This week on Exploration, the biographies of Wernher Von Braun and Heinz Haber, scientists who worked for Hitler during World War II, are explored.
After studying physics in Leipzig, Heidelberg and Berlin and obtaining his doctorate, Heinz Haber served in World War II for the German Luftwaffe as a reconnaissance aviator until 1942. He returned to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Physik and spent much of World War II conducting research on high-speed, high-altitude flight for the Luftwaffe Institute for Aviation Medicine. In order to assess the risks faced by German air force pilots, the institute performed experiments on hundreds of inmates at the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. The inmates who survived these experiments were usually killed and then dissected.
After the end of the war Heinz Haber – as well as several other Germans involved in military research like Wernher von Braun – was targeted by the Operation Paperclip with the aim of denying scientific expertise and knowledge to the Soviet Union and bringing researchers and scientists to the US; Ultimately this operation resulted in a considerable contribution to the development of NASA. Haber at first he stayed in the American occupied zone of Germany and lectured at Heidelberg. However in 1946, he emigrated to the United States and joined the USAF School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Air Force Base. Together with fellow German Hubertus Strughold, he and his brother Dr. Fritz Haber (April 3, 1912 – August 21, 1998) made pioneering research into space medicine in the late 1940s. The brothers proposed parabolic flights for simulating weightlessness.
In 1952, he became associate physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles; in the 1950s, Haber eventually became the chief scientific consultant to Walt Disney productions. He later co-hosted Disney’s Man in Space with von Braun. When the Eisenhower administration asked Disney to produce a show championing the civilian use of nuclear power, Heinz Haber was given the assignment. He hosted the Disney broadcast called Our Friend the Atom and wrote a popular children’s book with the same title, both of which explained nuclear fission and fusion in simple terms. General Dynamics, a manufacturer of nuclear reactors, sponsored Our Friend the Atom and the nuclear submarine ride at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.