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Australia Chance to Catch Nazis’ ‘Perverted Science’

Alex Constantine - September 12, 2012

Canberra Times, September 13, 2012

A German Enzian Anti-Aircraft Missile in the Australian War Memorial collection  at the Treloar Technology Centre.  The AWM will be having an open day at the  Treloar Technology Centre. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Visitors to this Sunday's ''Big Things In Store'' exhibition at the  Australian War Memorial's Mitchell storage facility will be able to get up close  and personal with the mother of all surface-to-air missiles.

Although dwarfed by the nearby V-2 rocket, the AWM's Enzian anti-aircraft  missile is one of the rarest products of what Winston Churchill called the  Nazis' ''perverted science'' to have survived the war.

Only two of the rocket-powered missiles, which were designed to break up  American daylight bomber formations over Germany, are known to exist.

Materials shortages and developmental delays meant they were never used in  action.

With last year's ''Big Things In Store'' cancelled at the last minute due to  the Mitchell fire, Sunday's event is the first opportunity for the public to see  the AWM's big treasures since 2010. New additions include a Commonwealth  Aircraft Corporation Sabre jet fighter, albeit with American markings, and an  Iroquois helicopter.

The AWM's senior curator for military technology, John White, says the  Australian Enzian, which was studied by Australian and British scientists at  Woomera in the post-war years, is one of the cornerstones of the memorial's  world-class collection of Nazi super weapons.

The Mitchell facility also houses two of the first  ''smart bombs'', the  Fritz-X and Henschel HS 293. The Henschel, a late-build example of a weapon  credited with destroying or seriously damaging at least 30 Allied ships, is a  prototype featuring guide-wire technology.

Mr White said the Enzian, which carried a 300-kilogram warhead and was  intended to reach Allied bomber formations in the shortest possible time, was a  triumph of design and improvisation.

While its main engine, infra-red proximity fuse and booster rockets  represented the very cutting edge of technology, they were housed in a  lightweight casing screwed and glued together out of bits of scrap timber and  then planed down into an aerodynamic shape.

''The intent was to use as few vital war materials as possible,'' Mr White  said.

The AWM's full house of German ''wonder weapons'' is completed by three items  housed in the main memorial complex. They include a V-1 flying bomb or ''doodle  bug'', a Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter and the incredibly rare Me 163 ''Komet''  rocket plane which donated a lot of its DNA to the Enzian.

A manned aircraft, the Me 163 was capable of almost 1000km/h and could reach  altitudes of more 12,000 metres within minutes of takeoff.

Mr White says while the German wonder weapons were, in some ways, remarkable  achievements they had a dark and shameful history that robbed them of any  special glamour or allure.

The AWM's V-2, for example, was put together by slave labourers working under  the shadow of death in an underground factory, Camp Dora Mittelbau, near  Nordhausen in central Germany.

It is believed almost half of the 60,000 slave labourers used at the facility  were either beaten or starved to death.

''Many more people were killed building the V-2 than the weapon itself  actually killed,'' Mr White said.

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