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THE NAZI ROCKETEERS by Dennis Piszkiewicz

THE NAZI ROCKETEERS

Dreams of Space and Crimes of War

By Dennis Piszkiewicz

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-275-95217-7
Publisher: Praeger

 Medical-products scientist Piszkiewicz tells how the dream of space exploration was perverted by the complicity of its developers in Nazi military goals. It is a sickening story, and after reading it, you will no longer laugh at that old joke in which Werner von Braun says: ``I aimed for the starsbut I hit London.'' Hitting London was the least of it. In the course of a decade's work as the inspirational figure and chief engineer in the program that developed rockets for Hitler, von Braun joined the SS, was promoted to major, and regularly curried favor with SS chief Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the Holocaust. In the final years of the war, construction of the rockets was carried out by slave laborers in two giant underground facilities, which were comanaged by SS General Hans Kammler, the architect who built Auschwitz, and by Arthur Rudolf, von Braun's right-hand man, who decades later would manage development of the Saturn V rocket that carried the first men to the moon. Conditions were appalling at the underground factories, which, by the author's estimate, von Braun must have visited at least 25 or 30 times. Thousands died of starvation and abuse, and mass executions were common. Yet at war's end von Braun and his colleagues thought only of how they might trade in on their skills to guarantee good treatment. They managed to continue their work in America virtually without interruption. This is not in its essentials a new story. Rudolf was exposed as a war criminal in the late 1970s and was deported from the United States; von Braun's record was there for anybody who wanted to take an honest look at it, although not many did. Piszkiewicz does. And while his style of presentation is clumsy and unsophisticated, this is nonetheless a gripping tale.