Chapter 16: Revelations
Nothing that the troops had seen in combat prepared them for the horrors of Dora and the other concentration camps in Germany. The T-force teams must have felt quite conflicted, caught somewhere between the revulsion at the conditions and delight at the goodies waiting in the Mittelwerk tunnels.
While Toftoy, Staver and Hamill were collecting documents, hardware, and personnel, the command structure of the Third Reich was disintegrating. By Hitler’s decree in 1941, Göring would be his successor in the event Hitler died or lost freedom of action. On 22 April 1945, Hitler announced that the war was lost and he’d stay in Berlin and commit suicide. Göring responded with a telegram indicating that unless he heard otherwise he would assume that Hitler had lost freedom of action, at which point Göring would assume command. Martin Bormann intercepted the telegram and presented it with the recommendation that Hitler consider this to be a treasonous act. Hitler immediately sent Göring a telegram ordering him to resign or be arrested. Bormann announced this to the German public over the radio, attributing the resignation to health problems.
On the same day (22 April 1945) a delegation from the US Congress left Washington on a fact-finding mission to liberated German concentration camps at the invitation of General Dwight Eisenhower. Security was already in place. The tour would not include the Mittelwerk, and the delegates would be assured that no American POWs had been held in such terrible places. The Congressional Report produced from this tour would become the official US documentation of the Nazi concentration camp system.
None of this affected the optimistic mood of the rocket team, comfortable in the Oberjoch resort. Their optimism seemed fully justified by the American response to their surrender. The images of the Dornberger-von Braun surrender give you a good idea of the festive mood. Wernher looks more like a visiting celebrity than a humble, vanquished POW, and the Hotel Banhof was considerably more hospitable than Stalag VIIA.
There is considerable documentation on this period. What struck me was how totally focused and determined the US agencies were, and how ready they were to ignore legality and morality to meet their objectives.
A Map of the Dora Concentration Camp and the entrance to the Mittelwerk
US Holocaust Memorial Museum