The World Jewish Congress made public here today the names of three German rocket engineers said to have worked with accused Nazi scientist Arthur Rudolph first at the Mittelwerk underground missile factory — which used slave labor from the Dora-Nordhausen concentration camp — and later, on the Wernher Von Braun rocket team in the U.S.
They are Gunther Haukohl, Dieter Grau, and Erich Ball. All three were brought to the U.S. after the war under Project Paperclip. This program imported 756 German and Austrian scientists and technical and intelligence specialists. All three are retired and living in Huntsville, Ala., location of the Marshall Space Flight Center where the Von Braun team worked.
Rudolph, the production manager for V-2 rockets at Mittelwerk in the Harz Mountains of Germany, is also a Paperclip alumnus. Joining Von Braun’s rocket team, he became managing engineer of NASA’s Saturn Five project, which took astronauts to the moon in 1969 and netted him a Distinguished Service Award that same year.
OSI ASCERTAIN’S RUDOLPH’S BACKGROUND
The Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) ascertained Rudolph’s Nazi background he joined the Nazi Party in 1931, became an SS captain in 1940, and holds NSDAP card No. 193418. In interrogations conducted in 1982-83, he was confronted with charges of having worked thousands of slave laborers to death at Mittelwerk during World War II.
Rather than face denaturalization and deportation hearings, Rudolph signed an agreement with the Justice Department, under which it agreed not to prosecute him and he agreed to leave the country and renounce his citizenship, which he did in the spring of 1984. He is living in Hamburg and retains his government pension.
Some members of the Von Braun rocket team have set up an “Old Timers Defense Fund” for Rudolph and clamored for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his case. They petitioned President Reagan in July to restore Rudolph’s citizenship and welcome him back “in honor.”
Attorney Eli Rosenbaum, the OSI prosecutor who had interrogated Rudolph, wrote in a July letter to the Senate committee that, “if such hearings are held it will take me no more than 90 seconds to establish that Rudolph has admitted to committing acts constituting crimes against humanity under the charter of the International Military Tribunal” at Nuremburg.
This was a reference to charges of his having worked slave laborers to death at Mittelwerk. Of the 60,000 prisoners of Dora-Nordhausen, one-third to one-half died from the brutal conditions there, described even by SS men as “a hell worse than Auschwitz.”
Rosenbaum, in his letter, called attention to two other Von Braun team members who had worked with Rudolph at Mittelwerk, according to Kalman Sultanik, vice president of the WJC. Although the copy of Rosenbaum’s letter obtained by the WJC had the names blocked out, the WJC confirmed through Congressional sources that they are Haukohl and Grau.
DESCRIPTIONS OF TWO OF THE ENGINEERS
Haukohl was described in a 1947 U.S. Army report as an SS member and noted stormtrooper whose record is “indicative of an instilled believer in Nazism …” and as a “potential security threat to the U.S.” The final “Army report, on him” in 1948, prior to his being brought to the U.S., said “there is nothing in his records indicating he is a war criminal, an ardent Nazi or otherwise objectionable for admission into the U.S. as an immigrant.”
Grau has admitted to a reporter for the Atlantic Constitution that he was posted briefly in Mittelwerk for “debugging,” uncovering sabotage by prisoners. Punishment for suspected sabotage there consisted of hanging by a crane in the factory’s main hall, with the electric crane being slowly raised to prolong the agony.
The WJC has also uncovered a third German scientist, Erich Ball, who was both on the Von Braun team and worked at Mittelwerk, as chief administrator of the factory’s main assembly-line. The information came from the factory’s captured files, now in the Imperial War Museum in London. Ball, too, is living in retirement in Huntsville, Ala.
‘NO QUESTION THAT (RUDOLPH) IS A WAR CRIMINAL’
Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R. Ala.), approached for assistance by Rudolph’s supporters, told a news conference in June that the FBI has assured him that Rudolph’s “history is such that there is no question that he is a war criminal.”
Rosenbaum, who is no longer with the OSI, said in his letter that if the Senate Judiciary Committee does hold hearings on Rudolph, it will only be necessary to read the transcript of his testimony taken by the OSI to establish his admission of guilt. The transcript is in the records on Rudolph, sealed as part of his agreement with the Justice Department.
The WJC also stated that the U.S. Army’s first report on Rudolph, in 1945, concluded he is “one hundred percent Nazi. Dangerous type. Security threat. Suggest internment.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.