Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 06-03-2019, 08:44 AM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,115

Was Wernher von Braun a major in the SS?


I was watching a show on the Science Channel last night that attempts to take on and debunk the Moon landings CT narrative. It was a fairly interesting show, though I think I could do as good a job at debunking most of that stuff off the top of my head. At any rate, during the show they sort of went on a tangent to look into a fairly convoluted branch of one of the CT narratives and, doing so, made an assertion that there was (or is, I wasn't sure) clear evidence that Wernher von Braun was not only a Nazi (I knew he was in the party) but an officer in the SS (an SS Major is what was claimed), and possibly a war criminal. In fact, they were claiming that many of the German rocket scientists used in the early US rocket program were Nazi's, SS members and war criminals, and that NASA covered this all up (this is to demonstrate that NASA can and has covered up ugly stuff in the past for their own ends).

I did a quick Google search, but either my Google-Fu is weak today or I'm not using the right search terms, as I get a lot of stuff about von Braun talking to this SS officer or that one, but nothing about him being an SS major or war criminal. I don't recall the person relating all of this, but she was an older woman who worked for CNN in the past as one of their top reporters (I haven't tried to look her up, just going by memory here) and she broke the story in the 90's, but no idea what level of evidence there is or how conclusive. Figured I'd ask here.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
  #2  
Old 06-03-2019, 09:14 AM
friedo's Avatar
friedo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 24,328
Wernher von Braun was indeed a member of the Allgemeine SS. He was pressured into joining by associates of Himmler, who wanted to get political operatives inside the German rocket program. There is no evidence that he actually participated in SS activities in any meaningful way, and I haven't seen anything credible to suggest he was a war criminal.

ETA: He did get promoted to the rank of Stormbanfuhrer (spelled wrong I am sure) which would be roughly equivalent to a Major.

Last edited by friedo; 06-03-2019 at 09:16 AM.
  #3  
Old 06-03-2019, 09:21 AM
Novelty Bobble is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: South East England
Posts: 8,686
I think it would be impossible for Von Braun not to be a Nazi and it is a certainty that his weapons programs made use of slave labour.

Enthusiastic nazi support, SS activity and actual brutality by him or on his orders seems to be less certain. Though nothing about high-ranking German officials of that era would be surprising.
__________________
I'm saving this space for the first good insult hurled my way
  #4  
Old 06-03-2019, 09:24 AM
naita is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Norway
Posts: 6,524
Quote:
Originally Posted by XT View Post
I did a quick Google search, but either my Google-Fu is weak today or I'm not using the right search terms.
If you're just looking for basic info about public figures of the past, Wikipedia is your friend:
Wernher von Braun, subsection: Membership in the Allgemeine SS
  #5  
Old 06-03-2019, 09:34 AM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,115
Thanks all. I knew he was in the NAZI party...as Novelty Bobble said, it would have been impossible for him to have risen as far or gotten as involved in the rocket program if he hadn't. I hadn't heard about him being an SS officer though, or this thing about war crimes. Though, obviously, if Jewish slave labor was used in the rocket production he was overseeing, this was almost certainly where the war crime part comes in. I doubt it was NASA covering things up (not much of a cover up, since I did know a lot of this already), but the US government when they brought the German scientists over to get our own rocket program, er, off the ground so to speak.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
  #6  
Old 06-03-2019, 10:00 AM
spifflog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 2,430
I concur. There was a lot of hand waving going on post WWII between the US and the Soviet Union. Clearly von Braun used slave labor to build his rockets and he knew it.
  #7  
Old 06-03-2019, 11:01 AM
Novelty Bobble is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: South East England
Posts: 8,686
Quote:
Originally Posted by spifflog View Post
I concur. There was a lot of hand waving going on post WWII between the US and the Soviet Union. Clearly von Braun used slave labor to build his rockets and he knew it.
Yeah, I'm not sure there were many major German engineering initiatives in the war era that wouldn't have used slave labour where it was practical to do so.
I've no doubt that the USA or Russian powers would seek to whitewash the reputations of those German assets they gave sanctuary to.
__________________
I'm saving this space for the first good insult hurled my way
  #8  
Old 06-03-2019, 11:27 AM
Isosleepy's Avatar
Isosleepy is offline
Friend of Cecil
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 1,598
Von Braun visited Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp (which was a significant component of his supply chain) at least twice. It would have been impossible for him not to notice the conditions, which were atrocious even by late WWII German camp standards. (Death rate over 33%, possibly much higher-for starters). Despite that, he was ( according to testimony) involved in discussions on enslaving more workers to add to the camp. For that alone, he is a war criminal. He wasn’t some reluctant SS member. He had bought in.
  #9  
Old 06-03-2019, 11:34 AM
Isosleepy's Avatar
Isosleepy is offline
Friend of Cecil
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 1,598
It is fairly easily verifiable that Nazis were employed and their past laundered by all allied parties after the war, but especially the USSR and the US. As conspiracy theories go, it is much like a ct about a congressman driving a car off a bridge and just going home instead of calling police - we know it happened. Some CT go overboard on specific persons involved, or the extent of the white-washing program. And it is exactly zero proof of faking a moon landing. It’s comparing apples and usb drives.
  #10  
Old 06-03-2019, 11:37 AM
ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: The land of the mouse
Posts: 49,777
No doubt about any of that. But if you want to condemn him for playing along, you do have to explain what else he could have done without getting hauled out and shot. Not many who resisted the Nazis lived to tell about it. And, you do have to look at what else he did than just play along, and there just wasn't anything significant.

He also arranged, along with the bulk of his team, to surrender to the Americans instead of the Russians or British, because they'd be more able to pursue rocketry there. That was what mattered to him. Was that a character flaw? Maybe, but he survived and thrived because of it.
  #11  
Old 06-03-2019, 12:40 PM
Isosleepy's Avatar
Isosleepy is offline
Friend of Cecil
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 1,598
Many Germans who didn’t actively participate in slave labor, target group persecution or extermination were not shot. There were Wehrmacht and even SS personnel refusing KZ and Sondergruppen duty, without being shot. Actively resisting was dangerous, sure, but not demanding more people people be enslaved in atrocious circumstances and frankly unproductive set-ups - that isn’t actively resisting.
  #12  
Old 06-03-2019, 12:49 PM
KarlGauss's Avatar
KarlGauss is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between pole and tropic
Posts: 8,177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Isosleepy View Post
Many Germans who didn’t actively participate in slave labor, target group persecution or extermination were not shot. There were Wehrmacht and even SS personnel refusing KZ and Sondergruppen duty, without being shot. Actively resisting was dangerous, sure, but not demanding more people people be enslaved in atrocious circumstances and frankly unproductive set-ups - that isn’t actively resisting.
Beyond all this, he actively and enthusiastically built weapons whose primary purpose was to cause terror to civilian populations. An overriding, but thankfully unfulfilled goal of the Nazi rocket program, was to develop ICBMs to terrorize the people of the US mainland.

Von Braun knew exactly what was going on yet still chose to help. He is a criminal. Even Heisenberg, plausibly, tried to thwart Hitler's most egregious plans.
  #13  
Old 06-03-2019, 01:04 PM
bonzer is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: NW5
Posts: 3,180
In 1943 he wanted to get married (in the event, the engagement fell through). As an SS officer he had to get permission from the SS Race and Settlement Office. His application forms survive and there's a photo of the covering letter to Himmler in Michael Neufeld's thorough Von Braun (Knopf, 2007). It's signed by him and clearly states his rank at the time as Hauptsturmfűhrer.

(Neufeld generally goes though the whole matter in exhaustive detail.)
  #14  
Old 06-03-2019, 01:21 PM
nightshadea is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: a condo in hell 10th lvl
Posts: 5,358
there is a "top secrets of ww2" type of episode that used to show on discovery and the history channel on him

von Braun was a rocketry geek who didn't give much of a damn about the outside world and pretty much thought anyone who wasn't Werner von Braun were drooling idiots and played along with who and whatever could get him what he needed to make his beloved rockets and theories work

and he sort of used an extortion tactic over the locations of the useable rockets to totally get pardoned by the allies .... not that they wanted to he just made agreements where they had to
to get the locations of the rockets before the Russians did

a few people he worked with even claimed he was sheltered to the point of he didn't know they were being used to kill people cause no one bothered to tell him .......at that point hed not been outside of a lab in 2 years .......all he knew was some had reached london.......
  #15  
Old 06-03-2019, 01:27 PM
Isosleepy's Avatar
Isosleepy is offline
Friend of Cecil
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 1,598
Haubtsturmführer is captain-equivalent, but iirc he continued to be promoted, ending up at Major-equivalent. He joined the SS twice- first time in ‘33 or ‘34 iirc, and a second time in ‘40. He claimed it was a formality, and that he never wore the uniform. Then a picture showed up with him in uniform (and with Himmler, for extra fun) - but, you see, amazingly, that time that picture was taken, that was the only time he ever wore the uniform. So not lying about that or his entire Nazi history. By the way, Nazi is used here in the strictest sense - he became a party member in ‘37. That was by no means some sort of requirement: many people in the military and defense industry never joined and had no negative consequences. He was a Nazi, SS member and war criminal. It is a stain on America’s history that he became critical in the space program.

Last edited by Isosleepy; 06-03-2019 at 01:29 PM.
  #16  
Old 06-03-2019, 03:14 PM
md2000 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 14,814
YEs, recall that when the USA invaded Iraq they cleverly banned all Bath party members from participating in the occupation government or civil service. This plan was not well-thought out, since apparently anyone wanting to get anywhere in the civil service had to be a member of the party, so essentially the removed from participating in the government and the civil service anyone with any real experience - which did not help the outcome. This is not much different than the Soviets or the Nazis - if you declined to join the party, you were suspect. von Braun was involved in a major weapons program in the middle of a major war, he was in fact a key part of the team and one of the leaders - it would be surprising if he was not co-opted into the armed forces in some way. If he had declined to join the party, he would have been relegated to some other task, not his beloved rocketry. If he expressed reservations about how the fatherland was making its way to victory, he would have been suspect; if he expressed any concern about the working conditions of the "subhuman" prisoners - Jews, Slavs, Romany, communists and other dissidents - he certainly would have been labelled a troublemaker .

he did what he did to get his beloved rockets made. Unsurprisingly, when there's a weapons application, resources appear to make things happen. Technically he was guilty of war crimes, as was anyone overseeing an enterprise using slave camp labour. From what I understand, unlike say, Schindler, he was not in any position to dictate any details of the working conditions, nor the selection of workers, nor the resources such as food available to the workers... And if he walked away from the project, and got himself best case drafted and sent to the Eastern Front, the rocket program would go on...
  #17  
Old 06-03-2019, 05:02 PM
Kent Clark's Avatar
Kent Clark is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 26,190
Quote:
Originally Posted by spifflog View Post
I concur. There was a lot of hand waving going on post WWII between the US and the Soviet Union. Clearly von Braun used slave labor to build his rockets and he knew it.
Indeed. The U.S. got von Braun and the USSR got Helmut Grottup.
  #18  
Old 06-03-2019, 05:19 PM
Marvin the Martian is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Phoenix, AZ, USA
Posts: 1,209
Quote:
Originally Posted by nightshadea View Post
von Braun was a rocketry geek who didn't give much of a damn about the outside world and pretty much thought anyone who wasn't Werner von Braun were drooling idiots and played along with who and whatever could get him what he needed to make his beloved rockets and theories work
"Once the rockets go up,
Who cares where they come down.
That's not my department
Says Wernher von Braun."
  #19  
Old 06-03-2019, 05:24 PM
Chronos's Avatar
Chronos is offline
Charter Member
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 83,796
He most certainly could have done otherwise. He could have defected, like most of Germany's scientists.

He wasn't the worst of the Nazis, not by a long shot. But "not the worst of the Nazis" isn't saying much.
  #20  
Old 06-03-2019, 05:32 PM
Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 28,022
Quote:
Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
Beyond all this, he actively and enthusiastically built weapons whose primary purpose was to cause terror to civilian populations. An overriding, but thankfully unfulfilled goal of the Nazi rocket program, was to develop ICBMs to terrorize the people of the US mainland.

Von Braun knew exactly what was going on yet still chose to help. He is a criminal. Even Heisenberg, plausibly, tried to thwart Hitler's most egregious plans.
There's a difference between engaging in war crimes and building terrible weapons of war. Von Braun may have been a criminal because of the use of slave labor, but not for his building of 'terror weapons'. Every country in the war built 'terror weapons', and the U.S. built the most terrifying of all. If Von Braun was guilty because he built the V-2, then what were the scientists on the Manhattan Project guilty of?

Building weapons, even terrible ones, is a legitimate activity in warfare. Von Braun bears no guilt for that at all. The other stuff, perhaps.
  #21  
Old 06-03-2019, 05:44 PM
KarlGauss's Avatar
KarlGauss is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between pole and tropic
Posts: 8,177
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone View Post
There's a difference between engaging in war crimes and building terrible weapons of war. Von Braun may have been a criminal because of the use of slave labor, but not for his building of 'terror weapons'. Every country in the war built 'terror weapons', and the U.S. built the most terrifying of all. If Von Braun was guilty because he built the V-2, then what were the scientists on the Manhattan Project guilty of?

Building weapons, even terrible ones, is a legitimate activity in warfare. Von Braun bears no guilt for that at all. The other stuff, perhaps.
That is a fair argument.

Still, and correct me if I'm wrong, even though 'both sides' built them, Nazi Germany under Hitler was the first to use them against civilian populations as such a fundamental strategy. Guernica, Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, and only then did the Brits start pounding Berlin.

You may say that the British would have gone after Berlin sooner had they been able, so I view Guernica as an important case, demonstrating the avowed Nazi-German military policy of terror bombing of civilians even when to be done unilaterally. Hitler went so far as to provide pilots and Stukas to do the job for the Nationalists.

Last edited by KarlGauss; 06-03-2019 at 05:45 PM.
  #22  
Old 06-03-2019, 06:13 PM
Gray Ghost is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 4,008
Quote:
Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
That is a fair argument.

Still, and correct me if I'm wrong, even though 'both sides' built them, Nazi Germany under Hitler was the first to use them against civilian populations as such a fundamental strategy. Guernica, Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, and only then did the Brits start pounding Berlin....
It was a matter of capability for the British, rather than desire. The British had no problems bombing recalcitrant villages in Iraq for days on end, during the 1920s-30s period. Probably would have used them against the Boer too, had they had them. Concentration camps would have to suffice. IMHO, Sam's in the right here.

Unless we're also going to throw the B-29 leaders, people who came up with things like Operation Meetinghouse, in the same jail.

For the OP, my feelings on WvB are summed up by the informative posts by isosleepy. WvB could not but have known how hideous the conditions were in Dora. Just from looking at the continuing manpower requirements, ("Didn't we just get 5,000 workers last week? Well, where did they go?") However his knowledge was essential to the missile race vs the Soviets, and WvB cannily played those cards to his advantage. Similarly to how the fiends in Unit 731 were handled.

Last edited by Gray Ghost; 06-03-2019 at 06:18 PM.
  #23  
Old 06-03-2019, 06:14 PM
Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 28,022
Quote:
Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
That is a fair argument.

Still, and correct me if I'm wrong, even though 'both sides' built them, Nazi Germany under Hitler was the first to use them against civilian populations as such a fundamental strategy. Guernica, Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, and only then did the Brits start pounding Berlin.

You may say that the British would have gone after Berlin sooner had they been able, so I view Guernica as an important case, demonstrating the avowed Nazi-German military policy of terror bombing of civilians even when to be done unilaterally. Hitler went so far as to provide pilots and Stukas to do the job for the Nationalists.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying the use of terror weapons is always okay, but the responsibility for their use lies with the people who ordered the missions, not the people who built the weapons.

Some have argued (with reasonable justification) that 'Bomber' Harris committed war crimes by ordering the firebombing of civilian populations. But even if that was a war crime, we don't hold the designer of the Avro Lancaster responsible for that.

The V-2 could have been used for other purposes than bombing civilian populations, but in any event by the time it was being used civilian populations were already being bombed by pretty much every side. The V-1 was more effective at it as well.
  #24  
Old 06-03-2019, 06:20 PM
bonzer is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: NW5
Posts: 3,180
Quote:
Originally Posted by bonzer View Post
In 1943 he wanted to get married (in the event, the engagement fell through). As an SS officer he had to get permission from the SS Race and Settlement Office. His application forms survive and there's a photo of the covering letter to Himmler in Michael Neufeld's thorough Von Braun (Knopf, 2007). It's signed by him and clearly states his rank at the time as Hauptsturmfűhrer.

(Neufeld generally goes though the whole matter in exhaustive detail.)
And to follow up my own post, a poke through Bode and Kaiser Building Hitler's Missiles (Christoph Links, 2008, p35) reveals that they reproduce the front page of the SS membership file opened on him in 1940.
  #25  
Old 06-03-2019, 08:00 PM
Melbourne is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 5,101
Quote:
Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
You may say that the British would have gone after Berlin sooner had they been able, so I view Guernica as an important case, demonstrating
Yes, the Germans and the English and the Americans attempted strategic bombing. Only the Americans had any kind of success (in Japan), which I've always thought contributed to the importance of strategic bombing doctrine in the USA post-war.

I know it's a minority opinion, but I've never accepted that Guernica demonstrated anything. All through WWII, the Germans, English, and Americans demonstrated as inability to do accurately targeted bombing (the English accurately hit wide area targets: the Americans targeted specific targets and hit wide areas). The German pilots involved in Guernica claimed that they missed their target: yes, they would say that, but at that stage of technology it seems more credible than the alternative, that they actually hit what they were aiming at.
  #26  
Old 06-03-2019, 08:05 PM
Wendell Wagner is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Greenbelt, Maryland
Posts: 14,323
It was well known throughout the American space program that Von Braun headed the rocket research program for the Nazis. Tom Lehrer wrote a song in 1964 or 1965 about him. That makes pretty much the same point as people are making in this thread.
  #27  
Old 06-03-2019, 09:14 PM
Kent Clark's Avatar
Kent Clark is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 26,190
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
It was well known throughout the American space program that Von Braun headed the rocket research program for the Nazis. Tom Lehrer wrote a song in 1964 or 1965 about him. That makes pretty much the same point as people are making in this thread.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin the Martian View Post
"Once the rockets go up,
Who cares where they come down.
That's not my department
Says Wernher von Braun."
Shame on you Marvin the Martian for assuming everyone on the SDMB knew the lyrics to every Tom Leher song by heart.

Instead of just the 94% of us who do.
  #28  
Old 06-03-2019, 10:09 PM
Isosleepy's Avatar
Isosleepy is offline
Friend of Cecil
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 1,598
Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
the Nazis - if you declined to join the party, you were suspect.
No one was forced to join the NSDAP, and best I know no one was asked, either. It was a privilege, which brought many benefits. A privilege which you had to ask for.
The notion that he had to join is incorrect. He chose to.
And of course he had reasons to condone, benefit from and increase terrible slave-labor projects. Because most everything is done for a reason. Certain things are nearly impossible to justify - the german slave-labor camp system certainly is. Wanting to make rockets fly doesn’t come anywhere near justifying it.

Jeffrey Dahmer killed people and cut them up. His reason was that he felt like it.

Anyway, the notion that von Braun (and a lot of others) did certain things because they had to, had no choice, would’ve endangered themselves if they hadn’t - is incorrect. And we need to keep saying this, explaining this. Because if those notions become too accepted, it just gets that much easier for repeats to happen.
  #29  
Old 06-04-2019, 07:54 AM
Hypno-Toad is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: By the Caloosahatchee
Posts: 11,775
Coincidentally, my sister told me a few days ago that one of her coworkers at NASA uses Von Brauns old desk. Snatched it up before the space center could claim it. I asked her if it smelled like political expediency.
__________________
This is my signature. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
  #30  
Old 06-04-2019, 08:16 AM
ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: The land of the mouse
Posts: 49,777
Quote:
Originally Posted by Isosleepy View Post
The notion that he had to join is incorrect.
Remember that his motivation was rocketry. Do you think he could have accomplished what he did if he weren't on good terms with the power structure that controlled all the resources anybody needed? Or if he hadn't used slave labor, like every other industry in Germany did?

Quote:
Wanting to make rockets fly doesn’t come anywhere near justifying it.
What do you think his options were?

Yes, he went along, but who can honestly say they wouldn't have done so too?
  #31  
Old 06-04-2019, 08:20 AM
spifflog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 2,430
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
Remember that his motivation was rocketry. Do you think he could have accomplished what he did if he weren't on good terms with the power structure that controlled all the resources anybody needed? Or if he hadn't used slave labor, like every other industry in Germany did?

What do you think his options were?

Yes, he went along, but who can honestly say they wouldn't have done so too?
Goodness. We've now reached a point where people are saying "I had a cool job, so of course I used slaved labor. Who the hell wouldn't have??"

Yep. We're a log way from the holocaust.

Last edited by spifflog; 06-04-2019 at 08:23 AM.
  #32  
Old 06-04-2019, 08:29 AM
ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: The land of the mouse
Posts: 49,777
No, not exactly. The question is "How do you know what you would have done?"
  #33  
Old 06-04-2019, 08:59 AM
Chronos's Avatar
Chronos is offline
Charter Member
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 83,796
If he'd defected, then the US or UK or someone else would probably still have paid him to launch rockets. Defection wouldn't have been much of a risk to his precious. But he couldn't abide the notion of any risk at all, even at the cost of slave labor and London being pancaked.
  #34  
Old 06-04-2019, 09:00 AM
spifflog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 2,430
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
No, not exactly. The question is "How do you know what you would have done?"
You're moving the goals posts. Your earlier post was much more flip.

I'm not a hero, nor am I'm a crazy tough guy. But I wouldn't have used slave labor, that was partial there to use people up and kill them, to further my career goals, no.
  #35  
Old 06-04-2019, 09:15 AM
ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: The land of the mouse
Posts: 49,777
No goal posts are moved. What I had thought was a common understanding turns out not to be one, though.

You say what you wouldn't have done, but the question remains, "How do you know?"
  #36  
Old 06-04-2019, 09:20 AM
spifflog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 2,430
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
No goal posts are moved. What I had thought was a common understanding turns out not to be one, though.

You say what you wouldn't have done, but the question remains, "How do you know?"
Whatever gets you through the night.
  #37  
Old 06-04-2019, 09:23 AM
ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: The land of the mouse
Posts: 49,777
So you don't know. I didn't think so. Not many people do.
  #38  
Old 06-04-2019, 09:44 AM
spifflog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 2,430
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
So you don't know. I didn't think so. Not many people do.
Ohh Bullshit. You know what I said - I wrote whatever gets you through the night ElvisL1ves. I do know what I would have done, I wouldn't have done it as I stated. Nice try.

Von Braun wasn't some uneducated 19 year old, with a gun to his head, with his family one step from a concentration camp if he said no. Von Braun was a educated playboy who the Nazis needed and wanted. There is ample evidence of people who said 'no' to the regime and were somewhat cast aside and allowed to live peacefully. He chose not to do that and instead used slave labor, some who were killed in the process
  #39  
Old 06-04-2019, 10:07 AM
Nava is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 41,869
Quote:
Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
That is a fair argument.

Still, and correct me if I'm wrong, even though 'both sides' built them, Nazi Germany under Hitler was the first to use them against civilian populations as such a fundamental strategy. Guernica, Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, and only then did the Brits start pounding Berlin.
If we count biological weapons as "weapons of terror", throwing corpses over city walls is a bit older than Mein Kampf.
__________________
Evidence gathered through the use of science is easily dismissed through the use of idiocy. - Czarcasm.
  #40  
Old 06-04-2019, 01:27 PM
Isosleepy's Avatar
Isosleepy is offline
Friend of Cecil
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Pittsburgh
Posts: 1,598
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
No, not exactly. The question is "How do you know what you would have done?"
That wasn’t the question. The question was: was he an ss major. He was. The op further talks about being possibly a war criminal. He certainly was.

Now, to answer your newly-introduced, goal-post-moving question: I cannot possibly know what I would have done, because no one can know what they would do in a counter-factual situation. Woops! Got me! Except of course not.

Again: He didn’t have to join the SS. Either of both times. Not joining would not have exposed him to mortal danger. It could have impacted his career negatively if he hadn’t, but not his safety.
Same for joining the NSDAP. No danger in not joining, other than to career.
Using slave labor is bad enough. Using it while being aware of the murderous conditions under which it occurs makes him doubly the war-criminal. But what must certainly carry it beyond any conceivable line is him asking for more of it.

The idea that the goal, of making rockets fly, partly or wholly justified any of this is repugnant. The notion that anyone would do this to further a career is gobsmackingly vile.
  #41  
Old 06-04-2019, 03:07 PM
Hypno-Toad is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: By the Caloosahatchee
Posts: 11,775
The common portrayal of the situation is that WvB had to join the NSDAP or face dire consequences at worst or merely not be able to work on rockets at the least. This is how his apologists seem to remember it. But from what I understand, he actively sought out the Nazis for what they could do for him. He wanted to develop rockets he didn't hesitate to cozy up to the Devil to further his goals. Young Werner was just one of many promising young scientists trying to work on their fields. There was nothing special about him to make the Nazis court him. But he went out of his way to court the Nazis. Whether or not he liked their policies or was horrified by the use of slave labor, he still joined the Nazis for his own desires.
__________________
This is my signature. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
  #42  
Old 06-04-2019, 09:20 PM
yo han go's Avatar
yo han go is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Europe
Posts: 349
Do we have consensus then. Average Nazi (even by rank and deeds, but still Nazi), who got a second chance, to put Americans on ze Moon? Not so black and white, eh. Controversial for sure.

Generation or so before him, another German guy by name Fritz Haber had very similar problem.

Basically, do means justify goals? Sometimes.
  #43  
Old 06-05-2019, 09:36 AM
joema is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 593
This topic was thoroughly covered in the book "Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun", by Bob Ward. Both sides of the viewpoint are evenly presented and extensively referenced.

While Von Braun is commonly depicted as "head of Germany's V2 program", in fact he was a twenty-something whiz kid who was solely head of the R&D program in Peenemünde, not the manufacturing facility hundreds of miles away in Mittelwerk.

When visiting the Mittelwerk facility to check on quality control of the final V-2 product, he observed the slave laborers' primitive living conditions. This appalled him but he had no authority over that. These events are all referenced and corroborated from multiple sources in the book.

He knew that workers were being treated inhumanely. He appealed to his superiors -- not on moral grounds which he knew was useless -- but arguing this would cause high failure rates in the V-2. This did no good.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DKMWMZ6
  #44  
Old 06-05-2019, 09:44 AM
Dana Scully is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Dizzyland
Posts: 243
You should listen to Tim Lehrer's song about Werner Von Braun; entertaining and informative.

"Once the rockets are up,
who cares where they come down?
That's not my department"
Says Werner von Braun"

(imagine this sung with a German accent)

By the way, was he from a military family? that "von" is an honorific that makes me think he was.

Last edited by Dana Scully; 06-05-2019 at 09:44 AM.
  #45  
Old 06-05-2019, 10:15 AM
md2000 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 14,814
As some wag pointed out here: his autobiography was titled "I Aim For The Stars" and should have been subtitled "But Sometimes I Hit London".


But, the big question in any such regime, including the Nazis, is - how important was it to career advancement to join the ruling party organization if you wanted to advance beyond a front-line desk job in your place of employ? I assume the Nazis like the Soviet communists had political officers in assorted organizations, and certainly expressing any negative feelings about the party, government, or ideology would stall a career except perhaps unless the person were extremely talented. Did they need to join? Where is related information on that aspect?

Last edited by md2000; 06-05-2019 at 10:19 AM.
  #46  
Old 06-05-2019, 11:23 AM
spifflog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 2,430
Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
. . . But, the big question in any such regime, including the Nazis, is - how important was it to career advancement to join the ruling party organization if you wanted to advance beyond a front-line desk job in your place of employ? I assume the Nazis like the Soviet communists had political officers in assorted organizations, and certainly expressing any negative feelings about the party, government, or ideology would stall a career except perhaps unless the person were extremely talented. Did they need to join? Where is related information on that aspect?
I think you paint yourself into the same corner that ElvisL1ves did when you posed that question that way. You asked:

- How important was it to career advancement to join the ruling party?
- Would not joining stall his career?
- Did they need to join?

You are both asking this question vis-a-vis his career. You are both asking, if he pushed back against slave labor, torture, killing and brutality would his career suffered? As if there is a potential answer to that question that would have been acceptable in allowing him to be a party to these brutalities if his career would have taken a hit. Is that really what you are considering? Would you starve to death a few hundred employees if you'd become a VP in your company?

The much more difficult question you could have asked, which neither of you did, would have been if he lived in North Korea and he and his entire family would have been tortured to death. Or if his nation was under the threat of a totalitarian regime that would have subjugated he and his nation to a potential lifetime of torture and cruelty. Those would have been harder questions to tackle.

But when you both look to balance the treatment of slave labor on the one hand with career advancement on the other, the experiment is frankly disgusting.
  #47  
Old 06-05-2019, 11:41 AM
ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: The land of the mouse
Posts: 49,777
So you too don't really know what you would have done, either.
  #48  
Old 06-05-2019, 11:58 AM
Chronos's Avatar
Chronos is offline
Charter Member
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 83,796
Nobody knows what they would have done unless they've actually been in that situation. That doesn't mean we don't know what we should do, and it's not what von Braun did.
  #49  
Old 06-05-2019, 12:07 PM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 3,283
A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience...

You too may be a big hero
Once you've learned to count backwards to zero.
  #50  
Old 06-05-2019, 02:25 PM
md2000 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 14,814
Quote:
Originally Posted by spifflog View Post
I think you paint yourself into the same corner that ElvisL1ves did when you posed that question that way. You asked:

- How important was it to career advancement to join the ruling party?
- Would not joining stall his career?
- Did they need to join?

You are both asking this question vis-a-vis his career. You are both asking, if he pushed back against slave labor, torture, killing and brutality would his career suffered? As if there is a potential answer to that question that would have been acceptable in allowing him to be a party to these brutalities if his career would have taken a hit. Is that really what you are considering? Would you starve to death a few hundred employees if you'd become a VP in your company?

The much more difficult question you could have asked, which neither of you did, would have been if he lived in North Korea and he and his entire family would have been tortured to death. Or if his nation was under the threat of a totalitarian regime that would have subjugated he and his nation to a potential lifetime of torture and cruelty. Those would have been harder questions to tackle.

But when you both look to balance the treatment of slave labor on the one hand with career advancement on the other, the experiment is frankly disgusting.
Well, it's two things...

Would his career suffer?
Would his life suffer?

Or basically, how much enthusiasm did someone have to show or feign to succeed, or to avoid repercussions to their life and safety?

I remember reading what some people wrote about talking to Russian scientists in the days before glasnost. While others like Solzhenitsyn were making the news, one fellow mentioned that fellow physicists told him - "We don't have to enthusiastically follow the party line, we don't even have to worry about expressing our true opinions to our friends; we just have to avoid going public and embarrassing the regime."

There are degrees of totalitarianism. Anyone who remembers the hype about the Patriot Act or invading Iraq can appreciate that the intensity is higher in times of war.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:57 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017