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Wrong Helmut Gröttrup?

Helmut Gröttrup

Head of the German Team



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Background Information

Employment History

Head of the German Collective

Web References(6 Total References)

Gorodomlya Island [cached]

Right after Christmas of 1948, Gröttrup and his closest associates including Umpfenbach, Albring, Blass, Wolff and Hoch returned to Podlipki for the second and last scientific review, NTS, of the G-1 rocket, which was held on December 28, 1948.
To his disappointment, Gröttrup confirmed previous reports that Korolev's team did receive official green light for the development of the successor to the A-4, designated the R-2. During the NTS meeting, Gröttrup drew the "line in the sand," saying that unless full-scale development and testing of the vehicle can be initiated, any further work on the G-1 would be pointless... Realizing the seriousness of the visit, Gröttrup and his associates rushed home to put on the official attire. To approach the problem, the German team considered as many as 10 different configurations of single and multistage rockets; however, very early on Gröttrup and his associates favored a concept of a one-stage rocket with the body in a shape of a slim cone. In her diary entry dated April 18, 1949, or less then ten days after Ustinov's visit, Irmgard Gröttrup mentioned her husband discussing "load-carrying cones." In the following days, Helmut Gröttrup described to his wife the philosophy behind the new concept: Gröttrup and his closest associates worked long hours to formulate the project, which became known as G-4 or R-14. Gröttrup optimistically believed that he would be soon invited back to Podlipki for further consultations. In April 1950, there were more visitors from NII-88 with inquiries about the G-4, however against all his hopes, Gröttrup was not invited to any meetings in Podliki. Yet, his Soviet colleagues hinted that the project once again received positive reviews. It was another deja vu for the Germans, as they were not offered any responsible positions in the implementation of the project. Inquires for various updates and studies of details related to the G-4 continued coming in from the "mainland" during 1950, however Germans started quickly loosing interest in the rocket they surely would not be allowed to build or see flying. Yet, reluctantly they continued work on the project during 1950, once again submitting all the results to the officials from "mainland." From bits and pieces of information, Gröttrup knew that the R-14 was still generating interest at NII-88 as late as 1951, however he was told nothing about any progress on the project. Understanding the meaning of the trend, Gröttrup called himself a "walking dictionary. Pondering for ways out of their stalemate, Gröttrup and his associates discussed diplomatic means of refusing further work on missiles. Citing health hazards associated with the test firing of engines burning toxic nitric acid, Gröttrup refused to lead the project. Although majority of Germans supported Gröttrup, one of his associates, whom Irmgard Gröttrup described as "crypto-communist," agreed to take charge of the work on island. It is now known that Dr. Johannes Hoch was the person, who agreed to replace Gröttrup as the head of the German team. "After that, everything went off like a well-rehearsed play," Mrs. Gröttrup wrote, "a big conference, long speeches and finally Helmut was asked again whether he would be willing to solve the new problem. Helmut defined his position in a long speech, whereupon the Deputy Minister said: 'Since you are more interested in matters affecting the community than in large-scale problems, I shall put your services at the disposal of the Commandant for other work. (64) The loss of his lifetime passion for rocketry did not come easy for Helmut Gröttrup. Sickness and drinking came as an immediate consequence. Yet, many of his German and Russian colleagues came to support his position. "The friendliness of the Russian colleagues is amazing," Irmgard Gröttrup wrote, "it's pleasant to receive an appreciative handshake by a party member. They still have some respect for integrity." As no repressive actions against Gröttrup followed, he soon resumed his work at the ballistics department. Gröttrup, Umpfenbach and Magnus were among remaining twenty. Gröttrup and other families of German specialists crossed the German-Polish border on November 28, 1953. ( 64) One word of Ustinov would be enough to subordinate Korolev to Gröttrup or to any other German, Soviet authorities deemed necessary. Although Germans were "shipped" to the Soviet-controlled East Germany, many of the repatriants, including Helmut Gröttrup, made it to the West without much trouble. As it often happens in history, the truth might lie in between: Germans did not designed Sputnik or its rocket, however the ideas and concepts developed by Gröttrup’s team on Gorodomlya did influence Soviet designers and thus accelerated their efforts.

Milestones of space exploration in the 20th century [cached]

September: Helmut Gröttrup, a leading Peenemünde engineer, joins Soviet efforts to restore the production of the German A-4 missiles.

German rocket scientists in Moscow [cached]

In the attempt to find out the fate of his missing men, Gröttrup came to the following realizations, as recorded by his wife:
This "cattle market," as Gröttrup put it, resulted in the situation, where as many as 30 former employees from Nordhausen were sent to work for other ministries, while German citizens from other Soviet enterprises ended up under his supervision. After some lobbying, Gröttrup was able to return some of the members of his team back into NII-88. Helmut Gröttrup and other Germans from NII-88 were settled in mansions and vacation houses just outside Moscow along the Yaroslavskaya Railroad, near stations of Bolshevo, Valentinovka and Pushkino. Their workplace would be NII-88 campus near the station of Podlipki on the same railroad. According to Irmgarg Gröttrup the average housing allocation for the German specialists was one room to a family of three, two rooms to a family of four. University graduates were allowed an additional room. Gröttrups were provided with a six-room villa with a large hall and two anterooms, the former home of a minister. To complete the picture, by November 1946 the authorities shipped Gröttrup's car from Germany and complemented it with a Russian chauffeur, whom Mrs. Gröttrup was giving little rest while exploring Moscow. ( 64) Yet, at the end of April 1947, Gröttrup frustrated, among other things, by the lack of insight in the work of NII-88 and noncooperation of some Russian colleagues went on strike and offered his resignation as the head of the German collective. This was certainly the only instance of the protest of this sort in the Stalinist Russia. Surprisingly, by May 1947, NII-88 set official salaries for the German employees. ( 64) For Helmut Gröttrup it was lower than 10,000-ruble monthly honorariums which he had been receiving previously, still he clearly remained highest paid rocket scientist in the USSR. Helmut Gröttrup (Chief of German collective) Gröttrup did remain at his post and he officially resumed work at NII-88 full time in July 1947. Around the same period of time, he also visited rest of his German compatriots at Gorodomlya Island. He found living conditions on the island much worse than in Podlipki. Yet, the description provided by Mrs. Gröttrup, apparently from the words of her husband, still provides a unique glimpse inside NII-88 in the 1940s: Seated in the festively decorated conference room at the long tables covered with red cloth were sixty Russians, the cream of their intelligentsia and military forces. There were high-ranking representatives of the Government Army and Air Force and from the various ministries concerned, and there were senior lecturers from the universities, and the departmental heads of the TsAGI Institute (Central Institute of Aerodynamics). They were there to listen, and to ask searching questions. Helmut, on his side, had the German scientists responsible for the various departments: Dr. Wolff (ballistics), Dr. Albring (aerodynamics), Dr. Umpfenbach (propulsion), Engineer Mueller (statics), Engineer Blass (firing equipment) and Dr. Hoch (controls). Helmut made his report with the help of twelve huge drawings on the wall showing the projected improvements on the new A-4, and his report was followed by further comments from each of the scientists in his own field of research. Helmut has gone with them. He did not want the idea to get about that "It's the boss that's sending us away. Besides, his presence there is meant to boost their morale. According to the Russian data, as of January 1, 1948, the number of German specialists at Gorodomlya Island was 96 people, not counting family members, while a year later all but two out of 172 Germans working for the Ministry of Armaments were within the confines of the island. Helmut Gröttrup departed for Gorodomlya on February 20, 1948. His wife was allowed to stay in the suburbs of Moscow until June to care for a sick son.

Missile Race between West and East [cached]

September: Helmut Gröttrup, a leading Peenemünde scientist, joins Soviet effort to restore the production of German A-4 missiles.

German legacy in the Soviet rocketry [cached]

Recruitment of Helmut Gröttrup
A rather improvised campaign scored a major victory in mid-September 1945, when Helmut Gröttrup, a chief expert in the A-4's flight control system, returned into the Soviet zone of occupation and joined Institute Rabe. (10) In a futile effort to recruit Wernher von Braun himself, Chertok's emissary crossed into the US zone; however he was quickly intercepted by the US military and was escorted back empty-handed. One of the first assignments given to Gröttrup by the Soviets was writing a report on the engineering history of Peenemünde, which he completed in mid-1946. Apparently, Gröttrup 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. Soviet authorities promised Helmut Gröttrup to provide one-month salaries to the German employees as a severance pay. ( 64)

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