Mittelbau-Dora was an underground rocket-assembly camp in the middle of Germany. It was a death camp without gas chambers. Its workers worked and lived like moles in the bowels of a damp, dark, cold mountain. In the short time that it existed, both in the main camp and the sub-camps, approximately 20,000 of the 60,000 prisoners died. Because the camp developed rockets used in warfare, it was subject to extensive bombing by the Allies trying to eliminate it and for “payback.” Because this is an anthropological examination of the Nazi camp, it is less about events than it is about how people find meaning in the events: how that meaning is produced; and how and by what means it changes over time. The memory of this camp has been maintained by people living and working in many countries and under a variety of political regimes, including a divided Germany. The official records are but the architecture upon which anthropology hangs “fragments” of documentation. Poems, mementos, memoirs, and oral histories are what it values and there are many moving examples of each here. One cannot help but note that the Nazi scientists were brought into the United States to lead its space explorations, a fact kept in mind by Eli Rosenbaum, director of its Office of Special Investigations (O.S.I.). For the past three decades, he has kept Mittelbau-Dora in mind, as he built a case against Arthur Rudoph, who managed the U.S. Pershing Missile program and the Saturn V program, which developed the first rocket to the moon. Rudolph had been a member of the Nazi party two years before Hitler took office. In Mittelwerk, he had voluntarily watched the slow strangulation by hanging of prisoners accused of sabotage. In all, this is a fascinating account of a period of history and the people who experienced the horror and heroism of the era. Bibliography, index, photographs.
Marcia W. Posner, Ph.D., of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, is the library and program director. An author and playwright herself, she loves reviewing for JBW and reading all the other reviews and articles in this marvelous periodical.