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V2 laboratory in Peenemünde

From 1936 onwards, hundreds of scientists, engineers and technicians settled in the German fishing village of Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea to develop and test the V2 rocket.

The V2 was the first unmanned rocket, short for Vergeltungswaffe 2 (German for Revenge Weapon). Its development took place in Peenemünde. The town was buried under assembly halls, launch pads, a coal-fired power plant, and a liquid oxygen plant to produce rocket fuel.

The first successful test flight of the V2 took place on October 3, 1942. Success was achieved with the V1, the flying bomb, a few weeks later, on Christmas Day, 1942.

At "Prüfstand VII," where the first V2 was successfully launched in 1942, the slots that drained the exhaust gases from the rockets can still be seen. Apart from the few remaining launching platforms, few recognizable traces of the activity that once existed here can be found in the forests.

A British bombardment took Peenemünde under fire in August 1943, resulting in the unfinished V2 production moving to the underground Mittelbau-Dora right next to the concentration camp of the same name near the Harz Mountains.

Organization Todt started in 1943 in Eperlecques and La Coupole, France, with the construction of launch bases, but bombings stopped that. Mobile launch platforms were used instead. Successfully.

The three thousand V2s that the German army shot into the air caused death and destruction. The deadliest impact occurred on December 16, 1944. A V2 rocket crashed into Cinema Rex in Antwerp. 567 people died. Yet the Vergeltungswaffen were no longer able to turn the tide. Nazi Germany capitulated on May 8, 1945.

Man on the moon

The scientists who developed the V2 rocket, including Werner von Braun, were recruited by the United States after World War II to roll out NASA's rocket program.

This led to the development of the Saturn rocket, which brought the first man to the moon in 1969. Oscar Holderer, the last survivor of that group of German engineers, died in the US at the end of April 2015.

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