Factory of Death
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN GERMANY
MITTELWERK was, some claim, the largest underground factory in the world. Located in the Harz Mountains of Germany, some 160 miles [260 km] southwest of Berlin, the factory complex wove its way through 10 miles [20 km] of huge galleries dug into the base of a hill. From 1943 to 1945, thousands of concentration camp inmates worked as slaves in these galleries. Under horrific conditions, they were forced to make weapons for the Nazi State.
What the slave laborers made were not just any weapons. The factory produced missiles known as V-1 and V-2 rockets. These were transported from Mittelwerk to launching sites, chiefly in France and the Netherlands. Once launched, they flew unmanned toward targets in Belgium, Britain, and France, where they dropped out of the sky and exploded on impact. The Nazis even hoped to develop a rocket so powerful that it could fly a bomb across the Atlantic Ocean to New York. By the time the second world war ended, many hundreds of V-1 and V-2 missiles had hit European cities. However, those represented but a fraction of the missiles the Nazis had made and hoped to deploy against their enemies. None of the missiles ever reached New York.
Once the war was over, dozens of German scientists and technicians who had designed the V-1 and V-2 missiles left Germany. They took with them their expertise in rocket technology, which they put to use in their new home countries. One such rocket scientist was Wernher von Braun. He moved to the United States, where he helped to develop the Saturn rocket that took man to the moon.
Today, directly next to the former Mittelwerk factory, a concentration camp monument stands in remembrance of the 60,000 people who were incarcerated there. Many of the inmates not only worked in the cold, damp galleries but lived in them as well. Small wonder that according to some estimates, up to 20,000 inmates perished. Visitors to the memorial museum can take a guided tour of the galleries, the floors of which are still littered with rocket parts abandoned there about 60 years ago. The magazine After the Battle awards the Mittelwerk missiles a poignant distinction: “The V1 and V2 are the only weapons which cost more lives in production than in deployment.”
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1945 photo showing V-1 rockets on trolleys
Quelle: Dokumentationsstelle Mittelbau-Dora
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Visitors tour the galleries, the floors of which are still littered with rocket parts