Transnational migration and national memory : how German rocket engineers became Americans in Huntsville, Alabama / by Monique Laney.
In this dissertation I explore the integration of about 200 German families in Huntsville, Alabama, since 1950. The men of the group had previously worked for Wernher von Braun under the Nazi regime developing one of Hitler’s so-called “wonder weapons,” the V-2 rocket. The group had been brought to the United States under secret military operation “Paperclip” beginning in 1945 as a form of “intellectual reparations.” About 120 of the families initially resided at Ft. Bliss in Texas until the Army’s rocket development program was consolidated to Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama, where the men later worked for NASA.Based on oral histories and using theories from transnational and memory studies, I analyze how individuals in Huntsville made sense of the Germans’ past in Nazi Germany while celebrating the immigrants’ contributions to the town and the nation. I conclude that social privileges shared by white Christian Americans and the German families in Huntsville provided common ground for quick acculturation. I also find that in Huntsville the histories of Nazism in Germany and Jim Crow in the United States become “entangled” when both groups describe the Germans as innocent bystanders in Nazi Germany and—along with their white neighbors—in the segregated South.
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