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"Dora and the V-2: Slave Labor in the Space Age" Exhibit

Identifier: MC-187
This colleciton contains panels and framed photographs from a 2010 exhibit shown at the University of Alabama in Huntsville's M. Louis Salmon Library. Also included is the website designed to support the exhibit.


  • 2010

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research in the Archives & Special Collections reading room. Handling guidelines and use restrictions will be communicated and enforced by archives staff members.

Conditions Governing Use

This material may be protected under U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) which governs the making of photocopies or reproductions of copyrighted materials. You may use the digitized material for private study, scholarship, or research. Though the University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives and Special Collections has physical ownership of the material in its collections, in some cases we may not own the copyright to the material. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in our collections.


10 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Biographical / Historical

The development of the V–2 missile flowed from the core ideals of the Nazi dictatorship in Germany, including the quest for military domination and the ruthless exploitation of forced labor. The German Army first commissioned Wernher von Braun to develop liquid-fuel rockets for military purposes in late 1932, two months before the Nazis came to power.

In 1936, the Army, as part of the Nazi government’s military expansion, began a secret program to develop ballistic missiles at Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea coast, a program that took on magnified importance when World War II began in 1939. The primary task of the engineers was to develop the A-4 ballistic missile, renamed in 1944 the V–2 vengeance weapon, a wonder weapon that Germany hoped would win the war.

The system of exploiting slave labor to assemble missiles began in 1943. It expanded dramatically after the August 1943 bombings of Peenemünde by the British Royal Air Force. The widespread destruction led the Nazi leadership and the missile staff to move underground and use forced labor. The chosen site was a mine/fuel depot near the town of Nordhausen in Thüringen. Slave laborers from the Buchenwald concentration camp came to extend the tunnels for an underground V–2 factory called Mittelwerk. The new concentration camp outside the tunnels was code named Dora and was later renamed Mittelbau. More than 60,000 prisoners were interred at Dora. Some of them built 6000 V–2 rockets between August 1943 and April 1945. They experienced squalid housing, starvation diets, and draconian discipline with frequent executions.

In April and May 1945, many of the engineers surrendered to the United States, while most of the remaining Dora prisoners endured brutal death marches. The United States Army liberated Mittelbau-Dora on April 11, 1945. Over 20,000 slave laborers died in the Mittelbau-Dora camp system.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transfer from the Department of Art and Art History

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, and competing priorities. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
Drew Adan
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama in Huntsville Archives & Special Collections Repository

M. Louis Salmon Library
301 Sparkman Drive
Huntsville, AL 35899 Alabama 35899 United States of America