This week’s episode of the Flight Deck Podcast is the first in a series associated with the Museum wide initiative to feature untold stories in honor of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Today you will hear from Museum docent Reiner Decher who was a young boy in Germany during WWII. Reiner recalls the end of the war through the eyes of a child, escaping Germany with his family through Operation Paperclip.
Reiner’s father worked in aviation developing cutting edge technology for Junkers Aircraft and Motorworks in Dessau, Germany. After the war, Russia and the United States wanted to employ the greatest German scientists and engineers, Reiner’s Father was one of those selected. Hugo Junkers was an aviation pioneer who started building aircraft during the end of WWI. His company built airplanes, engines and even spawned Lufthansa Airline. During his lifetime Junkers refused to work for the Nazis, sadly he was not able to prevent them from using his technology when he died in 1935 before the beginning of World War II. The city of Dessau where Junkers was located was captured by the U.S. and had to be vacated to the Russians, becoming a Soviet Occupation zone.
Operation Paperclip consisted of gathering people of various technologies. The American Army was interested in new technology that they had not yet developed. They were in search of the best scientists, doctors and physicists, giving Germans an opportunity to come to America. Around 1,600 people were selected to come to the states. Reiner’s father, Siegfried, decided his family would go to America before the Russians came through… They were loaded into a large truck along with two other families. Their car unfortunately crashed during its journey, fracturing the skull of Reiner’s brother. Reiner’s entire family was transferred to a local hospital where the American Army disguised his mother as a nurse to avoid any suspicion.
This delay cost his family the opportunity to go to the US, but all hope was not lost. Reiner’s father was then invited by the French government along with those spearheading the BMW jet engine effort to support France in new technological advances. His family started their new life in a small town in central France where Reiner spent most of his time growing up. Finally, there was peace for Reiner and his family, they were able to live a somewhat ‘normal’ life. He did however experience discrimination at first associated with bitter feelings from the war… that soon dissipated after the immense impact of German technical innovation on France.
Hear more incredible stories like Reiner’s with our Untold Stories: World War II at 75 programming happening for the duration of this year. We will also be refreshing our Personal Courage Wing, incorporating rare artifacts and experiential exhibits in the theme of World War II.
Producer: Sean Mobley
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