Arthur Rudolph

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Arthur Rudolph

Arthur Louis Hugo Rudolph (born November 9, 1906 in Stepfershausen , † January 1, 1996 in Hamburg ) was a German rocket engineer who worked from 1934 to 1945 on the development and production of the rocket unit 4 (A4, " retaliatory weapon V2") in the Time of National Socialism was involved. After World War II , Rudolph was brought to the United States by the Americans, where he worked for the United States Armed Forces and NASA as the head of projects such as the Pershing rocket and the Saturn V moon rocket .


Arthur Rudolph came from a traditional farming family from Stepfershausen in Thuringia . His father Gustav died in the First World War ; From then on, Arthur and his younger brother Walter were raised solely by their mother Ida Rudolph. It was she who recognized Arthur's technical talent and let him complete technical training while his brother Walter looked after the farm.

From 1921 to 1924 Arthur attended the State Technical School for Small Iron and Steel Goods Industry in Schmalkalden . In 1924 he found employment in a company for silver goods in Bremen . In August 1927 he went to Berlin, where he held a position at floor & Co. accepted. After a few months he trained to become a toolmaker. In 1928 he began studying mechanical engineering at the TH Berlin , which he completed in 1930 as an engineer.


Heylandt-Werke, rocket vehicle on the test bench

In 1930 Rudolph worked for Heylandt Gesellschaft für Apparatebau , which manufactured equipment for oxygen production. In Berlin he met the rocket pioneer Max Valier , who was working on rocket experiments in the Heylandt works. Rudolph showed interest and from then on worked in his free time with Walter Riedel on Valier's rocket projects.

On May 17, 1930, the day after Rudolph began work on the missile project, Valier was killed in the explosion of a prototype engine. Further rocket experiments were banned by Paul Heylandt , but Rudolph continued his work together with Riedel and Alfons Pietsch . Rudolph subsequently developed an improved and safer version of Valier's engine. Alfons Pietsch designed a rocket car . Since Dr. Heylandt had in the meantime approved further work on the project, the Heylandt rocket car , which was exhibited at Berlin-Tempelhof Airport , was completed a short time later . However, due to the high fuel costs, the project was discontinued.

In 1931 Rudolph joined the NSDAP . At a later date he also became a member of the SA , but only stayed that way for a short period of time. Rudolph was released in May 1932, but a short time later he worked with his former colleague Pietsch on the development of a new rocket engine.

Pietsch, who tried to raise funds for the construction of the engine, met with Walter Dornberger , who had been instructed by the Army Weapons Office to develop a missile weapon system.

After a successful demonstration of the new rocket engine for Dornberger, Rudolph and Riedel moved to the rocket test site in Kummersdorf . Here they worked under the direction of Wernher von Braun , whom Rudolph had already met at a meeting of the Association for Space Travel. In December 1934, the von Braun team managed the first successful launch of an A2 rocket . This started from a test site on Borkum .

Rudolph married Martha Therese Kohls in Berlin in 1935 , their daughter Marianne Erika was born on November 26, 1937 in Berlin.

On April 20, 1940, Rudolph was appointed SS-Hauptsturmführer of the reserve (SS member number 193.418).

A4 research and subsequent production

Since the systems in Kummersdorf proved unsuitable for further tests, the team around Braun moved to the Peenemünde Army Research Center on Usedom in May 1937 , where Rudolph continued his work on the A4 project. In the spring of 1938, Dornberger made him responsible for planning the new A4 development sites that were to be built on Peenemünde. Rudolph also advocated that more than 1000 concentration camp prisoners were used as forced laborers . As the "Technical Director" of the HVA Peenemünde, he mentions the extremely poor living and working conditions of the forced laborers , including many Eastern workers and the French , and approvingly.

Shortly after the research facilities were completed, they were first attempted to be destroyed by British bombers in August 1943 ( Operation Hydra ). His wife and daughter were evacuated and moved to Rudolph's mother Ida in Stepfershausen. In the following months, technical equipment, forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners from the A4 test facilities were relocated to the underground tunnels of the Kohnstein near Nordhausen , where prisoners from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp were used in rocket production under inhumane working and living conditions. Rudolph was responsible for transporting the equipment and then, as Operations Director of Mittelwerk GmbH, was given responsibility for A4 production and the deployment of prisoners. In connection with the expansion of the Kohnstein, the construction of the concentration camp and the subsequent production of the A4 rocket, as well as the Fieseler Fi 103 flying bomb ("Retaliation Weapon V1") and parts of a jet fighter, about 12,000 forced laborers were officially counted in the SS files about life. Recent estimates place the actual death toll in connection with Mittelbau-Dora at up to 20,000. That would be more deaths during the development and construction time of the weapon than through the actual use of the "V2"; their victims, probably mostly civilians, are estimated at around 8,000 people.

Despite Albin Sawatzki's instructions to complete 50 A4 rockets in December 1943, only 4 rockets were built in December, which later proved to be inoperable. Series production of the A4 rocket started in January 1944 with 56 completed units.

In March 1945 production had to be stopped due to missing parts. Rudolph and his staff moved to Oberammergau , where they met von Braun and other employees from Peenemünde. Here they surrendered to the US Army and were transported by them to Garmisch-Partenkirchen .

US Army

Rudolph was brought to England in July 1945 for Operation Backfire , where he stayed until October 1945. Then he was returned to the Americans. His wife and daughter, who were living in the Soviet occupation zone at the time, were picked up by the Americans and taken to Camp Overcast near Landshut , where Arthur Rudolph was waiting for them. In November 1945, Rudolph, von Braun and the rest of the A4 team were brought to the United States for six months as part of Operation Overcast . After US President Harry S. Truman had authorized Operation Paperclip in August 1946 , the group stayed permanently in the US.

In January 1946, after a brief interrogation in Boston , the A4 team was transported to White Sands Proving Grounds , where they worked on the further development of the A4. Rudolph was transferred to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (Ordnance Research and Development Division) at Fort Bliss , El Paso , Texas in January 1947 , where he met his family in April. Since he had entered the USA without a visa, he was brought to Ciudad Juárez in Mexico , where he received a visa and officially emigrated to the USA on April 14, 1949. During his time in Fort Bliss, Rudolph also worked for the Solar Aircraft Company, among others, and between 1947 and 1949 he often stayed in San Diego , California .

In the course of FBI investigations in 1949, Rudolph made the following declaration about his membership in the NSDAP :

“Until 1930 I sympathized with the social democratic party, voted for it and was a member of a socialdemocratic union (Bund Techn. Agst. U. Beamt.) After 1930 the economical situation became so serious that it appeared to me to be headed for catastrophy. (I really became unemployed in 1932.) The great amount of unemployment caused expansion of nationalsoc. and communistic parties. Frightened that the latter one would become the government I joined the NSDAP (a legally reg. Entity) to help, I believed in the preservation of the western culture. "

“Until 1930 I sympathized with the social democratic party, voted for it and was a member of a social democratic union (Bund Technischer An employee und civil servant). After 1930, I felt that the economic situation was turning into a catastrophe. (In 1932 I actually became unemployed.) Because of the high unemployment, the National Socialist and Communist parties grew. For fear of a government of the latter, I joined the NSDAP (a legal party) in what I believed to support the preservation of Western culture. "


On June 25, 1950, Rudolph was transferred to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville , Alabama and his group was renamed the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (Ordnance Guided Missile Center). On November 11, 1954, he was in Birmingham (Alabama) , the US citizenship . In 1956 Rudolph was appointed technical director of the Redstone missile project and project manager of the MGM-31 Pershing missile project. On February 23, 1959, he received an honorary doctorate from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida . He later received the Exceptional Civilian Service Award , the US Army's highest honor for civilians.


In 1961 Rudolph went to NASA , where he worked for his former superior Wernher von Braun. In December 1961, he became deputy director of the Systems Engineering department (overall aircraft development for the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston ). From August 1963 to May 1968 he was the project director of the Saturn V rocket program. He then worked as Special Assistant to the Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center. On November 9, 1967, the first error-free launch of a Saturn V rocket succeeded at the John F. Kennedy Space Center . On January 1, 1969, Rudolph retired. On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 space flight, launched with a Saturn V, landed on the moon. During his career, Rudolph received both the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal .

Investigations by the Office of Special Investigations

Rudolph suffered a heart attack shortly after moving to San José near where his daughter lived, which necessitated bypass surgery . In September 1982 he received a written invitation to interrogation by the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), a department set up by Congressman Bella Abzug to track down Nazi war criminals.

Rudolph believed it was a questioning of the way he had met her when he arrived in the United States. The first of three interviews focused on his attitude towards the superiority of the white race, his early involvement in the NSDAP, as well as his possible role in relation to the treatment of prisoners while working in Mittelbau-Dora . On November 28, 1983, Rudolph signed, under duress and in concern of the care for his wife and daughter, an agreement with the OSI, in which he promised to leave the United States and to renounce his US citizenship. With the agreement, Rudolph avoided prosecution threatened by the OSI by the American authorities and retained his pension rights; the citizenship of his wife and daughter was retained. In March 1984 Arthur and Martha Rudolph emigrated to Germany, Arthur Rudolph resigned his US citizenship as agreed. German authorities protested to the Department of State because Rudolph had become a stateless person. In July 1983, German authorities requested documents from the OSI in order to be able to make a decision on prosecuting or granting German citizenship. After receiving the documents in April 1985, the investigation was led by the Hamburg public prosecutor Harald Duhn . After questioning a number of witnesses, the investigators announced in March 1987 that they had no basis for prosecuting Rudolph and granted him German citizenship.

In the meantime, the Rudolph case has been the subject of controversy in the United States. Several organizations and individuals called for an investigation into the OSI's activities in the Rudolph case, including retired Major General and former ABMA commander John Bruce Medaris , City Representative of Huntsville, the American Legion , physicist Friedwardt Winterberg, and former NASA staff. Thomas Franklin interviewed Rudolph and wrote a series of articles in the Huntsville News questioning the OSI's investigation. These were also the basis for Franklin's later published book An American in Exile: The Story of Arthur Rudolph .

In 1985, New York Congressman Bill Green introduced a law that should allow the withdrawal of the NASA Distinguished Service Medal awarded to Rudolph . Rudolph applied for a US visa in 1989 in order to attend the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the first moon landing, but the State Department refused this. In May 1990 hearings were ordered by the House of Representatives to clarify whether the OSI had neglected the prosecution of Rudolph or violated Rudolph's rights. In July, the Rudolphs traveled to Canada to meet their daughter . Since Arthur Rudolph was on the OSI list of wanted persons, he was detained at the airport. After a subsequent process, he was finally expelled in 1991. Rudolph tried to regain his US citizenship, supported by former employees in Huntsville, among others.

Arthur Rudolph died on January 1, 1996 in Hamburg of a heart attack.

Posthumous inquiries

In 1999 attorney Mark Richard won over then Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the successes and failures of the OSI. The report was completed in 2006; it was initially kept under lock and key. In 2010 the New York Times came into possession of the report - it comprises 600 pages - and published extracts.

See also

  • Otto von Bolschwing - he too was brought to the USA after the war. His past was also questioned late (around 1980). Bolschwing died in 1982 after his deportation was decided.


  • Tom Bower : The Paperclip Conspiracy. The Hunt for the Nazi Scientists. Little, Brown & Company, Boston 1988.
  • Rainer Eisfeld : Moonstruck. Wernher von Braun and the birth of space travel from the spirit of barbarism. Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg 1996, ISBN 3-498-01660-1 .
  • Thomas Franklin : An American in Exile: The Story of Arthur Rudolph. Kaylor, Huntsville 1987, ISBN 0-916039-04-8 .
  • Marsha Freeman : ARTHUR RUDOLPH AND THE ROCKET THAT TOOK US TO THE MOON . Paper published by the 54th International Astronautical Congress, Bremen 2003. Available as PDF here [1] .
  • Franz Kurowski : rocket pioneer Arthur Rudolph: honored - ostracized - rehabilitated. Vowinckel Verlag, Inning am Ammersee 2001, ISBN 3-921655-94-3 .
  • Michael J. Neufeld:  Rudolph, Arthur. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 22, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-428-11203-2 , p. 200 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Jens-Christian Wagner : Production of death: The Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp , Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-89244-439-0 .
  • Jens-Christian Wagner (Ed.): Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp 1943–1945 Accompanying volume for the permanent exhibition in the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial. Wallstein, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-8353-0118-4 .
    • German: Conspiracy Paperclip. Nazi scientists in the service of the victorious powers. List, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-471-77164-6 .

Web links


  1. Versailles Treaty : Because of the stipulations in the Versailles Treaty, the German Reich was not allowed to develop or own large cannons. Long-range missiles were not mentioned in the contract.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rainer Eisfeld: Moonstruck. Wernher von Braun and the birth of space travel from the spirit of barbarism. Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg, 1996, p. 18.
  2. Till Bastian : High Tech under the swastika: from the atom bomb to space travel . Militzke, Leipzig 2005, ISBN 3-86189-740-7 , p. 222 .
  3. ^ Jens-Christian Wagner (ed.): Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp 1943–1945. Göttingen 2007, p. 112.
  4. ^ Rainer Eisfeld: Moonstruck: Wernher von Braun and the birth of space travel from the spirit of barbarism. To Klampen Verlag, Springe 2012, ISBN 978-3-86674-167-6 , p. 26, DNB 1017774455.
  5. ^ Production of V2 in the Dora Mittelbau concentration camp
  6. Arthur Hugo Louis Rudolph Federal Bureau of Investigation, Freedom of Information Act, BUFILE 105-11507
  7. ^ Exceptional Civilian Service Award. (No longer available online.) Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army, archived from the original on November 29, 2014 ; accessed on May 27, 2014 (English).
  8. Emily Newburger: Never Forget. In: Harvard Law Bulletin, Summer 2002.
  9. ^ Thomas Franklin: An American in Exile: The Story of Arthur Rudolph. ISBN 0-916039-04-8 .
  10. Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the House Judiciary Committee should hold hearings for the purpose of evaluating all evidence relative to the Arthur Rudolph House Resolution 404, Library of Congress
  11. James A. Traficant: Resolution to Open a Congressional Investigation Into the Arthur Rudolph Case Library of Congress
  12. ^ NY Times 1990
  13. ^ Frank Herrmann: How Hitler's rocket maker came to the USA . In: RP of November 18, 2010, page A6.
  14. Reviewed in the New York Times on February 14, 1988