Bleicherode and Kleinbodungen

To repair damaged A4's quickly, Dr. Albin Sawitzki proposed to erect a facility close to the Mittelwerk. For this purpose, the buildings of the potash mine in Kleinbodungen were to be re-constructed. It was also planned, butnever materialized, to construct an A4 rocket engine facility here. 

The administration building of the Preussag company was used to house the management and administration of the Heimat Artillerie Park. Scientists, production and material storage facilities were located in a 40 km circle around Bleicherode.

It was planned to increase the development and test production of the C2 "Wasserfall" and A4 rocket in Bleicherode. The potash mine in Bleicherode was to house the test and production center.

A4 production was to start 600 meters underground. All facilities located in old mine shafts had to deal with the same problem. Most of the time only one shaft had access to the underground production area. It was also difficult to transport finished goods out, and raw materials in. A proposal was put forward to link up at a depth of 600 meter with the potash mine Neu-Bleicherode 10 kilometers away. Height of the tunnels was between 1.5 and 2.1 m, and had a width of between 4.5 and 6 m. For production purposes the tunnels had to be enlarged. The mined salt created a problem with corrosion, but it was less of a problem than allied air attacks.

Material and equipment arrived daily, but most of it was never installed. Electrical equipment needed for testing the A4 and C2 Wasserfall arrived at the mine. But most other equipment was damaged or fell into the hands of the Americans.

By February 1945, the Red Army was near the Heeresversuchsanstalt, and the last equipment was quickly relocated to Bleicherode. Some of the machinery and equipment did not reach their final destination, because the transport system had broken down. Equipment and machinery was found in many locations in Germany. Soon the Americans closed in on Bleicherode and the German leadership decided to relocate the facility to Bavaria.

When the Americans moved out the Russians moved in. Similar to the American special investigating teams the Russians had similar teams established by degree No. 7563ss by the State Defense Committee. Within the 1st Belorussian Front, P. M. Zernov chaired such commission, which also included A. N. Baranov and N. E. Nosovsky. The commission oversaw 80 engineers and scientists.

One of the first teams left Moscow on April 23, 1945 under General Nikolai Petrov, director of Scientific Institute of Airplane Equipment (NISO). It included Boris Evseevich Chertok from the NII-1 research institute. Although the official goal of the group was the search for avionics, radar equipment and aviation armaments, Chertok and others had been looking forward to learning as much as possible about the German rocket program. Around June - July 1945, General Andrei Illarionovich Sokolov, led another group of specialists into Germany. Chertok and number of other German specialists arrived to Nordhausen on July 14, 1946. Soon after visiting Nordhausen, Soviets dispatched additional groups of specialists to Bleicherode. Along with 12 Germans, Chertok comprised a core of the future organization, which soon would take responsibility for restoring the flight control system of the A-4 rocket, clearly the most challenging element of the vehicle. Within days, the newly created institute, dubbed Rabe (from German Raketenbau und Entwicklung - rocket building and design), hired dozens of German engineers, living in surrounding areas. However few of them had ever dealt with rocket technology before. To obtain experienced German rocket engineers, Chertok conceived a clandestine campaign to lure people from the Western zone.

Of many aviation specialists, who arrived in Germany at the end of summer 1945, Mikhail Ryazansky, Viktor Kuznetsov, Yuri Pobenostsev, Eugene Boguslavsky and Zinovy Tsetsior joined Institute Rabe in Bleicherode. At the beginning of August 1945, the representative of Special Committee within GOKO, M. S. Saburov informed Marshall Zhukov that around 1,000 German specialists worked for various Soviet research organizations and that number was expected to climb to 3,000. Saburov recommended a creation of specialized research organizations for respective Soviet industries. In response, Zhukov signed an order of SVAG No. 026 "On organization of work on using German technology by the Soviet industry.

An absolute majority of German employees who joined the Soviet effort to restore the A-4 had no prior involvement in the program, however Soviets never considered work in Peenemuende a requirement. Among such individuals were Kurt Magnus, a first-class gyroscope expert and Dr. Hoch, an avionics specialist. In October 1945, Dr. Blazig, a key specialist from one of the subcontractors in the A-4 program, joined Institute Rabe.

Yet, in parallel with routine hiring, Boris Chertok led the effort to lure top Peenemuende veterans into the Soviet zone. A rather improvised campaign scored a major victory in mid-September 1945, when Helmut Groettrup, a chief expert in the A-4's flight control system, returned into the Soviet zone of occupation and joined Institute Rabe.

Apparently, Groettrup provided to the Soviets with many details about geography of subcontractors involved into the A-4 program. He also contacted a number of qualified individuals outside of the Soviet zone, who could assist the Soviet rocket development effort. With the help of Groettrup the aerodynamist Hans Zeise and the construction expert Anton Narr joined he program, followed by Friz Fibach, the expert in launch operations.


The following facilities were involved in the V2 program:


Plant No. 1 in Soemmerda:

Calculation Theory Bureau, RTB, lab and, later, production plant for the A-4 body at the site of the former Rheinmetall Borsig plant led by Mishin unea


Plant No. 2 Montania plant in Nordhausen:

Engine assembly and propulsion systems led by Glushko.


Plant No. 3 Zentralwerk in Kleinbodungen:

The experimental assembly plant for the A-4 rocket at the site of the former German repair depot for the A-4 rockets led by Kurilo.


Plant No. 4 in Sondershausen:

Flight control system integration

By October 1946, 733 Soviet specialists, and between 5,000 and 7,000 Germans worked for the Institute Nordhausen. According to the Soviet documents, as of May 1946, 330 German specialists worked at Plant No. 3. including 30 engineers and technicians, 23 draftsmen and 277 mechanics and workers. The only Russians on staff were director of the plant Evgeny Kurilo and chief of the combustion chamber assembly Artamonov. At the same time 300 Germans worked at Institute Rabe.

During 1945 and most part of 1946, Soviet specialists with the help of German engineers reestablished a A-4 production line in Germany, which turned out around a dozen of missiles. According to one Russian source, 20 rockets were assembled at Plant No. 3 in Klein Bodungen and five more rockets in the underground plant in Nordhausen. In addition, various spare parts which were enough to assemble another dozen of A-4s were sent to the Soviet Union. Concurrently, Russian engineers have started consideration of their own and German ideas on improvements in the A-4. At the beginning of August 1946, Korolev told his deputy Vasily Mishin to return from Germany to the Soviet Union and led preparations for the A-4 production at Plant No. 88 in Podlipki, near Moscow. On August 9, 1946, Mishin returned to the USSR.

Finally, in October 1946, the best German engineers recruited by the Soviets were ordered on the trains and sent to the various locations in the USSR to assist in the organization of missile production and design. Remaining thousands of German specialists had to find new jobs. Soviet authorities promised Helmut Gröttrup to provide one-month salaries to the German employees as a severance pay.

By the beginning of 1947, Soviets completed the transfer of all works on rocket technology from Germany into secret locations in the USSR. At the end of February 1947, Sergei Korolev became one of the last Soviet specialists to return from Germany. Less than a month later, the Institute Nordhausen officially ceased to exist. Empty caverns of the underground rocket factories in Nordhausen were blown up by the Soviet crews.