Photo documentation of the V2 assembly in the Mittelwerk, 1945. Photo: Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial

The Beginning: Rocket Production is Moved from Peenemünde to Kohnstein Mountain

The establishment of Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp was preceded by the development of the A4 rocket as a weapon of terror – later known by the propaganda designation "V-2" – at the Peenemünde army research centre on the island of Usedom. It was there, as well as at the Rax Works in Wiener Neustadt and at Zeppelin in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, that the serial production of this rocket began in the early summer of 1943.

A heavy air attack by the Royal Air Force on the night of 18 August 1943 brought A4 manufacture in Peenemünde to an abrupt halt. At the other two sites, production had also been at least adversely affected by Allied air raids the same summer. The bombing of Peenemünde gave the authorities no other choice but to move the undertaking to regions less exposed to the air. A decision was made in favour of the tunnel system belonging to the Wirtschaftliche Forschungsgesellschaft (Wifo; economic research society) in Kohnstein Mountain near Nordhausen in Thuringia. Beginning in 1936, the Wifo had been having an underground fuel storage facility built there for the Wehrmacht; by the late summer of 1943 the construction measures were near completion.