WASHINGTON (May. 10)
The case of rocket scientist Arthur Rudolph, who was compelled to leave the United States 33 years after he was invited here because of his role in the Nazi war effort, has sparked a tug-of-war with his Huntsville, Ala., co-workers, an Ohio member of Congress and the World Jewish Congress.
On the eve of a May 12 visit to Huntsville by Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio), who will speak in support of Rudolph’s return to the United States, the Huntsville-based Friends of Arthur Rudolph is rallying support for the former NASA scientist.
Deported seven years ago to West Germany, Rudolph headed work on the Saturn 5 project at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville during the 1960s.
“There is nothing to mitigate,” Hugh McInnish, leader of Friends of Arthur Rudolph, said in a telephone interview. “He was a German national, and he was a nominal member of the Nazi Party. When he was captured, he told the (U.S.) government everything there was to know. They decided he had done nothing wrong.”
But Traficant’s planned visit has enraged Elan Steinberg, executive director of the WJC. Steinberg has denounced the trip and questioned Traficant’s intentions.
“We’re concerned that a U.S. congressman would be supporting a self-admitted Nazi,” Steinberg said in a phone interview, referring to a 1983 Justice Department document in which Rudolph pled “no contest” to charges that he knew slave laborers in his care were dying.
Rudolph, who joined the Nazi party in 1931, managed a V-2 rocket factory at the Dora-Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany during World War II. The camp housed slave laborers, many of whom died while under Rudolph’s supervision, according to Steinberg.
The Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations deported Rudolph in 1983, after offering him the alternative of remaining here and facing a slate of criminal charges.
The OSI, which investigates suspected Nazi war criminals, has been a frequent target for Traficant, who opposed the OSI-enforced deportation of Cleveland auto worker John Demjanjuk. Demjanjuk is currently on death row in Israel, following a trial.
Meanwhile, opponents of Rudolph’s return charge that the government knew of his crimes as early as 1949, but ignored the evidence because of his value as a military scientist.
Steinberg alluded to a 1949 Army document that spoke of Rudolph as “100 percent Nazi” and “a security risk.”