In his new book Taking Nazi Technology: Allied Exploitation of German Science After the Second World War (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), Douglas O’Reagan describes how the Western Allies gathered teams of experts to scour defeated Germany, seeking industrial secrets and the technical personnel who could explain them. Swarms of investigators invaded Germany's factories and research institutions, seizing or copying all kinds of documents, from patent applications to factory production data to science journals. They questioned, hired, and sometimes even kidnapped hundreds of scientists, engineers, and other technical personnel. They studied technologies from aeronautics to audiotapes, toy making to machine tools, chemicals to carpentry equipment. They took over academic libraries, jealously competed over chemists, and schemed to deny the fruits of German invention to any other land—including that of other Allied nations.
Drawing on declassified records, O'Reagan looks at which techniques worked for these very different nations, as well as which failed—and why. Most importantly, he shows why securing this technology, how the Allies did it, and when still matters today. He also argues that these programs did far more than spread German industrial science: they forced businessmen and policymakers around the world to rethink how science and technology fit into diplomacy, business, and society itself.
Douglas M. O'Reagan is a historian of technology, industry, and national security. He earned his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.
Craig Sorvillo is a PhD candidate in modern European history at the University of Florida. He specializes in Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @craig_sorvillo.