books of the month
Search our site
Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber Read the opening extract of the brand new Kathleen Barber book before its publication on 27/12/2017

Missiles for the Fatherland Peenemunde, National Socialism, and the V-2 Missile by Michael Bang Petersen

Missiles for the Fatherland Peenemunde, National Socialism, and the V-2 Missile

Part of the Cambridge Centennial of Flight Series


Missiles for the Fatherland Peenemunde, National Socialism, and the V-2 Missile by Michael Bang Petersen

Missiles for the Fatherland tells the story of the scientists and engineers who built the V-2 missile in Hitler's Germany. This text was the first scholarly history of the culture and society that underpinned missile development at Germany's secret missile base at Peenemunde. Using mainly primary source documents and publicly available oral history interviews, Michael Petersen examines the lives of the men and women who worked at Peenemunde and later at the underground slave labor complex called Mittelbau-Dora, where concentration camp prisoners mass-produced the V-2. His research reveals a complex interaction of professional ambition, internal cultural dynamics, military pressure, and political coercion, which coalesced in daily life at the facility. The interaction of these forces made the rapid development of the V-2 possible but also contributed to an environment in which stunning brutality could be committed against the concentration camp prisoners who manufactured the missile.


Review of the hardback: 'Michael Petersen offers a new and disturbing account of the German missile community under the Nazis at the clandestine Peenemunde facility that developed the V-2 rocket. These were not apolitical engineers blithely lost in mathematical equations and dreams of space travel, but astute professionals dedicated to destroying Germany's enemies while serving their own careers. Worse, the missile team's privileged status, comfortable living conditions, cloak of secrecy, and sense of national mission fostered knowing complicity in the crimes of the regime they served - crimes with which they and their work shall always be associated. An essential look at the perilous relationship between science and dictatorship.
Norman J. W. Goda, author of Tales from Spandau: Nazi Criminals and the Cold War

, Cambridge University Press, 2006 Review of the hardback: 'Michael Petersen's Missiles for the Fatherland is an important study of the co-optation and seduction of engineers and scientists by the Nazi regime. He demolishes once-and-for-all the myth that the Peenemunde rocket engineers were apolitical technocrats more interested in going into space than building weapons. He demonstrates the intimate connection between their technical work, carried out in deepest secrecy, and the murderous exploitation of concentration-camp workers in the V-2 production program.
Michael J. Neufeld, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution Review of the hardback:

'This book examines an important and fairly well studied subject from a different perspective by providing an anthropological and sociological study of the German rocket engineers. The social context and environment of the German rocket R & D effort in Peenemunde and elsewhere had a decisive influence on the rocket engineers and scientists and encouraged them to work on new weapons in what became a Faustian Pact with Hitler's regime. There was not that much difference between the production engineers supplied by the Armaments Ministry and the SS and the staff at Peenemunde when it came to slave labor and other issues. The Peenemunders'
obsession with secrecy dovetailed with the goals and methods of the SS, and their conviction that the survival of the German nation depended on the rockets they were building diminished their concern for other groups (like POWs and concentration camp prisoners)

Mark Walker, Union College

'Peterson's sophisticated analysis is well written and belongs in every World War II library.'
Central European History

About the Author

Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

9th March 2011


Michael Bang Petersen

More books by Michael Bang Petersen
Author 'Like for Like'


Cambridge University Press


290 pages


Weapons & equipment
European history
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000



I recommend Lovereading because you get honest reviews on a whole range of genres-there's something for everyone. It's the only site I need.

Sian Spinney

They are bright, breezy and eager to offer a great book, then genuinely listen/respect the review one writes.

Maggie Crane

Lovereading has all the new books and also suggestions for 'similar' authors whilst waiting for your favourites new books.

Carol Peace

Lovereading has given me the opportunity to delve into new and exciting worlds of authors who I would never have tried before.

Glynis Elliott

It's a lively, independent website with reviews, recommendations and more - with a huge range of books available to buy in all formats.

Alison Layland

If you love reading, then you'll love Lovereading! Full of tips & info for every discerning reader.

Lynne Rapson

You can trust Lovereading to show unbiased reviews by actual, ordinary readers that help likeminded booklovers choose their next great read.

Linda Hill

Lovereading are lovely people who send me lovely books. What's not to love?

Gavin Dimmock