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Wernher von Braun, the Nazi war criminal who became an American hero.

Updated: May 17, 2023

Wernher von Braun was a SS officer and a Nazi Rocket scientist who helped Hitler kill tens of thousands of innocent people, and also later in life helped JFK send Americans to the moon. Throughout his early life Von Braun, like almost every German at that time, was a passionate supporter of Hitler and Nazism. He officially applied for membership in the Nazi Party on November 12, 1937 and was issued with membership number 5,738,692.

He was the central figure in the Nazis' rocket development program, responsible for the design and realization of the V2 combat rocket during World War II. The V2 rocket was later used by the Nazis to bombard the UK and other targets and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. Combined, the V1 and V2 attacks resulted in the deaths of an estimated 9,000 civilians and military personnel, while 12,000 forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners were killed producing the missiles. All of this carnage was supervised by SS-Sturmbannführer Von Braun who bore direct responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.

SS-Sturmbannführer Von Braun during WW2.

After the war, he and some select members of his rocket team were taken to the United States as part of the then-secret Operation Paperclip. Operation Paperclip was the secretive United States Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) program in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians (most of whom were members of the Nazi Party and some of whom had leadership roles in the Nazi Party) were recruited and brought to the United States for government employment from post WW2 Germany. The Soviets did the same thing ("Operation Osoaviakhim) when NKVD and Soviet army units at gunpoint removed more than 2,200 German Nazi specialists – a total of more than 6,000 people including family members – from the Soviet occupation zone of post-World War II Germany for employment in the Soviet Union.

Once in the US, Von Braun's Nazi past and his horrendous war crimes were whitewashed by the US government (this happened to almost all the German Nazis the US brought over), and he joined the newly established NASA, along with many other Nazi war criminals, where he quickly rose through the ranks. In NASA, he served as director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center and as the chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the rocket that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. In the US he is celebrated and remembered for his role in NASA, the space program and the Apollo mission to the moon, with his Nazi past thrown to the dustbin of history.

Von Braun and President Kennedy. Instead of facing justice for the war crimes he committed and the countless of civilians deaths he was responsible for as an SS officer during WW2, the Nazi war criminal Wernher Von Braun is now celebrated all over the world as the man who put US astronauts on the moon, and as an American hero.

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