Sunday, August 26, 2007


We went and did something today. We drove about 90km east of here to a concentration camp. I know it is a sudden change from our fun thus far, but this is important.

This camp is particularly interesting and sobering to us. This is one of three sites that the V2 rockets were built - using forced labor. The V1 was also manufactured here. For those of you who don't know, the Germans built these weapons solely to terrorize the British. The V in V1 and V2 is for Vengeance. They were fired at London and indiscriminately hit wherever they ran out of fuel. The V1 was very noisy. I actually have a 1/2 scale V1 pulse detonation engine in my office that I have shown to many of you. The weapon not only took many innocent lives but also caused a certain psychological misery. As the V1 flew above you, you could hear its distinctive rumble. The hope was that you would not hear the noise stop so that you knew it was passing by. Then you would realize the hideousness of what you just thought - that someone else is going to be hit soon and not you.

This site was a forced labor concentration camp. It is also near the center of Germany, so it was one of the last camps to be liberated. Shown above is Dr. Wernher Von Braun. He is essentially the father of rocketry. After the war he came to the US and is in a large part responsible for America landing on the moon first. From 'Nazi to NASA' as a book title explains it, he was aware of what was going on here and personally examined it. Simultaneously we are exposed to the foundations of rocketry and what we love to do while being in the midst of a terrifying atrocity. The dichotomy of emotions produced by this facility are heart wrenching.

We took a tour which was in German, so Daniel kindly translated the important information. We walked around what was left of the camp. Not much is remaining since that was during WW2 and it was made of wood. The tour then continued to the tunnels which are burrowed into the nearby mountain. The main production facilities were located here, safe from bombing. Not much remains and they only recently reopened the tunnels. After the camp was liberated all the useful equipment was taken away. Then later the Soviets had control of the area (when it was East Germany) and they took everything else. What remains is rubble and a few miscellaneous parts. Shown below is a pile of V1 parts, the tunnels, a V2 rocket engine, and a model of the tunnels.

These tunnels are huge, what we walked around and what the photos show are only a few of those tubes. After the tour was done we walked up to the crematorium. This is the saddest part of the tour and it was interestingly fitting to save it to the end. Being the engineers that we are, we are interested in the technology that was developed here. There was a certain excitement to see such things. The reality of situation was driven home by the crematorium. Many innocent people paid with their lives for this. It is difficult to rectify such opposing feelings. - Eric

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the updates on what you are doing for fun and for work. We miss you, but are very proud of you too. Enjoy.