Planet Dora; A Memoir of the Holocaust and the Birth of the Space Age

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An extraordinary memoir by a survivor of the Nazi camps, Yves Béon, Planet Dora is a recollection of life and death in a concentration camp like no other. Dora was a cavernous underground factory cut out of solid rock, where life was like a nightmarish scene from Dante: thousands of prisoners beaten, starved, killed, and living underground for weeks at a time. The purpose of all this brutality was to build the world’s first operational rockets: the V-1 and V-2 missiles, Hitler’s vengeance weapons.Some of ...

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Overview

An extraordinary memoir by a survivor of the Nazi camps, Yves Béon, Planet Dora is a recollection of life and death in a concentration camp like no other. Dora was a cavernous underground factory cut out of solid rock, where life was like a nightmarish scene from Dante: thousands of prisoners beaten, starved, killed, and living underground for weeks at a time. The purpose of all this brutality was to build the world’s first operational rockets: the V-1 and V-2 missiles, Hitler’s vengeance weapons.Some of Germany’s most brilliant engineers were involved with production at Dora, including Werner von Braun, who after the war went on to become the father of the American space program. It was his Saturn V rocket, designed with the help of his wartime comrades, that put the first man on the moon; while the Saturn V project was headed by the same man who had been the director of slave labor in Dora. In fact, some of the very rockets built in Dora were packed up after the war and shipped to New Mexico to serve as the seeds of the U.S. space program. In a very real sense, the greatest technological achievement of the twentieth century had its origins in the enslavement and murder of thousands of innocent people, the down payment of a Faustian bargain that still tarnishes the foundation of our reach for the stars.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The German rocket program of WWII, fueled by concentration camp labor and the Nazi credo "annihilation through work," is described in this harrowing account by Beon, who was arrested for resistance activities in 1943, shipped to Buchenwald the following year and then sent on to the little-known camp nearby, named Dora. In this prison cut out of rock, Nazi henchmen created a living cemetery, an underground hell of suffering, torture and murder, while pushing forward their quest to construct the deadliest weapons of the Third Reich: the V-1 buzz bomb and the V-2, "the world's first ballistic missle," manufactured to level England. In unflinching yet straightforward prose, the author records daily events in the camp, allowing his powerful descriptions of events to carry their own emotional weight. It's not only a world of hunger and disease but one of caste among the different nationalities of prisoners, and of brutality by the ruthless kapos, prisoners elevated to the role of henchmen. As Michael J. Neufeld, a Smithsonian curator, explains in an introduction, after liberation, the chief architects of the German rocket program, including Werner von Braun, were brought to America and became instrumental in the U.S. space program, helping to put the first man on the moon. The State Department looked the other way, though documents prove that von Braun and others who claimed that the use of camp prisoners had been forced on them were well aware of the atrocities at Dora. This is an important book, a tale of horrors that sheds new light on the Holocaust and on the questionable beginnings of America's space program. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813334929
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 7/2/1998
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 250
  • Lexile: 990L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.87 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.75 (d)

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