NEW YORK (Oct. 21)
President Reagan and NASA administrator James Beggs, have been urged to strip Arthur Rudolph, the German-born scientist who was forced last week to renounce his United States citizenship for concealing his Nazi activities during World War II, of the Distinguished Service Medal awarded to him in 1969 for his contributions to the Saturn Vrocket program.
In separate telegrams to Reagan and Beggs, Brooklyn District Attorney Elizobeth Holtzman said Rudolph “is a notorious Nazi war criminal who was forced to leave the United States … because of the unspeokable crimes committed against thousands of slave laborers in his charge.”
“It is a disgrace for an American medal to remain in the hands of a beastid killer. I believe it is critical that our government in no way honor such a man and thereby condone his unforgivable crimes,” said Holtzman, who as a member of Congress was instrumenfal in forming the Office of Special Investigations, an arm of the Justice Department responsible with investigating and taking legal action against alleged Nazi war criminals living in the United States.
The OSI last Wednesday afternoon announced that Rudolph had left the United States for West Germany after it was determined that he had lied about his past Nazi activities. Rudolph had been director for production of V-2 rockets in a factory attached with a Nazi concentration camp.
Rudolph renounced his citizenship rather than challenge charges that he “participated in the persecution of forced laborers, including concentration camp inmates who were employed there under inhumane conditions.” A third to one half of the 60,000 prisoners at the Dora-Nordhausen camp died.
A SECOND FORMER NAZI LEAVES THE U.S.
Just two days later, the OSI announced that John Avdzej of Roselle Park, N.J., had left the United States for West Germany, and gave up his U.S. citizenship after it was revealed that as a Nazi-installed Mayor during the war he was allegedly responsible for the murder of at least 3,000 Jews and Polish civilians.
Avdzej, 79, was installed by the Nazis as a regional mayor of Stolpce, Rayon, and according to the Justice Department, he admitted that nearly all the Jews of this region were killed under his regime. Stolpce is now part of the Soviet Union.
In the Rudolph case, Neal Sher, head of the OSI, said that the 77-year-old scientist participated in the persecution of forced laborers while serving as chief operations director in an underground factory which produced V-2 rockets for Germany from 1943-45. The laborers included inmates of the Dora-Nordhausen concentration camp who were forced to work under inhumane conditions.
Rudolph was one of about 900 German scientists brought to the U.S. after the war to work on American rocket and missile programs. He was employed by NASA and was a resident of San Jose, Calif., when the Justice Department investigators discovered his Nazi past.
ARRANGEMENTS WORKED OUT WITH JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Last November, Rudolph signed an agreement with the Justice Department to renounce his citizenship and leave the country in four months. He complied last May, having returned to West Germany. The outcome of the case was announced last week by the Justice Department.
Avdzej also worked out an arrangement with the Justice Department. Last January he was given two months to leave the country and relinquish his citizenship in return for the U.S. government not bringing legal action for his alleged Nazi activities. Sher said Avdzej acknowledged concealing his Nazi past when applying for entry into the U.S., saying he had spent his war-time years as a farmer and tradesman in Poland.
Rudolph became an American citizen in 1954, and was brought to the United States in 1945. He spent two years rebuilding the V-2 rocket systems at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. He was also loaned to the British to assist in their testing of V-2 weapons.
Between 1951 and 1961, according to reports, he served as a manager of and technical director of the Pershing System, recently deployed in Europe. In 1965 he was made director of the Saturn V program that produced the rocket that carried the Apollo Astronauts to the moon. For his contributions to the space program, he was given the Distinguished Service Medal, NASA’s highest honor.
REACTIONS BY JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS
Meanwhile, leaders of American Jewish organizations hailed the Justice Department’s action against Rudolph. The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith said that the case “stands as a reminder that war criminals whether past, present or future, will not go unpunished.”
A spokesperson for the American Jewish Committee praised the Justice Department for pursuing the case and suggested that the West German government continue the investigation of Rudolph’s case. Reports suggested that West Germany will pursue the case.
John Ranz, president of the Holocaust Survivors Association USA, said, “We are frustrated and angry that this Nazi criminai, Arthur Rudolph … was allowed to live here as a free man.” Ranz claimed that he escaped punishment for his crimes because he was “protected by the United States government.”
Eli Rosenbaum, a former government lawyer who was responsible for investigating and compiling the evidence in the Rudolph case, is a member of the Generation After, which is active in finding Nazi war criminals and combating racism and neo-Nazisin the United States.