Nazis in America! It sounds like the premise of a bad B-movie, but it’s actually just one more complicated and controversial moment from the dark annals of American history. Many scientists under Hitler were actually brilliant, inventing secret Nazi technology that caught the attention of the superpowers of the world. The truth is that not one, not two, but dozens of former Nazis (as much as anyone can really be a “former” Nazi) survived and thrived in the United States long after the conclusion of World War II. How did they manage this impressive infiltration? They were invited by the US Government, of course!
There are countless Nazis who got away, but not all of them were recruited by a world superpower and handed a cushy job with an expunged record. Only the former fascists with something tangible to offer the American empire were chosen, such as rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. Those lucky few dozen were brought to the US as a part of “Operation Paperclip,” a secret program that even the President was initially unaware of. The basic justification was simple: the Cold War was beginning, and if America didn’t recruit Nazi scientists, the Soviets would. Any moral implications or ethical concerns were secondary, if they were even considered at all. Read on discover various Nazis who moved to the US and made significant contributions to American research.
Wernher von Braun is undoubtedly the most famous individual involved with Operation Paperclip, and he’s considered the father of rocketry, and indeed the entire space program, in America. For Wernher, it was always about rockets. Von Braun served the Nazis faithfully, developing the infamous V-2 rockets that helped give the Germans an advantage in the war.
Following WWII’s conclusion, von Braun was one of the first recruits to Operation Paperclip, and he was allowed to select dozens of his fellow Nazi rocket scientists to bring along for the ride. Von Braun was an integral part of the US space program from then on, and is probably the single biggest reason why the Americans beat the Soviets to the moon.
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Kurt Debus is one of the most celebrated figures in America’s aeronautical history. He is also a former Nazi. Like von Braun, Debus was a rocket scientist who worked on V-2 rocketry for the Nazis. Operation Paperclip gave Debus the opportunity to join von Braun’s dream team in the United States, where they helped America gain the edge in the space race. Debus fit in so well at his new home that he eventually became the first director in the history of the Kennedy Space Center in 1962. NASA still hands out awards with Debus’ name on them.
Erich Traub started out life as a simple veterinarian, but his expertise in animal diseases soon lead to his recruitment into the Nazi fold. He worked directly with Heinrich Himmler in a secret facility, attempting to create bio-weapons for the war effort. He officially became known as a “virologist.”
Traub was scooped up by the Americans in the wake of the war. He was instructed to keep working on his weaponized diseases, just in case they needed to use them against the Soviets. Traub eventually moved on from these violent endeavors and became the world’s leading expert on “foot-and-mouth disease.”
Kurt Blome was a virologist who was known to have experimented on concentration camp inmates during WWII. He was brought to Nuremberg for trial in 1947. The US intervened and got Blome off the hook, under the auspice of having him come to America to work on cancer research. Instead, when Blome arrived, he was directed to develop bacteriological warfare. He eventually joined the US Army Chemical Corps, often working on highly classified projects until he eventually returned to West Germany in the ‘60s.see more on Kurt Blome