Peenemünde und die Polen - Hörspiel von "COSMO Radio po polsku" auf Deutsch
Peenemünde: The Poles and Hitler's miracle weapon - the V2 rocket
September 1992: Germany is preparing for the second anniversary of reunification on 3rd October. Meanwhile, in the village of Peenemünde on Usedom in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, (population scarcely 300), preparations are underway for the 50th anniversary of the successful launch of the V2 rocket (the "V" stands for vengeance weapon), which took place on October 3rd, 1942. The Federal Association of the German Aerospace Industry is aiming to to celebrate this day as the birth of space travel. In doing so, it makes no mention either of the military use of the rockets built at the Usedom research centre during World War II or of the tens of thousands of victims of the air raids, including those in London and Antwerp, during which this weapon was used.
The planned celebrations in Peenemünde trigger off an international scandal. The celebration is called off at the last minute. This is replaced by the start of a long-term debate on the role of science in the service of a totalitarian state. The Army Research Institute on Usedom, in its time one of the largest rocket construction centres in the world, is an obvious example.
The first tests using liquid rocket fuel were carried out in the early 1930s at the Kummersdorf research institute, about 60 kilometres south of Berlin. However, its proximity to the capital made it impossible to expand the test site whilst the Third Reich was aiming to possess an utterly unbeatable weapon. It was therefore decided to relocate the research centre to Peenemünde, a small fishing village on the northernmost tip of the Baltic Sea island of Usedom. Wernher von Braun personally chose the site for the investment. He was not only an ingenious scientist and one of the main designers of the V2 rocket, but also utterly devoted to Hitler's regime. Peenemünde's strategic location seemed ideal for the military test site. At the time the coastline made it possible to follow a rocket's flight for up to 300 kilometres. The village was relocated. In 1936 it was replaced by a military research institute, including an air base and airfield.
In the early years of the research institute scientists, engineers and military personnel had almost unlimited financial means at their disposal. Everything was subordinated to the idea of creating a miracle weapon. The outbreak of World War II gave a great impulse to the work on the rocket. However, the shortage of manpower was becoming increasingly apparent. Thus, there was no alternative but to recruit employees from abroad, even though the project was classified as "top secret". The first forced labourers began to arrive in Peenemünde. They were later joined by prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates, including some from Ravensbrück. Every month the numbers grew more and more. Most of them were Poles and Russians, but there were also French, British, Czech and Dutch citizens. It is estimated that a total of 10,000 to 12,000 forced labourers were employed in Peenemünde.
Günther Jikeli (ed.): Raketen und Zwangsarbeit in Peenemünde, Einleitung, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Schwerin 2014.