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Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]>
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Wed, 14 Dec 2022 17:21:24 -0600
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https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/13/opinion/stanford-harvard-nasa-nazi-scientists.html
Why Do Stanford, Harvard and NASA Still Honor a Nazi Past?
Dec. 13, 2022

5 min read
[image: Alfried Krupp, left, in 1957, wears an overcoat and stands next to
a machine operator.]
Alfried Krupp, left, in 1957, ran his factories with inmates of
concentration camps as slave laborers. Credit...Bettmann/Getty Images

By Lev Golinkin

Mr. Golinkin is the author of the memoir “A Backpack, a Bear and Eight
Crates of Vodka.”
This year, Harvard unveiled a report
<https://legacyofslavery.harvard.edu/report/introduction-and-findings> on
the university’s history of profiting from slavery. “I believe we bear a
moral responsibility to do what we can to address the persistent corrosive
effects of those historical practices on individuals, on Harvard and on our
society,” Lawrence Bacow, the university president, wrote in an open letter
<https://legacyofslavery.harvard.edu/about/aboutmessage-from-president> to
the community. The study was heralded
<https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/29/opinions/harvard-slavery-report-demands-attention-joseph/index.html>
as a long overdue reckoning
<https://www.npr.org/2022/04/27/1094971897/harvard-university-report-slavery-slave-trade-reparations-students>
by an elite institution with its dark past.

But tackling its role in the American slave trade only addresses one aspect
of the school’s past. Harvard still boasts a fellowship and a professorship
named for Alfried Krupp, a Nazi war criminal whose industrial empire used
around 100,000 forced laborers.

Harvard is not alone: From NASA to Stanford to the United States Army,
American institutions continue to acknowledge — and sometimes even
celebrate — high-profile former Nazis.

The individuals honored aren’t obscure Holocaust guards who managed to
skulk past immigration officers — some of them are historical figures whose
relationship with America has been extensively chronicled, including in
well-researched tomes by Eric Lichtblau
<https://www.npr.org/transcripts/361427276> and Annie Jacobsen
<https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/02/books/review/operation-paperclip-by-annie-jacobsen.html>
.

The institutions that whitewash the Nazi past of men whose names grace
Harvard and Stanford programs, part of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and
multiple locations in Huntsville, Ala., typically do so via deception by
omission — erasing history by leaving out or sidelining inconvenient facts.

How did the United States go from fighting the evil of Nazism to lauding
ex-Nazis? It began with the end of the wartime honeymoon between Moscow and
the West. With Germany divided and defeated, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union
quickly became America’s biggest enemy. Washington needed technology to
compete with the Kremlin and a solvent West Germany to serve as a bulwark
against Communism spreading through Europe. The ex-Nazis offered
tantalizing expertise. So while a handful of prominent Third Reich figures
were hanged in Nuremberg, many others saw their noxious pasts wiped clean
as they became partners and allies in the Cold War.

By the 1960s, with the space race well underway, the former S.S. officer
Wernher von Braun found himself meeting
<https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1185.html>
with U.S.
presidents
<https://www.jfklibrary.org/asset-viewer/wernher-von-braun-and-president-john-f-kennedy>
and being presented
<https://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19580217,00.html> by
<https://books.google.com/books?id=vVYEAAAAMBAJ&source=gbs_all_issues_r&cad=1>
the media as a math
<https://airandspace.si.edu/events/disney-von-braun-tv-space-specials-1955-57>
wizard working to get America to the moon. In other words: We didn’t just
hire him; we made him a hero.

Just shy of 30 years after the war, there was barely a ripple of surprise
when it was announced that Harvard would receive
<https://www.nytimes.com/1974/06/09/archives/krupp-gives-harvard-2million-to-bolster-useuropean-ties-krupp-gives.html>
$2
million
<https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1974/7/23/dirty-money-pto-the-editors-of/>
(approximately
<https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/1974?amount=2000000> $12
million today, adjusted for inflation) from the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen
und Halbach Foundation. It was 1974, and the funds were used to establish
the Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies as well as the Krupp
Foundation Dissertation Research Fellowship.

Alfried Krupp was an industrial baron and was convicted
<https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/subsequent-nuremberg-proceedings-case-10-the-krupp-case>
of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Nuremberg. His company had a
slave-built factory in Auschwitz
<https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa8263> and put to work
approximately 100,000 forced laborers
<https://krupp.library.vanderbilt.edu/slave-labor>, including prisoners of
war, concentration camp inmates and children. When Harvard accepted Krupp’s
money, The Harvard Crimson published a letter stating
<https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1974/7/23/dirty-money-pto-the-editors-of/>
that “few names are more honored in the annals of mass murder and genocide
than that of Krupp.” (In 1951, Krupp’s sentence was commuted and he was
released from prison.)

The web pages for Harvard’s Krupp fellowship
<https://ces.fas.harvard.edu/opportunities/graduate-students/fellowships/graduate-research-fellowships>
and the Krupp professorship
<https://ces.fas.harvard.edu/people/000059-peter-a-hall> say nothing about
their namesake being a convicted war criminal.

The Krupp Foundation also sponsors Stanford’s Krupp Internship Program for
Stanford Students in Germany
<https://bosp.stanford.edu/explore/berlin/internships/overview>, advertised
as a “unique and prestigious program.” The fact that Krupp was a war
criminal is only mentioned once on the program’s webpage.

But the rehabilitation of Krupp pales in comparison to America’s overt
whitewashing of von Braun and Kurt Debus, two of the Third Reich scientists
responsible for giving Hitler the deadly V-2 ballistic missile
<https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140905-the-nazis-space-age-rocket>.
The V-2 was built by concentration camp prisoners toiling under abhorrent
conditions in Germany’s infamous underground complex near Dora-Mittelbau.
At least 10,000 enslaved people were killed in the process of making the
rockets; American troops liberating
<https://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1942-1945/liberation-of-dora-mittelbau>
the concentration camp were sickened when they discovered a ghastly plateau
strewn with emaciated corpses.

But von Braun’s and Debus’s membership in the Nazi Party didn’t preclude
them from being offered jobs via Washington’s infamous Operation Paperclip
program that recruited former Nazi scientists to work in America.

Von Braun eventually moved to Huntsville, which became a center for
America’s budding space industry. Today the city and surrounding area house
a number of shrines to the former Nazi: His name graces a research hall
<https://www.uah.edu/events/venues/detail/28/1/von-braun-research-hall> at
the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a performing arts center
<https://www.vonbrauncenter.com/> and a planetarium
<https://www.alapark.com/parks/monte-sano-state-park/wernher-von-braun-planetarium>
.

“Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket scientists transformed
Huntsville, Ala., known in the 1950s as the ‘Watercress Capital of the
World,’ into a technology center that today is home to the second-largest
research park in the United States,” proclaims the “About Us
<https://www.rocketcenter.com/museum>” section of the U.S. Space and Rocket
Center — a Smithsonian-affiliated museum and the home of the renowned Space
Camp program. (A spokeswoman for the center said, “We are in a current
redevelopment of the rocket center’s website affiliated Space Camp pages,”
and that the center intends to provide additional context.)

In the meantime, von Braun is lauded at practically every turn: on the
Space Camp website, on the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s school
history page <https://www.uah.edu/about/history>, in the description
<https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwii39GDo8P7AhWKjIkEHdLIDPAQFnoECA0QAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.uah.edu%2Fimages%2Fadmissions%2FFinancial%2520Aid%2FScholarships%2FScience%2FDr._Wernher_von_Braun_Scholarship.pdf&usg=AOvVaw2x5n8D68nqIYIqUvjtJ8RM>
of the Dr. Wernher von Braun Scholarship, even in a 2019 speech
<https://www.google.com/url?client=internal-element-cse&cx=003223053695788617002:su1y7-4lmey&q=https://www.uah.edu/images/administrative/president/presentations/NASA_in_the_South___Altenkirch_opening_remarks.pdf&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwjsqPWfo8P7AhWmjIkEHU-yD384WhAWegQIBBAC&usg=AOvVaw2FCFfDyWe0-cJ24XiLiK5P>
by Robert Altenkirch, who was then the university president — none of which
mention Nazis or slave labor. (The school does have a web page
<http://dora.uah.edu/history.html> about rocketry and slave labor that
mentions von Braun.)

As for the von Braun Center performing arts venue, a spokesperson for the
city of Huntsville said that there is “an ongoing effort to provide greater
historical context and information” on the center’s website. But how long
does it take to correct the record?

The impression one gets from these sanitized histories is that this was a
man who had materialized out of nowhere, with no discernible past, like an
astrophysical Mary Poppins who had come to teach the people of Huntsville
how to make rockets.

It seems it is less common to note a Nazi past than to look past it. Such
is the case with the NASA Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex in
Florida, which is home to the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility
<https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/groups/event-venue---debus-conference-facility>.
In the official NASA biography
<https://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/about/biographies/debus.html> of
Debus there is but a short, vague paragraph about his life in Germany. On
June 24, the Kennedy Space Center’s director, Janet Petro, accepted
<https://www.nasa.gov/feature/kennedy-director-petro-honored-with-debus-award>
the National Space Club Florida Committee’s Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award; NASA’s
webpage celebrating the event referenced Debus’s astronomical achievements,
noting nothing of his S.S. membership and intimate involvement with
building the V-2.

Perhaps the most astonishing example of Nazi laundering comes from the Redstone
Arsenal <https://history.redstone.army.mil/bio-vonbraun.html>, a U.S. Army
post next to Huntsville, which has a building complex
<https://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Media/Images/igphoto/2000930381/> named
after von Braun. The arsenal’s history section features dozens of photos
<https://history.redstone.army.mil/bio-vonbraun.html#photos> of von Braun,
while his bio says <https://history.redstone.army.mil/bio-vonbraun.html> he
was “employed by the German Ordnance Department” and was the technical
director of the center where the V-2 was developed. No mention is made of
how the V-2 was used by the Third Reich to unleash hell on civilians.

Though our military is slowly dealing with its numerous
<https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/13/politics/us-navy-ships-rename-uss-chancellorsville-usns-maury/index.html>
tributes to the Confederacy
<https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/31/politics/west-point-kkk-plaque/index.html>,
it has yet to adequately address its lionization of a man who built weapons
for Hitler. It is astounding that institutions like the Army, NASA and
leading universities persist in insulting the sacrifice of thousands of
American soldiers by openly celebrating Nazi weapon makers.


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