BONN (Sep. 30)
A celebration of the German aerospace industry to mark the 50th anniversary of the successful launching of the V-2 missile, a Nazi project, has been canceled in the wake of sharp protests here and in Britain.
The ceremony was due to take place Oct. 3, under the auspices of Erich Riedl, a junior minister of economics.
Under pressure from his Cabinet colleagues, particularly Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, Riedl announced he was withdrawing his participation at the ceremony.
Earlier, the conservative Bavarian politician had vehemently defended the planned celebration.
The V-2 missile was developed by the Nazis to hit Britain and other targets. Over the years, some 50,000 slave laborers from various concentration camps, many of them Jews, had been forced to work in the production of the deadly weapon.
The ceremony was due to take place in the Baltic town of Peenemunde, where the rocket was developed.
The research and production for the Nazi missile program was moved in 1942 from Peenemunde to an underground site attached to the Dora-Nordhausen labor camp, after the Allies bombarded Peenemunde in an effort to disrupt the missile’s production.
The V-2 missiles, whose development was headed by Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, were used against targets in Britain and in Holland. At that time, the V-2 was considered to be the most sophisticated weapon of its kind.
After the war, the U.S. government brought von Braun and Rudolph to the United States to develop its own space program.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s spokesman, Dieter Vogel, said Monday that Kohl had not known in advance about the planned participation of Riedl at the ceremony.
“Had he known about the participation, he would certainly have opposed it,” Vogel remarked.
Foreign Minister Kinkel told German television, “We have enough problems abroad with right-wing extremists and the like. We certainly do not need such ceremonies.”
Protests against the planned celebrations were held both in Germany and Britain.
More than 2,700 people in London died in V-2 attacks in 1944 and 1945, and another 6,500 were wounded, The New York Times reported.
The organizers of the celebrations said they were celebrating “the first step into space,” not the weapon.
At a news conference called Monday to announce the event’s cancellation, the head of the German Aerospace Trade Association, the event’s prime sponsor, said the celebrations had become “the subject of political discussions” which did not justify “scientific facts.”
Bjorn Engholam, the chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party, said the organizers of the event displayed a terrible lack of sensitivity.
In related remarks, the opposition leader called for a special conference of all interior ministers of the 16 German federal states to discuss the most effective ways to counter the increasing terror of neo-Nazi activists.
Coalition politicians also joined this call, saying that the danger from right- wing extremism has been clearly underestimated by the authorities.
Gottfried Bernard, the chairman of the Bundestag Committee for Interior Affairs, said German authorities have failed to respond effectively to the mounting right-wing terror.