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 that had been previously grouped together, were now dispersed: from now on tests would take place in Blizna, Poland; mass production was set up in an underground factory to be constructed in Thuringia, near Nordhausen.
In France, where the great launch bunker, intended for rockets in Éperlecques, had been severely damaged, a new launching site was constructed: 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 workers.
Aerial view of La Coupole site after the Allied bombings (Summer 1944)
The construction of the underground factory - baptized "Mittelwerk" ("central factory") - started on 28 August 1943 with the arrival in Nordhausen of a first group of deportees from Buchenwald. These people were destined to supply a work Kommando named « Dora » with workers.
For six months, the prisoners experienced dramatic living conditions while transforming a fuel depot into a modern factory: exhausting labour, inadequate food, violent guards and a total lack of hygiene (the prisoners slept in the galleries, covered with lice). The mortality rate was terribly high.
The first rockets came off the production line on 1 January 1944. In March, the building of an outside camp temporarily improved the prisoners' fate. The camp Dora became autonomous with Buchenwald from October 1944.