Perhaps no one in history has played the role of scientist as celebrity with as much skill—and as much deception—as Wernher von Braun. America's leading rocket expert and most enthusiastic advocate of space travel, he had a closet full of secrets that would have shocked his colleagues and millions of admirers if they had been told during his lifetime. Wernher von Braun:The Man Who Sold the Moon is the first critical biography of the young German aristocrat who created Hitler's most advanced terror weapon, the V-2 rocket, and who came to the U.S. under the Army's Project Paperclip to develop missiles as a central weapon of the Cold War.
The book reveals that factions of the U.S. Army, in their zeal to have von Braun's team of scientists working for American interests, covered up what they knew about his complicity in Nazi causes and abetted him in the perpetuation of the myth he carefully created about his past. Declassified Army documents and war crime transcripts, as well as the discovery of Europe of Dora concentration camp survivors' accounts, and von Braun's published writings and personal papers, have enabled biographer Dennis Piszkiewicz to document von Braun's career more fully than any previous historian.
The man who tirelessly promoted space travel, worked with NASA to collaborate with Walt Disney creating television programs and the Tomorrowland section of Disneyland, and put the first astronauts on the moon, was actually a member of the Nazi party, held a rank in the SS equivalent to that of Major, and was an accomplice in the use of slave labor from the Dora concentration camp to produce his V-2 rocket. When the Third Reich collapsed, von Braun unashamedly switched his allegiance to the victor, and adroitly distanced himself from his Nazi partners. By going on to promote NASA and sell the American people on his dreams of space exploration, he became the man who sold the moon—a man who began his brilliant career by selling his soul to the Nazis.
- Title : Wernher von Braun:The Man Who Sold the Moon
- ISBN-13: 9780275962173
- Author: Dennis Piszkiewicz
- Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
- Publication date: 11/28/1998
Rocket scientist Wernher von Braun (1912-77)--who helped develop the U.S. missile arsenal during the Cold War, built rockets for NASA, helped put astronauts on the moon and designed Disney's Tomorrowland--was a major in the Nazi SS and one of Hitler's elite. Designer of Germany's V-2 rocket, which killed thousands of British civilians during WWII, von Braun supervised the rocket's construction at the Nazis' Mittelwerk factory, which used slave labor from the nearby Dora concentration camp. This gripping, well-documented biography shatters von Braun's claim that he never witnessed maltreatment of prisoners--a claim buttressed by the U.S. Army in its attempts to cover up von Braun's Nazi record to facilitate his entry into the U.S. Space historian Piszkiewicz (The Nazi Rocketeers) synthesizes available bits of information that prove von Braun's complicity.
SS Major von Braun made at least one "official visit of inspection" to Dora in 1944 and participated in a Nazi administrative meeting at Mittelwerk to discuss bringing in a thousand French civilians as slave laborers; over 700 of them later died there. Moreover, in a letter to Mittelwerk's production manager, von Braun tells how he himself went to the notorious Buchenwald camp to arrange for the transport of more prisoners to Mittelwerk. Von Braun, who became a U.S. citizen in 1955, was a national hero to many and prophet of the space age. Including a history of the U.S.-Soviet space race, this biography makes a convincing case that he was also a war criminal, his past sanitized for expediency. The book may provoke moral outrage and a reassessment of the history of America's space program, launched with the help of 118 German rocket scientists brought here from Hitler's Third Reich. (Nov.)
Meet the Author
Dennis Piszkiewicz has been an enthusiast of space exploration since his childhood in the 1950s. He has taught college-level chemistry and biochemistry and has been the recipient of a NASA fellowship. His interest in the history of science and technology inspired him to write The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crimes of War (1995) and From Nazi Test Pilot to Hitler's Bunker: The Fantastic Flights of Hanna Reitsch (1997), both published by Praeger.