northanger (northanger) wrote,


Dora and the V–2: Slave Labor in the Space Age

Welcome! This website explores the history of forced labor in the construction of the V-2 missiles at the Dora concentration camp and Mittelwerk underground factory near Nordhausen, Germany, during World War II. It was designed to support a 2010 exhibit at the UAHuntsville Salmon Library entitled Dora and the V–2: Slave Labor in the Space Age.

The stories center on the victims of Dora, the prisoners from many nations who were forced to work in the camp and its sub-camps and in the underground factory assembling the V–2. Usually, especially in Huntsville, Alabama, the V–2 is remembered through the engineers who designed it, rather than the forced laborers who put it together. Yet the prisoners died by the score or lived through dehumanizing cruelty, and their experiences deserve to be remembered.

The website remains after the closing of the exhibit as a testament to the suffering of the slave laborers of Dora.

Encyclopedia Astronautica: V-2 (really large file)
Peenemuende Chronology

The Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum

The Peenemünde Military Test Site [The site had been suggested by Wernher von Braun's mother as 'just the place for you and your friends'] was one of the most modern technological facilities in the world in the years between 1936 and 1945. The first launch of a missile into space took place here in October 1942. In the nearby air force testing area, rocket engineers tested numerous flight objects equipped with revolutionary technology. From the start this research was directed toward one goal only: achieving military superiority through advanced technology.

Slave laborers, concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war provided the work that enabled the construction of the test sites and the later serial production of the rockets, which the Nazi propaganda referred to as "Vergeltungswaffe 2" (or "Vengeance Weapon 2"), in so short a period of time. Both the inhumane labor conditions and the attacks on Belgian, British and French cities using the supposed "wonder weapon" claimed thousands of lives.

The ambivalent nature of technological progress is uniquely reflected in the story of Peenemünde. The collision of science and technology exemplified by the complex, together with an account of the historical development of rocketry are the main focus of the exhibition of the Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum. It is housed in the power station of the former Army Testing Site - the largest technical monument in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. In addition the museum serves as an international meeting place and cultural venue. In 2002 the museum was awarded the Coventry Cross of Nails for its efforts toward reconciliation and world peace.

some say President Bush is the last 20th century president and President Obama the first 21st century president. i do see them as bookends (keeping in mind Eris discovered 21-Oct-2003), where these two administrations make us decide what type of nation we are, what we value & how we move forward. colored dots link to NYT's iEconomy series {[2:40 AM 3/18/2012] update on one of those dots: Retracting "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory"}. this entry isn't an indictment on Apple [+][+][+], but takes a page from Saul Alinsky's, I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be & pounding nails in Nevada [+] — still think Roger should've won top prize because his post certainly foreshadowed the 99% vs 1% debate. Wallace Shawn (h/t) caps the whole thing with the power of fantasy (Our capacity to fantasize about other people and to believe our own fantasies) & Sorting Babies on the Global Market.

couple of great quotes on policy streams model, punctuated equilibirum model, garbage can theory, "organized chaos" in Mars Wars: The Rise and Fall of the Space Exploration Initiative:

{p3} …how problems come to the attention of policy makers, how agendas are set, how policy alternatives are generated, and why policy windows open.

…the policy process as comprising long periods of stability, which are interrupted by predictable periods of instability that lead to major policy changes.

…organizations are "a collection of choices looking for problems, issues and feelings looking for decision situations in which they might be aired, solutions looking for issues to which they might be the answer, and decision makers looking for work".

…a choice opportunity was: "…a garbage can into which various kinds of problems and solutions are dumped by participants as they are generated. The mix of garbage in a single can depends on the mix of cans available, on the labels attached to the alternative cans, on what garbage is currently being produced, and on the speed with which garbage is collected and removed from the scene".

…policy outcomes are the result of the garbage available and the process chosen to sift through that garbage.

{p4} …three major process streams in federal policy making: problem recognition; the formation and refinement of policy proposals; and politics… these three process streams operate largely independently from one another. Within the first stream, various problems come to capture the attention of people in and around government. Within the second stream, a policy community of specialists concentrates on generating policy alternatives that may offer a solution to a given problem. Within the third stream, phenomena such as changes in administration, shifts in partisan or ideological distributions in Congress, and focusing events impact the selection of different policy alternatives… the key to gaining successful policy outcomes within this "organized anarchy" is to seize upon policy windows that offer an opportunity for pushing one's proposals onto the policy agenda. Taking advantage of these policy windows requires that a policy entrepreneur expends the political capital necessary to join the three process stream at the appropriate time. [my emphasis]

how did i miss this? - kudos to TRMS for marking the date: 2019.

'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, January 26, 2012
@spaceksc :: [+][+][+][+]

apparently, 2019 is a "solenoid bump back" periodically creating a careening pinball phenomenon in space policy (A Return to the Moon by 2020?). window to go back to the Moon-by-2019 may still kinda be open, but Mars-by-2019 window may definitely be closed.

{p1, Mars Wars} On the 20th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon, President Bush had stood atop these very steps [Smithsonian Air & Space Museum] and proposed a long-range exploration plan that included the successful construction of an orbital space station, a permanent return to the Moon, and a human mission to Mars — this enterprise became known as the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI)… Bush later set a 30-year goal for a crewed landing on Mars. If met, humans would be walking on the red planet by 2019, which would be the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

{p2} The rise of SEI and its eventual demise represents one of the landmark episodes in the history of the American space program — ranking with the creation of NASA, the decision to go to the Moon, the post-Apollo planning process, and the space station decision.

•    •    •    •

The Good German

The Good German is a 2006 feature film adaptation of the novel by Joseph Kanon. It was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Maguire. Set in Berlin following the Allied victory over the Nazis, it begins as a murder mystery, but weaves in elements involving the American postwar employment of Nazi rocket scientists in Operation Paperclip.
- - -
The film's title alludes to the notion of "a good German", one who ostensibly was not to blame for allowing Hitler to persecute the Jews and others, and who did not see the Holocaust as it occurred before his eyes. Thematically, the film centers on guilt, and whether it is possible to survive the atrocities while being unaware of and not complicit in them.

Not back to the future, but ahead to the past

In a nutshell, Soderbergh’s The Good German is the most thoroughgoing effort by an American director to reproduce the look and feel of a 1940s movie.
- - -

This project hooks up with some arguments I made in The Way Hollywood Tells It. For one thing, I suggested that the overall “classical” style of Hollywood, founded on a certain conception of cinematic storytelling that emerged around 1917, hasn’t been abandoned, even in the most craven items we find in our multiplexes… Some historians have argued that we’ve entered a “post-classical” era in which classical storytelling principles have been abandoned. I tried to show that in fact many of our filmmakers, like Cameron Crowe and Martin Scorsese, have the utmost admiration for the studio filmmaking tradition and define themselves as heirs and continuers of it.
- - -
Through a Ground Glass Darkly

Take a deep breath. Some gearhead stuff coming. But interesting gearhead stuff… Wide-angle lenses have short focal lengths. As the name implies, they take in a wider field of view than lenses of longer focal lengths. They tend to distort vertical lines and make faces look puffy, so they weren’t recommended for medium-shots or close-ups. That was a task for lenses of “normal” lengths. It’s an interesting fact of film history, though, that over time the conception of a normal lens has changed.

Cutting remarks: On THE GOOD GERMAN, classical style, and the Police Tactical Unit

Soderbergh will also avoid multiple-camera shooting, which is common for most scenes nowadays; he will shoot single-camera. This has fascinating implications for staging and editing choices. Dave Kehr explains:

If there is a single word that sums up the difference between filmmaking at the middle of the 20th century and the filmmaking of today, it is “coverage.”

You Can Make ’Em Like They Used To

For weeks, for all of us, it was like living in a time warp

Operation Paperclip

Project Paperclip: Dark side of the Moon

Events moved rapidly. President Truman authorised Paperclip in August 1945 and, on 18 November, the first Germans reached America. There was, though, one major problem. Truman had expressly ordered that 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 militarism" would be excluded. Under this criterion even von Braun himself, the man who masterminded the Moon shots, would have been ineligible to serve the US. A member of numerous Nazi organisations, he also held rank in the SS. His initial intelligence file described him as "a security risk".

Project Paperclip

It was an all-out race to seize the best German scientists and technologies. America won.
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The pressing need to secure the cream of enemy assets was obvious, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 20, 1945 codified many different intelligence efforts into Project Overcast. This provided the initial guidelines for seizing, holding, using, and returning enemy nationals. After the surrender of Japan, however, protests broke out over the use of former enemy personnel for national military purposes. This forced a name change, and, in March 1946, the effort to gather top-secret Nazi technology became known as Project Paperclip. The term “Paperclip” stemmed from the fact that dossiers of the most highly valued scientists were flagged with paperclips.
- - -
Other countries were less successful than was the United States, which clearly won this race despite the admonitions of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower that there were to be no dealings with any Nazi. Initially, the United States planned to permit only about 100 individuals to enter the country. Ultimately, however, Washington approved the entry of about 700, with family members.
- - -
The V-1 entered combat on June 13, 1944 when 10 were fired against London. Two days later, almost 300 were launched, and the “Flying Bomb Blitz” began. Ultimately some 29,000 V-1s were built. Of these, 8,000 were fired against London, with 2,419 hitting their target, killing almost 6,000 Britons.
- - -
More importantly, unlike the V-1, the V-2 was essentially impossible to intercept.

Led by the charismatic young Wern­her von Braun, the members of the Society for Spaceflight traded their technical expertise for German Army funds beginning in 1934. While their scientist eyes may have remained fixed on the stars, their lethal products were designed to hit London and, ultimately, New York. Weighing almost 30,000 pounds, the V-2 was perhaps Hitler’s last remaining hope to force Britain from the war. More than 10,000 were manufactured, largely by slave labor working under hideous conditions. Some 1,400 were launched against Britain, with about 500 hitting London, killing about 2,600 people. As the Allies gained ground after the invasion, Antwerp became the principal target.

In retrospect, the V-2 was a wasteful project for Germany. It consumed scarce resources that might have been better used elsewhere, and its total delivered tonnage was less than that being delivered by the RAF or AAF in a single raid.
- - -
The influence of the Paperclip scientists did not end yet. NASA came into existence on Oct. 1, 1958. In 1960, NASA opened the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, with von Braun as the center’s first director. In 1961, Mercury Redstones safely launched Alan B. Shepard Jr. and Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom on suborbital spaceflights. Von Braun led the Marshall center until February 1970, where he and his team accelerated work on the Saturn series of launch vehicles that they had begun developing under Army auspices in the late 1950s. The original Saturn I was little more than a group of Jupiter rockets strapped together, but the later Saturn V was a massive and supremely reliable system. The Saturn represented the peak of von Braun’s contributions to NASA, but he and many of his colleagues went on to serve the United States and the free world in many capacities. Their influence on the world of aeronautics and astronautics is felt to this day.

Wernher von Braun, the SS, and Concentration Camp Labor

Wernher von Braun, the SS, and Concentration Camp Labor: Questions of Moral, Political, and Criminal Responsibility

Michael J. Neufeld
German Studies Review
Vol. 25, No. 1 (Feb., 2002), pp. 57-78

also by Neufeld: Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War

Dr. Wernher von Braun (1912-1977), the German-American rocket engineer and space visionary, is often depicted in white or black, saint or devil terms. In the eyes of his associates and hero-worshippers, he is still seen as an apolitical space enthusiast who was not a "real" Nazi and had nothing to do with the crimes of the Third Reich — indeed he was arrested by the Gestapo and held for two weeks in 1944. Many critics and many survivors of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, on the other hand, see him as an unprincipled opportunist or even a convinced Nazi who was directly responsible for the deaths of 20,000 prisoners. Although the scholarly community has begun to break with this simplistic dualism, an empirical inquiry into his actual involvement with National Socialist organizations and war crimes, based on all available evidence, is still very much needed — especially in view of the brief and unsystematic treatment these questions have received in recent studies. While such an empirical inquiry cannot end the debate, in part because the evidence is itself debatable, it can narrow the limits of what can plausibly be claimed. Moreover, an inquiry into von Braun's behavior may help spark further investigations into the responsibility of engineers, scientists, and middle managers for the exploitation of concentration-camp labor; the existing literature concentrates overwhelmingly on either direct perpetrators of the Holocaust, or on industrial corporations and their leaders.

The decisive split between pro- and anti- von Braun camps has a long history — too long to be detailed here. Suffice it to say that from the time he rose to fame in the early 1950s to the Apollo moon landing in 1969 and beyond, Wernher von Braun was feted in the United States, West Germany, and elsewhere as a Cold War hero — as the "Columbus of space," as the visionary of space travel, and as the greatest rocket engineer of the age, one who contributed to both Western military preparedness and the human exploration of space.

Mars Wars

Thor Hogan, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Why Mars?

{p5} Any discussion of human exploration of Mars must begin with a description of the reasons why this planetary destination has continually reemerged during the post-Apollo period as the "next logical step" for the American Space program.
- - -
Early Mission Planning

{p16} In 1952, Dr. Wernher von Braun published the first detailed mission architecture for human exploration of the red planet in his classic book, The Mars Project [Von Braun Mars Expedition - 1952]. The manuscript was actually the appendix of an earlier, unpublished work that von Braun had written while interned with his fellow German rocket engineers in El Paso, Texas after the conclusion of World War II (WWII). Von Braun had a sweeping vision for human travel to Mars.
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{p17} In the early 1950s, Collier's magazine approached Wernher von Braun and several other prominent engineers and scientists with an offer to write a series of eight article about space exploration. The publication of these articles in Collier's, with its circulation of almost four million, represented the beginning of a concerted "softening up" process for space exploration in general, and Moon and Mars exploration in particular — with the express purpose of educating the American public. In April 1954, von Braun and journalist Cornelius Ryan penned an article for Collier's entitled "Can We Get to Mars?" This piece drew heavily from the mission concept found in The Mars Project, but also included an Earth-orbiting space station that would be used during the project's construction phase.
- - -
{p18} In the mid-1950s, the Collier's articles served as the basis for the three animated films about space exploration produced by Walt Disney [The Disney-Von Braun Collaboration and Its Influence on Space Exploration, by Mike Wright]. Wernher von Braun served as technical advisor for the shows, while Disney provided artistic direction for the series. The American Broadcasting Company aired the first episode entitled "Man in Space" on 9 April 1955 [Video: Man in Space, {08:00} discusses: Germany's rocket program, V-2 rocket ("forerunner of spaceships to come"), 75 captured V-2s brought to White Sands, New Mexico in 1945 ("here exhaustive studies and test firings were made to aid us in mapping our own newly created rocket program") • {11:36} Willy Ley].
- - -
Howard McCurdy argues in his book Space and the American Imagination that von Braun's collaborations with Collier's and Disney were part of a larger concerted effort to prepare the public for the inevitable conquest of space. He contends that scientists, writers, and political leaders sought to construct a romantic vision of space exploration laid upon images already rooted in the American culture, such as the myth of the frontier. The resulting vision of space exploration had the power to excite, entertain, or frighten (i.e. Cold War) — and it was incredibly successful. In 1949, only 15% of the population believed that we would go to the moon in the 20th century. By the time President Kennedy announced the lunar landing goal, however, the majority of Americans viewed it as inevitable. McCurdy asserts that the primary reason for this shift in national mood was the introduction of space concepts to the mainstream public by von Braun and other visionaries during the 1950s.

•    •    •    •

Apr 16, 1947: Bernard Baruch coins the term "Cold War"
Aug 26, 1957: Russia tests an intercontinental ballistic missile
We captured the wrong Germans
Oct 4, 1957: Soviet Union launches Sputnik I
LIFE Apr 21, 1961: Soviet Traveler Returns From Out Of This World
LIFE Apr 21, 1961: How the News Hit Washtington - With Some Reactions Overseas
"we have a sporting chance" (PDF)
LIFE: The Space Race

The Kennedy Perspective on Space: Kennedy was not a "visionary enraptured with the romantic image of the last American frontier in space and consumed by the adventure of exploring the unknown. He was, on the other hand, a Cold Warrior with a keen sense of Realpolitik in foreign affairs"

Project Apollo: A Retrospective Analysis

Reevaluating NASA's Priorities

Two days after the Gagarin flight on 12 April, Kennedy discussed once again the possibility of a lunar landing program with Webb, but the NASA head's conservative estimates of a cost of more than $20 billion for the project was too steep and Kennedy delayed making a decision. A week later, at the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion, Kennedy called Johnson, who headed the National Aeronautics and Space Council, to the White House to discuss strategy for catching up with the Soviets in space. Johnson agreed to take the matter up with the Space Council and to recommend a course of action. It is likely that one of the explicit programs that Kennedy asked Johnson to consider was a lunar landing program, for the next day, 20 April 1961, he followed up with a memorandum to Johnson raising fundamental questions about the project. In particular, Kennedy asked

Do we have a chance of beating the Soviets by putting a laboratory in space, or by a trip around the moon, or by a rocket to go to the moon and back with a man? Is there any other space program that promises dramatic results in which we could win?16

While he waited for the results of Johnson's investigation, this memo made it clear that Kennedy had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do in space. He confided in a press conference on 21 April that he was leaning toward committing the nation to a large- scale project to land Americans on the Moon. "If we can get to the moon before the Russians, then we should," he said, adding that he had asked his vice president to review options for the space program.17 This was the first and last time that Kennedy said anything in public about a lunar landing program until he officially unveiled the plan. It is also clear that Kennedy approached the lunar landing effort essentially as a response to the competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. For Kennedy the Moon landing program, conducted in the tense Cold War environment of the early 1960s, was a strategic decision directed toward advancing the far-flung interests of the United States in the international arena. It aimed toward recapturing the prestige that the nation had lost as a result of Soviet successes and U.S. failures. It was, as political scientist John M. Logsdon has suggested, "one of the last major political acts of the Cold War. The Moon Project was chosen to symbolize U.S. strength in the head-to-head global competition with the Soviet Union."18

Lyndon Johnson probably understood these circumstances very well, and for the next two weeks his Space Council diligently considered, among other possibilities, a lunar landing before the Soviets. As early as 22 April, NASA's Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden had responded to a request for information from the National Aeronautics and Space Council about a Moon program by writing that there was "a chance for the U.S. to be the first to land a man on the moon and return him to earth if a determined national effort is made." He added that the earliest this feat could be accomplished was 1967, but that to do so would cost about $33 billion dollars, a figure $10 billion more than the whole projected NASA budget for the next ten years.19 A week later Wernher von Braun, director of NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Alabama, and head of the big booster program needed for the lunar effort, responded to a similar request for information from Johnson. He told the vice president that "we have a sporting chance of sending a 3-man crew around the moon ahead of the Soviets" and "an excellent chance of beating the Soviets to the first landing of a crew on the moon (including return capability, of course.)" He added that "with an all-out crash program" the U.S. could achieve a landing by 1967 or 1968.20

After gaining these technical opinions, Johnson began to poll political leaders for their sense of the propriety of committing the nation to an accelerated space program with Project Apollo as its centerpiece. He brought in Senators Robert Kerr (D-OK) and Styles Bridges (R-NH) and spoke with several Representatives to ascertain if they were willing to support an accelerated space program. While only a few were hesitant, Robert Kerr worked to allay their concerns. He called on James Webb, who had worked for his business conglomerate during the 1950s, to give him a straight answer about the project's feasibility. Kerr told his congressional colleagues that Webb was enthusiastic about the program and "that if Jim Webb says we can a land a man on the moon and bring him safely home, then it can be done." This endorsement secured considerable political support for the lunar project. Johnson also met with several businessmen and representatives from the aerospace industry and other government agencies to ascertain the consensus of support for a new space initiative. Most of them also expressed support.21

Air Force General Bernard A. Schriever, commander of the Air Force Systems Command that developed new technologies, expressed the sentiment of many people by suggesting that an accelerated lunar landing effort "would put a focus on our space program." He believed it was important for the U.S. to build international prestige and that the return was more than worth the price to be paid.22 Secretary of State Dean Rusk, a member of the Space Council, was also a supporter of the initiative because of the Soviet Union's image in the world. He wrote to the Senate Space Committee a little later that "We must respond to their conditions; otherwise we risk a basic misunderstanding on the part of the uncommitted countries, the Soviet Union, and possibly our allies concerning the direction in which power is moving and where long-term advantage lies."23 It was clear early in these deliberations that Johnson was in favor of an expanded space program in general and a maximum effort to land an astronaut on the Moon. Whenever he heard reservations Johnson used his forceful personality to persuade. "Now," he asked, "would you rather have us be a second-rate nation or should we spend a little money?"24

In an interim report to the president on 28 April 1961, Johnson concluded that "The U.S. can, if it will, firm up its objectives and employ its resources with a reasonable chance of attaining world leadership in space during this decade," and recommended committing the nation to a lunar landing.25 In this exercise Johnson had built, as Kennedy had wanted, a strong justification for undertaking Project Apollo but he had also moved on to develop a greater consensus for the objective among key government and business leaders.

Tags: clooney, disney, jfk, mars wars, moon president, nasa, paperclip, peenemunde, pinball wizard, roger, soderbergh, the good german, v-2 rocket, wallace shawn, wern­her von braun

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