Netflix film tells how US housed Nazi scientists in luxury PoW camp in Virginia

Netflix film tells how US housed Nazi scientists in


A new Netflix film tells the incredible story of a top-secret US prisoner camp where Nazi officers and scientists were guarded and interviewed by Jewish soldiers who had fled the Holocaust in Europe.

Known as PO Box 1142, the facility – which boasted swimming pools and tennis courts – was hidden away in Fairfax County in the state of Virginia.

Its core purpose was to interview Prisoners of War about Germany’s advances in weapons and rocket technology, whilst making them feel welcome in the hope that they would divulge more information.

Now, after decades of being shrouded in secrecy, the facility – which was part of the infamous Operation Paperclip – has been brought to public attention in the part-animated Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis, which has been made by Israeli film makers Daniel Sivan and Mor Loushy.

Among the senior German officers held there was spy chief Reinhard Gehlen, who had been the Wehrmacht’s chief of intelligence on the eastern front in the War.

He was released in in 1946 after Adolf Hitler’s defeat and went on to head up the CIA-affiliated anti-Communist Gehlen Organisation in occupied Germany at the start of the Cold War.

Also held at PO Box 1142 was aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun – who had led Germany’s devastating V2 rocket programme and is said to have known about the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, where more than one million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Von Braun later became a US citizen and, along with his colleague at Peenemunde, Kurt Debus, was a leading figure in Nasa’s Apollo 11 mission which saw astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon in 1969.

The inventor of infrared detection, Heinz Schlicke, was also among the camp’s inmates.

Two of the Jewish men who had fled to the US from Germany before joining the US Army and working at PO Box 1142 were interviewed for the new Netflix drama.

Arno Mayer and Peter Weiss were among the men tasked with being ‘nice’ to the German prisoners, in the hope that they would divulge crucial secrets about Hitler’s weapons programmes.

On one occasion, Mayer was forced to take von Braun and other Nazis to a department store so they could buy lingerie and other gifts to send home to their wives and children.

A new Netflix film tells the incredible story of a top-secret US prisoner camp where senior Nazis were guarded and interviewed by Jewish soldiers who had fled the Holocaust in Europe. Known as PO Box 1142, the facility – which boasted swimming pools and tennis courts - was hidden away at Fort Hunt in Fairfax County in the state of Virginia

A new Netflix film tells the incredible story of a top-secret US prisoner camp where senior Nazis were guarded and interviewed by Jewish soldiers who had fled the Holocaust in Europe. Known as PO Box 1142, the facility – which boasted swimming pools and tennis courts – was hidden away at Fort Hunt in Fairfax County in the state of Virginia

Aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun was held at PO Box 1142. He is pictured second from right with German officers during the Second World War. He led Germany's devastating V2 rocket programme and is said to have known about the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, where more than one million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust

Von Braun later became a US citizen and was a leading figure in Nasa's Apollo 11 mission which saw astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon in 1969

Aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun was held at PO Box 1142. He is pictured left second from right with German officers during the Second World War. He led Germany’s devastating V2 rocket programme and is said to have known about the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, where more than one million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Von Braun later became a US citizen and was a leading figure in Nasa’s Apollo 11 mission which saw astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon in 1969. Right: von Braun in the 1960s

PO Box 1142, which was named after the site’s mailing address, was established in 1942. At its height, there were 87 buildings at the facility.

A total of 3,451 prisoners spent time there until it was closed in July 1945, after the end of the Second World War.

It was then bulldozed the following year and little was known about it until some remnants were unearthed in the early 2000s. Information about it has only recently been declassified.

The camp had been set up as part of Operation Paperclip, which saw more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers and technicians taken from the former Nazi Germany so that they could be employed by the US government as part of the emerging Cold War with the Soviet Union.

The Netflix documentary was made after the makers obtained interviews which the US National Parks Service had carried out in 2006 with veterans who spent time at the camp.

Among them were Mayer and Wiess, who also spoke especially for the documentary.

Loushy told The Guardian that ‘unbelievable’ relationships formed between the Jewish guards ‘and the Nazis who would’ve captured them’.

‘Nobody knew about it, and the people who conducted the interviews never told anyone about it. They didn’t even tell their wives or children – they took this secret to their grave,’ he added.

Now, after decades of being shrouded in secrecy, the facility – which was part of the infamous Operation Paperclip – has been brought to public attention in Camp Confidential: America's Secret Nazis, which has been made by Israeli film makers Daniel Sivan and Mor Loushy. Above: A scene from the animated film shows von Braun (left) and Jewish soldier Arno Mayer, who was tasked with being nice to the German prisoners in the hope it would persuade them to divulge information

Now, after decades of being shrouded in secrecy, the facility – which was part of the infamous Operation Paperclip – has been brought to public attention in Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis, which has been made by Israeli film makers Daniel Sivan and Mor Loushy. Above: A scene from the animated film shows von Braun (left) and Jewish soldier Arno Mayer, who was tasked with being nice to the German prisoners in the hope it would persuade them to divulge information

Mayer said he was referred to by some of the German prisoners as 'Der kleine Judenbube', which translates as 'the little Jew boy'. 'You know in your best dreams or nightmares, you couldn't have expected to become the morale officer of these high animals. 'I mean, the hatred within me was so strong I couldn't, I couldn't resist it. Because as far as I was concerned, they were sons of b*****s and I wanted them dead'

Mayer said he was referred to by some of the German prisoners as ‘Der kleine Judenbube’, which translates as ‘the little Jew boy’. ‘You know in your best dreams or nightmares, you couldn’t have expected to become the morale officer of these high animals. ‘I mean, the hatred within me was so strong I couldn’t, I couldn’t resist it. Because as far as I was concerned, they were sons of b*****s and I wanted them dead’

The soldiers guarding the prisoners were also given money to take them out to clubs, restaurants and even the cinema

The soldiers guarding the prisoners were also given money to take them out to clubs, restaurants and even the cinema

Arno Mayer

Peter Weiss (pictured above in the Netflix programme)

Arno Mayer (pictured left in 2002) and Peter Weiss (in the Netflix programme) were among the men tasked with being ‘nice’ to the German prisoners, in the hope that they would divulge crucial secrets about Hitler’s weapons programmes

One animated flashback scene shows Jewish soldiers flooding a van with vacuum cleaner dust to make the prisoners inside it believe that they were being gassed – the very fate met by millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

Wernher von Braun’s V2 rocket 

Designed by German engineer Wernher von Braun, the V2 had four key points that marked it out: large liquid fuel rocket engines, supersonic aerodynamics, gyroscopic guidance, and rudders in jet control.

Weighing almost 14 tons, the missile was launched vertically and could travel at over 3,500mph to strike targets 200 miles away. 

The automatic guidance system was perhaps the most important: this meant that once the rocket was in the air, with its destination programmed into the analogue computer, its gyroscopes could track its positioning, using the rudders to shift its course if needed.

Even today, rocket launchers still have similar engines and use gyroscopic guidance, and most are still rocket-fuelled.

The technology that went into the V2 was so sophisticated, that once the war was over, American and Soviet engineers picked the left over rockets to bits to understand how they worked.

With the help of von Braun, who surrendered to the Allies and later became a hero of the space age, the technology was harnessed to develop rockets that would go into space.

The first V2 strike ever came on the morning of 8 September 1944, landing in Charentonneau à Maison-Alfort on the edge of a newly-liberated Paris, and killing six people.

A few hours later that same day, a V2 struck Chiswick, in west London, killing three and injuring 17.

A third strike just a few seconds later hit a field outside Epping, Essex, leaving no-one hurt or injured.

Initially British politicians tried to cover up the new threat to their people, blaming gas explosions, but this ruse was quickly seen through, and people began to refer to V2s sardonically as ‘flying gas pipes’.

On 8 March 1945, a V2 hit Smithfield Market in London. Many of the victims fell through the ruined building onto the railway below, and many women and children who had gone to the meat market to buy rabbits were killed, putting the final death toll for the bomb at 110.

The worst attack on Britain came on 25 November 1944, when a V2 hit a Woolworths department store in New Cross, south east London, mid-afternoon, killing 168.

The final two V2 attacks on Britain came on 27 March 1945, and one of these attacks killed the last British civilian to be felled by a V2 – Mrs Ivy Millichamp, 34, who was at home in Orpington, Kent.

Rocket scientist von Braun was one of many experts who were brought to the US as part of Operation Paperclip, which was devised to hoover up German know-how amidst the unfolding Cold War with the Soviet Union.

It meant that bad feelings about the past deeds of those whose skills they utilised had to be put to one side.

Loushy added: ‘We all know that [von Braun] knew about Auschwitz, and that he participated with the Nazi regime.’

Speaking of von Braun in the documentary, Mayer said: ‘In one of the factories in which they developed some of these weapons [V2 rockets], they used Jews who had been arrested by the Gestapo.

‘He knew what was going on. Werner von Braun knew that there was an Auschwitz.’

Mayer, who had the title of ‘Morale Officer’ because of his role in making the Germans feel welcome, also said that it was ‘unpleasant’ to have to carry out his orders.

‘I almost feel like vomiting for the very simple reason I had to be nice to these guys. And the only question that I asked myself is, ‘what did they do during the war?’

He said he was referred to by some of the German officers as ‘Der kleine Judenbube’, which translates as ‘the little Jew boy’.

‘You know in your best dreams or nightmares, you couldn’t have expected to become the morale officer of these high animals.

‘I mean, the hatred within me was so strong I couldn’t, I couldn’t resist it. Because as far as I was concerned, they were sons of b*****s and I wanted them dead.’

The soldiers guarding the prisoners were also given money to take them out to clubs, restaurants and even the cinema.

When von Braun and other German officials asked to be allowed to send gifts home to their families in the now-devastated Germany in 1945, Mayer was the man tasked with taking them to a department store.

He said: ‘I’d been given a thousand dollars, and we were driven to Landsburgh Brothers. Landsburgh Brothers was the largest department store in Washinton D.C. and I knew it was Jewish, so it gave me some sort of a nasty pleasure to take these guys to a Jewish department store.’

After buying coffee, tea and chocolates for their children, he said the men pointed at the underwear section.

Mayer said: ‘I was 17 or whatever, I had never bought any Unterwasche.

‘And here were these four German guys now ordering panties for their wives. Finally, the woman [shop attendant] came out and held up a dainty nylon pantie.

I still only remember Werner von Braun, and he said, ‘No! Made out of wool and with long legs.’ [in German].’

However, because the men were speaking in German and the war was still technically ongoing, their presence attracted so much attention that the military police were called and they and Meyer were arrested before being driven back to PO Box 1142.

Weiss also told how, although he did not know it whilst serving at the camp, his grandfather, uncle and aunt and cousin, as well as other relatives, all died in the Holocaust.

Spy chief Reinhard Gehlen, who had been the Wehrmacht's chief of intelligence on the eastern front in the War, was also held at PO Box 1142. After being released, he went on to head up the CIA-affiliated anti-Communist Gehlen Organisation in occupied Germany at the start of the Cold War

The inventor of infrared detection, Heinz Schlicke, was also among the camp's inmates

Spy chief Reinhard Gehlen (left), who had been the Wehrmacht’s chief of intelligence on the eastern front in the War, was also held at PO Box 1142. After being released, he went on to head up the CIA-affiliated anti-Communist Gehlen Organisation in occupied Germany at the start of the Cold War. The inventor of infrared detection, Heinz Schlicke (right), was also among the camp’s inmates

Von Braun led the V2 rocket programme at the Peenemunde research facility in north-east Germany. He is pictured above fourth from left with members of his research team and German military officials

Von Braun led the V2 rocket programme at the Peenemunde research facility in north-east Germany. He is pictured above fourth from left with members of his research team and German military officials

The highly advanced long-range supersonic V2 rocket was responsible for the deaths of around 9,000 civilians and military personnel. Above: A rocket being launched in 1944

The highly advanced long-range supersonic V2 rocket was responsible for the deaths of around 9,000 civilians and military personnel. Above: A rocket being launched in 1944

Among those killed by the German bombing raids were thousands of British civilians, with the first V2 strike hitting in September 1944, Above: The aftermath of a V2 strike in Woolwich, south-east London, in November 1944

Among those killed by the German bombing raids were thousands of British civilians, with the first V2 strike hitting in September 1944, Above: The aftermath of a V2 strike in Woolwich, south-east London, in November 1944

‘Almost all of us were refugees from Nazis. We would have preferred to treat them as the war criminals that they were. But when you are in the Army you follow orders,’ he said.

‘I tried to suppress the rage because I wouldn’t have been effective if I had acted as if I wanted to kill them.’

At the end of the war, Von Braun had handed himself in to US soldiers in Austria after fleeing the Peenemunde facility in north-east Germany, where he had led the V2 rocket programme.

The highly advanced long-range supersonic rocket was responsible for the deaths of around 9,000 civilians and military personnel.

Among those killed by the German bombing raids were thousands of British civilians, with the first V2 strike hitting in September 1944.

Von Braun divulged crucial information about the V2 programme while at PO Box 1142.

After his surrender, he told the press in Austria: ‘We knew that we had created a new means of warfare, and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else.

After the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had been established in 1958, von Braun – who had long harboured ambitions to use rockets for space exploration - was employed to work on their rocket programme. Above: Von Braun is seen in 1966 in front of the Saturn V rocket. He was then the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center

After the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had been established in 1958, von Braun – who had long harboured ambitions to use rockets for space exploration – was employed to work on their rocket programme. Above: Von Braun is seen in 1966 in front of the Saturn V rocket. He was then the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center

Von Braun is seen above with the then US President John F Kennedy in 1962. The scientist died an American hero in 1977

Von Braun is seen above with the then US President John F Kennedy in 1962. The scientist died an American hero in 1977

Buzz Aldrin is pictured on the lunar surface by his fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong. The mission would likely have been impossible without von Braun's know-how

Buzz Aldrin is pictured on the lunar surface by his fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong. The mission would likely have been impossible without von Braun’s know-how

‘We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided not by the laws of materialism but by Christianity and humanity could such an assurance to the world be best secured.’

After his time at PO Box 1142, von Braun and other German scientists trained their US counterparts in the technology behind rockets and guided missiles.

Von Braun then led the U.S. Army’s team behind the Redstone rocket – the first large American ballistic missile.

After the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had been established in 1958, von Braun – who had long harboured ambitions to use rockets for space exploration – was employed to work on their rocket programme.

He ultimately became the chief architect of the Saturn V super heavy-lift launch vehicle which propelled the Apollo 11 spacecraft to the moon.



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