Monday, March 1, 2010

"A Proposal on Dora" from a local citizen, John W. Davis

Thank you for sharing, John. 

"Huge tunnels were bored into the Harz Mountains at a place called
 Dora-Mittelbau, Germany.  They were to protect the Nazis' V-2 rocket plant
 from  Allied bombers. The tunnels were also the site of mass murder. To build the
 rockets, most estimates conclude 20,000 slaves from across Europe were
 tortured, beaten, and worked to death there.  Strangely, some sixty
 years after the last SS guard ran away from the advancing US Army,
 Dora's legacy comes to directly affect Huntsville, Alabama.

 A seminar at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, is entitled
 "Dora and the V-2, Slave Labor and the Space Age". It notes an
 inexplicable reality.  Huntsville, the Rocket City, earned its title due to Project
 Paperclip, which brought captured German rocket scientists to America.
 They developed our rocket program which resulted in the magnificent trip
 to the moon and back.  For this grand accomplishment humanity will honor
 them forever. 

And yet, is this fair?  Is it fair to commemorate men who knowingly
used slave labor to produce their first rockets, then brought that science
 to America?  Otherwise stated, is it fair to forget those who
were beaten to death, often with sticks and boots like rabid animals, in
 the production of those flying Nazi bombs?

Photographs at the Huntsville University Library show dramatic  scenes.
Some were captured on scraps of paper by those who risked their
lives to do so.  They reveal beastliness, brutal, inhuman conditions,
and macabre death scenes.  One scene freezes forever the hanging of
 several prisoners, their mouths locked shut by sticks and cords. These
 devices were to prevent them calling out to the assembled slaves,
 arrayed to see the sight, and tremble.

Slavery.  We in this country fought a civil war to end that stain.
 One speaker at the conference said no memorial should only mourn the
 dead.  No, a democracy's strength is how it can objectively face its
 past, the better to learn from it. How can we do less in our city?  If,
 due to the horrible death of so many others, our future as the center
 for space travel began, surely we can acknowledge that fact.

Our Space and Rocket Museum should have a permanent display, perhaps
 using some of those photos or items on display at UAH. Our city's Big
, or Von Braun Center, could memorialize those murdered

 Europeans.  UAH could commemorate them, the better to remind young
 engineers of the future that life's choices have consequences.  Science
 affects the lives of people, not just equipment.  We should, after all,
 have an ethical awareness of cause and effect.  This awareness should
 inform our actions.  We should concretely recognize that while we did
 not cause the murders, indeed were the liberators of the slaves, we must
 do more.

We can honor those murdered by Hitler.  Their slave labor led not
 only to the development of Hitler's  weapons of vengeance, but gave us the
 basis of those wonderful ships which took us to the moon.  The world
 needs to know that these dead too, were as one professor observed,
 "Rocket Men."  Also, as so poignantly observed by one panelist, such
 recognition would wring immeasurable good out of unspeakable evil. 

The great German poet, J.C.Friedrich Holderlin said as much when he wrote
 "Near, but difficult to grasp, the God. But where there is danger, the
 saving powers also rise."  The thousands murdered, those denied every
 single dignity in the great danger that was Dora, might finally receive
 an earthly dignity.  We of Huntsville have only to recognize them in
 this, our Rocket City."

1 comment:

  1. Marvelous essay, beautifully spoken and magnificently written.