Often we wander through cities without paying attention to streets names and without knowing their background. We would therefore like to invite you to to take a critical look to the street names of Mainz to realise how they deal with National Socialist continuities.
Autor: Kritische Straßennamen Mainz
117er Ehrenhof 1, 55118 Mainz, DE
The square and street 117er Ehrenhof in Mainz's Neustadt was renamed several times in 1933. Initially, the square and the street were named after Georg Forster (1754-1794), a writer, naturalist and revolutionary. The National Socialists saw Georg Forster as a "traitor to the country" and therefore renamed Forsterstraße and Forsterplatz. In March 1933, the street and square were named after SA-Sturmbannführer Horst Wessel. In July of the same year, a memorial for the "3rd Grand Ducal Hessian Infantry Regiment No.117", the body regiment of the Grand Duchess, which was disbanded in 1919, was inaugurated on the square. This part of the army of the Grand Duchy of Hesse was founded in 1697, fought several times against the Ottoman Empire and France, but was mainly stationed in the Mainz garrison. In 1931, the veterans of Infantry Regiment No. 117 marched through Mainz chanting anti-Semitic slogans. They were accompanied by Nazi associations that wanted to join the regiment's military tradition. The SA-Standarte 117 "Rheinhessen" was even named in reference to this very military regiment. At the ceremony for the dedication of the memorial in 1933, the National Socialists publicly placed themselves in the tradition of the old ruling elites and presented themselves as a unity with the nobility, the church and the military. After pressure was exerted by the veterans, the square and the street were also named after the infantry regiment in the same year. That is why the street and square are called 117 Court of Honor until today. Even though the infantry regiment is not directly connected to National Socialism, the square should still be renamed because they represented anti-Semitic ideas, presented themselves with National Socialists in public and the National Socialists used the regiment to gain more support in society.
Carl-Diem-Straße 1, 55130 Mainz, DE
Carl Diem (1882-1962) was a German sports scientist, official and publicist and organizer of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He received several honors and awards, including the Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (1953) and the Olympic Order of the International Olympic Committee (1956). Carl Diem was secretary general of the "German Reich Committee for Olympic Games" and its successor institution, the "German Reich Committee for Physical Exercise", from 1913. In 1920, on his initiative, the "Reichsjugendwettkämpfe", the forerunners of today's Bundesjugendspiele, were held for the first time. In the same year, he played a key role in the founding of the German University of Physical Education in Berlin and became its vice-rector. At the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games, Diem was head of mission for the German Olympic teams. A few days before Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor (on January 24, 1933), Carl Diem was appointed Secretary General of the Organizing Committee for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Even after the National Socialists came to power, he was tolerated in office, although he had been classified as "politically unreliable" by the Nazi regime. His membership in the national-liberal "German People's Party" since 1922, the Jewish relationship of his wife, and the fact that under Diem, as prorector and de facto director of the German University for Physical Education, numerous Jewish sports teachers were active there before 1933, made him suspicious in the eyes of the National Socialists. Accordingly, in 1933 he lost his position as Vice-Rector of the Sports University and as Secretary General of the "German Reich Committee for Physical Exercise". The fact that he was able to retain his position as secretary general of the organizing committee was mainly due to Diem's reputation within the International Olympic Committee. A dismissal of Carl Diem by the Nazi regime might have led to a cancellation of the Games in Berlin. After the intern
ational success of these Olympic Games, Carl Diem was appointed director of the International Olympic Institute in Berlin. From then on, he emerged primarily as the author of National Socialist ideological and sports science writings, about a third of which appeared in National Socialist publications. His three-volume work "Olympic Flame" is considered an important contemporary document of National Socialist sports propaganda. Although Diem, who was not a member of the NSDAP, served the NS regime through the publications of his sports propaganda, he was still negatively judged by the Reich administration of the NS teachers association in 1939 because of his contact with Jews. On the one hand, Diem's diary entries from the Nazi period prove that he rejected the Nazi persecution of Jews and expressed criticism of the Nazi regime, but on the other hand also that he expressed anti-Semitic views in them. After the beginning of the war, Diem was entrusted with the management of the foreign department of the Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (NSRL). Although he had few powers in this capacity, he was thus integrated into the power structure of the Nazi regime. In November 1944, at the age of 62, Carl Diem joined a Volkssturm battalion in Berlin as a volunteer and was appointed "Ordonnance Officer for Special Use." In this capacity, he delivered a perseverance speech to some 1,200 Volkssturm men and Hitler Youth boys on March 18, 1945. Reinhard Appel, later editor-in-chief of ZDF, witnessed this event as a Hitlerjugend member. He reported in the eighties that Diem had called in his speech for the final sacrifice "for Führer, people and fatherland". The surviving speech manuscript of Diem, however, which contains only key words, does not contain such a passage. Nor were there any eyewitnesses who confirmed Appel's descriptions. That Diem gave a propaganda speech on that day is beyond question. Carl Diem's long-time doctor and friend, the former rector of the German Sports University Wildor Hollmann, said in response to Reinhard Appel's accusation that Diem was forced to make the speech and that his family was also threatened. However, for Diem's biographer and history professor Frank Becker is of the opinion that Diem could have refused the speech for health reasons due to his age without fearing any consequences. After the war, Carl Diem never distanced himself from his statements during the Nazi era or even showed public remorse. On April 12, 1947, he was appointed rector of the German Sports University in Cologne, which he had founded. He held this office until his death in 1962. From 1950 to 1953, Diem was also a sports officer in the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Diem's role in the Nazi regime is not entirely clear. On the one hand, he spoke out against the deportation of Jews, on the other hand, he was strongly involved in the Olympic Games, which played a major propagandistic role for the National Socialists, and he also served as a strong propaganda figure himself, through his person and through publications. Most problematic is his propaganda role for the final sacrificial walk, and that he never distanced himself from the accusations of having served the Nazi regime.
Adam-Karrillon-Straße 1, 55118 Mainz, DE
Adam Karrillon (1853-1938) was a doctor and writer and received various awards and honors for his novels about his homeland and travel stories. For his 80th birthday on May 12, 1933, the "Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur", which was close to the NSDAP, organized an Adam Karrillon evening in Mainz. Since that day there is also the Adam-Karrillon-Straße in Mainz. Karrillon, who was living in Wiesbaden at that time, was considered to be rather apolitical, but especially his work "Im Lande unserer Urenkel" is racist and supports the colonial efforts in Togo and Cameroon. The following excerpt proves this: "Our two darkies had abandoned their carriage and had become invisible. At first, I thought the guys were doing a load test on the wire mesh of the bridge ahead of us for safety's sake, to find out if it wanted to do us a favor and stand firm until we were over there. The entire umbrella frame looked miserably frail. But there I overestimated the sense of caution of these children of nature. By the time a person considers the consequences of a deed, he must have reached a fairly high level of cultural development. As long as these savages see the rails still lying, they boldly drive on them, even if the whole substructure would be washed away. It is better to plunge straight into the abyss than to think long and hard beforehand about how to get around it with one's skin intact.
Karillon was neither supportive nor critical of the Nazi regime. In addition, he was the only poet of "Aryan" descent in the region, for which he was honored. Adam Karrillon was flattered by the honor, did not reject it, and was thus part of the National Socialist system. In addition, he expressed racist views and glorified the colonial era. Persons who use and spread racist and colonialist ideas and support the National Socialist system should not be given a monument in the form of a street.
Immelmannstraße 1, 55124 Mainz, DE
Max Immelmann (1890-1916) was used for propaganda purposes during the National Socialist era and his name was instrumentalized. He was glorified as a "war hero" because he took part in the First World War as a German fighter pilot and was known as the "flying ace" and the "Eagle of Lille". For this he was awarded Prussia's highest award for bravery, the Order Pour le Mérite. A reconnaissance squadron, an Air Force unit for information gathering and military reconnaissance, and two Bundeswehr barracks were even named after him. Max Immelmann's National Socialist glorification was expressed especially in the naming of streets and monuments. This was also the case here in Mainz. Initially, today's Immelmannstrasse was named after Rudolf Heß, Hitler's deputy as party chairman of the NSDAP. However, he fell out of favor and the street was renamed Immelmannstraße in 1941. Even though Max Immelmann was instrumentalized and died already in 1916 and thus cannot be directly linked to National Socialism, he was nevertheless used for National Socialist propaganda. We reject the glorification of persons who were used for the purposes of the National Socialists, the honoring through street naming and the lack of critical discussion about it.
Marseillestraße 3, 55122 Mainz, DE
Marseille Street in Mainz is named after Hans-Joachim Marseille (1919-1942). The latter was a German fighter pilot and officer in World War II. He is also known by the nickname "Star of Africa". The young fighter pilot was reported about in newspapers and magazines like a star during the Second World War and each of his kills in the North African theater of war was celebrated. He was used for Nazi propaganda and glorified as a "war hero." Because of this instrumentalization of the youngest captain of the Luftwaffe and the associated perpetuation of racist and colonial thinking, the street should be renamed.
Möldersstraße 1, 55122 Mainz, DE
Werner Mölders (1913 - 1941) is known for his military career as a German fighter pilot and as one of the most highly decorated officers of World War II. He was part of the "Wehrmacht", the armed forces of Nazi Germany, and of the "Condor Legion", an airforce unit of the "Wehrmacht". This unit intervened decisively in the fightings of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and thus, helped the putschists under General Franco to win over the democratically elected government of Spain. Hereby, the "Condor Legion" contributed to building up a fascist system in Spain and the Spanish dictatorship under Francisco Franco, that lasted for nearly four decades. During its military mission in Spain the unit also tested new weapon systems and waged the first massive air war against the civilian population of a European country: In his support of the "Condor Legion" Mölders, at a minimum, approved the death of civilians during his low level attacks.
During the Second World War, Mölders was considered one of the most successful German fighter pilots and was praised as a "war hero". Hereby, he played such an important role in Nazi propaganda that he was banned from combat flights in the World War in order not to be killed in an aerial battle. He was also the first officer in the "Wehrmacht" to be awarded the highest German bravery award at the time ("Brillanten zum Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern": to the "Splendid for the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords") by Adolf Hitler.
In 1998, the German parliament decided that Mölders, as a member of the "Condor Legion", should not be honored anymore. This had previously been the case, especially within the institution of the German armed forces, through the naming of military barracks or the like after him. A task force of the air forces (fighter squadron) named after him was renamed in 2005.
In a report from 2004, the Military History Research Office of the Federal Armed Forces came to the conclusion that Mölders had until his death in a plane crash in 1941 always behaved in accordance with the Nazi system, that he willingly formed part of Nazi propaganda as a so-called "war hero" and that his military "achievements", which have been honored for a long time even after the end of the war, cannot be viewed in isolation from the Nazi wars of extermination.
We therefore demand the renaming of the Möldersstrasse in Mainz. This should be a sign against the glorification of a person who is known above all for their warlike activities, also against the non-combatant civilian population, for the participation in, respectively approval of crimes of the "Wehrmacht", the resulting support for the erection of a fascist system in Spain and for their awards and honors by the Nazi regime.
Udetstraße 2, 55122 Mainz, DE
Ernst Udet (1896-1941) was a German fighter pilot with the second highest number of aerial victories during the First World War. After the First World War, he achieved international fame through his air shows and his acting as a pilot in feature films, but also through his excessive private life. His popularity inside and outside of Germany made him attractive for the Nazi regime and its propaganda system. After being urged by leading politicians of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) Udet joined that Nazi party on May 1 and was willingly available for events of the parti and for Nazi propaganda. In 1935, he joined the air force and from 1939 he took over the high position of the "Generalluftzeugmeister", the "Chief of Aircraft Procurement and Supply" in the armed forces of Nazi Germany. Since he often was not up to this job of organizational tasks, he increasingly resorted to alcohol, under which his psyche and health were suffering. Göring and Hitler blamed Udet personally for the German defeat in the Battle of Britain at the end of 1940 and also accused him of the inadequacies of the German air force in the war against the Soviet Union. In 1941, Udet committed suicide.
Even though Udet was instrumentalized for their own purposes by the Nazi regime, we, nevertheless, consider it wrong to honor him by the naming of a street after his person. Since Udet was of particular importance for the National Socialist German Workers' Party and its propaganda and since his popularity was (is) based merely on his military career we do not see a legitimate reason for granting him such a glorifying remembrance as a street named after him.
Agnes-Miegel-Straße 1, 55126 Mainz, DE
Agnes Miegel (1879 - 1964) was a German writer whose life and works testify her strong turn to the Nazi ideology. As early as 1933, she was one of 88 German writers and poets who published a "pledge of most loyal allegiance" for Adolf Hitler. A private correspondence with Nazi cultural politician Hans Friedrich Blunck of 1934 shows her deep conviction in regards to the National Socialist ideology and her racist worldview: "We will be a National Socialist state - or we will not be! And that would be the downfall not only of Germany - it would be the downfall of the white man. - The moment I realized this very clearly - [...] I was ready not only to live for this belief - also (and I can say that I was certain) to die for it." She also outwardly displayed this conviction through her membership in National Socialist women's associations ("Deutsches Frauenwerk" from 1937 and "NS-Frauenschaft" from 1939) and in the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) from 1940, as well as through her works. Agnes Miegel published poems in which she glorified Adolf Hitler. Nonetheless, she was not only during the Nazi era singled out by Hitler as one of the six most important German writers and awarded prizes such as the Goethe Prize, but she also received numerous honors after the end of the Third Reich. For example, in 1959 she received the literary prize of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, in 1979 the German Federal Post Office issued a special stamp for her 100th birthday, and a literary museum is still named after her in Bad Nenndorf.
In Mainz, the former Goethestrasse was given the name Agnes-Miegel-Strasse as late as 1971, after the incorporation of the district of Finthen in 1969 made it necessary to rename the street to avoid a duplication of names.
Thus, 26 years after the end of the war, a person was honored who - as her writings clearly display - supported the Nazi regime through her cultural and political works and who, moreover, never distanced herself from her Nazi past even after the end of the war.
We consider it extremely important that we, as residents of Mainz, now - 76 years after the end of the war - distance ourselves from Agnes Miegel and her works. Only such a reflection makes it possible to become aware of the still powerful racist, discriminatory and inhuman continuities that (unconsciously and counsciously) shape our everyday lives.
L413 12, 55129 Mainz, DE
Fritz Fuchs (1924 - 1997) was for a long time the chairman of the gymnastics and sports club 1897 Mainz-Ebersheim and is said to have been the leader of the Hitler Youth in Ebersheim during the Nazi era. The Federal Archives do not have any information about Fuchs's role as Hitler Youth leader, but they can confirm that Fritz Fuchs joined the NSDAP on September 1, 1942 at the age of 18. We criticize the persistent glorification of National Socialists, such like the one of Fritz Fuchs, and therefore demand the renaming of the Fritz-Fuchs-Weg in Mainz, which exist since 2004.
Fritz-Kohl-Straße 1, 55122 Mainz, DE
Fritz Kohl (1889-1969) was a local politician from Mainz, city councilor from 1946 to 1960 (FDP faction) and together with his brother Karl Kohl owner of the beer brewery "Zur Sonne", which was closed in 1991. Fritz Kohl profited from the "Aryanization" of the Mainzer Sonnenbrauerei, which had to be sold in 1938 by the Jewish family Philipp Mayer to the grain and feed company Gebrüder Kohl at a low purchase price set by the NSDAP. This company was owned by Fritz Kohl and his brother Karl. According to the Federal Archives, there is no evidence of Fritz Kohl's membership in the NSDAP. After the war, Fritz Kohl became involved in local politics in Mainz and was one of the founders of the FDP in Mainz. He was chairman of the wholesale association, chairman of the Mainz stock exchange and member of the board of directors of the savings bank.
An apology and compensation payments to the previous owners of the brewery would have been necessary, since the "Aryanization" presumably meant that the previous owners did not sell the brewery themselves.
Fritz Kohl therefore profited significantly from an inhumane policy and the exclusion and exploitation of the Jews through the takeover of the brewery. To date, there has been no compensation, apology or statement from him or from the brewery, as a result of which he has never had to answer for his actions.
Hindenburgplatz & Hindenburgstraße
Hindenburgstraße 5, 55118 Mainz, DE
Paul von Beneckendorff and von Hindenburg (1847-1934) was Field Marshal General in World War I and "Reichs-"President from 1925 to 1934. During the First World War, Paul von Hindenburg was chief of the Supreme Army Command. In 1925, the non-party Hindenburg was urged by the right-wing parties to run for the presidential election. He won the election and, despite his commitment to the monarchy, swore the oath on the Weimar constitution. In 1932 he was re-elected, among others as a opposing candidate to Adolf Hitler, and remained "Reich s"-President until his death. After several government crises, on January 30, 1933, he appointed the NSDAP "Führer" Adolf Hitler as German Chancellor. Despite his initial personal aversion towards Hitler, whom he disparagingly called the “Bohemian Corporal”, Hindenburg came more and more into his sphere of influence. On February 28, 1933, Hindenburg signed the “Ordinance of the Reichs President for the Protection of People and State”, so-called “Reichstag Fire Ordinance”, which suspended civil rights and paved the way for the National Socialist dictatorship. With his signature under the Enabling Act passed on March 23, 1933 by the required two-thirds majority of the Reichstag, the Act to Eliminate the Need of the People and the Reich, Hindenburg ultimately helped to eliminate the republic and to ensure that the legislative power got de facto completely passed over to Adolf Hitler.
Paul von Hindenburg as the former head of state of the Weimar Republic was the one who appointed Adolf Hitler as Reichs Chancellor. Hindenburg also signed the Enabling Acts that made the genocide of more than 15 million people possible. We condemn and reject the glorification of such a person and demand an immediate renaming of Hindenburgstrasse and Hindenburgplatz in Mainz.
Ina-Seidel-Straße 1, 55129 Mainz, DE
Ina Seidel (1885-1974) was a German writer. She had been a member of the NSV (National Socialist People's Welfare Organization) since July 1, 1934, and of the RLB (Reichsluftschutzbund) since October 1, 1937, but did not belong to the NSDAP or the NS Frauenschaft. As a writer, Seidel openly showed her admiration for Adolf Hitler, for example in the form of devoted birthday greetings. In addition to the "pledge of loyal allegiance" to Adolf Hitler, which 88 German writers and poets signed in October 1933, Ina Seidel also participated in the "pledges of allegiance" that the Prussian Academy of Arts had published during the Nazi era. Seidel had already belonged to the Academy since January 1932 and remained a member even after the National Socialists came to power, while numerous politically unpopular or Jewish artists were expelled. Other academy members, such as Thomas Mann or Ricarda Huch, had resigned in protest against the "Gleichschaltung" of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1933. Seidel was invited by the Nazi regime and willingly followed them to lectures and cultural events, publishing texts that could be used for propaganda by the Nazi regime well into the war period. After 1945, however, she was classified as "unencumbered" in the denazification process, so she was allowed to continue publishing. In contrast to many other writers, Ina Seidel now critically examined her role in the Nazi cultural establishment and, in some diary-like notes that were not originally intended for publication, revealed her realization that she had brought guilt upon herself. She finally came to terms with her own misconduct in literary form in the novel "Michaela," published in 1959. At this point, Ina Seidel had already been a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin for four years.
The "Ina-Seidel-Straße" in Mainz-Hechtsheim received its name after a resolution of the city council of 25.03.1992, which was supported by all parliamentary groups. It was a newly built street, the naming of which goes back to a suggestion of the local council Mainz-Hechtsheim.
Pfitznerstraße 1, 55118 Mainz, DE
The Pfitznerstrasse in Mainz was named in 1971 after Hans Erich Pfitzner (1869-1949), who was a German composer, conductor and author. On the one hand he is considered to be one of the most important musicians of the German late romantic era and on the other hand he is also known for his anti-Semitic statements and open support of Adolf Hitler. Hans Pfitzner first met Adolf Hitler in early 1923 and was directly convinced of him and that he was an important personality. In the following years he often wrote letters to Hitler expressing his loyalty and great hope in him.
He participated in the elections and referendums during the Nazi era by calling for support for Hitler's policies. For the 1936 Reichstag election, Hans Pfitzner praised “the immortal merit of our Führer Adolf Hitler, whose vision is the simple duty of every German”. Furthermore, Pfitzner had been a member of the Reichskultursenat since 1936 and was loyal to the Hitler regime.
Pfitzner was an avowed anti-Semite long before 1900. For him, the Weimar Republic, which he detested, was the work of an international conspiracy of the Jews. In his anti-Semitism he paradoxically differentiated between “good”, namely German-nationally minded Jews, with whom he sometimes maintained personal relationships and for whom he repeatedly advocated during the Nazi era, and Judaism, which was to be fought from his point of view. Hans Erich Pfitzner remained a staunch and unteachable anti-Semite even after the collapse of the Third Reich. Pfitzner justified Hitler's anti-Semitism in his “Glossary on World War II” in June 1945 and expressly adhered to his fascist worldview by writing: “World Judaism is a problem and a racial problem, but not only one, and it will be again taken up, whereby one will remember Hitler and see him differently than now. "
During the denazification process, Pfitzner was able to obtain an acquittal despite his support for the Nazi regime and the profit that resulted from it and was classified as “not affected by the law” by the court in Munich.
We explicitly claim that a street in Mainz should not be named after an avowed anti-Semite who justified the Holocaust even after the end of the Nazi regime and therefore demand the renaming of the Pfitznerstraße!
Sauerbruchstraße 1, 55126 Mainz, DE
Ferdinand Sauerbruch (1875-1951) was one of the most important and influential surgeons in the first half of the 20th century and a medical officer. From 1928 he worked at the Charité in Berlin and his work there is shown in a season of the ARD series “Charité”. There is also a film that was released in 1954 and is based on his memoir.
Sauerbruch's relationship with the Nazi state is ambivalent and problematic. Although his career benefited from the Nazi regime, he is increasingly referred as a resistance fighter. As is well known, Sauerbruch was not an anti-Semite and refused to join the NSDAP until the end. He stood up for German-Jewish friends and acquaintances, such as the artist Max Liebermann, and protested against the systematic murder of people with mental and physical disabilities. In return, he accepted inconvenience and conflicts with the National Socialist rulers. He also protested personally the Reich Minister of Justice against the euthanasia program, which was the death sentence for hundreds of thousands of mentally ill and disabled people.
In 1937 Sauerbruch was appointed to the Reich Research Council. The Reich Research Council also supported SS research projects, which included human experiments in the concentration camps. So he must have known about experiments on concentration camp prisoners, through which he supported the deeds of the Nazi injustice system. In 1942 he was appointed general doctor of the army and in this position approved funds for mustard gas experiments on prisoners in the Natzweiler concentration camp.
As a convinced German nationalist, he did not oppose the system. Above all, he expressed his compliance with the Nazi regime in several national speeches and confessions, especially in the course of 1933, as well as in the acceptance of various honors by the Third Reich.
In November 1933 he wrote a letter "To the Doctors of the World" with the "Professors' commitment at German universities and colleges to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist State", at whose presentation in Leipzig he was one of the main speakers. In 1937 he publicly acknowledged the regime and had Hitler award him the German National Prize.
If you look at Sauerbruch's story, you come across some contradictions. There are some who honor him for standing up for Jewish people and people with physical and mental disabilities and others who emphasize that he nevertheless committed to the regime and affirmed human experiments on concentration camp inmates.
In 1949 he was acquitted in a denazification process, left the Charité in the same year and died in 1951.
Although Ferdinand Sauerbruch was an influential surgeon and campaigned for some German-Jewish and physically and mentally handicapped people, this never legitimizes his involvement in the affirmation of human experiments at concentration camp detainees. We vehemently condemn Sauerbruch for approving human experimentation in concentration camps and not protesting against them and therefore demand the renaming of Sauerbruchstrasse in Mainz.
Wernher-von-Braun-Straße 3A, 55129 Mainz, DE
Wernher Freiherr von Braun (1912-1977) was a physicist, space pioneer and rocket engineer. During the Second World War, the developer of the "V2" (Vergeltungswaffe 2), a large rocket with liquid propellant, knowingly accepted that the rockets he developed were mass-produced by forced laborers under inhumane conditions. In 1943, the "Dora labor camp", later known as "Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp", was established as a subcamp of Buchenwald concentration camp specifically to supply the production facility with workers. In the year and a half of production, between 12,000-20,000 forced laborers died in the tunnels where they manufactured the war rockets. Von Braun denied knowing about the conditions in the labor camp and the production facility until the 1960s. As more and more information about the terrible conditions became public, he admitted to having known about the inhumane working conditions. However, he continued to deny knowledge of killings and atrocities, which is unlikely based on the sources. Moreover, after the end of the war, von Braun claimed to have known nothing about the events in any concentration camps. However, this seems implausible: "I never knew what was going on in the concentration camps. But I had a suspicion to that effect and in my position I could have found out. I did not and I despise myself for it". In 1966, he expressed regret about the conditions in Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, but also made the following statement contradicting the regret: "But war is war, and since my country was at war, I had the conviction that I did not have the right to continue to bring moral points of view into the field. My duty was to help win the war, whether I had sympathy for the government or not. I had none."
Even though Wernher von Braun was not directly responsible for the workers, he still bears a share of the blame for the suffering of the forced laborers.
In addition, von Braun was a member of the elite Reiter SS during his time as a doctoral student in Berlin. This SS organization was the only one to be classified as non-criminal after the war. In 1934, after completing his doctorate, Wernher von Braun again resigned from the Reiter SS. In 1938 he then joined the NSDAP and in 1940 became a part of the SS again, where he quickly rose to the rank of Sturmbannführer. He probably did this primarily to avoid jeopardizing his prestigious position and career in rocket research. He was also appointed a professor by Hitler himself in 1942 because of his war-related work.
Von Braun was probably asked to join the NSDAP and the SS. It would still have been possible for him to refuse. It is reasonable to assume that he decided to join the Nazi party and the SS for career reasons.
When the US-Americans arrived in Germany, von Braun deliberately went into US captivity. There he offered his services as a rocket engineer and was commissioned into the US Army. He became a U.S. citizen in 1955, later worked for NASA, and was instrumental in the manned moon landing in 1969.
Wernher von Braun knowingly accepted that people suffered and died for the production of the rockets he developed. He did not express criticism of the system in order to keep his leading position and continued to profit from imprisonment and employment with the US troops. He is a profiteer of the Nazi regime and tolerated human rights crimes that took place in his name, which delegitimizes any glorification of him.