The establishment of Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp was preceded by the development of the A4 rocket as a weapon of terror (later known by the propaganda designation "V-2") in the Peenemünde army experimentation plant on the island of Usedom. A heavy air attack by the Royal Air Force on the night of August 18, 1943 brought A4 manufacture in Peenemünde to an abrupt halt. At the other two sites, production had also been at least adversely affected by Allied air raids the same summer. The bombing of Peenemünde gave the authorities no other choice but to move the undertaking to regions less exposed to the air. A decision was made in favour of the tunnel system belonging to the Wirtschaftliche Forschungsgesellschaft (Wifo) in the Kohnstein mountain near Nordhausen in Thuringia.
The Wifo had been in the process of building an oil and lubricant storage facility in the Kohnstein since 1936. By the time the first inmates arrived in August 1943, a large majority of the tunnels had already been completed and the transport tunnels laid out with rails. The underground chambers were cleared out and altered by inmates to serve as a factory where the assembly of A4 rockets (V-2) began in January 1944.
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- Text: W. Smit, KZ-Gedenkstätte Mittelbau-Dora
- Photos: Arjan Vrieze