May 4, 2013 - The Constantine Report    
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading

Shiro Ishii, the Other Doctor Mengele

This is a modified py-6 that occupies the entire horizontal space of its parent.

Among the unremarkable apartment blocks of Ping Fan, an unremarkable suburb of Harbin, sits an unremarkable low brick building, muted against the snow. This is 731. The base of Unit 731, home to some of the worst atrocities in this part of China during World War II, a place where men, women, babies and children were infected with hideous diseases then dissected – alive, and without anaesthetic, because either mercy killing or anaesthesia might affect the state of the organs the doctors wanted to inspect.

The doctors, scientists and soldiers at Unit 731 froze people alive, limb by limb, allowing frostbite to develop, then gangrene, amputating the gangrenous section of the limb, then repeating the process with the living stump, and moving onto the next limb, until all that remained of the victim was a head and torso.

On the waste not, want not principle, they’d then inject the traumatised, limbless victim with bubonic plague, and dissect them alive to track its progress.

At Unit 731 doctors watched as a mother in a gas chamber threw herself over the body of her baby to try and save him, and took careful notes as human beings were compressed in a pressure chamber until their eyes popped from their skulls.

You’ve heard of Josef Mengele.

But you’ve probably never heard of Shiro Ishii, a medical doctor, a distinguished professor, a genius microbiologist with a photographic memory, a decorated soldier, a Lieutenant-General in the Imperial Japanese Army, and the man behind Unit 731.

Emperor Hirohito, the father of Japan’s current emperor, Emperor of Japan both during World War II and until his death in 1989, established Ishii’s unit by Royal Decree, met him at least twice and almost certainly monitored his progress carefully.

Every nation has its own perspectives on the war that shaped and defined the last century.

In England, World War II is a heroic solo battle against Hitler’s armies as an isolated island; in the US, it’s a gallant and voluntary intervention to save Europeans from their own problems. In both nations, there’s a firm and erroneous belief that, while the Red Army engaged in mass rape in Berlin, our own troops didn’t.

In Russia, the focus is on the Great Patriotic War, a war in defence of the motherland that started in 1941. In China, it’s the People’s War Against Japanese Aggression, and it started in 1937 – although Japan occupied this part of China in 1931, and installed a puppet government led by the “Last Emperor”, Pu Yi.

In Japan… Well, the Japanese government didn’t acknowledge Unit 731′s activities until a scant few years ago, and has never paid compensation or contributed to the chemical weapons clean-up. Many Japanese nationalists deny wartime atrocities and pay tribute to convicted war criminals at a sacred shrine: the current Prime Minister Abe has repeatedly hinted that he will do likewise.

Ishii swore his staff to silence. Many of his team went onto stellar careers in pharmaceuticals and even medicine after the war. A bare handful of the men who worked at Unit 731 have expressed their deep regret for the things they did; others have said they’d do the same again.

It’s a surprisingly muted place, Unit 731. In a time of rhetoric between a nationalist Japan and a resurgent China, of competition over oil and islands, the tone is calm, almost dry.

Sombre galleries explore the beginning of Japan’s chemical and biological weapons programme, “inspired”, so to speak, by the trenches of World War I, lay out maps of facilities, recreate scenes in muted silver sculptures, lay out rooms of instruments salvaged from the site.

The focus, here, is on Chinese suffering. No mention of the Russians and Mongolians who died, of the American POWs deliberately infected with disease at Mukden: the names of the dead recorded here are all Chinese.

When the Japanese retreated from Manchuria, they blew up as many of these bases as they could. But not all.

And the world knew. The Russians knew. The Chinese knew. Truman knew.

So, in a world where even the men behind S-21 have finally gone to trial, why have most of us never heard of Shiro Ishii?

In Ishii’s world, the Japanese military code dictated death rather than surrender, the Emperor was a living god and, thanks to the same sense of racial superiority that helped dehumanise 731′s victims to the degree that the men who mutilated and murdered them referred to them as “logs”, Japan could not lose the war.

So when Hirohito surrendered, Ishii was so distraught that he experienced what seems to have been a nervous breakdown.

Not that that stopped him bringing his data back to Japan, hiding it, then faking his own death – until the US caught up with him in 1946.

Ishii’s crimes were not the issue. A war crimes trial would have put the fruit of his labours on open view. And, unlike Mengele’s torture-murders, Ishii’s had genuine value: they had produced a treatment for frostbite, a series of vaccines and, what was of most interest to his captors, the foundations of a world class biological weapons programme.

And, as the US had only started its biological weapons programme in 1942, the military was desperate for Ishii’s data. So Ishii negotiated immunity from prosecution for himself and every one of his subordinates in exchange for the painstakingly detailed notes of every single murder they had committed, for photos of the diseased organs of vivisected children, for records of the most effective systems for delivering both chemical and biological weapons.

And, of course, they got it. As well, apparently, as money, gifts and “entertainment”.

Which is why you’re unlikely to have heard of Shiro Ishii.

The man who had overseen the live dissections of infants and pregnant women without anaesthetic, who had killed tens of thousands with bubonic plague and typhoid, lived peacefully in Tokyo until 1959 on his army pension.

Scandal Quashes Councilman’s Re-Election Bid

By Chris Bragg

Crain’s Insider, May 1, 2013

Battered by a corruption scandal, Queens Councilman Dan Halloran announced on Wednesday that he would not run for re-election so he can tend to the federal case against him.

“Regrettably, I must now focus my attention on clearing my name and restoring my reputation, while I continue to discharge my sworn duties as a member of the New York City Council,” Mr. Halloran said, in a statement. “After much thought, I have concluded that it is impossible for me to properly do these things and take on the enormous demands of a political campaign, so I will not pursue another term in the council.”

Mr. Halloran, a first-term Republican, is facing federal charges of quarterbacking an elaborate bribery scheme to allow Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith to run in the Republican mayoral primary. The councilman, who has pleaded not guilty, did not return a phone call seeking further comment. In recent days, Mr. Halloran has also faced tabloids media reports of affairs with a female former staffer and a former intern, which the Council Speaker Christine Quinn has said the body would investigate.

The move was hailed by contenders for the northeast Queens seat. One of the Democratic candidates, Austin Shafran, said residents of the district “deserve a full-time councilman who is focused on working for the people of Queens, not his own legal defense.” Another, Paul Vallone, said residents “deserve representation they can be proud of.” Several other Democrats and Republicans are eying the seat, which is in a district that is conservative by New York City standards. Queens Republican leaders had already decided to back a different candidate, Dennis Saffran, given Mr. Halloran’s legal troubles.

Mr. Halloran is one of the City Council’s most colorful members. A free-market libertarian and trial attorney serving on a liberal body, he is known to voraciously challenge witnesses at hearings. He also attracted widespread attention in 2009 for his pagan religious beliefs, and tabloid coverage in 2010 for chasing after a traffic agent who had ticketed his vehicle. In December 2010 he said some city sanitation workers intentionally responded slowly to a blizzard, a charge that was not substantiated. In his statement Wednesday, Mr. Halloran predicted he would be exonerated.

Also see:Traffic agent defamed by disgraced Councilman Dan Halloran wins $20,000 from city

Oct. 26, 2009 Village Voice article on Dan Halloran’s religious beliefs:

GRAND OL’ PAGAN: What Does the Republican ‘Heathen’ Running for New York’s City Council Actually Believe?

Conservative. Republican. Pagan?

It was an odd news story that briefly upended what should have been a sleepy City Council race in Bayside: the Queens Tribune reported that a conservative Republican was running a strong race in the 19th district and had a chance to win in the overwhelmingly Democratic city. But this was a conservative Republican with a difference: Dan Halloran is the spiritual leader of a local pagan group that worships Norse gods.

Although the Tribune‘s story had no hint of derision for Halloran’s religious affiliation, the newspaper was immediately attacked for its perceived ties to Halloran’s Democratic opponent. Other publications were quick to defend the Republican lawyer, some sounding offended that a candidate’s religion, however unusual, should become a news story during an election.

But Halloran’s beliefs are newsworthy. As far as we can tell, he has a chance to become the first pagan elected to political office in the country’s history. (He is certainly the first major party candidate approaching an election with his pagan beliefs already made public.) And while pagans have been growing in numbers for decades, the word “pagan” usually conjures nature-worshippers with interests in faeries and magick. What is a conservative Republican doing with the goddess crowd?

In fact, Halloran and his fellow travelers are more properly thought of as “heathens,” not pagans, and the tribal customs they ascribe to are heavy on hierarchy and tradition.

As the Tribune first pointed out, Halloran is “First Atheling,” or prince, of a Germanic neo-heathenist “theod” or tribe. State records show that he incorporated the group in 2002 with the official name of “New Normannii Reik of Theodish Belief.”

Colloquially, Halloran’s followers refer to their tribe as “New Normandy,” with a territory that incorporates New York City and parts of New Jersey (some of Halloran’s Pennsylvania tribesmen recently broke away — with his blessing — to form their own group, which they call “Arfstoll Thjod“).

After talking with several members of the local theods and looking at what Halloran and others have written, the Germanic neo-heathenism of New Normandy appears to be an inclusive, family-friendly pursuit. Local members enjoy researching history, dressing up, and trying as much as possible to live within the customs and beliefs that one might find in 12th century pagan Denmark while actually living and working in 21st century New York.

But there’s also a darker side to the heathenism movement in America. Festering in the country’s prisons, white supremacists who call themselves heathens and Odinists (after the chief Norse deity Odin), have for decades preached hate and carried out violence in the name of Norse and Germanic mythic figures — who also inspired Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. Hate watchdogs like the Southern Poverty Law Center have long warned about the rise of heathen prison gangs.

Halloran’s friends repeatedly assured the Voice that New Normandy has no ties to the white supremacists who practice Odinism.

Halloran himself turned down numerous requests to talk about his beliefs or the group that he leads.

Lou Sancio and Joseph Bloch were more forthcoming. The two have been involved with New York-area heathen groups for the past two decades, including Halloran’s New Normandy. Recently, Sancio was released from his oath to Halloran so that he could form the eastern Pennsylvania group, Arfstoll Thjod. He was the best man at Halloran’s wedding, and has been his friend for more than 20 years. Bloch, another member of the new tribe, has written numerous texts on heathenry.

“Heathenry is the worship of the pre-Christian gods of Northern Europe: Odin, Thor, Freya, the Norse gods,” Bloch says. Theodish heathenism, he explains, puts a great emphasis on rediscovering forgotten traditions. It shares many traits with the larger “Asatru” heathen movement, which worships Norse and Icelandic gods.

It was at Asatru meetings that Sancio first joined Halloran in heathen ritual, getting together in parks, usually in street clothes. “A lot of groups will do that. People passing by wouldn’t necessarily know that the group they were seeing was pagan,” he says.

When Halloran founded New Normandy seven years ago, he was looking for something much more formal and traditional. Sancio describes it as “definitely on the historically accurate end of the spectrum.”

Sancio says period clothing was “always an optional thing,” but that it’s “a good way to separate yourself from everyday life.” He compares it to “getting dressed to go to church. You see ladies in hats they’d never wear to work. You see guys who drive trucks for a living wearing suits.”

Dressed in tunics and cloaks, the oath-holders of New Normandy perform rituals, which sometimes includes animal sacrifice.

Sancio and Bloch say that the ritual of “blot” can involve sacrificing a valued object, but sometimes it involves killing an animal. Bloch stresses that this happens only “on very rare occasions, and when it’s done, it’s done by someone who knows what they’re doing.” Bloch likens it to Kosher or Halal butchering. The animal — usually a lamb, pig or chicken — is subsequently roasted and consumed. Bloch calls it “a kind of sacral barbecue.”

“It is not about getting drunk,” says Bloch. “That is discouraged… When you hold the horn, it has a mystical significance.” During sumbel, heathens will boast, or make a declaration, of a goal — with dire consequences from the gods for failure.

Halloran’s Normans usually gather at places owned by members in Long Island, in the Hudson Valley, and in New Jersey. Some years, they meet for a weeklong retreat at a campground. “Getting together isn’t solely about rituals,” says Sancio, “it’s also social.” Members participate in historically accurate pastimes, like sword fighting, archery and a bocci-like game called “koob.”

Newcomers to Halloran’s “reik” — an alternate spelling for “reich,” or territory — are considered “thralls.” The word literally translates as “slave,” and Sancio acknowledges that it’s an “unfortunate” word, and one he didn’t want to find himself defending.

Sancio describes theodish thralldom as “a period of learning, and enculturation. It’s not abusive.” Bloch says that thralls “learn humility” and engage in “menial chores, like washing the dishes.” It’s a chance, Bloch says, for the newcomer to make sure the group is a good fit. Every thrall has a mentor, and Halloran was Sancio’s during his introduction to New Normandy. The strict hierarchy has theological consequences: the group believes that “luck” falls from the Gods to their representative, Halloran, who passes it on to those who have sworn oaths to him.

Sancio dismissed white supremacists who follow the same Germanic deities. “It doesn’t affect what we do,” he says. “Our group, every Theodist group, has no prohibition [on race]…we have had members who are fully or partially African-American, Asian folks. Me, I’m Italian. Most white supremacists wouldn’t even consider me white!”

In American prisons, however, heathenism is becoming an especially effective recruiting tool.

In the 1990s, Neopaganism replaced Christian Identity as the prevailing religion among white supremacists, according to University of Stockholm religion scholar Mattias Gardell. In an interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Gardell describes how white supremacists had a break “with Christianity — which they see as unnatural, a religion that hails defeat and weakness and is symbolized by a crucified loser.” Increasingly, white nationalism in the country’s prisons is formed around heathen groups that tattoo themselves heavily with symbols of Norse and Germanic worship.

Perhaps the most notorious racist among Odinists was Robert Mathews, founder of The Order, a white nationalist group that killed Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg in 1984. Mathews was killed later that year in a fire at his home during a gunfight with federal agents.

Frank Wilson, a retired Deputy of Intelligence for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, says that he watched out for new Odinist groups at institutions because most people trying to start them “were white supremacists, and were willing to use it for nefarious reasons.” Still, he cautions that Odinism does not necessarily denote white nationalist fervor. “You can’t point to a tattoo and say ‘you’re a white supremacist,’ or point to it and say ‘you’re an Odinist,'” he says.

But even some pagan advocates express trepidation about white nationalist elements in neo-heathenism. Selena Fox is the founder of Circle Sanctuary, a major theological institution of neo-paganism in America. She successfully led a multi-year effort to force the Pentagon to allow a pentagram to be placed on the headstone of a Wiccan solider killed in Iraq as a matter of religious freedom. She is multi-racial herself, and hates to fuel suspicion of heathen white supremacy. Still, she acknowledges the difficulties facing a religion that some practitioners define, quite literally, as drawing its power from race. “There are some paths of Asatru that focus on ethnic heritage,” says Fox. “When does that focus on ethnic heritage become part of celebrating roots, and when does it become racist?”

Mark Weitzman, director of the Task Force Against Hate at Simon Wiesenthal Center, tells the Voice he’s concerned about the Odinist element and is actively watching it. “The term ‘ethnic pride’ is a code phrase by a lot of these guys,” Weitzman says, while noting that it doesn’t apply to everyone practicing heathen faiths.

Margot Adler, NPR New York bureau chief and author of Drawing Down the Moon, a popular pagan guide, notes that there’s a generational shift happening in paganism. “Politically, pagans are all over the map,” she says. But she points out that there’s a big difference between pagans who came to the religion through the pacifist and feminist movements of the 1970s, and newer people honoring the gods of war and fire and who are into, as Adler puts it, “making their own chain mail, jousting, and a whole warrior culture.”

“Many heathens,” she says, “don’t even consider themselves pagans.” In her book, she notes that some groups are “clearly using Odinist symbols and mythologies as a front for right-wing and even Nazi activities.”

Donald Meinshausen, a Libertarian heathen, says he joined a racialist heathen group when he went to prison for drug distribution. “I had been a pagan for a long time,” he says, “But I hadn’t come to Asatru until I came to prison.”

The Asatru tribe he found there “was for whites only, and I said, ‘I’m OK with that, but I don’t want to hear any hate talk. For your own good, you shouldn’t do that. For our own safety, we shouldn’t do that. We’re here to do research on our roots and on our own spirituality, not to put anyone else down.'” He says the others respected his caveat.

Meinshausen, who doesn’t consider himself racist, says he can “remember when I lived in New York City, and there were dyke bars that if you were a guy, you couldn’t walk in. So, they have their own club, and that’s OK. And I am sure there are organizations reserved for African Americans, people of African descent. And let’s say there was an Italian American Association, they probably wouldn’t let you join, unless you were Italian or had taught Italian somewhere. Unless I hear something different, that’s how I assume [Asatru racialists] are.”

Rob Taylor, who calls himself “the web’s most popular Bi-racial Republican pagan,” says that the connection between heathenism and racism has been overblown. “It’s an urban myth among pagans that all Odinists are white nationalists,” he says. And who started the myth? Taylor says it’s the Wiccans.

“Wiccans and re-constructionist pagan religions engage in infighting,” he says, charging “Wicca is just smearing the competition.” Taylor initially came to paganism as a teenager via Wicca, but the young Reaganite soon turned to Odinism. Odinism’s rules and order appealed to his conservative nature, while Wicca he now describes as a “fraud” and “a leftist thing — not just Democrat, but far left politically. Theodism and heathenism are more conservative.”

In New York City, there’s an organization whose goal, in part, is to unite local pagans of all types. And according to the Queens Tribune, the New York City Pagan Pride Project’s legal counsel and incorporating attorney just happens to be Dan Halloran.

But when the Voice called the Project to ask about Halloran running for office, spokeswoman Star Ravenhawk (a witch), says she had never heard of him. And she added: “I don’t necessarily consider heathens to be pagans.”

Ravenhawk was also surprised to hear that Halloran is a Republican. “Most of us are Democrats,” she said, adding that “To be a pagan, you have to have faith in a higher power.” She doubted that heathens shared that sentiment.

But Halloran hasn’t left any doubt on that score. After the Tribune story revealed his heathenism, he answered with an article in the Queens Chronicle, titled “I Believe in God.” That use of the singular noun, however, didn’t sit well with pagan bloggers, who reacted with scorn for Halloran’s refusal to use the words “gods.” Pandering to Roman Catholic voters, some called it.

The blowback was so strong, Halloran responded with an e-mail to one of the blogs (after repeatedly telling the Voice that questions about his religion had no bearing on his candidacy). Halloran pledged his allegiance to the one-handed Germanic deity Tiw (also spelled Tyr). He also avowed “respect of the Gods of the North and the Wights of Middenyard,” and declared that he’s such a proud heathen, his two cars bear personalized license plates that read “Tiw Tru” and “Tyr Tru.”

The original Tribune article has rankled Halloran from the time it was published. His campaign has charged that the Tribune is published by the same people who own Multi-Media, a PR firm that his Democratic opponent, Kevin Kim, retained for $80,000. Kim doesn’t dispute this: “My relationship is with Multi-Media. That relationship has been fully disclosed. You’ll have to ask the Tribune about their editorial decisions.”

Pagan or not, Halloran still looks like a tailor-made candidate for the Bayside district. He’s Irish, a former cop turned lawyer, and he descends from a long line of Roman Catholic police officers. Kim, a Korean-American, is better financed, but much of Kim’s support comes from outside the 19th district, which is not overwhelmingly Asian.

Last week, things heated up again when Kim’s campaign filed a police report alleging that two Asian campaign workers had been harassed by Halloran supporters while they were putting up posters. They claim that the duo was surrounded by about a dozen white teens, carrying Halloran paraphernalia and chanting “White Power!” and “Asian Man Out!”

Halloran doesn’t believe a word of it. “They said it happened at 3:30 in the afternoon, but there were no witnesses?” Halloran told the Voice at a recent campaign stop. Halloran accuses Kim of trying to create religious and racial divides where they don’t exist. But again, he didn’t bring up his own religious beliefs.

Next week, one candidate will make history in Bayside. If Halloran is defeated, Kim will be the first Korean-American elected to New York’s city council.

Or, if Halloran wins, he will surely be the only elected official in America with special license plates honoring an ancient, one-handed German god.

Photo: Wernher von Braun not only created the infamous V-2 rocket, but also was behind the Saturn V [NASA]

Amy Shira Teitel has an academic background in the history of science and now works as a freelance science writer specialising in spaceflight history. She maintains her own blog, Vintage Space, and contributes regularly to Discovery News, Scientific American, Motherboard, DVICE.

On Thursday, September 20, 1945, Wernher von Braun arrived at Fort Strong. The small military site on the northern tip of Boston Harbour’s Long Island was the processing point for Project Paperclip, the government programme under which hundreds of German scientists were brought into America. Von Braun filled out his paperwork that day as the inventor of the Nazi V-2 rocket, a member of the Nazi party, and a member of the SS who could be linked to the deaths of thousands of concentration camp prisoners. Two and a half decades later on Wednesday, July 16, 1969, von Braun stood in the firing room at Kennedy Spaceflight Centre and watched another of his rockets, the Saturn V, take the Apollo 11 crew to the Moon.

That he was responsible for both the deadly Nazi V-2 and NASA’s majestic Saturn V makes Wernher von Braun a controversial historical figure. Some hold that his participation in the Nazi war effort necessitates classifying him as a villain. But while his actions during the Second World War were monstrous, he wasn’t motivated by some inherent evil or personal belief in Nazi ideology. Von Braun was motivated by his childhood obsession with spaceflight, a somewhat uncritical patriotism, and a naive grasp of the ramifications of his actions in creating one of the War’s deadliest weapons. How can we treat someone who brought technological triumph to two nations, in one case as a purveyor of death and destruction and in the other a bringer of wonder and inspiration?

The von Brauns

Wernher von Braun’s lineage can be traced back to the Junkers, a social class of nobles that dominated the Prussian military officer corps, the landowning elite, and offices of civil service in the 19th and early 20th centuries. High social standing was inherited or acquired through marriage, a legacy that typically gave Junkers a narrow and self-interested world view. Von Braun’s father Magnus was a civil servant, a career that ensured the family had a certain quality of life. Raised in this privileged environment with a sense of his Junker heritage shaped von Braun at an early age into a proud and sometimes arrogant young man.

Wernher von Braun’s love affair with space, which was at odds with his upbringing, began when his mother Emmy gave him a telescope for his thirteenth birthday. Looking up at the Moon and the stars, he was seized with a desire to travel into space; launching rockets and landing spacecraft, men, and possibly himself on the Moon became his life’s goal. He devoured books about space travel and worked out mission plans of his own.

This obsession with spaceflight took a toll on his academics, as von Braun only applied himself to the subjects that would help him launch rockets. He excelled beyond his professors in maths and physics, eventually teaching classes and tutoring his peers. His grades in other courses, meanwhile, were largely satisfactory. Nevertheless, he was skipped ahead halfway through the twelfth grade to graduate high school a year early.

Rocketry, opportunity, and the Second World War

It was around this time that von Braun got his first hands-on experience with rockets as a member of the Verein fur Raumschiffahrt (VfR), an amateur rocket society. The VfR’s activities caught the German Army’s attention, and when a group of officers went to watch a launch in the spring of 1932, it was von Braun who stood out. Army Ordnance officer Walter Dornberger saw promise in the young engineer and offered him the opportunity to develop his rockets and explore their possible military applications on the Army’s dime. Von Braun accepted Dornberger’s offer and began his doctoral work in physics and engineering at the University of Berlin later that year.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power. Still deeply engaged in his doctoral work, von Braun was only partially aware of the nationwide changes brought about by this new leadership. He was only 21 and by his own admission (albeit later in life) apolitical and somewhat disinterested in the world around him. He was patriotic, but rockets were his main concern.

Von Braun finished his dissertation in 1934. Titled “Design, Theoretical and Experimental Contributions to the Problem of the Liquid Fuel Rocket“, its contents were deemed so important to the future of Germany’s military that it was hidden under a new title, “Regarding Combustion Experiments”, and transferred to the Army Ordnance’s custody. Von Braun was just 22. Not long after, he began working for the Army on a variety of rocket programmes, among them the ballistic missile the Nazi Propaganda Ministry would eventually call Vergeltungswaffe-Zwei, Vengeance Weapon 2 or V-2.

The Army increased funding for the V-2 programme throughout the 1930s. By the time the War broke out in 1939, von Braun was running a sizable operation at a dedicated rocket facility at Peenemunde. Sitting on the northern German island of Usedom, Peenemunde afforded von Braun’s team the space to build, test, and launch their rockets harmlessly into the Baltic Sea.

But the V-2s that were launched towards London beginning in 1944 weren’t built at Peenemunde. These rockets were built in underground factories near the central German town of Nordhausen – most famously at Mittelwerk, where construction was done by prisoners from the nearby Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp. Over 60,000 prisoners lived, worked, and died in the damp underground tunnels at Mittelwerk. Some succumbed to disease and malnutrition. Some were worked to death. Others were hanged publicly in group executions. The death rate rose so high that crematoriums became a necessity.

Von Braun visited Mittelwerk at least once; he was given a tour of the facility by SS guards in late 1943 when prisoners were still excavating tunnels. But just how this and any subsequent trips affected the young rocketeer is open to speculation. There are no records of von Braun planning or overseeing operations at Mittelwerk, even from a distance. It’s possible that his boyhood disinterest in politics helped him either ignore or repress what he knew about Mittelwerk, or perhaps he was able to justify the deplorable conditions in his rockets’ factory as a necessity of war. Years later, in America, von Braun called the V-2 his contribution to Germany’s wartime arsenal. It was what any citizen was expected to do.

During his tenure developing the V-2, von Braun joined the Nazi party and became a member of the SS. He also held on to his dream of landing men on the Moon. One night in early March of 1944, he drank too much at a party and spoke too freely in what he thought was just casual conversation. He told fellow party goers that he foresaw the war ending badly for Germany and added that all he’d ever wanted to do with his rockets was launch them into space. It was an admission akin to treason, which was a crime punishable by death. Von Braun was arrested weeks later, and while he was never incarcerated, it was his first indication that he wouldn’t be safe in his home country when the war ended.

Von Braun was attracted by the opportunities America promised and suspected that the US military would support his continued research in rocketry. He had already decided that he wanted to surrender to and build rockets for America when he heard that Hitler was dead on May 1, 1945. Hiding with his fellow rocket engineers in Bavaria at the time, von Braun elected an emissary from the group, his younger brother Magnus, to go, find and surrender to American soldiers. Magnus did. By nightfall on May 2, Wernher von Braun was in the hands of American soldiers and within months the US government made him the offer he’d hoped for: military funding to develop an Americanised version of the V-2.

Finding fame in America

After working in relative obscurity in New Mexico for four years, von Braun and other former Peenemunders brought overseas under Project Paperclip were moved to the US Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. On March 22, 1952, von Braun introduced the American public to his vision of space exploration in the pages of Collier’s Magazine. In a series of articles published over two years, he described how men would live and work in huge doughnut-shaped orbital space stations before setting off on missions to the Moon. He imagined spacecraft launching and gliding back to Earth daily. And he described, in detail, the rockets he would build to launch such missions. Americans met the man behind this compelling future on March 9, 1955 when von Braun appeared in the first episode of Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland TV series. Viewers saw von Braun’s vision come to life with stunning animation.

Von Braun brought the same vision to NASA when the agency absorbed his rocket group in 1960. Throughout the decade, he was pictured shaking hands with presidents, smiling with astronauts, and posing in front of the massive rockets that would launch them into space. And while NASA’s path to the Moon ultimately deviated from von Braun’s vision, he nevertheless achieved his boyhood dream in 1969.

Whatever celebrity von Braun achieve in America, it couldn’t erase his Nazi past. But in the same way he covered or ignored his association with Mittelwerk, American leaders and administrators suppressed or deliberately misrepresented his past and emphasised his contributions to the nation’s space programme and space exploration generally. He wasn’t ostracised as an ex-Nazi; he was celebrated as the creator of the Saturn V.

Times of war

The circumstances surrounding von Braun’s two greatest rocket triumphs were very different. The V-2 was built by prison labour and launched as an offensive weapon while the Saturn V was built by American aviation companies and launched with manned spacecraft to the Moon. But there’s nevertheless a strong parallel: both rockets were built and launched in times of war. In both cases, von Braun followed the money and developed the technology he could to defeat an enemy, Allied soldiers in Europe and the Soviet Union in space. In neither case did he undertake his work for strong ideological reasons. He had no apparent moral quandary or crisis of conscience aligning himself with the Nazi party in the 1930s, nor did he labour over the decision to turn his back on his homeland and immigrate to America in 1945. The constant thread running through von Braun’s life during both wars is his fixation on spaceflight.

The legacy von Braun has left behind will always be split between those who classify him as a villain and those who classify him as a visionary. Both might be true. He certainly exploited horrifying means to pursue his goals, but was unquestionably one of the most influential rocket engineers and spaceflight visionaries of the 20th century.

Since the late 1980s, ritual sexual abuse has largely disappeared from Utah’s headlines, despite the occasional, hard-to-substantiate stories.

I spent months listening on-and-off to the stories of numerous women of varying ages who talked of extraordinarily violent and disturbing abuse they had suffered as children in Utah and neighboring states and with which, through psychological counseling, they were attempting to come to terms. In each case, however, evidence to support their often heart-rending claims was very difficult to come by.

A new book, Twenty Two Faces: Inside the Extraordinary Life of Jenny Hill and Her Twenty-two Multiple Personalities, by retired Saratoga Springs-based psychiatrist Judy Byington, tells the story of Hill, who, according to Byinton, was the victim of sexual assaults by both her father and by neighborhood boys. Hill told Byington that on June 21, 1965, in Garden Grove, Calif., she was tortured on an altar and forced to watch the murder of a 6-year-old by a satanic coven, only to be saved by the intervention of an  angel.  

Subsequently, Hill was subjected to mind-control experiments that resulted, Byington says, in Hill having 22 personalities. Hill moved to Utah County and ended up spending a year in the Utah State Hospital under the care of Weston Whatcott between 1984 and 1985. In a press release by the book’s publisher, Whatcott acknowledges that Hill’s multiple personalities were a result of childhood trauma, “namely, repeated sexual assaults coupled with ritual abuse.”

Byington says Hill “really wanted her story told.”  Byington drew on journals Hill and some of her other personalities kept from when she was 5 to 24. “We could all be multiple personalities if we have gone through all the trauma that these people have gone through,” Byington says. “Children under tremendous torture, their minds can separate into different personalities.”

Hill went to the FBI looking for the parents of the child she had seen killed, Byington says. While an FBI agent who looked at Hill’s medical records told Byington that there was confirmation that horrendous torture had occurred, “he wouldn’t open up a case for her.”

Byington has also investigated local satanic covens in Utah, she says, and talked to a special-investigations unit at the Utah Attorney General’s office in 2006 on ritual abuse cases. “It’s still very much of a problem,” Byington says. “These covens are very active and it’s very difficult to prove what’s going on.”

Twenty Two Faces is published by Tate Publishing, which specializes, Byington says, in spiritual books.