This article is based upon the books, “Richtstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte” (Corrections to History of our Time) Volume 2 page 591 published by Grabert Verlag, D-72066 Tübingen, Postfach 1629, Germany
Written by Claus Nordbruch
Translated by Dagmar Brenne
Original Title: Payback time: The abduction of the German scientific elite
In 1945 the Allied forces in no way limited themselves to the plundering of Germany’s patents and works of Art alone, or to the dismantling of German Industrial Installations. But they were especially interested in the creators of these treasures. (1)
The vice-commander of the US air force administration in Europe, General Major Hugh KNERR, gave witness to this tremendous interest of the Allies with the following confession: “The occupation of German scientific and industrial installations revealed the fact that we are alarmingly backward in many areas of research developments. If we don’t use this opportunity to take hold of the technical equipments as well as the heads that developed and guided them, and if we don’t put the German technicians to work immediately, we will remain behind by several years.” (2)
Therefore the ”liberators” organised the professional hunt for the representatives of the German intellectual elite. It was a carefully planned and rigorously executed pursuit, that was intended to destroy or neutralise the leaders of Germany’s scientific and intellectual strata and was designed to thus finish off the German Intelligencia.
It is well known that the Americans occupied great parts of Middle Germany and the Sudeten Land by the 9th of May 1945, shortly after the start of the Cease Fire. It was their first priority to secure the Scientists and Technicians living locally for their own purposes, before the withdrawal of the American troops on 1st of July 1945. Consequently many hundreds of the German intellectual elite in Saxony and Thuringia were first “persuaded” to change over to the American occupied zone of Germany. These actions were at their height between April and June 1945, for, after all, it was the most rewarding human merchandise. In the already American-occupied territory were important representatives found of the crPme de la crPme of German technology, science and research. At Merseburg was the research Centre for the production of synthetic fuel, in Jena were the Zeiss optical Industry installations and the revolutionary industrial complex of the Schott and Co. glass industries and the research laboratories of IG Farben were in Wolfen near Bitterfeld.
The Junkers industrial complexes were in Dessau and not to forget the Elite schools of the German nation, the Universities in Halle, Leipzig and Jena, as well as many more such companies and installations.
When the date of their withdrawal drew closer, the Americans and the British, who occupied a great part of Mecklenburg and who had to withdraw as well by the 1st of July 1945, became increasingly aware that German creativity was of such immense volume, that it was not possible to plunder it thoroughly within the few weeks given. For this reason it was imperative to come into the possession of the appropriate people themselves.
In regards to this were mainly promises made: employment and working contracts were guaranteed, as well as apartments and houses, excellent living conditions, quality tools, and first class equipment in the laboratories etc. Naturally were all the costs of the relocation of the family included in the generous offers and of course all private belongings, furniture and household goods were permitted to be taken along. And for the things that needed to be left behind replacements would be given. Professors of Universities and Directors of Institutes were given assurances to be able to take with them their assistants, secretaries and other close colleagues. Groups of industry – and research teams were assured that they were able to relocate as a working unit. There were many hundreds– according to American sources 1500- (3) who, more or less voluntarily, paid heed to these tempting offers .
After the Germans, thus approached and in the face of the present distressing situation in Germany and resulting impossibility to find work in any scientific capacity, had given their consent under duress, They were mostly ”evacuated” to Darmstadt or Heidenheim. Here they soon found out that hardly any of the promises were intended to be kept. The reality of the ”guests of the American government” was a great deal bleaker. Most of these forcibly evacuated men were not able to work in their field of expertise, neither could they no longer contribute to any German development in their particular branch. They were simply pulled out of circulation. Only the smallest fraction of these abducted Germans were actually taken to the USA. According to the internal report of the OMG from 12th August 1947, from 419 forcibly evacuated technicians and scientists , who were interned in Heidelberg, only 14 persons received working permits for the USA. The rest of them, to use the words of John Gimbel, were ignored and dropped , when the war with Japan came to a close.
Some of them tried their luck in the French occupied territory, or in France or Great Britain and some very few returned into their homeland. Most of them suffered badly from the painful lack of economical, moral and psychological support, which had its origin in the unprepared, chaotic and forced evacuation from their homeland. (4)
In July 1945 began the American “Project Overcoat”. In the course of this project, the greatest military secrecy was exacted, in order to take approx. 350 of the leading rocket scientists and -engineers in the world to the USA. By autumn 1946, this planned undertaking was enlarged to about 1000 German brains and been re-named “Project Paperclip”. After the theoretical preliminaries, actions were supposed to follow. And indeed, between 1945 and 1955 no less than 765 scientists, engineers, technicians and other specialists were taken to the USA under this program. (5)
Samuel Goldsmit receives a decoration from the US government for his ”services”. Immediately after the landing of the Allied Forces in 1944, he and his task force were given the assignment to find and gather all German scientific and industrial secrets before they were destroyed.
How was ”Project Paperclip” organised? Even while military actions of the American army divisions were still ongoing, several units of the so called ”Alsos” – group, under the command of lieutenant-Major Boris T. Pash formed a special task force to find and apprehend German specialists, which was called ”Target practice”. The military leader behind this was general Groves and the scientific commander of ”Alsos” was the Dutch-born Jewish Physicists Samuel Goldsmit. This task force, made up of agents, scientists and technicians, succeeded in capturing the chief of the research council of the German Reich, Dr. Werner Osenberg, in Landau, together with 150 of his closest colleagues, and ”Alsos” received into their ownership the lists of names of about 15,000 of the leading German scientists and technicians. As far as they were in their sphere of influence, these members of the German intellectual elite were interrogated by the Americans. Those, in whom the Americans were particularly interested were selected to be subjected to intensive questioning in offices, especially furnished for this purpose. (6)
”Project Paperclip” was in no wise solely a program of initiatives to dismantle the German rocket industry and to use them for American purposes, as it is so quaintly portrayed in the writings of the politically correct reporting of our era. Rather ”Project Paperclip” was, as the Americans saw it, steps toward a vast reparation payback initiative, by way of searching for and conscripting the most outstanding of German and Austrian scientists and technicians of all scientific categories. To this end, even the usual Immigration restrictions were not insisted upon to allow the scientists to be brought to the USA together with their families, in the interest of the American nation and in the interest of American national security(!). In these cases the Americans generously waived the commonly executed demeaning ”de-Nazification processes. (7) Many of these German top scientists and researchers were members of the NSDAP, SA or SS or other national socialist organisations, which immediately prohibited normal mortals from traveling to the USA or the refusal of a working visa. But in these special circumstances the Americans acted far more flexibly by circumventing the legal restrictions.
As soon as the German experts arrived in the United States, they were divided up into joining American companies, Universities and research centres, according to their area of expertise. These top scientists, the elite of knowledge and skills, ripped from the German national body and economy, were subsequently engaged for the benefit of the USA.
In a report, originally intended to be released, but eventually withheld, the media publication of the US secret service (Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency) from 11th March 1946 issues a clear statement, that the American Government had decided on a total exploitation of German technical information, long before the cessation of fighting.
This exploitation made it necessary to send several hundred of highly qualified American technicians and scientists to Germany hot on the heels of the conquering American army. They had the function of inspectors of production plans, factory installations, records and documents, as well as to cross examine the relevant German personnel. Steps were undertaken to broaden the exploitation:
The best of the German scientists and technicians were brought into the country, to make use of their talents….Many of these German scientists and technicians were taken to the USA in connection for the development of weapons and their exploitation through the air force and armed forces by reason of national security …Other German scientists and technicians were taken to the USA for civilian purposes of exploitation, especially on part of the American industry….They were fairly indiscriminately exploited on a broad level, rather than being employed by certain companies….The exploitation of Germans will have been of enormous value for the development of new weapons systems, which the Germans had already designed before the end of the war….It is evident from the above mentioned facts that the government used the ”vacuum cleaner” method to suck up the technical and scientific knowledge in its entirety, which the Germans had developed.
The value of these informations for the United States will possibly by far exceed the value of any reparations payback”. (8) Indeed: Already in 1947 the savings for the American rocket industry due to the employment of German rocket scientists was estimated to be in the vicinity of 750 Million US dollars. (9)
The British on the other hand had established offices in England proper to secure ”their” German experts. Accordingly, these German specialists were taken directly to the British isle in order to be interrogated there and from where they could not escape, as far as the British were concerned, so not to fall into the hands of the competitors. Mainly atomic scientists and aeronautic specialists were taken to Britain, or rather abducted thereto. Among them was the aerodynamics specialist and aircraft builder Karl Doetsch, who, as a member of a German elite group of pilots had flown every type of allied aircraft. During the war, Doetsch had invented ”advanced navigation- and automatic pilot’s instruments, designed and tested, as well as other advancements in the development of precision instruments, for the testing of aeroplanes whilst in flight, revolutionary designs, of which England and America had not even dreamed”. (10) Also, the pioneer of the propulsion techniques, Dietrich Kochemann, was taken to Britain. There he worked himself up to be one of the most successful aeronautics specialists of England, and where he also became a much admired and and highly decorated British citizen. And in England he built the first super-sonic commercial aircraft: The ‘Concorde”. (11)
The French were even more inventive when it came to the ”steal-a- German” game than the British. French agents recruited German scientists and experts right under the noses of the Americans. They enlisted German specialists, who had been ”evacuated” to Heidenheim by the Americans at their withdrawal from Middle Germany, right there in the American place of safekeeping. For instance did they succeed to siphon off specialists in the colour films industry of IG Farben Agfa (Wolfen), engineers from BMW, wind channel experts, who had already been selected for transportation to the USA and secreted them to France. These activities reached such proportions, that in February 1946 the ”Joint Chief of Staff” of the American government had to forbid the continued interviewing on part of French and Russian agents of important German scientists and technicians, who were situated in the American Zone . (12)
But even this did not prevent the French to secure for themselves their part of important ”booty- Germans”. Among the abducted intellectual elite were found for example, the air- and spacecraft engineers and specialists for super sonic propulsion Eugen Sänger and Irene Bredt, the flight expert Hellmut von Zborowski, the air dynamics expert Wilhelm Sebold and the chief of the research unit at Junker, Heinrich Hertel. Also the entire team of the ballistic institute in Berlin-Gatow, that was under the direction of Professor Scharden fell into French hands. German experts were working in French military laboratories, worked with infrared rays, they refined the technique to utilise liquid air and developed rocket motors and flying air target disks. Solely due to the German researchers and engineers was the French laboratory for research and armament called into being. (13)
The Soviets were in wise less unbridled than the Americans and other Allies in regards to their greed for German knowledge and German intelligence. Some examples of the deportation of experts and the abduction of scientists, physicians and skilled workers will give an indication of the extent of the intellectual booty taken. In September 1945 were, as a typical example of the Soviet modus operandi in regards to all companies that fell into their hands, from the Lauta industrial complex in Hoyerswerda, being the biggest aluminium works in Germany, the following people deported to the Soviet Union: the Directors Todt and Dr. Karl Seifert, Chemist Dr Rohricht, Chief Engineer Meyer, Chief Electrician Funke, Master Electrician Hansel, Master Machinists Mrowinsk and Mishork, the Turbo Engineers Schutzel and Waldner, as well as the Master Boilermakers Tschunkert, Jordan and Waldner. In total, about two thirds of the German aircraft industry fell into Soviet hands. Among the famous German brains, that were more or less conscripted by force by the Soviets were these and others: the Nobel Prize winner Gustav Hertz and his colleague Heinz Barwich, the Director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm- Institute for physical chemistry Peter Thiesen. Also the Ordinarius for physical chemistry of the Technical College in Berlin-Charlottenburg Max Vollmer, the chief of the Dahlem Freeze laboratories L. Bewilogua, the inventor Manfred von Ardenne, the Leipzig Atomic physics expert R.Dopel, the Director of the scientific branch of the Auer-Works, Nikolaus Riehl and the friend of Wernher von Braun, Hellmut Grottrup, who rose to become the leader of the German research team in the Soviet Union.
The widest sweep of abductions of German scientists and technicians, often misleadingly called a ”mass evacuation” in the English language, was conducted in Middle Germany under the Code name ”Operation Ossavakim”. It took place in the night of 21st to the 22nd of October 1946. In this one night thousands of experts, mainly from the branches of the motor- and aerodynamics industries as well as armaments received the order to get ready to ”migrate” to Russia. Within a few hours they and their families had to be prepared for the transport. In that night about 20,000 German people -scientists, technicians and their families started their journey into the unknown, mainly by train. It were an estimated 92 trains, loaded with the loot of human cargo, travelling via Frankfurt/ Oder – Posen – Warsaw – Brest – Minsk to Moscow. These were German people, who were being conscripted as 20th century slaves to be used as it was seen fit. Yet at the same time German leaders of industry and politics stood before the tribunal of the victors, having to justify themselves for the use of foreign workers during the war and were mostly condemned to death for it.
One among the victims of this abduction was the professor for applied mechanics, Kurt Magnus from Magdeburg. In his book with the succinct title: ”Rocket Slaves”, he describes how their Soviet captors cornered their exactly pre-selected victim, so that he had absolutely no chance to escape their clutches. ” We have to tell you”, so starts the Soviet person, showing you a piece of paper…” that the Soviet Ministry for armament has ordered to relocate the operation of the production- centre to the Soviet Union (Magnus’ place of employment at that time was in Bleicherode, C.N.) For this reason the workers of the company will be working in the Soviet Union for the next few years. The journey begins this very day.” I jump from my chair, walk up and down in agitation. This is madness! But, don’t do anything rash – try to think! I can’t think of anything better to say than to point to my contract of employment and say: ”In the case of relocation I have the right to terminate my contract immediately. I want to make use of it right now.” My Russian counterpart takes no notice and won’t hear of any further explanations. He does not listen to any reasons and answers only, emphasizing every word: ”We are going to carry out the order of Minister Ustinov. At 12 o’clock noon you and your wife will be picked up and transferred here, together with your household goods. The soldiers will do the packing, you will be directing them!” ”I protest! Leave my apartment immediately!”
A small, almost pitying smile shows on the otherwise un-scrutable faces:
”Don’t make any trouble for us and for yourself. You can’t change anything anyway. In Russia you will live well, a lovely country, a big apartment, much better than here, good food, many good friends”. ”Would you see it as a sign of friendship, when you get us out of our beds in the middle of the night and want to deport us?”
”Please, you are going to be a guest of the Soviet Union – and we know best how to treat our guests.” (14)
Just as the case described here did it happen to thousands of scientists, technicians, builders, engineers, toolmakers and tradesmen and their families in Halle, Rostock, Jena, Leipzig, Schkopau, Taucha, East Berlin, Merseburg, Dresden, Chemnitz, Dessau, Marienburg, in many cities and towns in Middle Germany. (15) Only decades later did we learn the truth about how much of Russian research and technical developments were owed to the Germans. During the week from 4th to 10th of March 1992 there was an official recognition of this fact in the Russian newspaper ”Iswestija” under the telling headline: ”At the beginning of the Soviet rocket triumph were the Germans.” Not only were it Germans in the Soviet Union, who built up the atomic industry and created the first rockets, with which the Soviet Union succeeded in launching the first Sputnik into space, that is, the first satellite to orbit the Earth, before German scientists in the USA drew even and even surpassed them a little while later, by landing on the moon.
But for Germany this bloodletting of the greatest part of their most outstanding scientists and researchers spelled the collapse in the continuity of Germany’s scientific tradition.
1 For details view Claus Nordbruch’s book: Der deutsche Aderlaß. Wiedergutmachung an Deutschland für Deutsche”,. Tübingen 2003.p.341ff.
2 Quoted by: Bernd Ruland, “Wernher von Braun. Mein Leben für die Raumfahrt”, Offenburg, 1969, p.262 591
3. At the end of 1945 a unit of interested people was called into being in regards to the: ”forcibly evacuated scientists and technicians of Middle Germany”. Their spokesman, Professor Adolf SIMEKAI, reported that 1294 scientist s and 4000 of their family members were thus affected by this situation. 1948 these numbers were adjusted to 1800 scientists and 5500 dependents.
4 Compare John GIMBEL, “US policy and German Scientists: The Early Cold War” , in Political Science Quarterly, Nr, 3 , 1986, p. 450
5. Compare Linda HUNT, ”US cover-up of NAZI scientists” in: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 1985, p. 16 592
6. Compare Bernd RULAND, aaO, (quotation 2) p.265
7. Compare John GIMBEL, Science, ”Technology and Reparation and the Plunder in Post-War Germany”, Stanford 1990, p.50f.
8 Ebeda, p 187 ff /translater Claus Nordbruch)
9. Compare Thomas STAMM ”Zwischen Staat und Selbstverwaltung, Die deutsche Fotschung im Wiederaufbeu 1945-1965” , Cologne 1981. p. 45
10. Tom BOWER, “Verscwörung Paperclip. N.S. Wissenschaft im Dienste der Siegermächte”, Munic 1988, p. 125
11. For detailed descriptions see Claus NORDBRUCH ”Der deutscheg Aderlaß”, aaO o 348
12. compare John GIMBEL ”Science, Technology and Reparations”, aaO p. 42
13. compare Michael BAR-ZOMR ”Die Jagt auf die deutsche Wissenschadtler (1944 – 1960)” Berlin 1966 p. 192
14 Kurt MAGNUS ”Raketen. Deutsche Forschung himter roten Stackeldraht”, DVA, Stuttgart 1993, p. 38f.
15. For detailed descriptions view: Claus NORDBRUCH ”Der deutsche Aderlaß”, aaO p
Hauled from “k0nsl-archives” via Randulf Johan Hansen.
Edited by k0nsl.