"Then the Nazis came into power and started throwing money at military rocketry," Neufeld says.
Revisionist History and the Space Race
After the war, German rocket scientists went on to play important roles in both the American and Soviet space programs. The charismatic and highly articulate von Braun became a driving force at NASA. In doing so, however, he may have also helped fuel the myth of the Nazi space program.
"During the Cold War, von Braun and some of his key associates deliberately gave the misimpression that while they'd been building weapons, they really only cared about space," says Neufeld, "which is very simplistic, to say the least. A lot of them certainly supported building weapons, and some were enthusiastic Nazis, which is something they left out after the war."
As World War II continues to fade into the past, it's easy to adopt a false dichotomy of good and bad Germans. We might file the scientific genius von Braun and his associates in one category, while we populate the other with names such as Heinrich Himmler and Josef Mengele. The reality, however, seems far more complex.