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BigJim
2003-Jun-02, 09:33 PM
Well, was he a good-for-nothing Nazi or a wonderful engineer who originally worked for the wrong people? I think that, on the one hand, he was a Nazi, and even though it may or may not be true that he would have been killed and someone else would have worked for him if he spole out against the Nazis, I don't think that's an excuse. On the other hand, he was responsible for much of our early space program and the Saturn rockets.

Bill Thmpson
2003-Jun-02, 09:38 PM
Arnold Schwarzenegger's Dad was a Nazi. I think it was required if you were Austrian.

BigJim
2003-Jun-02, 09:42 PM
That doesn't justify it, though. Witness Von Trapp.

Glom
2003-Jun-02, 09:50 PM
One slight flaw with the poll. Well two slight flaws actually. First, it's gone demented again. Second, it is too black and white.

Complicity is a very tricky issue. There is evidence that he did actively oppose the Nazi treatment of slaves and the use of technology and suffered for it. On the other hand, he did still work for them. What exactly went on is unknown. Some say he was a Nazi by convenience. They would help him with his research. Others say he was a war criminal.

Me personally, I admire the vision he had and the expertise he brought to rocketry. I cannot condone his complicity with the Nazis, partly because I don't know exactly how he was complicit. But you'll notice he was awfully quick to defect once he got the chance.

ToSeek
2003-Jun-03, 12:17 AM
I'm sure there are plenty of geniuses who are so enthralled with what they're working on that they don't consider the political context. Von Braun had the misfortune to be one of those brought up among the Nazis.

Beaver
2003-Jun-03, 12:48 AM
Being from Toronto all my life I have meet many a people from many a country, and many party to crazy ideals of witch you and me would not agree too. This is not an accuse as some may say but a reality, if you grow up without T.V. the internet or anyother forms of comunication outside your world you are what you are told to be. So why would he not be a nazi, if you were riased in those times meeting no other options how could you be anything else. How could you or I be a Liberal, chatholic jew or whatever you will, without having an option.

wfrazier
2003-Jun-03, 01:17 AM
The issue of Werner von Braun and his complicity is only part of a much larger dynamic that should provoke far more consideration than if he was a good guy or bad guy. Von Braun was a dapper aristocrat called “Count von Braun” during his Germany days. He was well acquainted with the conditions the inmates were subjected to at Dora, as he walked right by the pile of corpses outside the infirmary as he performed his duties. Desperate for technically-qualified slaves, von Braun visited nearby Buchenwald to recruit inmates. As with nearly everybody involved in the Jewish Holocaust, von Braun was no hero.

How complicit von Braun may have been will always be a matter of conjecture because the U.S. actively protected him from any prosecution, as they did for all the useful Nazis they brought to the U.S. as part of Operation Paperclip and Operation Overcast. Werner von Braun had some interesting company among his Nazi brethren. People who performed human experiments in the death camps went on the U.S. payroll weeks later, one of which was von Braun’s good buddy Heinz Haber, who co-hosted the 1950s Disney TV show Man in Space with von Braun. Haber worked for Hubertus Strughold (the “father of space medicine,” with a U.S. government library named after him) at Dachau, where prisoners were subjected to experiments that simulated high altitude flight. Surviving inmates were killed them dissected.

More on that is here:

http://home1.gte.net/res0k62m/cover-up.htm#nazi

The U.S. also hired the Nazi’s Eastern European spy network nearly in its entirety, and relied on them regarding what the Soviet Union’s intentions were. The CIA was built on that Nazi spy network. Those CIA Nazis continually lied about Soviet capability and intentions, and were instrumental in heating up the Cold War after World War II. More on that issue is here:

http://home1.gte.net/res0k62m/war.htm#gehlen

As people like Ralph McGehee discovered, the CIA is primarily a disinformation agency, not an intelligence agency.

http://home1.gte.net/res0k62m/mcgehee.htm

In short, von Braun’s complicity in the Jewish Holocaust will probably never be known, partly because the U.S. government actively covered for him.

Grand Vizier
2003-Jun-03, 01:34 AM
The issue of Werner von Braun and his complicity is only part of a much larger dynamic that should provoke far more consideration than if he was a good guy or bad guy. Von Braun was a dapper aristocrat called “Count von Braun” during his Germany days. He was well acquainted with the conditions the inmates were subjected to at Dora, as he walked right by the pile of corpses outside the infirmary as he performed his duties. Desperate for technically-qualified slaves, von Braun visited nearby Buchenwald to recruit inmates. As with nearly everybody involved in the Jewish Holocaust, von Braun was no hero...


Fine post, and it fits with everything I've read - but with respect to the original poll, this should therefore read either:

1. Hero.
2. Not a hero.

(I vote 2) But this is just silly.

So, and this needs delicate phrasing, one could do a poll that deals with whether the decisions made by certain governments - to write off complicity with Nazi war crimes - were justified simply because they were perceived as being in the interests of the 'Free World' (not just the US) of the time.

Let's not do it. If such a poll were put forth, it would go well beyond the bounds of this forum. So I won't give my exact opinion (I do have one), because such a poll is not germane here and should not be held in this place.

wfrazier
2003-Jun-03, 02:00 AM
If his involvement in the Jewish Holocaust was covered up (which I suppose would be the main reason that somebody would vote "villain"), then it is difficult to know how to vote, isn't it? That would be like giving an opinion on something where the most pertient facts are hidden behind a wall of "national security" (in fact, that is exaclty what this situaiton is) So, I pointed out that it is pretty much impossible to give a vote that is not out of ignorance, when his U.S. sponsors actively covered for him and whatever crimes he may have commited, as it did with Klaus Barbie, Gehlen, Strughold, Haber, etc. I suppose that one vote in von Braun's favor is that his memory did not get the treatment that Stughold's did, when a Jewish group protested naming that library after him, but Gehlen never got heat either, retiring in comfort as a respected U.S. hero. Let's just say that von Braun ran around in some very unsavory company, and having a human experimenter as his co-host for a Disney show is evidence that weighs against his hero status. Enough said.

informant
2003-Jun-03, 01:09 PM
Being from Toronto all my life I have meet many a people from many a country, and many party to crazy ideals of witch you and me would not agree too. This is not an accuse as some may say but a reality, if you grow up without T.V. the internet or anyother forms of comunication outside your world you are what you are told to be. So why would he not be a nazi, if you were riased in those times meeting no other options how could you be anything else. How could you or I be a Liberal, chatholic jew or whatever you will, without having an option.

Don't take this the wrong way, but you make it seem like everyone in Nazi Germany absolutely worshipped Hitler!
Even Nazi propaganda wasn't that effective. I think there were plenty of Germans who didn't like the Nazis. They just didn't dare to speak up.

Russ
2003-Jun-03, 01:32 PM
It is my opinion that he was like most people in similar situations. A little of both. Which I note is not an option on the poll. He was in a no win situation, so he did only as much evil as he had to to survive and did as much good as he could get away with.

Argos
2003-Jun-03, 01:52 PM
I think this kind of question applies to every scientist. Archmedes made weapons. Einstein, more than any other, paved the way to hell. I believe this has more to do with the duality and the amorality of science. And it should be viewed in the historical context. I´m A VB fan. I can´t call a scoundrel one of the men who worked to put us in space.

Btw, Von Braun came in the wake of Tsiolkovky. He´s the real one to "blame" for the victims in Coventry.

Grand Vizier
2003-Jun-03, 04:43 PM
Btw, Von Braun came in the wake of Tsiolkovky. He´s the real one to "blame" for the victims in Coventry.

Picky, I know, but the destruction of the centre of Coventry was not down to V2s, but to bombing from conventional aircraft. So we have to blame the Wright Brothers for that :wink:

BlueAnodizeAl
2003-Jun-03, 04:48 PM
Technology is neutral, it's what men make of it that makes it evil.

For instance harnessing the nuclear reaction. bomb = evil: Death, destruction, radiation fallout. powerplant = good: near limitless energy, clean and safe (under proper precautions), preserves fossilized energy resources.

On Topic: I don't think Von Braun was evil. From what I have read on Von Braun he was basically forced to work for the Nazi's it was either work or watch your family and friends and eventually yourself suffer in the gas chambers a crematoriums...I'll take "Working for the 'Bad Guys' in Exchange for My Life," Alex.

Just because you work for someone does not mean you support their morality and beliefs. One does have to eat. Besides if the Nazi's forced your scientific team to work for them does that make you inherently the "bad guy"? Or does it mean that you're stuck in the middle between certain death and colaborating with the enemy? Both situations are bad, but which one is worse?

Argos
2003-Jun-03, 05:08 PM
Picky, I know, but the destruction of the centre of Coventry was not down to V2s, but to bombing from conventional aircraft.

Darn! I knew I could be saying something silly. I should have learned by know that I cannot trust my memory anymore. It happened again. Sorry :oops:

Stuart
2003-Jun-03, 05:20 PM
Don't take this the wrong way, but you make it seem like everyone in Nazi Germany absolutely worshipped Hitler! Even Nazi propaganda wasn't that effective. I think there were plenty of Germans who didn't like the Nazis. They just didn't dare to speak up.

OK, I'd like to declare prejudice here before we start. Back in the mid-1980s a man called Leuchter published a "forensic report" on Auschwitz that purported to "prove" there were no mass exterminations carried out there. the company I worked for got the job of examining this report to validate or disprove its assertions. As a result I spent almost a year going through the documentation from the Nuremburg investigations.

The results were a revelation. I believe the suggestion that almost everybody in Nazi Germany worshipped Hitler is correct; the suugestion there were plenty who did not is false. The documentation from the era (which is stunningly complete and detailed) shows everybody in Germany between 1933 and 1945 knew what was happening, everybody was complicit in the holocaust, everybody - with very few exceptions - approved of it. The higher up people in the system knew more than those lower down but everybody knew the basics. They just got very forgetful in 1945. (By the way, to correct one small mis-statement earlier; the victims of the Luftwaffe experiments on high-altitude flight were not killed then dissected; they were dissected then killed). Suggestions that carrying out the genocide policies and the associated slave labor camps was restricted to the SS are factually inaccurate - in addition, all three German armed services ran concentration camps and extermination facilities. The infamous "soap" factory was run by the Wehrmacht. Extermination facilities were congruent with slave labor camps; one did not exist without the other. Therefore we can be absolutely certain that von Braun knew exactly and precisely what was going on. And approved of it.

That he was not put on trial and, if found guilty, executed, is a blot on the records of the allies post-war. Rockets were a coming thing anyway; I'm sure we could have done without his presence and the world would have smelt a bit sweeter.

But, as I said at the start, I'm prejudiced.

informant
2003-Jun-03, 05:29 PM
The documentation from the era (which is stunningly complete and detailed) shows everybody in Germany between 1933 and 1945 knew what was happening, everybody was complicit in the holocaust, everybody - with very few exceptions - approved of it.

What kind of documentation was that, if I may ask?


Therefore we can be absolutely certain that von Braun knew exactly and precisely what was going on. And approved of it.

How can you possibly be certain that he approved of it?!


That he was not put on trial and, if found guilty, executed, is a blot on the records of the allies post-war. Rockets were a coming thing anyway; I'm sure we could have done without his presence and the world would have smelt a bit sweeter.

Possibly, although I've heard that uglier fish slipped through the Nuremberg net too - and, unlike von Braun, didn't change their... technique.

[Some comments edited out upon re-reading Stuart's post.]

Stuart
2003-Jun-03, 05:44 PM
Not quite what I wrote, which was: I think there were plenty of Germans who didn't like the Nazis. They just didn't dare to speak up.

Thats what I dispute; I could find no evidence of any significant number of Germans at any level of society who did not approve of and were complicit in the holocaust.


What kind of documentation was that, if I may ask?
POW interrogations, german military and police records, German civil administration records, death certificates, transportation requests and organization, concentration camp records, it goes on forever. There are literally hundreds of tons of the stuff. Small example. Notation froma German police patrolman noting that some houses once occupied by Jews were now empty following their deportation and asking if they should be sealed up. Paraphrased answer from sergeant - "why bother, we all know they won't be coming back". Repeat that tens of thousands of times and you begin to get the picture. Not just paperwork, there are films and sound recordings, the mass is overwhelming (literally). Its impossible for any one person to look at the complete archives. After a while, its literally more than they can take.


How can you possibly be certain that he approved of it?
He knew because it was staring him in the face. He approved because he did nothing to stop it. There's no middle ground on this one.


Possibly, although I've heard that uglier fish slipped through the Nuremberg net too - and, unlike von Braun, didn't change their... technique.

Doesn't matter. We had that one. We should have hanged him. Its no excuse to say others got away as well. It just makes releasing the ones we had more inexcusable.

informant
2003-Jun-03, 06:00 PM
This is obviously a sensitive ethical issue. You won’t find me excusing the Nazis – or the German people as a whole – from the Holocaust.
The only thing I question in your post is the statement that most Germans supported the Nazis. When you live in a fascist regime – as Hitler’s Germany was – the "people’s opinions" count for very little, because there is no freedom of expression. All most people do – all they’re allowed to do – is parrot the partyline, and it’s not surprising that that’s the only speech you’ll ever hear/read.
I will even go so far as saying that most Germans did support the Nazis in the thirties, when Hitler was elected – although the Nazis also used violence, murder, and general intimidation to get to power. But I’m willing to bet that this changed as the war unfolded.



What kind of documentation was that, if I may ask?
POW interrogations, german military and police records, German civil administration records, death certificates, transportation requests and organization, concentration camp records, it goes on forever.


Small example. Notation froma German police patrolman noting that some houses once occupied by Jews were now empty following their deportation and asking if they should be sealed up. Paraphrased answer from sergeant - "why bother, we all know they won't be coming back". Repeat that tens of thousands of times and you begin to get the picture. Not just paperwork, there are films and sound recordings, the mass is overwhelming (literally). Its impossible for any one person to look at the complete archives. After a while, its literally more than they can take.

All of these are data that would have been available to some segments of the German military, and to Nazi politicians, but I wonder if they were available to the general people.
Most importantly, knowing what the Nazi government was up to is not the same as agreeing with it.

Russ
2003-Jun-03, 06:16 PM
Stuart:

I think you have a rather naive outlook on this situation. If you are/were looking a public records, you must consider the record keepers. e.g. If you are living in Nazi Germany in 1943 and the SS knocks at your door, you give the answers that are politically correct to preserve yourself. In your quotations of the sergents, you may be mistaking pragmatism for approval.

A modern day example of this type of thing is the Iraq war. Before it started, Saddam was re-elected by 100% of the voting population. ahem :roll: When the American troops rolled into town, the population was REALLY GLAD to see them. Do you see my point?

You do what you have to to survive. You do what you can to resist.

Stuart
2003-Jun-03, 06:35 PM
All of these are data that would have been available to some segments of the German military, and to Nazi politicians, but I wonder if they were available to the general people. Most importantly, knowing what the Nazi government was up to is not the same as agreeing with it.
What I'm trying to get at is the extent to which the poison did penetrate down to the mass of "the people". its not as if it was restricted to just one stratum or slice of the population; the postman was just as affected as the Army general, the railway engineer as much as the concentration camp guard, the private soldier as much as the SS officer. That's one reason why the Nuremburg trials stopped where they did; if they had followed the tentacles of responsibility downwards, Germany would have been depopulated (which, in fairness, is exactly what the Russians had in mind). That makes the guilt of people like von Braun even more appalling; it wa speople like him who could have set the example; who could have lead resistance. They didn't so by doing nothing they supported the regime. thats why I regard the man (and all those like him) as monsters.

Stuart
2003-Jun-03, 06:50 PM
I think you have a rather naive outlook on this situation. If you are/were looking a public records, you must consider the record keepers. e.g. If you are living in Nazi Germany in 1943 and the SS knocks at your door, you give the answers that are politically correct to preserve yourself. In your quotations of the sergents, you may be mistaking pragmatism for approval.

Nobody's ever called me naive before. :) Cynical ###%#* is more usual. Look, we're not talking about opinion polls here, we're talking about the day-to-day working documents of a regime - the sort of thing we're looking for in Iraq now. The baker who is contracted to supply daily "rations" for a given number of "workers" - and the amount isn't enough to support life. The railway worker who works out a train consist that puts so many people in each cattlecar that suffocation is inevitable - and never asks why those trains always come back empty. Its the town clerk who fills the word "dead" in beside every Jew who is deported eastwards. We're not talking about the SS knocking at the door witha questionaire on opinions. We're looking at the day-to-day routine paperwork of the slaughter of unknown millions (6 million Jews plus the Good God alone knows how many others).


A modern day example of this type of thing is the Iraq war. Before it started, Saddam was re-elected by 100% of the voting population. When the American troops rolled into town, the population was REALLY GLAD to see them. Do you see my point?
I do, but I don't agree with it. I would have once, before I saw the material collected for the Nuremburg Tribunal. Not now. And the comparison with Germany would be more apt if you used the lunatics who were firing RPGs at our tanks as the Iraqi example. If you imagine the entire German population as Baathist lunatics you get a reliable image.


You do what you have to to survive. You do what you can to resist.
But the Germans didn't try to resist. Not once. Even Stauffenburg and his group didn't object to the Nazis on moral grounds, they did so because Hitler was losing the war. That was a common factor in the post-war interrogations. None of the German officers interviewed (none, not one) objected to the Nazi regime on moral grounds. They always condemned it because it had lost. And as for doing what you have to do to survive, sorry. No. There comes a point where its better to die on your feet than live on your knees. And Braun grovelled way beyond that point.

May I suggest that, since this is (a) very sensitive and (b) totally off-subject, if you'd like to pursue this further, you bring it over to my board that is devoted to political/historical issues? I've put the link up before; I'll put it up agian if the BA doesn't object.

Beaver
2003-Jun-04, 02:19 AM
May I suggest that, since this is (a) very sensitive and (b) totally off-subject, if you'd like to pursue this further, you bring it over to my board that is devoted to political/historical issues? I've put the link up before; I'll put it up agian if the BA doesn't object
Why do you not just put it under your profile?

Celestial Mechanic
2003-Jun-04, 04:30 AM
Somebody's got to quote this!

"I send them up,
I don't care where they come down.
That's not my department!"
Says Werner von Braun.

Glom
2003-Jun-04, 01:48 PM
Stuart, maybe you should read this (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=53996#53996) and other posts on that thread.

You seem to be suggesting that the entire German population should be tried for accessory to war crimes. The railway worker doesn't ask why the trains always come back empty because he could be shot if he does.

There is no evidence that Von Braun had the power and authority to make any significant changes to the conditions at Nordhausen let alone the policies of the Nazi party in general. You're trying to put thoughts into Von Braun's head. Even if he didn't approve, what could he do? Resign in protest? Stage a rally? Sell his story to the press? You're thinking too much like the citizen of a democracy. The same rules do not apply.

Stuart
2003-Jun-04, 05:14 PM
Stuart, maybe you should read this (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=53996#53996) and other posts on that thread.

That is a very good thread. If I may quote your own (exceptionally well-chosen) words from it.


Of course, I think that all of us aren't excused from bringing in bias to the judgement of Von Braun. Those who categorically say his complicity was inexcusable are generally biased by their emotions regarding Nazi activities. We, however, are biased by our respect for Von Braun as a rocket scientist and for his contributions to the Apollo program and the development of the Saturn.
That's why I started my comments with a disclaimer that my opinions were highly prejudiced by personal experience working with Holocaust evidence. When confronted with the reality of what went on (and even the most graphic TV/written accounts are terribly, terribly sanitized) its very hard to understand or forgive anybody who was even peripherally involved.


You seem to be suggesting that the entire German population should be tried for accessory to war crimes. The railway worker doesn't ask why the trains always come back empty because he could be shot if he does.
My point is that the assertion that the Germans "didn't know what was happening " as was heard post-war falls because the volume of paperwork shows that they did; that knowledge of what was happening was commonplace. Knowlege of what was happening and doing nothing equals complicity. Train runs can be sabotaged and misdirected, soldiers can defect to the other side. Paperwork can be "buried". Doing something is better than doing nothing. The Danes did a lot more than something - the entire nation collaborated in getting their whole Jewish population out to safety.

Certainly a good case could be made that the entire German population could have been tried for complicity. In fact, that proposal was made. The idea was rejected for a complex galaxy of reasons. The Russians did have more or less that idea (and, given the conduct of German troops in Russia one can sympathize).


There is no evidence that Von Braun had the power and authority to make any significant changes to the conditions at Nordhausen let alone the policies of the Nazi party in general. You're trying to put thoughts into Von Braun's head. Even if he didn't approve, what could he do? Resign in protest? Stage a rally? Sell his story to the press?
He could have walked to the nearest group of guards, shot the first eight with his personal sidearm and blown his brains out with the 9th and final round of the magazine. Don't knock resigning in protest; thats what Niels Bohr did - by way of an RAF Mosquito in the middle of the night (in 1943 IIIRC). Getting out of Germany was eminently possible if one was important enough.

But, as I started by saying, I'm seriously prejudiced in this matter.

Russ
2003-Jun-10, 07:26 PM
[quote=Glom]
He could have walked to the nearest group of guards, shot the first eight with his personal sidearm and blown his brains out with the 9th and final round of the magazine. Don't knock resigning in protest; thats what Niels Bohr did - by way of an RAF Mosquito in the middle of the night (in 1943 IIIRC). Getting out of Germany was eminently possible if one was important enough.

But, as I started by saying, I'm seriously prejudiced in this matter.

I think I agree with an earlier post. You look at the situation through the eyes of a child of free democacy. While I have not live under the thumb of oppression I have seen/met people who have and the impact is not insignificant. Their willingness to obey any order or even suggestion is scary, even if it is your own order or suggestion. Free will and independance of action have been crushed from their personality.

Judge not a man until you have been flogged, beaten and tormented for a mile in his shoes.

Stuart
2003-Jun-10, 07:58 PM
While I have not live under the thumb of oppression I have seen/met people who have and the impact is not insignificant. Their willingness to obey any order or even suggestion is scary, even if it is your own order or suggestion. Free will and independance of action have been crushed from their personality.
Then please explain the conduct of the Danes who evacuated their entire Jewish population to Sweden? Or the Poles who fought until their capital was literally burned to the ground around their ears? Or Niels Bohr who took one look at what Heisenberg was asking him to create and organized his escape to the UK?


Judge not a man until you have been flogged, beaten and tormented for a mile in his shoes.
And von Braun was "flogged, beaten and tormented " how much? His co-operation with the Nazi regime was willing, even enthusiastic. Actually it doesn't matter because I strongly disagree with your entire thesis here. It suggests a level of moral relativism that I find disturbing. It suggests that nobody should criticize the Nazi regime because we didn't live under it. As it happens, I believe that there is a moral absolute yardstick by which we can judge the Germans of 1933 - 45 and we could apply that yardstick then, we can apply it now and we will be able to apply it a thousand years into the future. von Braun and his ilk are damned by that yardstick because they did nothing - and never even tried to do otherwise.

Right and wrong, good and evil are absolutes. von Braun's co-operation with the Nazi regime put him firmly on the side of the devil and that is where, as far as I am concerned, he can stay.

girlgeek
2003-Jun-10, 09:17 PM
Wow, what a thought provoking thread. I can completely see both sides of this issue. It is obvious that Stuart has a perspective vastly different from most of the rest of us. It is understandable that he feels this way.

Unfortunately, humans were involved and none of us can be certain what we would do if our families' lives were being threatened, which is what the Nazi's did. It wasn't just Von Braun who would have suffered, it was his entire family. It is much easier (although how easy I am not sure) to see someone you don't know suffering than to see one's own family suffering. I think it's human to try to protect our loved ones and it's rare, even today, for the majority of people to actually take action for what we believe in -- and our lives are not being threatened as a rule.

So, I am not willing to judge Von Braun as a hero or not a hero. But, again, a very thought-provoking discussion.

girlgeek

Russ
2003-Jun-10, 09:19 PM
While I have not live under the thumb of oppression I have seen/met people who have and the impact is not insignificant. Their willingness to obey any order or even suggestion is scary, even if it is your own order or suggestion. Free will and independance of action have been crushed from their personality.
Then please explain the conduct of the Danes who evacuated their entire Jewish population to Sweden? Or the Poles who fought until their capital was literally burned to the ground around their ears? Or Niels Bohr who took one look at what Heisenberg was asking him to create and organized his escape to the UK?
These are apples and oranges comparisons. The Danes and Polls had not been opressed by the league of nations since the end of WW I. The Danes and Polls could watch, as outsiders, as Hitler worked his horrid magic on the long oppressed German population. They could see the forrest despite the trees.

Niels Bohr was a Dane. Sarcasim asside, Niels was an exception and exceptions are, by definition, outside the bell curve. Actually there were quite a number of exceptions. Alber Einstein saw the writting on the wall and bailed out in the 30's. Many Germans, while living like they supported Hitler and Nazism, worked as an active resistance organization. That fellow Schindler, had to run from the allies despite the fact that he'd worked to save many Jews. He had to look like a Nazi to do the good he could. He was doing what I mentioned in a previous post, doing as little evil as possible to survive and as much good as he could get away with.


Judge not a man until you have been flogged, beaten and tormented for a mile in his shoes. And von Braun was "flogged, beaten and tormented " how much? His co-operation with the Nazi regime was willing, even enthusiastic.

I am in no position to judge von Braun and his deeds. What I know of him is hearsay. I don't know what the Nazis said or did to him. My flogged, beaten & tormented was a "catchall" phrase for whatever evil the Nazis worked on him. I've heard/read conflicting stories about von Braun. Some say he was as evil as Hitler, some that he did everything he could to blunder and stall the V-2 project. while trying to improve the living/working condiditons for the Jewish slave laborers. My assumption is that the truth is somewhere in between.

My uncle, (fathers brother) worked at NASA from the late 50's to mid 70's and had met von Braun many times. My uncle never said much about him other than he was pompus and arragant, but that describes 75% of the Germans I've met, most of whom are my relatives, including said uncle.


Actually it doesn't matter because I strongly disagree with your entire thesis here. It suggests a level of moral relativism that I find disturbing. It suggests that nobody should criticize the Nazi regime because we didn't live under it.

This tells me that you do not understand my thesis. Whatever I am, it is not a moral relativist. The Nazis, as a whole, deserve all of the bad raps humanity can heap on them. Adolph Hitler, as the leader of the Nazis deserves even more abuse. There are others who must stand with Hitler as leaders in the evil. What I am saying is, whatever von Braun's thoughts and motivation, you/I don't know enough about them to stand in judgement. Your position is that he was the moral equal of Adolph Hitler, this could be absolutely true. It could be absolutely false. My position is, without further information, the truth is probably somewhere in between.


As it happens, I believe that there is a moral absolute yardstick by which we can judge the Germans of 1933 - 45 and we could apply that yardstick then, we can apply it now and we will be able to apply it a thousand years into the future. von Braun and his ilk are damned by that yardstick because they did nothing - and never even tried to do otherwise.
And you know these absolutes how? Actually, I agree with you about the absolute moral yardstick. Further, I agree with you about the German people as a whole, not measuring up. But once you cross the line between "The Whole" and "The Individual" your argument falls apart. Who can know the heart of a man? So, how do you know what von Braun did, thought, felt? He may have been as evil as you say, but then again, maybe not.


Right and wrong, good and evil are absolutes. von Braun's co-operation with the Nazi regime put him firmly on the side of the devil and that is where, as far as I am concerned, he can stay.

You are entitled to your opinion. I agree with you about good and evil being absolutes. Adolph Hitler is a pretty easy example of evil incarnate. What I question is, how do you know with von Braun? He, like Schindler, may have been trying to do good while being forced to wear the mantle of evil.

I think I'm going to bail on this thread. It's strayed too far OT and I don't have the time for these LOOOOONG replys. :)

(edit to correct code and typos)

Stuart
2003-Jun-11, 02:57 PM
The Danes and Polls had not been opressed by the league of nations since the end of WW I.
Nor had the Germans. Oppression there started in 1933.


The Danes and Polls could watch, as outsiders, as Hitler worked his horrid magic on the long oppressed German population. They could see the forrest despite the trees.
I find this continued assertion that some nebulous alleged oppression of the Germans justifies the rise of Hitler deeply disturbing. Quite apart form being historically incorrect, it appears to justify the unjustifiable.


Niels Bohr was a Dane. Sarcasm aside, Niels was an exception and exceptions are, by definition, outside the bell curve. Actually there were quite a number of exceptions. Albert Einstein saw the writting on the wall and bailed out in the 30's.
This is self-contradictory. Please note that all the examples you quote are from people in the same intellectual class as von Braun. They left; he didn't.


Many Germans, while living like they supported Hitler and Nazism, worked as an active resistance organization.
No, they didn't., There was no active German resistance.


That fellow Schindler, had to run from the allies despite the fact that he'd worked to save many Jews. He had to look like a Nazi to do the good he could. He was doing what I mentioned in a previous post, doing as little evil as possible to survive and as much good as he could get away with.
Which doesn't affect the fact that von Braun did nothing. In any case, Schindler is remembered because he was such a wild exception to the general rule.


I am in no position to judge von Braun and his deeds. What I know of him is hearsay. I don't know what the Nazis said or did to him. My flogged, beaten & tormented was a "catchall" phrase for whatever evil the Nazis worked on him. I've heard/read conflicting stories about von Braun. Some say he was as evil as Hitler, some that he did everything he could to blunder and stall the V-2 project. while trying to improve the living/working condiditons for the Jewish slave laborers. My assumption is that the truth is somewhere in between.
Assumptions are not good enough. We know that he collaborated enthusitastically with the Nazi regime. There is no evidence that he did anything else.


My uncle, (fathers brother) worked at NASA from the late 50's to mid 70's and had met von Braun many times. My uncle never said much about him other than he was pompus and arragant, but that describes 75% of the Germans I've met, most of whom are my relatives, including said uncle.
I'm sorry but your uncle is not evidence of anything.


This tells me that you do not understand my thesis.
No, it means I totally disagree with everything you are saying.


What I am saying is, whatever von Braun's thoughts and motivation, you/I don't know enough about them to stand in judgement. Your position is that he was the moral equal of Adolph Hitler, this could be absolutely true. It could be absolutely false. My position is, without further information, the truth is probably somewhere in between.
Which is the standard line taken by moral equivalists who seek excuses not to take positions/


And you know these absolutes how? Actually, I agree with you about the absolute moral yardstick. Further, I agree with you about the German people as a whole, not measuring up. But once you cross the line between "The Whole" and "The Individual" your argument falls apart. Who can know the heart of a man? So, how do you know what von Braun did, thought, felt? He may have been as evil as you say, but then again, maybe not.
Very simple and easy. The Nazi regime in germany was unspeakably evil. von Braun was a willing part of that regime. Therefore, he was unspeakably evil. QED.


Right and wrong, good and evil are absolutes. von Braun's co-operation with the Nazi regime put him firmly on the side of the devil and that is where, as far as I am concerned, he can stay.


What I question is, how do you know with von Braun? He, like Schindler, may have been trying to do good while being forced to wear the mantle of evil.
See above. And the attempted comparison with Schindler falls because von Braun did nothing. He (at the most charitable possible) sat and watched. Which makes him complicit.

Dickenmeyer
2003-Jun-12, 03:36 AM
And on a lighter note, Wernher Von Braun by Tom Lehrer, from the fine Warner/Rhino compilation The Remains of Tom Lehrer.
"Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
A man whose allegiance
Is ruled by expedience,
Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown,
'Nazi, Shmazi,' says Wernher von Braun.

Don't say that he's hypocritical,
Say rather that he's apolitical.
'Once the rockets are up, who cares where
they come down?
That's not my department,' says Wernher von Braun.

Some have harsh words for this man of renown,
But some think our attitude
Should be one of gratitude,
Like the widows and cripples in old London town
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun.
You too may be a big hero,
Once you've learned to count backwards to zero.
'In German oder English I know how to count down,
Und I'm learning Chinese,' says Wernher von Braun."

Glom
2004-Jan-26, 09:09 PM
Well Stuart, I think I've acrued some evidence to support your position on Von Braun. I was just watching Hitler's Plan to Atom Bomb New York (http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/hitler_plan_bomb_newyork/). In it, they spoke of how Von Braun didn't particularly care that slave labour was used at Peenemunde, despite David Reynolds's assertion to the contrary. In fact, he organised his and his team's defection to America for fear that if captured by the British forces, they'd be tried as war criminals, in a country that had far more reason to be pissed off with the Germans than America.

russ_watters
2004-Jan-26, 09:43 PM
Along the same lines as this thread (it is old, I might as well hijack it), I heard there were rumors that the German physicist in charge of Hitler's atom bomb program (can't remember the name, but he was a prominent one) screwed up his calculations on purpose, convincing Hitler an atom bomb was theoretically not feasible. Basically, he calculated that critical mass would have to be several tons.

Emspak
2004-Jan-26, 10:17 PM
To all:
A thought -- directed at Stuart, a little, with your predjudices noted (and mine -- both my grandparents lost many relatives because of the Nazis, and there is a certain visceral reaction I have whenever I am at the courthouse in Nuremburg).

I think the life of people in any dictatorship can get very complicated very fast. We tend to look at them -- at least in most discourse I see -- in very black and white terms. But my grandparents always told me that it was always more complicated than complicity or not -- you were never put in an "either or" situation, at least not initially. That was (and is) the genius of many dictators -- they tell you "compromise a little, it's all right because I am not really hurting you yet," and a year later you look back and you can't get out. It's like doing business with the mob. You never are in "just a little."

I think it mischaracterizes people to say they either worship dictators or are driven by fear. Often it is a bit of both, but sometimes neither. Dictatorial regimes come in a variety of shapes. In Germany, one reason Hitler had support was that he improved people's daily lives -- at least for a large enough segment of the population that they were willing to go along with him. The ones he went after first -- Communists, mostly, but also trade unions and such, social democrats, and conscientous religious people -- he made sure they were people that the majority of the local elites were less interested in protecting. He was very efficient at using a secret police aparatus to destroy, organizationally, the political opposition. If you imprison all the smarter leaders and kill a few, it has an effect after a couple of years. If there is no legitimate way to express political opposition. those who oppose the regime have no way to link up, to make their feelings known and engage in the kind of collective action necessary to do damage to the regime. Remember that the biggest demonstrations by Hitler were in Nuremburg, a town that historically was very much to the left in German politics (a sort of Weimar San Francisco). He didn't kill everyobody in town who opposed him in the 1933 elections, because more than half the populace would have to go, along with all the people that performed essential jobs. So if you could somehow take a poll I bet even during the war there might have been substantial opposition. But there is no way to quantify it. One of Hitler's smarter moves was to eliminate all the elements that cold have organized any successful collective non-co-operation that Stuart alludes to.

That said, no dictator can operate without at least some support from the population at large. An interesting story my elders used to tell about the French Vichy government. One reason the Nazis were able to operate at all in France was because the people that tended to enter the French military and police forces didn't disagree with the Nazi attitude towards dissent, seeing it as socially unacceptable (note that I say "didn't disagree" as opposed to "actively support.").

This is because the kind of people that went into those jobs at the time tended to be more right-wing than the general population. So there is a certain amount of self-selection that happens. So say the Nazis are marching around Paris, and asking the local cops to help round up suspect people. When a guy runs out and pastes up leaflets, for instance, the local cop has a couple of choices. He can say "The leaflet guy? Oh yeah, I saw him a while ago, wonder where he went?" And take an interest in the pigeons while the guy does his thing. Or he can run to the Germans. Too many, because they were people who leaned to the Nazis politically, (even if they would violently disagree with their racial policy) made the latter choice. I would say this was even more the case in Germany.

The late German writer Anna Seghers (pseudonym of Netty Radványi, 1900-83) wrote a lot about Germany in the 30s, at the time when the Nazis were just beginning to tighten their grip. She talks about how life in that dictatorship was a thousand small compromises, and sometimes a lot of small ways that people did not compromise. The problem was that the latter group was defeated early in the process. (Seghers herself was arrested for her writing and had to flee to France, from where she would later on return to East Germany).

So getting to von Braun, I'd certainly call him a war criminal, under the definitions passed to us at the Nuremburg Trials. But as to the population as a whole, I am less sure.

My five cents worth.

Alan
2004-Jan-26, 10:35 PM
It was Heisenberg who ran the main group researching atomic bombs/energy in Germany. After the war it was claimed they really weren't trying to make the bomb because of the horrible implications of it but the White Chapel recordings seem to indicate they were planning to sell their services ala von Braun to the Allies until they heard the reports of Hiroshima and realized they were not the leading authorities in nuclear research after all. Why didn't they defect during or before the war? One reason could be Germany was their home, regardless of who was leading it at the time. Russians fought for Russia, not for Stalin, Robert E. Lee fought for Virginia - his home, not the Confederacy or the Union during the Civil War. von Braun may have felt that he was doing his part to defend Germany (not Hitler) from defeat in '44 & '45 - especially from the Russians. As to conspiracies or resistance, there were attempts to kill Hitler, most notable was the briefcase bomb that went off and only wounded him out of pure luck of being moved away from him prior to the explosion. Erwin Rommel was killed just because the conspirators had suggested his name as someone they would like to see replace Hitler as their leader after the coup.

mike alexander
2004-Jan-26, 11:41 PM
Some historical perspective.

The constraints and reparations laid on Germany at the end of the first world war, whether wise or not, were echoes of memories of the crushing indemnities (and occupation! and annexation of Alsace-Lorraine!) placed on France by Prussia after the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870's, with the specific intention by Prussia of permamently crushing the French military capability. If I remember right, the French really humped it and paid them off in seven years, then proceeded to rebuild their military with the intention of 'never again.'

The Entente also remembered just what the war had cost them and were in no mood to see Germany threatening them again. Add to that the horrors of the occupation of Belgium and the confiscatory conditions Germany laid on Russia in the treaty of Brest-Litovsk and it's no wonder that the victors were interested in crushing German military capability.

Another part of the problem was the promulgation of the 'stab in the back' hypothesis by German military leaders and others; basically, Germany would have won the war if the civilian population hadn't quit on them. This was the Big Lie with a vengeance, but it resonated with a large portion of the populace. The German High Command (in essence the twin idiots Hindenburg and Ludendorff) basically ran the country into the ground, then blamed the civilians for starving to death. All in all, fertile ground for a fascist lunatic like Hitler, even though the populace should have known better. But it was so much more comforting to believe that the loss of the war was evitable.

Some good references are:

The Guns of August/Barbara Tuchman
The German High Command at War/ Robert Asprey

and the long, crushing, but indispensible

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich/William Shirer

Hutch
2004-Jan-27, 01:02 AM
Fascinating thread, getting deep into so many issues and done so well.

My thoughts on it: There are many ways to survive in a dictatorship, especially one as cruel and savage as the Third Reich. The two extremes are either you embrace it whole-heartedly or you leave/fight against it. But most folks fall somewhere in the middle, from passively resisting (at least some Germans did help Jews escape and sheltered Allied airmen shot down) to just accepting "that's just the way it is and I have no power to change it", with endless shades of grey all around.

I think (without a shred of solid evidence, mind you) that Von Braun was a German patriot and took the position (1) That he was protecting the Fatherland and not really Nazism and (2) That in all wars people suffer and that this was the nature of the beast. So he could (as many did) rationalize about the great evil being done, and later say, as many Germans did, that they didn't know of the Holocaust. He did, but he and most Germans were cloaked behind the mental wall they had erected and when that barrier came down after the war, they could say they never saw it--because they didn't let themselves see it.

Maybe a bit of psycho-babbling, but I'm typing this off the top of my head and there is not much left up there, I'm afraid.

Concur with M. Alexander's taste in reading. Also try to wade through at least some of Mein Kampf--something to keep you up at night. :evil:

Sam5
2004-Jan-27, 02:44 AM
Well, was he a good-for-nothing Nazi or a wonderful engineer who originally worked for the wrong people? I think that, on the one hand, he was a Nazi, and even though it may or may not be true that he would have been killed and someone else would have worked for him if he spole out against the Nazis, I don't think that's an excuse. On the other hand, he was responsible for much of our early space program and the Saturn rockets.

He tested his toys by allowing the Nazis to drop them on London, killing several thousand people. I’ve seen newsreels of him grinning, surrounded by grinning Nazis. The more people he killed in London, the more successful he thought he was.