Book 'V2-VERGELTUNG' from The Hague
Germany was defeated in World War I [1914-1918] and disarmed. The Treaty of Versailles reduced the German army to 100.000 soldiers (article 160) and the possession of tanks and aeroplanes was not permitted (articles 171 and 200). All that remained was a small number of light artillery. Heavy artillery and anti-aircraft artillery were not permitted (article 164).
The League of Nations was formed in 1919 and was the forerunner of the United Nations. Weapon inspectors of the League of Nations strictly monitored the disarmament and the prohibition to manufacture weapons. By these means it was thought, that Germany would be unable to start another war. From day one the German army tried to break the humiliating rules and the arms industry was moved to Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands. They secretly tested tanks and aeroplanes in the Soviet Union.
Because possession of heavy artillery was forbidden, the Germans seized their chance to develop rockets, as these were not on the list of forbidden arms. From as early as the twenties Germany was developing rockets for military use. This is why the army, from the end of 1929 onwards, spent large sums of money on rocket development projects led by Wernher von Braun, one of the scientists playing a major role in building rockets.
In 1925 Adolf Hitler ventilated in his book ‘Mein Kampf’ the German lack of power, infamy and treason. As far as he was concerned rehabilitation could only be achieved by serious rearmament:‘Gerade unser Volk, das unter den tausend Augen des Friedensvertrages von Versailles entwaffnet dahinleben muß, vermag irgendwelche technische Vorbereitungen zur Erringung der Freiheit und menschlichen Unabhängigkeit nur dann zu treffen, wenn das Heer innerer Spitzel auf diejenigen dezimiert wird, denen angeborene Charakterlosigkeit gestattet, für die bekannten dreißig Silberlinge alles und jedes verraten’. Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor (January 1933) by means of a democratic (!) change of power. For this reason rearmament was gradually taken up and prohibitive regulations were more and more openly evaded. The Allied countries did nothing to intervene!
Completing the successful launch of two small prototype rockets from the island of Borkum in 1934, more financial means were made available. In the course of 1936 a large development and testing centre was erected near Peenemünde, a remote place on the Baltic Sea. There they could continue developing the rockets in secrecy. The first successful test flight of a V2 (its original name was ‘Agregate-4’) was October 3rd 1942.
The story goes that it was in Peenemünde where the first steps into space were taken, because Wernher von Braun worked at NASA in the United States after the war, and this is where he could establish his dream: men on the moon. His dream and ambition to conquer space, however, had begun as a nightmare for many people.
Kleijntjens, J.: De Volkenbond. Wassenaar/Leiden, z.d. [ca. 1930].
Mandere, H.C.G.J. van der: Het Vredesverdrag van Versailles en de daarmede verbandhoudende verdragen van St.Germain, Trianon, Sèvres en Neuilly. Staten en Volkeren. 2e serie No. 1-7. Hillegom, z.d.
Polte, H.J.: Militärgeschichtliche Reiseführer Peenemünde. Berlin-Bonn-Hamburg, 1995. ISBN 3-8132-0474-X.
Zaloga S.J.: V-1 flying bomb 1942-1952; Hitler’s infamous ‘doodlebug’, London 2005. ISBN: 1-84176-791-3
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First English edition, Almere – The Hague, August 2005
Translation: Dily Damhuis, Paul Fowlie, Sylvia en Johan van Oosten en Trees Teunissen.
Original Dutch version published, Almere – The Hague, September 2003 (2nd edition)