2. Arthur Rudolph Ran a Slave Labor Facility Where Over 20,000 Slaves Were Killed or Died of Mistreatment
Arthur Rudolph (1906 – 1996) was a German rocket engineer who played a prominent role in developing the V-2 rocket – the world’s first ballistic missile. He was Operations Director during the war of a slave labor facility, Nordhausen-Mittelwerk, in which tens of thousands of slave laborers toiled in inhumane conditions. More than 20,000 of his slaves died from beatings, starvation, executions, or other forms of mistreatment.
That did not stop the US Army from hiring him after the war and sending him to the US as part of Operation Paperclip to work on America’s rocket program. Even though his official documents noted that he was “an ardent Nazi”, and despite the fact that he had been designated as a war criminal by Allied officials, Arthur Rudolph arrived in the US in 1947. He was eventually naturalized as a citizen, and in 1961 joined his fellow Nazi Wernher Von Braun at NASA as a top manager. There, Rudolph became known as the “Father of the Saturn Rocket” that sent US astronauts to the Moon.
His past eventually caught up with him in 1979, when investigators for the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), tasked with investigating crimes against humanity, started looking at Rudolph’s Nazi past. His wartime activities started garnering attention, and he did not help himself when he told a reporter: “I read Mein Kampf and agreed with lots of things in it…Hitler’s first six years, until the war started, were really marvelous“.
He eventually cut a deal with the OSI that spared him prosecution in exchange for surrendering his US citizenship and leaving the country. In 1984, Rudolph departed for West Germany, which conducted a halfhearted investigation before declining to prosecute him on grounds that the statute of limitations had already run out on most of his crimes. He died of a heart attack in Hamburg, on January 1st, 1996.