Werhner Von Braun’s Other, Uncelebrated Role in Cold War History
Translation: “Wernher von Braun: el controvertido genio tras la hazaña del alunizaje,” Ciencia, 20.07.2009
Forty years after landing on the Moon, the name remembered more than any other, aside from Neil Armstrong, is German Wernher von Braun, the “rocket man”. But the genius that shot man to the moon had a dark past.
Wernher Freiherr von Braun is one of the more enigmatic German figures of the 20th Century. His work for the Nazis practically continued in the same form for the Americans. Under Nazi rule, constructing deadly rockets; under NASA, constructing rockets that took Americans to the moon.
The life of the so-called “rocket man” provokes as much condemnation as fascination. Von Braun was never one to restrain his scientific impetus, whether in a dictatorship or a democracy. His life has been treated from diverse angles in literature, cinema and history: he is seen as the “brain” behind Nazi military plans to attack distant countries with his rockets. Others see him as a brilliant and true world-wide pioneer in the conquest of space.
Pain and Destruction in European Cities
His past as a Nazi always followed Wernher von Braun. After his death in 1977, amazing images of Wernher reappeared, and not only for aerospace insiders: photos of V2 rockets that demolished British houses in London and the city Belgian of Antwerp. These images related to Von Braun and Nazi barbarism. There are historical documents that show the languid corpses of workers at the underground factories and laboratories in Dora, the concentration camp for forced works where Wernher von Braun constructed the precursor of the rockets that went to the moon: the V2. Von Braun always denied personal responsibility for Nazi crimes.
Abused Genius or Unscrupulous Opportunist?
Detractors also see in Von Braun the genius who exploited war. With rocketry, the era of the nuclear weapons, the Cold War, acquired another dimension. Rockets do more than fly to the moon. Von Braun’s detractors do not lose of sight of the “unscrupulous opportunist” to whom presumably nothing mattered but constructing a rocket that, although capable of taking a man to the moon, could also exterminate millions of people. …