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Herman Oberth (1894-1989)  Germany.

Herman Oberth became an inspiration for all Germany's future rocket engineers.

His career focused on developing  reliable and practical  propulsion and guidance systems that would eventually lead to the A4 rocket. His publications on rocket theory became fundemental references on the subject.

Oberth's claim during the 1920's, under National Socialism to be the originator of  the fundemental laws for space flight conflicted with the priority of the Russian scientist Tsiolkovski .Tsiolkovski had initially written about his rocket formula in 1897 and published his laws in an international scientific publication on rocket flight in 1903. 



International scientific exchange between Germany and Russia prior to the first world war would have been available to German University system.

The grey area of  translation from Russian into German should not give right to authorship.


The rise in National Socialism in Germany and Herman Oberth's role (and others) wihthin the system would cast a shadow across this period of his life.

Aware of Tsiolkovski’s work Oberth developed his own theories starting from 1911.

The originality of Tsiolkovski's work was brought to the attention of the international comminity by the Russians during the 1920's when Herman Oberth claimed prior authorship.


Herman Oberth was born in Hermannstadt / Sibu which was then the eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian empire that later became Romania.

His initial studies in medicine, which he  had started in 1913 at the University of Munich, where interupted by the outbreak of the First World War.

Where his experience with looking after the casulaties of war convinced him that he did not have the temperament to become a doctor.

In 1917 he proposd a rocket project to the German War Ministry for developing a long range liquid propergol ballistic rockets. Which was rejected as unrealistic by the War Ministry.

Changing from medicine to study physics at Hiedelberg.  His final 1922 thesis on rockets was rejected by his peers as too avant garde and implausible. Whether or not they questioned its originality is not known. But originality is usually one of the major parameters when considering any thesis.

Subsequently in 1923 Oberth published his thesis in book form entitled 

‘Rakete zu den Planetenraumen’, Rockets in inter-planetary space travel. 

Later (circa 1945) Oberth would promote the originality of Tsiokovski's work using it as a confirmation of his own theories.


From 1924-1938 he held a post  teaching  physics and mathematics. That allowed him to accomodate his parallel interest in astronautics.

In 1927 Oberth became a member of the newly created German rocket society

 'Verein fur Raumschiffarht ' (VfR ) for whose popular magazine 'Die Raketk' Oberth wrote several articles.Members of the VfR included Johannes Winkler, Max Valier, Willy Ley, Hermann Oberth, Rudolf Nebel, Kurt Hainisch, Walter Hohmannn, Eugene Sanger , Klaus Reidel, Rolf Engel, and a young Wernher Von Braun.

1928 Oberth became technical adviser to the film producer Ftriz Lang for the production of

'Frau im Mond' Women in the Moon. For which he was to produce a large working liquid propergol rocket. Aided by an enthusiastic team of technicians and students that included Rudolf Nebel, Klaus Riedel and the young Wernher Von Braun.

Perhaps a little over optimistic they missed the finish date for inclusion in the Fritz Lang film

But  a smaller rocket was finally launched in 23 July1930.

Of more importance during1929 Hermann Oberth published the classic astronautic reference 'Wege zur Raumschiffahrt'

For which he was awarded the REP- Hirsch prize by the French Astronomique Societe  for the advancement of the science of astronautics. After a recommendation by Robert Esnault-Pelterie. Who later refered to the book as the bible of astronautics.


Oberth definity helped inspire a new generation of German rocket engineers and the A4 rocket developed in Peenemunde by Von Braun during WW2 would incorporate many of the ideas concieved by Hermann Oberth.

Oberth himself worked at Peenemunde from 1941 to 1943.


Herman Oberth had a rare talent for inspiring an interest in astronautics coupled with the driving determination to produce  practical working rockets. Based on the careful analysis of the reasons behind early rocket flight and  rocket motor failure.


Note:The significance of free scientific exchanges between Germany, Russia and the European scientific communuty on all subjects pre and post revolution up to the late 1930's needs to be considered.

Reference: Other benchmark films by Fritz Lang like the dark 'Metropolis' 1926 capture the future seen through the eyes of Gemanys newly immerging national socialism. Fritz Lang himself was forced to flee Germany in 1932 to live in the USA.  After being asked by Goebbles to produce propaganda films. Whilst Fritz Langs wife, Thea von Harou who had cooperated with him as a screen writer in his films stayed and promoted National socialism through film and image. It was the first time film had been used to generate political propaganda.

To try to get a feeling for what it was like living in Germany during this period. The social divisions that occurred , the removal of all elements of society that opposed the rise of national socialism. Refer to a intelligently written  short book of letters published in 1938.

Titled " Unkown at this address" by Kressmann Taylor.

I can guarantee it will be worth the two hours it will take to read.

 The haunting Aryan Future. Made credible by a ruined and humiliated Germany post WW1.

National Socialisms Definition of none Aryan:

All political parties that opposed National Socialism. and where immediately labelled communist.

Jewish people and Germans married to them.

Gypses, Mentallty or physically handicapped.


Obviously as soon as you opposed the regime you became something that was an amalgam of all the above and publicly despised.





Question:Under Germanys National Socialism was work carried out by none Aryans recognised ?

From 1924 National Socialism had its supporters within the hierarchy of the German university organisation. Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark who had both been awarded the Nobel prize for physics  openly supported the Nazi party from its creation. In return they where given the powers required to cleans the University system, of Jews, the Germans married to Jews, and all elements that opposed the Third Reich . To purify German Physics.  There objective was to filter all recruitment and make all who opposed the regime uncomfortable. There strategy was to use Einstien as an example of what was wrong in German Science. He was against the Nazi regime, a pacifist and Jewish.


Max Planck 1900

Black body radiation.

Energy packets or quanta



After 7th April 1933 when the Reich passed legislation to cleans Germany of its supposed impurity. Lenard and Stark openly criticised Einstein. Several of his more brave colleages Max Planck, Max von Laue and Walther Nerst  opposed the decision by the German Academy of Science. Max Planck visited Hitler in person to advise the Reich  of the importance to Germany of interllectuals who where Jewish or did not openly support the regime. Germany needed free thinkers to push the frontiers of science.

In reply Hiltler flew into a rage saying that the Reich had no place for Jews whom he thought where all communist and subversive. Max Planck's postion was threatened to a point where he believed he could be removed from his post at the university and threatened with internment in a concentration camp.

Note: A considerable amount of finance for applied research in German universities was being supplied from two German, steel industrialists Gustave Krupp and Fritz Thyssen,  who were also supporting National Socialism and Hitler Post 1924.


Almost immediately nine  Nobel laureates including Einstein made arrangements to flee Germany.  Much to the annoyance of Planck who wanted them to stay and prevent there positions being taken by pro Nazi scientists.

Max Planck managed to retain his position until late 1937.When he  was encourage by the government to take retirement and relinquish his post.

His lost his eldest son Erwin Planck in February 1945. Who was  executed for his part in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.

 In the summer of 1933 Einstien left Germany initially for Belgium and then to Princeton University in the United States where he continued his work.

Remember the work of both Einstien and Niels Bohr where classed as none arian.

The scientific relationshiop between Neils Bohr and Heisenburg that had produced Quatum Physics in 1927. Split over Heisenburg's  later support of the Hitler regime and his efforts to develop the atomic bomb for the Third Reich.


During 1936 the assasination of  Dr. Moritz Schlick professor of physics and philosophy at the University of Vienna  by one of his students.  Sent a shock wave through the academic world since Schlick had been openly critical of the Nazi regime .

The Nazi regime attributed his death as a natural consequence of erronous statements.

At the same time both Planck and Max von Laue, a disciple of Planck and one of Einstein closest associates, where now under continual pressure from Stark and Leonard to  leave there academic posts.

Schlick had been one of Plancks students whilst studying for his thesis.

Another example of German research being subverted by the Nazi regime is the case of

Lise Meitner.(1878-1968) a brilliant female nuclear  research chemist who had been encouraged by Planck to take up a research post in Germany and who was subsequently driven into exile by the Nazi regime in March 1938 and  subsequently robbed of her home, her belongings and her right to the Noble prize for chemistry in1945..

So where did this leave the relationship between  German National Socialism and Russian academic research and exchange.

After the Bolschevik revlotion1917 was Soviet Communisim viewed as none German. The answer is yes. Communism was anti-capitalist.by definition. 

Once Poland was neutralised the Soviet Russia  would threaten the Eastern frontier. A mutual none aggression Pact between Hitler and Stalin that had been signed in 1939 was broken by the invasion of USSR by Hitler in 1940.

The Satlin purges during 1938 that focused on interllectuals that had any historical link with Germany betrays the level of confidence Stalin had in Hitlers Germany. Not a lot..

Since Hitler thought all communists where subversive. Then it is not a great step to imagine that any scientific developments originating from communist countries would not be recognised by the Reich. and subsequently transformed into ideas originating from the 3rd Reich.


  This is the part of history usually glossed over when either Herman Oberth or Wernher Von Braun 

are mentioned

They both were aware of people within the  German university system being excluded and forced into exile or imprisoned.

 Max Planck was certainly more honourable in his attempts to protect and reason with the authorities.


'The path to Auschwitz was paved with indifference.' Prof Ian Kershaw  

University of Sheffield Specialist on the history of The Third Reich

You don't need to be fully supportive of extreme political factions to allow them to do hideous things just apathetic.


Who sponsored Hitler?

Everyone likes to concentrate on the maniacal character of Hitler and his direction that lead Geramny

into war and destruction. Few if any ask the more important question who financed his rise to power at the head of the National Socialist party.

From 1924 two important steel  barons Gustave Krupp von Bohln (1870-1950) and Fritz Thyssen (1873-1951) financed Hitler and the rise of National Socialism. In addition to providing half of the finance for promoting applied research in German Universities.

Following the collapse of the German banking system during 1923 the depression that followed put the Germany economy into a severe  decline.

What was needed was something that would lift Germany out of that derpression.

You can almost hear them thinking. I have an idea!

Banking collapse, Jewish bankers and money lenders, high unemployment, low demand for raw materials.

What we need is to develop Germany's technical superioirity and apply this to a  new National Socialist state. Offer a bright new future, employment etc


Further reading:

'Blind eye to murder' by Tom Bowers ISBN 0233972927   1981. Originally serialised in The Times and later withdrawn. 

Max Planck biography



Similarities between Hitlers National Socialism and Stalin's Soviet State in identifying and isolating the enemy factions of society and removing them to concentration camps. Where they were systematically de-huminised and lost both there social and political status.

Lenin and Stalin also began by blaming "enemies" for the Soviet Union's myriad economic failures: they were "wreckers" and "saboteurs" and agents of foreign powers. From the late 1930s, as the wave of arrests began to expand, Stalin took this rhetoric to greater extremes, denouncing the "enemies of the people" as vermin, as pollution, as "poisonous weeds." He also spoke of his opponents as "filth" which had to be "subjected to ongoing purification"--just as Nazi propaganda would associate Jews with images of vermin, of parasites, of infectious disease.

Once demonized, the legal isolation of the enemy began in earnest. Before the Jews were actually rounded up and deported to camps, they were deprived of their status as German citizens. They were forbidden to work as civil servants, as lawyers, as judges; forbidden to marry Aryans; forbidden to attend Aryan schools; forbidden to display the German flag; forced to wear gold stars of David; and subjected to beatings and humiliation on the street. Before their actual arrest in Stalin's Soviet Union, "enemies" were also routinely humiliated in public meetings, fired from their jobs, expelled from the Communist Party, divorced by their disgusted spouses, and denounced by their angry children.

Within the camps, the process of dehumanization deepened and grew more extreme, helping both to intimidate the victims and to reinforce the victimizers' belief in the legitimacy of what they were doing. In her book-length interview with Franz Stangl, the commander of Treblinka, the writer Gitta Sereny asked Stangl why camp inmates, before being killed, were also beaten, humiliated, and deprived of their clothing. Stangl answered, "To condition those who actually had to carry out the policies. To make it possible for them to do what they did." In The Order of Terror: The Concentration Camp, the German sociologist Wolfgang Sofsky has also shown how the dehumanization of prisoners in the Nazi camps was methodically built into every aspect of camp life, from the torn, identical clothing, to the deprivation of privacy, to the heavy regulation, to the constant expectation of death.

Project Dora Mittelbau 1943

In 1940 Wernher Von Braun became a  Untersturmfurher in the SS. Being promoted three times by Himmler to become Sturmbannfuher. In 1943 the construction of the V2  weapon was moved underground and weapon production was achieved by using deportee labour from the concentration camps at Dora-Mittelbau and Buchenwald.

The loss of life at the Dora V2 production site exceeded that of the number of enemy killed by rocket attacks.

The director in charge of the Mittelbau site was SS Brigadier Hans Kammler assisted by none other than Wernher Von Braun.  Responsible for directing the teams of rocket specialists, engineers, civil contractors and the prison labour.

Total SS control of the Peenemunde rocket production was achieved when Kammler also assumed command from Army General Ing Dornberger after he criticised the project to move rocket production underground. Since it would delay V2 availability.

That his role in the Dora project was hidden in the allied operation 'paper clip' prevented him being tried at Nuremberg with other Nazi officials..

Most of the filmed images taken by the American allies as they arrived at concentration camps where those associated with the Dora camps.

It has to be clearly stated that Wernher von Braun was a staunch Nazi sympathiser.

That he held a high rank as a major in the SS and was responsible for Dora Mittelbau cannot be lightly brushed aside  by the assumption that he was an  innocent scientific 




1930 Mirak 1 with directional 

rod shaped resrvoir copied from a firework rocket.. 

In the background the rocket intended for the Fritz Lang film.








'Verein fur Raumschiffarht '.The German Rocket Society'.

The Early Years.

The small band of enthusiasts that formed the nucleus of the VfR made rapid progress over the two year period from 1930 to 1932.

Members of the VfR included Johannes Winkler, Max Valier, Willy Ley, Hermann Oberth, Rudolf Nebel, Kurt Hainisch, Walter Hohmannn, Eugene Sanger , Klaus Reidel, Rolf Engel, and a young Wernher Von Braun.


Between May 1930 and 1932 the VfR logged:

270 Static rocket motor tests.

  87 Test flights

  23 Flight demonstrations.

    9 Public launches to help publicise the work of the VfR.


During this period rocket motor performance increased from:

   The original motor 'Kegelduse' that produced 7N thrust for 90secs on 23 July 1930

To a motor producing 105N thrust for 60secs.during a test at the Kummerdof West test site on the1st November 1932.

By April 1933 a development of the rocket motor produced 620N thrust. Nearly six times the original.


Whilst rocket flight performnce improved from:

An initial an  altitude of 10m in 10May 1930  by 'Mirak 3' .  

 To 1932  'Repulsor 4'  which had a range of 5Kms and an altitude of 1500m.

Interest was shown by the German Military in helping develop VfR. Principly because there was no reference in the Peace Treaty of Versaille banning the development of rockets.

By 1932 the VfR group due to the effects of the depression began to break up with several members seeking to advance the development of rockets abroad to avoid potential problems with having to work with the German army. There where three choices:

  • Work for National socialism.

  • Leave and work abroad 

  • Do nothing and risk imprisonment. Due to religious or politcal beliefs.

Some VfR members approached the Soviet military establisment. Rolf Engel made an offer to bring a team of rocket engineers to Russia in 1932.


In 1932 Walter Dormerger recruits Wernher von Braun from the Verain fur Raumschiffarht Society to set up a secret rocket development project at Peenemunde financed by Hitlers National Socialist government.

Hitlers National Socialist government financed Wernher Von Braun's project to develop the secret Peenemunde rocket  site with a test firing range over the Baltic Sea.

The development of V1 and V2 rocket weapon technoligies was carried out at Peenemunde.

 To discover more about the history of the V1 pulse jet  click on the title.

History of the pulse jet


Intercontinental rocket projects A9 and A10 where at the detail design stage in 1945.

They where to be used to attack the USA.

von07.jpeg (91079 bytes)

Peenemunde 1943

This rare photograph illustrates a VIP visit to Peenemunde from Brauns  Nazi sponsors. Recalling an uncomfotable reality  that both Von Braun, the US and everybody who later  profited fron Geramn technology  convieniently  forgot. By at best being economical with the truth.

National socialism would not have existed at all had they never had the support of the  financial and industrial power base in Germany. Or for that matter international stock investment.

On the more positive side we wouldn't have seen the rapid development of rockets, jet engines or computers either. Created by the  war.

Everbody in this photograph was fighting to give Germany a renewed pride in itself. Two would achieve this by technological innovation. Dr Walter Thiel left who developed the V2 rocket engine and WerhnerVon Braun seen suited on the right.

Dr Walter Thiel was killed along with hundreds of other engineers , during an allied bombing raid on Peenemunde during the night of 16/17th August 1943.

Part of the same allied night bombing raid overshot by 3kms and bombed a prisoner work camp killing an unknown number of prisoners. Amongst them  some of the Polish prisoners that had managed to get the original information to the allies about the rocket research and production site at Peenemunde.

Forty allied aircraft where lost during the raid.

The important work of Dr Walter Thiel and his team in developing the V2 rocket engine is frequently undervalued or attributed to Werhner Von Braun.



History Channel A4 V2 rocket launch

“0615: June 15, 1944”                                                                                                                   Top

1928 Film by Fritz Lang 'Frau im Mond' for which Herman Oberth was technical adviser


Further reading: Dornberger's account of the A4 development project.



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