Redeployment of the German devices
The attack against Peenemünde caused panic among the Nazi leaders, and a series of important decisions were made in the last days of August 1943.
Mass production of the A4 rocket in the "Mittelwerk" underground factory, taken by Walter Frentz
The functions, which were previously grouped together, were dispersed: trials would now take place in Blizna, Poland; mass production was set up in an underground factory to be developed in Thuringia, near Nordhausen.
In France, given that the great launch bunker intended for rockets in Éperlecques had been severely damaged, a new launch site was undertaken: La Coupole, located near Saint-Omer.
However, the most important factor was the now major involvement of the SS in the rocket programme: it was this organisation who would control the testing facilities, establish production and provide the necessary supply of concentration camp labour.
Aerial view of La Coupole site after the Allied bombings (Summer 1944)
Development work on the underground factory - christened "Mittelwerk" ("central factory") - began from 28 August 1943 with the arrival in Nordhausen of a first group of deportees from Buchenwald, to supply a work Kommando named « Dora ».
For six months, the prisoners experienced dramatic living conditions to transform a fuel depot into a modern factory: exhausting labor, inadequate food, violent guards, total lack of hygiene (the prisoners slept in the galleries, covered with lice). The mortality rate was terrible.
The first rockets came off the production line on 1 January 1944. In March, the building of an outside camp temporarily improved the prisoners' lot. Dora camp became autonomous with Buchenwald from October 1944.