Special to the JTA Rocket Engineer Admitted Nazi Crimes to Justice Department
Menu JTA Search

Special to the JTA Rocket Engineer Admitted Nazi Crimes to Justice Department

Transcripts of the Justice Department’s interrogation of Arthur Rudolph, the former NASA rocket engineer who gave up his American citizenship and returned to his native West Germany, reveal that he admitted requisitioning slave laborers and knew they were dying of maltreatment at the factory where he directed the production of Hitler’s V-2 rockets during World War II.

According to the World Jewish Congress, the transcripts–never released by the Justice Department–show that Rudolph admitted to having committed acts which constitute crimes against humanity under the charter of the international military tribunal at Nuremberg.

Under the Nuremberg charter, “lll-treatment or deportation to slave labor” are war crimes and “enslavement” is a violation which constitutes crimes against humanity.

Rudolph, who directed the Saturn moon rocket program for NASA, returned to West Germany and surrendered his U.S. citizenship in March 1984 as part of an agreement by which he avoided standing trial on U.S. Justice Department charges that he had worked slave laborers to death at the V-2 rocket factory. More than 20,000 prisoners died at the concentration camp attached to the factory.

In an interview published Sunday, September 29 in the San Jose Mercury News, Rudolph claimed he had not committed any war crimes and he “did not know that prisoners were dying” at the V-2 factory. However, according to the WJC, transcripts of Rudolph’s interrogation by the Justice Department reveal his stating “I know that people were dying.”


The Justice Department transcripts have been selectively released by Rudolph’s supporters and the WJC cited portions of these transcripts in which Rudolph responds to questions put to him in the Department’s interview of October 13, 1982:

“… it seems to me that you must have known that people were dying of disease and starvation and overwork. You must have known that.”

“Yes. I know that people were dying.”

“And one of the reasons, it would seem to me you would know it, was that, since you had overall production responsibility, you had to know your manpower strength?”


“And so you would get reports that would say X number of prisoners died because of starvation or whatever, you knew that isn’t that, isn’t that true? You knew it at the time that people were dying”

“Well, sure.”

“Because of maltreatment, you knew that?” (Shrugs shoulders) “Yup.”

At another point in the interview, Rudolph was asked whether he could requisition forced laborers.

After responding in the affirmative he was asked “did you request them?” “Yes, I did,” he replied. Rudolph came to the United States in 1945 together with his boyhood friend, Wernher von Braun, and other German rocket specialists. The WJC disclosed it had obtained a captured SS document showing the presence of both Rudolph and von Braun at a meeting of Nazi officials discussing the abduction of French civilians and their internment as slave laborers in the concentration camp attached to the V-2 rocket factory. The 1944 document, labeled “Top Secret,” was located in the Imperial War Museum in London.

Rudolph joined the Nazi Party and its storm troopers in 1931. He currently is living in Hamburg and retains his U.S. government pension, the WJC said.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund