Museum Will Mark V-2 Anniversary, Top Official Still Under Fire
Sep. 29, 1992
BERLIN (AP) _ Scaled-down events marking the 50th anniversary of the V-2 rocket will show its deadly use in World War II and its importance in leading to outer space travel, a museum director said Tuesday.
Nazi troops fired V-2 rockets at London, Antwerp and other cities toward the end of World War II, killing thousands of civilians.
Facing enormous international pressure, the Bonn government and Germany's aviation industry canceled a 50th anniversary ceremony that had been scheduled for Saturday.
But Peter Profe, the head of a small museum at the Peenemuende testing grounds in northeastern Germany, said he would go forward with four days of discussions, lectures and film presentations on the controversial rocket.
''We want to show the good sides and the bad sides of the V-2,'' Profe said. The Nazis made the first successful firing on Oct. 3, 1942.
A spokeswoman for the Economics Ministry, which had been at the center of the controversy, said she had not heard about the decision to go ahead with the scaled-down events.
''The fact that the federal government withdrew its participation speaks for itself,'' spokeswoman Regina Wierig said.
Erich Riedl, state secretary in the ministry, had signed on as a co-sponsor of the now-canceled ceremony and on Tuesday faced growing pressure to resign.
The opposition Social Democratic Party called Riedl's planned sponsorship ''a scene from the loony bin'' and labeled him a ''lobbyist for Germany's arms industry.''
Riedl accused his critics of ''hysteria'' and refused to step down.
Nazi leaders forced concentration camp inmates to build wartime rockets, and thousands of them died in the process.
The four days of discussions, readings and film showings about the V-2 will start Thursday in Peenemuende.
''This is not a ceremony,'' museum director Profe said. ''We never wanted to celebrate the V-2, but rather pay tribute to the start of outer space travel.''
The V-2 helped pave the way for space flights. Wernher von Braun, the head of the V-2 project, later helped guide the U.S. moon-landing program.
''There are no bad rockets,'' Profe said. ''There are people who either use or misuse rockets.''
Profe said he expected up to 2,000 visitors for the series of events at the museum, called the Historical-Technical Information Center.
''I don't expect any protests,'' the museum director attend ''I wouldn't know who'd want to protest.''
He said he did not know whether any state or local government officials would attend. A government spokesman said Chancellor Helmut Kohl was ''not amused'' by the international furor the original plans for a ceremony had caused.