Rocket pioneer Oberth and the Nazi times--US rockets in Afghanistan
increase the timeliness--premiere on October 21, 2001
By B. John Zavrel, New York
Consul B. John Zavrel with Hermann Oberth, the "Father of Space Flight" in Feucht, Germany in 1987 (Photo by MARCO, Bonn).
Berlin. The German writer and playwright Rolf Hochhuth presents on October 21, 2001 in Berlin a new play with the scandalous title: "Hitler's Dr. Faust." In it, Hochhuth shows on the example of the rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth (1894-1989), who was born in Siebenbürgen, "just how far a scientist can go to allow himself be misused by power, in order to realize his research."
In 1941, Oberth reached a high point in his research. He was ordered to come to the German Army Research Center Peenemünde, where Hitler was developing rockets for use in the war to achieve the hoped-for "final victory." The German rocket researcher Wernher von Braun, who later on helped United States achieve magnificent successes in space travel, was active there also.
Hochmuth's play is anticipated with great suspense in Europe. In an interview with the journalist Joe F. Bodenstein two weeks before the opening performance, the author has pointed out that there exists a present connection against the background of the current US rocket attacks against Afghanistan. "When one considers the play in this historical moment, in which rockets are again being used in war, he will not miss the timeliness of the play," said Hochhuth.
On the question, what he had in mind with the theater play more than 56 years after World War II, the 70-year old writer had this to say: "Information and human sympathy for both Hermann Oberth and for the London victims of his rockets." Hochhuth has never personally met the "father of space flight" and the teacher of the rocket expert Wernher von Braun, who later became very successful in USA. That way, Hochhuth was able to do reaserch about the Oberth case without any personal prejudice. "The first rough draft dates back to 1990," explained Hochhuth. It does not only deal with complexities and intricacies between science and power, but is also "simply about people." And here naturally also the great love story between Oberth and his wife Tilly played an important role. And the tensions between the couple were taken into consideration. "The question her is: how does it go in a marriage, where the husband builds bombs?"
The role of von Braun in the game with power remained earlier a secret
To what extent Hochhuth depicts the role of Wernher von Braun, remains in the time before the world premiere of the play a mystery. Von Braun has always "thankfully acknowledged, that his life work would not be possible without Oberth's groundwork and without Oberth's later cooperation," recalled Hochhuth in the interview.
Von Braun, as a student at the Technical University Berlin, had assisted Oberth back in 1929 during his experiments on the first rocket motors with liquid fuels. This cooperation continued in the following decades. After 1945, von Braun brought his "good old teacher" even temporarily into the United States. Even as von Braun became the leading expert of the American space program, he openly declared about Oberth: "I myself owe him not only the leading star of my life, but also my first contact with the theoretical and practical sides of the rocket technology of space travel." The groundbreaking contributions of Oberth on the field of astronautics "have their place of honor in the history of science and technology." Hochhuth also positively values the fact that Oberth's merits for the exploration of space were not forgotten in the United States. Among Oberth's books published in America belongs the first English edition of "Primer For Those Who Would Govern (price $ 20 plus $ 4 shipping, West-Art Publishers, 10545 Main Street, Clarence, New York 14031, e-mail: email@example.com).
Stories about the Nazi times are booming in the media
Reports about the Nazi times, about the personality of the dictator Adolf Hitler and about the crimes against humanity in the former German spheres of power continue to boom on television in Germany. But Hochhuth has not written his play "Hitler's Dr. Faust" as a poor imitation of the unending stories being continuously broadcast in Germany about the Nazi dictatorship. He will not ride this wave of TV shows like "Hitler's Generals," "Hitler's Helpers," "Hitler's Women," or "Hitler's Children." "These shows are no example for me, " says the author, who has not had the best experiences with German television.
"Therefore I never write any kinds of supplements to TV shows, because the German-speaking television has never broadcast one of my plays, with the exception of "Hebamme." The showing of the comedy "Hebamme" actually took place only thanks to the highly popular German actress "Inge Meysel and in spite of Hochhuth."
If one is not sufficiently informed about Hermann Oberth after seeing Hochhuth's play, he can visit the a web site (http://www.oberth-museum.org). It is the web site of the German "Hermann Oberth Space Travel Museum" in Feucht near Nürnberg, with much information about the life and work of this extraordinary man of genius.