on 15 February 2010
Despite one famous Britsh comentator stating in print that he believes Wernher Von Braun's assurances that he was unaware of slave labour being used in the V2 prgram, this book confirms my long held suspicions that all was not good in Von Braunn's background. He joined the Nazi party before WW2 broke out, not in 1940 as he stated. Not only was he in the SS, he was of relatively high rank (Major). He must at the least have "known" what was going on - he was a very senior manager in the Peenemunde project from it's start until the Nazi capitulation. Von Braun's title of "Professor" was granted by Hitler himself. One French former inmate of the Dora concentration camp is also quoted in the book of being brutally assaulted by Von Braun personally. An innocent bystander he certainly was not. His claim that he was "really only interested in space travel" is exposed as a sham, and given the number of people driven forcibly to death building the V2, it is a monstrous sham.
The book also shows how after the war the US Government turned a very blind eye to the Nazi activities of Von Braun and his boss, General Walter Dornberger. And not just the US government; at least one British learned institution honoured Von Braun in the early 1950s. The book makes clear how Von Brauns charisma, flare for self promotion and showmanship allowed him to exploit not only Hitler and Himmler but also three US Presidents.
Having said that, I found the book difficult to read for one overpowering reason, that is that the footnotes, instead of being more conevntionally simply referring to sources, are in numerous instances whole tracts of texts, often stretching to half a page. A lot of this should be in the main text which would both make the main text more readable and the footnotes easier to use.
I also found the book's sub-title somewhat misleading: "Wernher Von Brown, the Third Reich, and the Space Race". The first two topics are covered in detail but I felt that the third topic was not dealt with nearly as well. Although the book makes clear the US government turned a blind eye, it doesn't make clear that the whole of Operation Paperclip (the project to import the German scientists to the US) was based on flagrant disregard of US immigration law. It also fails to identify the individuals responsible for this (it certainly can't have been just one person), and those reponsible for the continued disinformation in the 1950s and 1960s, although a couple of the photo captions hint at this.
Despite these criticisms, I value this book, and most of what you need to know is there provided you are prepared to dig for it.
Gordon B Dennis