Engineering Consent: Peenemuende, National Socialism, and the V-2 Missile, 1924-1945
Petersen, Michael Brian
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ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: ENGINEERING CONSENT: PEENEMUENDE, NATIONAL SOCIALISM, AND THE V-2 MISSILE, 1924-1945 Michael Brian Petersen, Doctor of Philosophy, 2005 Dissertation Directed By: Professor Jeffrey Herf Department of History This dissertation is the story of the German scientists and engineers who developed, tested, and produced the V-2 missile, the world's first liquid-fueled ballistic missile. It examines the social, political, and cultural roots of the program in the Weimar Republic, the professional world of the Peenemünde missile base, and the results of the specialists' decision to use concentration camp slave labor to produce the missile. Previous studies of this subject have been the domain of either of sensationalistic journalists or the unabashed admirers of the German missile pioneers. Only rarely have historians ventured into this area of inquiry, fruitfully examining the history of the German missile program from the top down while noting its administrative battles and technical development. However, this work has been done at the expense of a detailed examination of the mid and lower-level employees who formed the backbone of the research and production effort. This work addresses that shortcoming by investigating the daily lives of these employees and the social, cultural, and political environment in which they existed. It focuses on the key questions of dedication, motivation, and criminality in the Nazi regime by asking "How did Nazi authorities in charge of the missile program enlist the support of their employees in their effort?" "How did their work translate into political consent for the regime?" "How did these employees come to view slave labor as a viable option for completing their work?" This study is informed by traditions in European intellectual and social history while borrowing from different methods of sociology and anthropology. I argue that a web of professional ambition, internal dynamics, military pressure, and fear coalesced in this project. The interaction of these forces made the rapid development of the V-2 possible, but also contributed to an environment in which terrible crimes could be committed against concentration camp prisoners in the name of defending National Socialist Germany.