  for them, and some of them were shown  off as good examples to schoolchildren.”

An example of the last accusation  is the utilization of von  Braun by the Walt Disney organization  to popularize space  exploration.  The skeletons only emerged  from the closet in 5739/1979,  when Congress created the  Office of Special Investigations  (the OSI) in the Criminal Division  of the Department of Justice,  charged with sniffing out  Nazi war criminals who had  infiltrated America. One of their  first investigations concerned the  German rocket engineers. Von  Braun was spared embarrassment  since he had died of stomach  cancer two years earlier.

Rather than face justice, Arthur  Rudolph renounced his American  citizenship and fled back to  Germany, where he died in  5756/1996.  Rudolph had admitted to  walking through the tunnels  once or twice a day, and army  records prove that he received  daily reports concerning prisoner’s  deaths. “I knew that people were  dying,” he euphemistically told investigators.  The “Paperclip Project” scandal is  almost forgotten. Few people remember  how expedience triumphed over truth and  justice.

John Loftus, federal prosecutor in the  OSI, stated it eloquently: “In a way, we  Americans are the last victims of the  Holocaust, imprisoned by the secrets of  the Cold War, locked in the fortress of  lies. In a democratic society, there is only  one hard way to liberation –Wahrheit  macht frei, i.e. truth produces freedom.”

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