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That German that sent Americans to the Moon
March 24, 2012 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Remembering Wernher von Braun on his 100th Birthday.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (85 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
SS Stammbannfurher von Braun, you are hereby remembered for presiding over the use of thosands of slave laborers from concentration camp Dora to build Mittelwerk, where thousands died to bore out gigantic tunnels in the side of a mountain so that your V2 rockets could be made. We also remember your use of slave labor in the factories you built.

This guy was a real treat.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:00 PM on March 24, 2012 [16 favorites]


Why'd von Braun end up with the Americans? One of the members of his German rocket teams laid it out: "We despise the French; we are mortally afraid of the Soviets; we do not believe the British can afford us; so that leaves the Americans."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:03 PM on March 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Happy Birthday Herr Doktor von Braun! On a tangentially related note, I cannot wait until Iron Sky is released.
posted by Renoroc at 12:09 PM on March 24, 2012


"Once the rockets are up
who cares where they come down
that's not my department,"

posted by delmoi at 12:16 PM on March 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


America also has a history of enslaving people and we had our own death camps for Asians during WWII as I recall; I don't see why any prior bad acts on his part would preclude us from using the talents of the greatest rocket scientist of ze twentieth century.
posted by Renoroc at 12:19 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do no confuse concentration camps with death camps. What we did to Asian Americans was horrible, but it wasn't quite the same thing as deliberately killing them.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 12:22 PM on March 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I should amend that to "Japanese Americans" as we did not generally lock up our citizens of other Asian nationality/descent.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 12:26 PM on March 24, 2012


I don't see why any prior bad acts on his part would preclude us from using the talents of the greatest rocket scientist of ze twentieth century.

Just because Jack Parsons tried to destroy the world through lack magic is no reason to throw around words like "prior bad acts."
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:30 PM on March 24, 2012


Former V2 factory Worker -- found via 'related' videos, it's just a short clip in a documentary about Von Braun. Here's a wikipedia article about the factory where V2s were made.
An estimated 20,000 inmates died; 9000 died from exhaustion and collapse, 350 hanged (including 200 for sabotage), the remainder died mainly from disease and starvation
How much did Von Braun know about how his designs were actually implemented? Is that something we know, or has it been lost to history?
posted by delmoi at 12:34 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another interesting bit from that documentary
posted by delmoi at 12:40 PM on March 24, 2012


Give me Willy Ley any day.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:43 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


America also has a history of enslaving people and we had our own death camps for Asians during WWII as I recall;

Uh, no. Japanese were interned. They were not required to perform deadly slave labor, nor were millions gassed to death or even creamated. Wrong as the US' actions were, it doesn't even compare.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:46 PM on March 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


How much did Von Braun know about how his designs were actually implemented? Is that something we know, or has it been lost to history?

More like scrubbed by the US government. His evasive statements on the matter are pretty bad.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:48 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Renoroc. Please learn more about the sort of atrocities to Nazi's committed before you start comparing the internment of Japanese-Americans to them.

And this is not denying any of the horrors perpetrated by a racist US government.

There were 110k people interned by the US. 20k people died building just the facilities for the V-2. Just that one plant.
posted by JPD at 12:52 PM on March 24, 2012


Yeah, would suggest reading up on Mittelwerk before throwing that shit around. I've been to those tunnels, they're fucking grim.
posted by Artw at 12:52 PM on March 24, 2012


Why'd von Braun end up with the Americans?

I read once that we split the Nazi technology and scientists: you got von Braun, the Soviets got Helmut Groettrup who led the Sputnik team, and we Brits got the fuel technology used in the Blue Streak missile.
posted by alasdair at 12:54 PM on March 24, 2012


Von Braun would have been hanged if the mittelbau was a tank factory.
posted by JPD at 12:55 PM on March 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


> I don't see why any prior bad acts on his part would preclude us from using the talents of the greatest rocket scientist of ze twentieth century.

Ah, we're back to the "some people are simply above the law" argument that appears endlessly everywhere these days - it's pretty impressive that this even extends to "crimes against humanity".

Now, there's no doubt in my mind or the mind of anyone else who's spent any time reading about von Braun that he had to be aware of what was going on in the factories. He was a serious control freak, he was the man in charge, he had to know, and if he somehow didn't know, it was his business to know.

But that wasn't important for him, or for many other proven Nazis, because the US "needed their talents." Operation Paperclip simply wiped the record and these people came to America and lived to ripe old ages as respected citizens and no one would have ever been so gauche as to even mention the tens of thousands of people whose deaths they had been directly responsible for.

Oh, and if I haven't made it clear, the idea that your talents make you above punishment for even war crimes involving tens of thousands of deaths is morally bankrupt.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:55 PM on March 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wernher von Braun: I aim for the stars!*

*But sometimes I hit London
posted by Justinian at 1:25 PM on March 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Uh, no. Japanese were interned. They were not required to perform deadly slave labor, nor were millions gassed to death or even creamated.

Tell me about this "creamation," it sounds delicious.
posted by Nomyte at 1:27 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read once that we split the Nazi technology and scientists: you got von Braun, the Soviets got Helmut Groettrup who led the Sputnik team, and we Brits got the fuel technology used in the Blue Streak missile.

Nope. Stalin's reaction was "This is absolutely intolerable. We defeated the Nazi armies; we occupied Berlin and Peenenunde, but the Americans got the rocket engineers? What could be more revolting and more inexcusable? How and why was this allowed to happen?"

As noted in a previous comment, Von Braun and his team decided to throw in their lot with the Americans. The entire senior team of engineers and designers voted for joining with the Americans and some of them were out scouting the countryside looking for them. Gröttrup chose to go with the Soviets so he could lead his own program, rather than work for Von Braun.

And yes, Von Braun knew about the slave labor, no question. My personal thoughts are that he would have preferred to simply build rockets strictly for space travel and not use slave labor. But no one was interested in funding rocketry for peaceful means, so he threw in his lot with only people who were willing to fund building rockets, first the Nazis and then the Americans.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:29 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Renoroc: " I don't see why any prior bad acts on his part would preclude us from using the talents of the greatest rocket scientist of ze twentieth century."

It's not like they immediately turned over all his research to the worldwide science community. I wouldn't be surprised if bits of his post-war work are still classified, so I think it bears pointing out that that "we" was "USA" for a long time and probably to date.
posted by vanar sena at 1:30 PM on March 24, 2012


Lighten up. Any friend of Walt Disney is friend of mine.

You guys drive me nuts with all this accountability this and accountability that.
posted by mule98J at 1:35 PM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


And yes, Von Braun knew about the slave labor, no question. My personal thoughts are that he would have preferred to simply build rockets strictly for space travel and not use slave labor. But no one was interested in funding rocketry for peaceful means, so
We have no way of knowing what he actually thought, but certainly he could simply have chosen not to build and design rockets. I'm sure there were plenty of smart Germans who chose not to do much for the war effort.

Hitler's Newphew went back to Germany in the 30s to cash in, but ended up leaving and ultimately joining the US military. (It probably didn't help that he'd been trying to blackmail Hitler, according to the article)

Actually, looking at the Wikipedia article, he claims he did know but was worried that he'd have been shot:
It is hellish. My spontaneous reaction was to talk to one of the SS guards, only to be told with unmistakable harshness that I should mind my own business, or find myself in the same striped fatigues!... I realized that any attempt of reasoning on humane grounds would be utterly futile.[36]
While survivors claim he was directly involved:
Others claim von Braun engaged in brutal treatment or approved of it. Guy Morand, a French resistance fighter who was a prisoner in Dora, testified in 1995 that after an apparent sabotage attempt:
Without even listening to my explanations, [von Braun] ordered the Meister to have me given 25 strokes...Then, judging that the strokes weren't sufficiently hard, he ordered I be flogged more vigorously...von Braun made me translate that I deserved much more, that in fact I deserved to be hanged...I would say his cruelty, of which I was personally a victim, are, I would say, an eloquent testimony to his Nazi fanaticism.[38]
Robert Cazabonne, another French prisoner, testified that von Braun stood by and watched as prisoners were hung by chains from hoists.[39] Von Braun claimed he "never saw any kind of abuse or killing" and only "heard rumors...that some prisoners had been hanged in the underground galleries".
posted by delmoi at 2:12 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have no way of knowing what he actually thought, but certainly he could simply have chosen not to build and design rockets.

It is doubtful that would have saved many lives and the knowledge he gained building the V2 helped in building rockets for peaceful purposes. Does that absolve him of taking part in a system that used slave labor. No, of course not. But it isn't as simple as he was good or bad.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:27 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


And then there was also that funny business with the Vom Achts.

Oh, right, that hasn't happened yet.
posted by Iosephus at 3:37 PM on March 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death."
posted by chavenet at 3:51 PM on March 24, 2012


I have no opinion on the man, but he is responsible for perhaps my all-time favorite quote:

"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."

I've done a lot of research in my life.
posted by philip-random at 4:00 PM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is doubtful that would have saved many lives and the knowledge he gained building the V2 helped in building rockets for peaceful purposes.
Not to nitpick, but the rockets weren't really designed for peaceful purposes, they were for delivering nukes and spy satellites.

Spy satellites, especially were a major reason for space flight, and in the 1960s were actually a big part of the space race, one of the major reasons for looking into manned space flight was in order to have manned spy satellites. The U.S had a design for one in the 60s, that was only canceled when it became apparent that automated ones would be cheaper. The Russians actually built some

In fact, the core module of the ISS was based on a module that had been planned to be used in Mir-2, the original module actually included a 1MW laser.

Obviously the moon missions didn't really have any kind of military purposes, but the rest of it did. Certainly the space shuttle was designed, in part, to service spy satellites.

Even the Hubble telescope used tech that had been derived from Spy Satellites.

In any event, Von Braun certainly sold his rockets as being great for delivering nukes. It's not like he turned into Ghandi once he got to the U.S, he didn't have a problem making rockets designed drop nukes on Russia.

---

That said, the problem isn't really designing rockets for military purposes, it was a war, the US and Russia did the same thing. The problem is the complicity with the holocaust, building rockets using slave labor, etc. Of course, when he started with the rocket design he would have had no idea how they would end up being made. Once it got to that point, what could he have done? He was arrested by the Nazis a couple of times.

On the other hand, survivors claim he was directly involved in the abuse. And IMO it kind of strains credulity that someone who was squeamish about that kind of thing could have really gotten as much authority as he had with the Nazis. But who knows.
posted by delmoi at 5:24 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you don't like us hiring Von Braun post war, you'd *hate* what we did with Shiro Ishii in japan.

Moral wrongs are all relative, and what happened with him is way worse then with Von Braun.
posted by dethb0y at 5:43 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to nitpick, but the rockets weren't really designed for peaceful purposes, they were for delivering nukes and spy satellites.

My bad, I was thinking of the Saturn V and the Saturn class of rockets, which were designed for the Apollo and Skylab programs.

On the other hand, survivors claim he was directly involved in the abuse. And IMO it kind of strains credulity that someone who was squeamish about that kind of thing could have really gotten as much authority as he had with the Nazis. But who knows.

It was war, lots of people did less than wonderful things. Von Braun's on that list, but that hardly makes him a terrible person.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:50 PM on March 24, 2012


Iosephus, I wonder if I'm the only one who got that.

And regarding Werner on Walt Disney -- yeah, but Willy Ley was in that Tomorrowland series, too. (Probably my favorite Disneyland episodes ever, and I am so happy I have 'em on DVD.) He and von Braun were friends back in the Old Country (were in the same rocket club), but Willy got the hell out when he saw which way the wind was blowing. He landed on these shores in 1935. And thereby hangs a tale about a little monument you can find in Greenwood Lake, NY...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:44 PM on March 24, 2012


On the other hand, survivors claim he was directly involved in the abuse. And IMO it kind of strains credulity that someone who was squeamish about that kind of thing could have really gotten as much authority as he had with the Nazis. But who knows.
It was war, lots of people did less than wonderful things. Von Braun's on that list, but that hardly makes him a terrible person.
Uh, what? Since when does being a Nazi war criminal and participant in the holocaust not make you a Terrible person?

Like JPD said, if he'd been making tanks, he'd have been hanged.

What exactly is the difference between Von Braun and someone like Albert Speer or Alfried Krupp? In fact, just looking at Speer's wikipedia article:
On December 10, 1943, Speer visited the underground Mittelwerk V-2 rocket factory that used concentration camp labor. Shocked by the conditions there (5.7 percent of the work force died that month), and to ensure the workers were in good enough shape to perform the labor,[74] Speer ordered improved conditions for the workers and the construction of the above-ground Dora camp. In spite of these changes, half of the workers at Mittelwerk eventually died. Speer later commented, "[t]he conditions for these prisoners were in fact barbarous, and a sense of profound involvement and personal guilt seizes me whenever I think of them."
Think about that: Convicted Nazi war criminal Albert Speer, upon seeing the V-2 factory was horrified and demanded that improvements be made. Maybe Von Braun wasn't really involved and really didn't think he could do anything. On the other hand, the two witnesses certainly have less motivation to lie then him. We don't have the same kind of documentation on his actions that we do with Speer and the other guys because there was no prosecution.

But, if Von Braun was involved, how could he possibly not qualify as a terrible person?

There has to be some standard. The idea that someone could be responsible, even partially for the deaths of 20,000 innocent, helpless people by working them to death or starvation and not be a terrible person is just mind boggling.

I don't think that just because you're in a war, doing terrible things somehow becomes OK. But even if you allow greater latitude, there has to be some standard? Speer and Krupp went to prison, and Speer was horrified by the V2 factory!

Of course, we'll never know for sure.
posted by delmoi at 7:24 PM on March 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Stalin's reaction was "This is absolutely intolerable. We defeated the Nazi armies; we occupied Berlin and Peenenunde, but the Americans got the rocket engineers? What could be more revolting and more inexcusable? How and why was this allowed to happen?"

Damn. Got that quote sourced?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:41 PM on March 24, 2012


Uh, what? Since when does being a Nazi war criminal and participant in the holocaust not make you a Terrible person?

Von Braun wasn't a war criminal, that would require prosecution. Many people participated in the Holocaust on various levels. That doesn't mean their actions in that time and place should be the only judge of their entire life.

What exactly is the difference between Von Braun and someone like Albert Speer or Alfried Krupp?

Von Braun was a rocket scientist and useful and knew it and milked that for all its worth. Speer and Krupp were not so lucky. Fair? No. Morally right? No But those were not the sole criteria in terms of judging Nazi Party members after the war.

Damn. Got that quote sourced?

Pulled it from The Heavens and The Earth: A Political History of the Space Age, Johns Hopkins paperback edition, 1997, p 44. The footnote for that quote reads "G.A. Tokady, "Soviet Rocket Technology," Technology and Culture 4 (Fall 1963): 523
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:15 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think maybe people don't want to admit to themselves that environment can play a huge roll in what someone does with their life. In one context a person might be a Nazi and build products in a factory where thousands of people die due to starvation or are worked to death, and in another context help the United States send someone to the moon. People want to imagine that the "bad people" are all horrible monsters or whatever, not at all like the "good" people.

But that's obviously what happened here.

Von Braun said himself that he knew what the conditions were like, and he said he didn't do anything to fix the problems. The excuse he made was that he was scared of being shot, but that seems really unlikely to me, especially given the fact that Speer had already been there and tried to improve conditions himself (which I just found out today). If he was concerned, why couldn't he have written to Speer himself, asking for more food to be sent? Plus, the idea that the Nazis would shoot their top rocket scientist simply for asking for better working conditions seems implausible to me.
Von Braun wasn't a war criminal, that would require prosecution.
Completely ridiculous. a person is a criminal if they commit a crime. But the semantics of the word "war criminal" is not the issue. A person who takes actions that would normally result in prosecution as a war criminal is a terrible person, regardless of whether or not they luck out of prosecution. The issue is whether or not Von Braun took those actions.

We don't know for sure what happened but it's certainly a possibility. I think more likely then not. There are quotes from two eyewitnesses in the Wikipedia article, for example.
Von Braun was a rocket scientist and useful and knew it and milked that for all its worth. Speer and Krupp were not so lucky. Fair? No. Morally right? No
I honestly have no idea what this is supposed to mean with respect to whether or not Von Braun was "terrible" or not.

What I said was that the actions Von Braun and Speer and Krupp all took were morally equivalent. Except for the fact that Speer was repentant and had actually tried to reduce the suffering at the V2 plant, while Von Braun did nothing. That would seem to make Von Braun actually worse then Speer, who served 20 years in prison.
No But those were not the sole criteria in terms of judging Nazi Party members after the war.
Except Von Braun was never "judged" at all.

The U.S wanted him because they wanted to get an edge on the Russians in terms of weapons technology. He ended up helping to develop the technology (for our side) to launch nuclear weapons. According to the documentary I linked to earlier, he and his team were actually prisoners in the U.S for at least a year or so, before it was decide it was safe to let him roam free.

Also from the documentary, rockets as nuclear weapons delivery systems were specifically something that Von Braun promoted to the U.S governments.

The question here isn't whether or not it was OK for the U.S. to do what it did with him. In fact it's beside the point. The U.S propped up dictators and other awful people around the world. In fact, it's completely beside the point. The fact that it happened has absolutely nothing to do with the morality of his actions, which is what we're talking about.

The problem is not people who were "Nazi Party members", but rather the fact that he may have overseen or at least utilized a supply chain that resulted in the death of 20,000 enslaved human beings through exhaustion or starvation.

I can't begin comprehend a moral system where that isn't a bad thing to do.

Look it simple:

1) Enslaving people, and then working them to death or starving them to death is a bad thing to do.
2) Anyone who does it is a terrible person (whether or not there is a war going on)
3) Therefore, If Von Braun was complicit, or certainly if he was an active participant, then he was a terrible person.

Again, we don't know enough to say for sure that he could have. But he did say that he knew about it. And claimed not to have said anything because he thought he'd be shot. I don't find that particularly credible.
posted by delmoi at 10:42 PM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Von Braun wasn't a war criminal, that would require prosecution.

There's no question: Von Braun was, by any objective measure, a war criminal. As I posted above, and as others have corroborated on this thread, because of Operation Paperclip, Von Braun was simply relieved of all responsibility for his crimes - it absolutely doesn't mean that they didn't happen.

delmoi's answer is longer and better documented and comes to the same conclusion. He ran a program that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. It takes a psychopathic mind to soft-peddle this sort of thing - but psychopathic minds are in no shortage in 2012.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:36 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Von Braun wasn't a war criminal, that would require prosecution. Many people participated in the Holocaust on various levels. That doesn't mean their actions in that time and place should be the only judge of their entire life.

Hmm, no, I think I will continue to judge them on that. Excepting von braun from that just because he gave sci-fi nerds fizzy feelings in their tummies is not on.

As somebody else already said, give me Willy Ley any day instead.

Iosephus, I wonder if I'm the only one who got that.

Fortunately, none of us are Morons, so not in danger of being hunted by a manshonyagger, even a Mark Elf.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:21 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you don't like us hiring Von Braun post war, you'd *hate* what we did with Shiro Ishii in japan.

Oh, Operation Paperclip also "rescued" Hubertus Strughold...
posted by Skeptic at 2:32 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think maybe people don't want to admit to themselves that environment can play a huge roll in what someone does with their life. In one context a person might be a Nazi and build products in a factory where thousands of people die due to starvation or are worked to death, and in another context help the United States send someone to the moon. People want to imagine that the "bad people" are all horrible monsters or whatever, not at all like the "good" people. As somebody else already said, give me Willy Ley any day instead.

This makes no sense to me, if we're viewing Von Braun strictly through a moral lenses, because Ley collaborated with Von Braun.

I honestly have no idea what this is supposed to mean with respect to whether or not Von Braun was "terrible" or not.

You asked for differences between the three men, several were pointed out. Whether Von Braun was terrible or not didn't was not a consideration as whether he would be tried or not. He was useful and milked that fact.

1) Enslaving people, and then working them to death or starving them to death is a bad thing to do.
2) Anyone who does it is a terrible person (whether or not there is a war going on)
3) Therefore, If Von Braun was complicit, or certainly if he was an active participant, then he was a terrible person.


Most of the American founding fathers owned slaves, but it's simplistic to say they were terrible people. It was a different place and time, where having slaves was a normal part of life for some people. That they had slaves is still wrong and morally repugnant but it seems shorted sighted to sum their entire lives based on this one aspect.

He ran a program that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. It takes a psychopathic mind to soft-peddle this sort of thing - but psychopathic minds are in no shortage in 2012.

*shrugs* Many people ran programs that resulted in tends of thousands of deaths, such is the nature of war. Doesn't mean his actions or lack thereof should be ignored or whitewashed in the history books, but again, it seems short sighted to say that was his only contribution to the world.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 AM on March 25, 2012


This makes no sense to me, if we're viewing Von Braun strictly through a moral lenses, because Ley collaborated with Von Braun.
I think you have your history mixed up. Ley moved to Greenwood Lake, NY in 1935. Ley didn't even work on the space program in the US after the war, he was a science fiction author, at least according to the Wikipedia article.
Many people ran programs that resulted in tends of thousands of deaths, such is the nature of war.
Wow. Honestly I don't just disagree with that, I find that comment creepy as hell.

This is what was going on in at Von Braun's V-2 factory.

Killing enemy soldiers is considered "OK" in war. Bombing cities that are legitimate military targets in order to stop production is considered questionable - there are real questions people have about the firebombing in Germany, and the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S (Especially since Japan was willing to surrender, they just wanted to negotiate it, while we wanted an unconditional surrender)

But regardless, morality doesn't 'go away' when there's a war on. One thing you definitely can't do, is kill people who are defenseless and pose no threat. That would include prisoners. Especially by working them to death and starvation. Slavery is also not OK.

My mind is kind of blown that I even have to explain this.
Most of the American founding fathers owned slaves, but it's simplistic to say they were terrible people.
"Simple" does not mean "False".

I'm not aware of any founding fathers who worked their slaves to death while underfeeding them to the point where they'd eventually starve if they didn't die of exhaustion. If they did, then they would have been pretty terrible people. Plus, we're talking about the 1940s, not the 1780s. The fact that people did horrible things farther back in history is not a license to do horrible things at any point in the future.
it seems short sighted to say that was his only contribution to the world.
I didn't say it was. He also helped the US build nuclear ballistic missiles! What a hero! He wanted to put men in space and he didn't care how many innocent people he had to kill in the process. Clearly someone we can all look up too.

By the way, I'm not saying that Von Braun's working on ballistic missiles was a terrible thing, but rather shows he had no problem building devices designed to kill millions of people, so it's not like he turned over a new leaf or something.

Look, I think killing thousands of people by starvation and overwork, (plus beating some to death, and shooting them - you have to keep the rest motivated of course) is a bad thing. If you don't think it's a big deal, we're not going to agree. I'm confident the vast majority of people agree with me.

Anyway, you said we should remember the guy, I certainly learned a lot more about him so mission accomplished.
posted by delmoi at 9:21 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and to clarify - I don't mean "this is the only relevant fact about him" but rather it's possible to say he made a great contribution to the US space/ballistic missile program and at the same time being a terrible person. Those two things are orthogonal to each-other.

If he had cured polio or something, or done something productive for world peace, that would be one thing. But he was working to advance the U.S ballistic missile program in response to soviet advances.

(Btw, does anyone think that if Von Braun had actually managed to build and fire an A10 an hit Manhattan or DC he would have been accepted in the US? It's something they had plans to do -- they just didn't have the resources to do it.

Seems about as likely as turning Khalid Sheikh Mohammed into a national hero today. )

posted by delmoi at 10:36 AM on March 25, 2012


I think you have your history mixed up. Ley moved to Greenwood Lake, NY in 1935. Ley didn't even work on the space program in the US after the war, he was a science fiction author, at least according to the Wikipedia article.

I do not have historythey collborated on a book (also mentioned on the Wikipedia page) and there's even fascinating recorded conversation between the two, discussing their first meeting in Germany during 1930, the state of rocketry in the country at that time and its history in general, science fiction and other subjects. Also, they were both members of the Verein für Raumschiffahrt, an amateur German rocket association in the early 1930s.

If people are going to condemn Von Braun and then hold up Ley as a much better moral center, what does it mean if the two clearly got along just fine and wrote a Sci Fi book together, after the war?

Brandon:Many people ran programs that resulted in tends of thousands of deaths, such is the nature of war.
delmoi: Wow. Honestly I don't just disagree with that, I find that comment creepy as hell.


Not sure what you mean here, as it sounds like you're disagreeing that many people ran programs that results in tens of thousands of deaths during WWII. Can you clarify, please?

I'm not aware of any founding fathers who worked their slaves to death while underfeeding them to the point where they'd eventually starve if they didn't die of exhaustion.

Earlier, the argument was "The idea that someone could be responsible, even partially for the deaths of 20,000 innocent, helpless people by working them to death or starvation and not be a terrible person is just mind boggling."

Now it's, 'if you don't do any of the really horrible stuff, I guess it's ok'.

Anyway, you said we should remember the guy, I certainly learned a lot more about him so mission accomplished.

You are mistaken on this point.

but rather it's possible to say he made a great contribution to the US space/ballistic missile program and at the same time being a terrible person.

Sure it's possible to say, I would just disagree with it and at this point we'd probably just have to agree to disagree.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:44 AM on March 25, 2012


Whoops, the link to the book Ley and Von Braun collaborated must have been malformed, so here it is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:54 AM on March 25, 2012


"Yes mr. president it is up there"
posted by clavdivs at 11:27 AM on March 25, 2012


The Ley/ von Braun book is not really science fiction, but still fun... especially for the Bonestell illos. (I like it that Ley got top billing.) And Ley didn't move to Greenwood Lake... he was living in Brooklyn and became involved with a (rather ill-conceived) project to launch an interstate mail rocket... from the frozen surface of Greenwood Lake. It's a long story. The plan to place a monument there to commemorate the launch was the brainchild of sf fan John Michel.

You can see Pathe newsreel footage of the less-than-spectacular flight on YouTube.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:39 AM on March 25, 2012


Earlier, the argument was "The idea that someone could be responsible, even partially for the deaths of 20,000 innocent, helpless people by working them to death or starvation and not be a terrible person is just mind boggling."
That's correct, and it still is my position.
Now it's, 'if you don't do any of the really horrible stuff, I guess it's ok'.
I have no idea where you are getting the "guess it's OK" from.

The statement is a logical implication. If you do really terrible, horrible stuff, then you are a terrible person. It's a logical implication. If A, then B. If not A, then we can't say anything about whether B is true. People who don't do "really terrible, horrible stuff" may or may not be terrible people, we are making no claim or argument about it. It's really not that complicated.

Again, I don't see how the statement "People who who do really terrible, horrible stuff (like starving people to death by the thousands) are terrible people" is something that very many people would disagree with.

It may be OK, maybe not. It's also totally irrelevant to the discussion of Von Braun, if they didn't do the same things he did.
If people are going to condemn Von Braun and then hold up Ley as a much better moral center, what does it mean if the two clearly got along just fine and wrote a Sci Fi book together, after the war?
You would have to ask them. Obviously the fact they worked together before the war has nothing to do with anything. After the war? People can make up their own minds about that, I don't really care. But Ley never participated in any atrocities. That is, you know, a very important distinction.

Again the logical implication. If Ley participated in atrocities Then he would be a terrible person. Since he didn't, we can't say. But I would argue further that anyone who wasn't responsible for the kinds of things that happened at the V2 factory are significantly less terrible then people who were. Are they good people? That's a different question. But they are certainly much closer to neutral. In order to make a determination, you have to examine all the other aspects that people judge people on.

In other words, running a nazi death camp is a Sufficent condition on being a terrible person, but it's not necessary condition (see same link)
Not sure what you mean here, as it sounds like you're disagreeing that many people ran programs that results in tens of thousands of deaths during WWII. Can you clarify, please?
Sorry, the whole line was:
*shrugs* Many people ran programs that resulted in tends of thousands of deaths, such is the nature of war.
It was in response to lupus_yonderboy who wrote: " He ran a program that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. It takes a psychopathic mind to soft-peddle this sort of thing - but psychopathic minds are in no shortage in 2012."

That makes it seem like what yonderboy wrote is something you can just "shrug" off and not big deal because a lot of people did it, and combined with the idea that having done those things doesn't make you a terrible person.

In other words: "*shrug* a lot of people did similar things, doesn't make you a terrible person"

That is the idea I find creepy. It also completely ignores the distinction between enemy soldiers and people rounded up and enslaved in territories you control.

He did the same things as other Nazi higher ups who were responsible for the holocaust, and that makes him just as much a terrible person as them. Essentially you are arguing that what the Nazis did didn't make them terrible people. Can you give another example of someone who did similar things and isn't regarded as 'terrible'?
You are mistaken on this point.
On what point? That you said we should remember him? That I learned more about him? Mission accomplished? There are three points in that sentence. The first two are correct and the third was a joke. (The text of the FPP was "Remembering Wernher von Braun on his 100th Birthday.")

Anyway, to summarize, let me copy and paste from another comment:
1) Enslaving people, and then working them to death or starving them to death is a bad thing to do.

2) Anyone who does it is a terrible person (whether or not there is a war going on)

3) Therefore, If Von Braun was complicit, or certainly if he was an active participant, then he was a terrible person.
You can replace "Von Braun" in that with anyone else, and the V2 program with "Anything similar". If anyone did anything like that, they are/were terrible people. If any of the founding fathers did that, then they would have been terrible people.

We know Ley didn't do those things, so we can't say on that basis that he is a terrible person, although theoretically he could be terrible in some other way. It's irrelevant. In fact, everything in this post except the numbered statements is totally irrelevant, just an attempt to explain what they mean, since it's apparently confusing for you. I don't really know why I'm wasting my time explaining basic logic and moral reasoning.

Do you disagree with any of those numbered statements? If so why? Can you name anyone else who did anything like what the V2 program did who isn't generally considered a terrible person, historically? Since the enlightenment?

(Prior to that I guess you could say Genghis Khan or someone like that - prior to the enlightenment, can you criticize someone for not understanding moral ideas they had never been exposed too and no one cared about? It's debatable. But this was the 1940s. The Nazis knew who Kant was.)
posted by delmoi at 1:35 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how soon von Braun's war crimes were known about in general, so how much Ley could've known back when he collaborated with him.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:39 PM on March 25, 2012


Writing walls of text back and forth isn't accomplishing anything, so lets boil this down:

He did the same things as other Nazi higher ups who were responsible for the holocaust, and that makes him just as much a terrible person as them. Essentially you are arguing that what the Nazis did didn't make them terrible people. Can you give another example of someone who did similar things and isn't regarded as 'terrible'?

You're equating Von Braun with the people who ran the death camps, which is a stretch, so your comparision and question don't make sense.

Von Braun did terrible things, but the fact that they seem limited in scope, and done in the context of terrible situation (war, Nazi camp), I don't think he was terrible person. He was just a man who did terrible things or failed to act more morally when he could have. Obviously those are faults, but hardly the worst actions of person in that situation.

If you think that's creepy, your entitled to think whatever you like, but I'm not sure what else you expect to accomplish here.

Do you know what you expect to accomplish here?


I'm not sure how soon von Braun's war crimes were known about in general, so how much Ley could've known back when he collaborated with him.

Listen to the conversation between them. Ley and Von Braun are citing specific dates and actions as they discuss the development of the V1 and V2. Ley fled Germany because of the Nazis, he knows Von Braun stayed and worked with the Nazis and is familiar with the development of the rockets during WWII. I find it hard to be believe that Ley wouldn't know, but I'm to any information anyone has on that subject.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:26 PM on March 25, 2012


You're equating Von Braun with the people who ran the death camps, which is a stretch, so your comparision and question don't make sense.
The V-2 factor was functionally equivalent to a death camp. The question is how much responsibility he bares for that. We don't know all the details, but we know he knew about it and said nothing. Survivors say he was personally involved in ordering beatings and so on.

Krupp and Speers didn't actually run the death camps, and Speers claimed he didn't even know about them. They both went to jail for war crimes.
He was just a man who did terrible things


Given the magnitude of the terribleness under discussion, it's enough to make him a terrible person if he had any responsibility. Did he? We don't know for sure, but it seems likely to me. So it's likely that he was a terrible person.

Again, I'm not trying to defend Ley, someone else brought him up. I was only pointing out that, having not participated in any atrocities, he would have lived a better life then someone who had. Maybe that's just due to circumstance, we can't say. But the important thing is that Ley is irrelevant when discussing Von Braun because he didn't do anything like what he (may have) done at the V-2 factory.
Do you know what you expect to accomplish here?
Uh, what are you trying to accomplish?
posted by delmoi at 3:22 PM on March 25, 2012


I'm also trying to be careful about conditionals. I'm saying what would be true if Von Braun had responsibility. I don't think 20k deaths is 'small scale', and I don't think his excuse about worrying about being shot is realistic. Survivors say they saw him participate in abuse.

You could make the same excuses for Speer, Krupp and other Nazis who participated in the holocaust, and their lawyers did. It didn't work. They all said they didn't know, they all said they personally couldn't do anything about it, etc. It wasn't a good enough excuse at Nuremberg, if Von Braun had been put through the same process he'd probably have been hanged. I don't think "reasonable doubt" was the standard at those trials.

In fact, now that I look at it there were actually trials specifically over the Mittelbau-Dora camp, in other words what happened at that camp was enough to execute people, give many life sentences to several people, and give long sentences to others Von Braun obviously had a key role too. We know why he wasn't tried, and it had nothing to do with his culpability.

Ruldof Jacobi got life imprisonment and he was in charge of construction, Georg König got life and he was responsible for running the vehicle fleet. If Von Braun was in charge of the entire V2 program certainly had as much responsibility as those guys.

Building V-2s almost all they did, from what I can tell. Von Braun didn't just design the rockets, he was responsible for their production as well. From wikipedia:
On August 15, 1944, von Braun wrote a letter to Albin Sawatzki, manager of the V-2 production, admitting that he personally picked labor slaves from the Buchenwald concentration camp, who, he admitted 25 years later in an interview, had been in a "pitiful shape".[2]
Here's what the witness has to say:
Without even listening to my explanations, [von Braun] ordered the Meister to have me given 25 strokes...Then, judging that the strokes weren't sufficiently hard, he ordered I be flogged more vigorously...von Braun made me translate that I deserved much more, that in fact I deserved to be hanged...I would say his cruelty, of which I was personally a victim, are, I would say, an eloquent testimony to his Nazi fanaticism.
So I don't really think not equatable with "with the people who ran the death camps" or "limited in scope" are factually supported here.
posted by delmoi at 3:42 PM on March 25, 2012


(er, building V-2s was almost all they did. They being the prisoners at Mittelbau-Dora)
posted by delmoi at 4:10 PM on March 25, 2012


Uh, what are you trying to accomplish?

Figure out if you can make sense or just have a natural tendency to twist facts.

From wikipedia

This is what I'm talking about. You posted a link to the Dora Trial Wikipedia page. Then a few paragraphs later you write "From Wikipedia" as if you're refering to the previous page you linked to above that phrase.

But you're not. The quotes you cite are not from the Dora Trial Wikipedia page, they're from the Wikipedia page on Von Braun. Those specific quotes are just a few paragraphs below notes that cite Hans Kammler as the guy who thought of using slave labor and Arthur Rudolph as endorsing the idea. Those notes also make clear that Von Braun was aware of the terrible conditions, but felt powerless to do and when he tried speak to the guards abou the conditions, was told to mind his own business, otherwise he'd wind up among the slaves and a team member states that had Von Braun resisted, he would have been shot.

Like I said, all that was before the "damming" paragraphs you cite, so it's strange that you're selectively quoting only the parts that help your point of view. Oh wait, no it isn't because you seem to have edited the quote from Wikipedia, deleting a portion that contradicts the point you're making.

Here's what you posted:
On August 15, 1944, von Braun wrote a letter to Albin Sawatzki, manager of the V-2 production, admitting that he personally picked labor slaves from the Buchenwald concentration camp, who, he admitted 25 years later in an interview, had been in a "pitiful shape".[2]
Here's the actual text, copied and pasted from the Wikipedia article on Von Braun. The bold part is missing from your quote:
On August 15, 1944, von Braun wrote a letter to Albin Sawatzki, manager of the V-2 production, admitting that he personally picked labor slaves from the Buchenwald concentration camp, who, he admitted 25 years later in an interview, had been in a "pitiful shape".[not in citation given][2]
Would you like to explain this discrepancy?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:42 AM on March 26, 2012


I don't really understand what your complaint is: that I was quoting Wikipedia articles in the wrong order or something? It's not clear why any of that matters and I don't really care. One thing did strike me though:
Like I said, all that was before the "damming" paragraphs you cite
Here's the paragraph:
Without even listening to my explanations, [von Braun] ordered the Meister to have me given 25 strokes...Then, judging that the strokes weren't sufficiently hard, he ordered I be flogged more vigorously...von Braun made me translate that I deserved much more, that in fact I deserved to be hanged...I would say his cruelty, of which I was personally a victim, are, I would say, an eloquent testimony to his Nazi fanaticism.
That seems to imply you think Guy Morand, the french Resistance fighter and Dora Survivor that the quote comes from is a liar? That he was completely fabricating his encounter with Von Braun? And imply that Robert Cazabonne, another french prisoner was also lying.

On the other hand you also say: "Those notes also make clear that Von Braun was aware of the terrible conditions, but felt powerless to do and when he tried speak to the guards abou the conditions, was told to mind his own business"

Except, the only thing the notes make clear is that he said that he'd be shot, and that his friend said he thought the same thing. So it sounds, here, that you're willing to to take Von Braun and a fellow Nazi scientist (who worked under him and was essentially saved by him) at their word, while at the same time basically implying that two separate holocaust survivors are liars.

I think it's more likely the opposite is true. And in any event, in my comments I was careful to reiterate that Von Braun claimed that he was afraid he'd be shot if he spoke up.

Information is often spewed all over different Wikipedia articles, and the idea that somehow quoting different articles and linking to them is somehow 'twisting' the facts is completely ridiculous.

--
Anyway, as far as I can tell your thinking on this issue is so warped that you're willing to call holocaust survivors liars who are trying to besmirch the honor of a great man. That's seriously fucked up.
posted by delmoi at 4:03 PM on March 27, 2012


Delmoi, anytime you're ready to explain the discrepancy mentioned above, that's great. If you want to link to where you got the quote from, great. Until then, it looks like you're manipulative liar or seriously mistaken.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:22 PM on March 27, 2012


Delmoi, anytime you're ready to explain the discrepancy mentioned above, that's great.

Sure, when you explain why you think Guy Morand is also a liar, I'll be happy too!
posted by delmoi at 5:37 PM on March 27, 2012


1. No one said that, as you well know, because your original accusation says "That seems to imply", so you're not quite sure.

2. You're making shit up again or failing reading comprehension.

3. You're still dodging the question on the discrepancy in the quote you cited. Do you have link that makes what you quoted?

4. See #3. Seriously there's either some serious manipulation there on your part or some mistake. We can't have conversation unless you answer that question. You can start hurling more accusations if you like or you could clear up a question and all your questions can be answered.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:59 PM on March 27, 2012


You're still dodging the question on the discrepancy in the quote you cited. Do you have link that makes what you quoted?
I don't really think this is worth my time, but I was kind of curious if I could find other citations and of course, it turned out to be pretty easy (In fact, I found all these links before you posted your last comment)

The first search result that comes up when you do a Google search for "Von Braun Buchenwald" is a university of Alabama web page entitled Dora and the V-2: Slave labor in the space age which says:
Rudolph became technical head of V–2 production at the underground Mittelwerk factory; he and von Braun requested that the SS provide more prisoners for V–2 production, most clearly in an August 15, 1944, memo in which von Braun described his trip to the Buchenwald concentration camp to select prison workers and arrange their transfer to Dora.
The next is to an academic paper on JSTOR: Wernher von Braun and Concentration Camp Labor: An Exchange
Ernst Stuhlinger and Michael J. Neufeld - German Studies Review Vol. 26, No. 1 (Feb., 2003), pp. 121-126
which conveniently translates the memo. That's pay-walled off, but I did find the memo, as an image

Here's an excerpt:
I immediately acted on your suggestion and went with Dr. Simon to find a few other suitble prisoners in Buchenwald and then, according to your suggestion arranged with Standartenfuhrer [SS Col] Pister [Buchenwal camp commandant] for their transfer to the Mittelwerk. Furthermore, I have asked Dipl.-Ing. Rohner, to assume responsibility for carrying out the project, and told him to report to you immediately in the Mittelwerk.
Oh, and he closes the memo with:
With best wishes and Heil Hitler! Sinceerely, B. [signature initial of Wernher von Braun]
Cute! Perhaps if you'd actually Google this yourself you could have saved some embarrassment.

Feel free to explain why you think we should assume Guy Morand is a liar. Or you can continue to nitpick the ordering of Wikipedia quotations in order to defend a Nazi scientist partially responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of slave laborers, who he personally selected in some cases. I think I've proven my point and your followups are largely incoherent and completely inconsequential.
posted by delmoi at 6:25 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


but I was kind of curious if I could find other citations and of course, it turned out to be pretty easy

I'm not talking about other citations, I'm talking about a specific one.

What you're quoting now? It's different from the original quote which you appear to have edited. If you could clear up that discrepancy, that would be great.

This quote:
On August 15, 1944, von Braun wrote a letter to Albin Sawatzki, manager of the V-2 production, admitting that he personally picked labor slaves from the Buchenwald concentration camp, who, he admitted 25 years later in an interview, had been in a "pitiful shape".[2]
From this comment of yours. Note the "[2]".

You have yet to deal with that. You've talked about a lot of other stuff, found completely new quotes, but you're still avoiding answering the question. Why is that?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:07 PM on March 27, 2012


You have yet to deal with that. You've talked about a lot of other stuff, found completely new quotes, but you're still avoiding answering the question. Why is that?

Because, as I said : "you can continue to nitpick the ordering of Wikipedia quotations in order to defend a Nazi scientist partially responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of slave laborers, who he personally selected in some cases. I think I've proven my point and your followups are largely incoherent and completely inconsequential."

I don't feel that there's any need to continue with this discussion. You haven't answered any of my questions and you're obviously not going too - and at this point I don't even really care.

I can understand why you might not feel a sense of closure, but that's not my problem.
posted by delmoi at 8:41 PM on March 27, 2012


(Oh, specifically I also said: "Sure, when you explain why you think Guy Morand is also a liar, I'll be happy too!" but just to be clear: I no longer care why it is you think we should disregard what he had to say)
posted by delmoi at 8:45 PM on March 27, 2012


Because, as I said : "you can continue to nitpick the ordering of Wikipedia quotations in order to defend a Nazi scientist partially responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of slave laborers, who he personally selected in some cases.

Nope, just asking you to clarify where you got a specific quote from, a request you've repeatedly dodged.

The real question is, as it's been from the beginning, boils down to "Did you intentionally edit a quote from Wikipedia to leave out pertinent information?"

If you can't answer that simple question, that would indicate you're plagiarist and when caught, can't own up to it. If that's how you want to leave this, that's your choice.

As to Guy Morand, I'd suggest reading the source material the quote is from, rather than cribbing from Wikipedia.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:22 AM on March 28, 2012


LOL.
The real question is, as it's been from the beginning, boils down to "Did you intentionally edit a quote from Wikipedia to leave out pertinent information?"
Funny, I thought the question was whether or not Von Braun was responsible for atrocities at Mittelwerk/Dora and the answer is clearly yes. I found better sources for the information in the Wikipedia quote, including the original memo where von Braun actually mentions personally selecting slaves for the camp. The point I was trying to make was proven.

As far as the question, I already explained why I wasn't answering in prior comments, which you seem to be ignoring. In which case, I don't see how explaining it again would do any good. Nonetheless, I'll quote myself again: "Sure, when you explain why you think Guy Morand is also a liar, I'll be happy too!". There's no mystery here. It's spelled out clearly.

Also, it appears that you don't even know what the word "plagiarism" even means. The actual definition doesn't apply at all to the nonsense you've been spouting.

Anyway, it's ironic to see someone derail their own thread. If all you want to do is complain about my comments, take it to MeTa. Otherwise you can continue ranting by yourself, I guess.
posted by delmoi at 10:59 AM on March 28, 2012


As far as the question, I already explained why I wasn't answering in prior comments...

Actually, you haven't, that's the problem. You appear to have manipulated a quote by leaving out the "[not in citation given]" part. Go back and read this comment of yours. This part:
Building V-2s almost all they did, from what I can tell. Von Braun didn't just design the rockets, he was responsible for their production as well. From wikipedia:
On August 15, 1944, von Braun wrote a letter to Albin Sawatzki, manager of the V-2 production, admitting that he personally picked labor slaves from the Buchenwald concentration camp, who, he admitted 25 years later in an interview, had been in a "pitiful shape".[2]
You wrote that the quote is from Wikipedia, yet don't link to which page of Wikipedia the quote is from.

Can you do so, please? Seriously, that's all you're being asked to do, cite the source of what you quoted.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:08 PM on March 28, 2012


I asked various questions up-thread, which you didn't answer. I think it's pretty clear that you have no interest in doing so.
Can you do so, please?
I can, but I have chosen not too for reasons outlined above. Not sure why this is so difficult for you to process.

People may come to believe I'm being unfair to a Nazi war criminal responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of enslaved POWs through: starvation, beatings, being shot, and/or worked to death -- some of which (as I've clearly demonstrated) he picked out by hand. I can live with that.
posted by delmoi at 2:33 PM on March 28, 2012


I asked various questions up-thread, which you didn't answer.

We already ran through that. You're quite earnest to say Von Braun is terrible person, but when I noted the founding fathers of America were complicit in American slavery, you essentially shrugged your shoulders, noting you didn't know of any examples and hey, it was a different time back then.

I can, but I have chosen not too for reasons outlined above.

Your reasons are mixture of faulty reasoning, dodging and making shit up ("Why do you think Morand is lying?"). I never said that, but ya keep implying that I did. Weird.

Think it through Delmoi. Where is the Guy Morand quote, which you're placing such heavy weight on, from? Have you read that source material? Is it a trusted source? It isn't a question of whether Morand was lying, but whether his story, told in 1995, with no collaboration for this specific story is true.

The quote is from the book "Dark Side of the Moon" which anyone can Google reviews of and note that it's far from a trusted source, as the author seems to be axe grinding. If one reads the full quote of Morand's experience, it's quite damning and brutal, but lacks collaboration. There are a few other quotes in that section from prisoners who say Von Braun mistreated him, but they're not solid evidence. One explicitly says he was told that it was Von Braun did things to him, which is hardly proof. The others are on similar sketchy ground.

Finally, at the end of all those quotes, the author of the book notes "While these statements resound with authenticity, they suffer according to academic standards of historical evidence by their remove in time from the original event, lack of corroboration, and the possibility of mistaken identity." Biddle, Wayne (2012-01-23). Dark Side of the Moon: Wernher von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race (Kindle Locations 2390-2392). Norton. Kindle Edition.

It isn't a question of whether Morand is lying, it's a question of whether what he remembers is what really occurred. There's no way to set the record straight on that. My personal view is that Von Braun most definitely did bad and immoral things during this time period, but they're not the final judgement of whether he was terrible person. Was he he a terrible person, in my opinion? Hard to say, as I've only read a little bit about his background. At best, I'd say he's a complex person, brilliant and driven in his quest to build spaceships and willing to work for whoever would allow him to advance that knowledge. Had someone given him ooddles of money to just build spaceships and make sure the workers were humanly treated and paid, he would have happily done. But the world wasn't working that way, so he definitely partook in immoral actions to save his own skin and fuel his dream. Plenty of people have done similar, with their deeds being better or worse, so I can't condemn Von Braun solely as a terrible person. He was very flawed. He was human.


There, your question about Guy Morand has been answered. So where did that Wikipedia quote you cited come from?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:40 AM on March 29, 2012


but when I noted the founding fathers of America were complicit in American slavery, you essentially shrugged your shoulders, noting you didn't know of any examples and hey, it was a different time back then.

First you accuse me of distorting the facts, then you distort what I said. Classy.
posted by delmoi at 6:11 PM on March 30, 2012


So where did that Wikipedia quote you cited come from?

Wernher von Braun and Concentration Camp Labor: An Exchange
Ernst Stuhlinger and Michael J. Neufeld - German Studies Review Vol. 26, No. 1 (Feb., 2003), pp. 121-126


I said that already, by the way.
posted by delmoi at 6:13 PM on March 30, 2012


That's not a Wikipedia page.

This comment of yours has a quotation which you write is "From Wikipedia". What is the link to the Wikipedia page you were referring to?

First you accuse me of distorting the facts, then you distort what I said.

Nope.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:59 PM on March 30, 2012


(Oh, the "pitiful shape" quote may be apocryphal, it's all over the web but all seems to be sourced to wikipedia. It's beside the point, though as we obviously know the conditions at Buchenwald were horrible, although the death rate there (24%) was lower then at Mittelbau-Dora, where the slaves von braun selected ended up.

I assumed the [not in citation] thing only applied to the "pitiful shape" quote, and in leaving that tag in would have given the mistaken impression that there was some question as to whether or not von braun had actually been involved in personally selecting slave laborers, and in fact there is documentary evidence. Clearly I should have looked up the correct citation at the time. In any event no actual 'facts' were distorted)
posted by delmoi at 7:00 PM on March 30, 2012


That's not a Wikipedia page.
LOL. Seriously, your comments are just too damn weird. I have no idea what you are trying to communicate here.
posted by delmoi at 7:07 PM on March 30, 2012


In any event no actual 'facts' were distorted)

You edited a citation to fit your side of the story and your stated reasons for doing so were built on ignorance. Next time read the source and that way you won't have to doctor quotes to fit what you think is right.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 AM on March 31, 2012


You edited a citation to fit your side of the story and your stated reasons for doing so were built on ignorance.

On the other hand, you lied and claimed I said I didn't know about any examples of U.S. founders who were complicit in slavery, which is not what I said at all.

I made an educated guess that turned out to be correct. The fact you're wining about it doesn't change anything.
posted by delmoi at 3:08 PM on March 31, 2012


Oops, second link should go here
posted by delmoi at 3:09 PM on March 31, 2012


On the other hand, you lied and claimed I said I didn't know about any examples of U.S. founders who were complicit in slavery, which is not what I said at all.

True, true, it's what you wrote.

I made an educated guess that turned out to be correct.

Nope, by your own admission you didn't understand what the fuck you were quoting and decided to leave out a part of the quote, then tap danced around that fact for a few days, while making shit up about what I said and thought about Guy Morand. It's like you don't even understand English or leave in some alternate dimension where what you believe is reality.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:18 PM on March 31, 2012


What I said was:
I'm not aware of any founding fathers who worked their slaves to death while underfeeding them to the point where they'd eventually starve if they didn't die of exhaustion. If they did, then they would have been pretty terrible people.
What you said was:
but when I noted the founding fathers of America were complicit in American slavery, you essentially shrugged your shoulders, noting you didn't know of any examples and hey, it was a different time back then.
Which is clearly a lie.
posted by delmoi at 4:54 PM on March 31, 2012


If your only concern with founding fathers and their complicity with slavery are those you happen to know who fit a narrow definition of slavery, then you are shrugging your shoulders on the others.

I'm not surprised that you think this is lie, what with your insistence that I thought Guy Morand was lying. But then, as now, you're quite mistaken and very wrong.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:53 AM on April 1, 2012


If your only concern with founding fathers and their complicity with slavery are those you happen to know who fit a narrow definition of slavery
Most of your comments have been very confused, and now you seem to be confusing what I said with what you said. Here is what you said earlier:
Most of the American founding fathers owned slaves, but it's simplistic to say they were terrible people. It was a different place and time, where having slaves was a normal part of life for some people. That they had slaves is still wrong and morally repugnant but it seems shorted sighted to sum their entire lives based on this one aspect.
See that? you are the one who defended the slave trade and the founding fathers, not me. you are the one who first said it was a different time. you are the one who said they weren't terrible people because of it, not me.

You're comment earlier was totally dishonest. It could have been a mistake, but when I pointed out that you were mischaracterizing what I'd written, you chose to deliberately lie and claim that the false characterization was true. The rest of this is bullshit. I never said the founding fathers didn't own slaves. I never said anything about the "definition" of slavery.

You've been ranting for days about whether or not I properly cited Wikipedia, despite the fact that I found perfectly a perfectly valid academic paper showing that what I said was true. On the other hand, you're deliberately lying about what I said in this very thread. It's beyond pathetic.
posted by delmoi at 5:24 PM on April 1, 2012


See that? you are the one who defended the slave trade and the founding fathers, not me. you are the one who first said it was a different time. you are the one who said they weren't terrible people because of it, not me.

You ignored this entire next sentence and completely missed the overall point: "That they had slaves is still wrong and morally repugnant but it seems shorted sighted to sum their entire lives based on this one aspect."

You've been ranting for days about whether or not I properly cited Wikipedia, despite the fact that I found perfectly a perfectly valid academic paper showing that what I said was true.

Nope, was asking you to cite the Wikipedia link you quoted. That fact that you couldn't demonstrated your editorial manipulation of the quote, which of course calls into question what you've written on this site in the past, present and future. Seriously, if you're going to chop up a quote because it disagrees with your point, well then you're really not be trusted, are you?

Your inability to say some variation of "Yeah, that part was wrong, my bad..." marks you as dishonest and not knowing what you're talking about. Your continued manipulations and hap hazard justifications only spotlight that fact.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:13 AM on April 2, 2012


Nope, was asking you to cite the Wikipedia link you quoted. That fact that you couldn't demonstrated your editorial manipulation
You said yourself in this comment that the quote came from the von Braun page. Since you knew that, I assumed the question was "why did you remove the citation tag" I answered that here. People who are arguing in good faith don't ask questions they've already answered, I guess it was a mistake to assume you were.
Your inability to say some variation of "Yeah, that part was wrong, my bad..."
I said in the post I just linked too: "Clearly I should have looked up the correct citation at the time. In any event no actual 'facts' were distorted" And that's true, I should have gotten the correct citation, but the actual fact is true, Von Braun did select slaves from Buchenwald to work at Dora (which decreased their their odds of survival, by the way.).

So again, you're being dishonest in characterizing what I said. I did say it was incorrect (when you met the condition I set for answering the question) - prior to that, I corrected myself by finding a better citation for the fact that Von Braun personally selected slaves (which, again is true)
That fact that you couldn't demonstrated your editorial manipulation of the quote, which of course calls into question what you've written on this site in the past, present and future.
First of all, do you think anyone is reading this thread? And if they do what are they going to think of you when you clearly lied about what I said about slavery in the US? I said: "I'm not aware of any founding fathers who worked their slaves to death while underfeeding them to the point where they'd eventually starve if they didn't die of exhaustion. If they did, then they would have been pretty terrible people. "

And you paraphrased that as:
But when I noted the founding fathers of America were complicit in American slavery, you essentially shrugged your shoulders, noting you didn't know of any examples and hey, it was a different time back then.
It should be obvious to anyone that you were dishonest here. If you're trying to claim someone else is dishonest, and you can't stop lying when you do it, it's not going to work very well. Most of the rest of your insane posts have been full of the same level of dishonesty, but that was just the clearest and most concise example. It's amazing that you seem to think lying in a blatantly obvious way is going to make people think I'm dishonest.

(Especially when you're defending a Nazi scientist partially responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of enslaved POWs, which makes the whole thing even weirder.)
posted by delmoi at 4:25 PM on April 2, 2012


I answered that here. People who are arguing in good faith don't ask questions they've already answered, I guess it was a mistake to assume you were.

That link just goes to this page.

And that's true, I should have gotten the correct citation

Your ability to miss the point is amazing. The problem here is that you manipulated the quote, to leave out the "not in citation" part, which would have hurt your case. This isn't about getting the right citation, it's about not editing a quote. You had to first copy, then paste, then select that "not in citation' phrase and hit delete. That you thought that was ok and spent days defending it is odd.

First of all, do you think anyone is reading this thread?

The people I'm talking to in email, who are laughing at you.

It should be obvious to anyone that you were dishonest here.

Not anyone capable of reading and comprehending the English language.

Especially when you're defending a Nazi scientist...

Sadly, you don't seem capable of that reading and comprehension thing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:53 AM on April 4, 2012


You seem to be repeating yourself. All the points you bring up have already been addressed, multiple times in prior comments.
posted by delmoi at 12:09 AM on April 5, 2012


One has to repeat themselves with you, sad but true.

If you want to go ahead and admit you edited the quote you cited, we can stop.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:23 AM on April 5, 2012


All the points you bring up have already been addressed, multiple times in prior comments.
posted by delmoi at 5:37 PM on April 5, 2012


Guys. Take it to email. This is way too much of you-two-arguing-with-each-other. Spare everyone else the display.
posted by cortex at 7:04 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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