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The U.S. picked up a whole bunch of German scientists after World War II in Operation Paperclip. One of the most notable was Werner von Braun, who jump-started the American space program. Russia also got some scientists, although not exactly top-tier guys. What happened to them? Did they play a role in the Space Race, working on the other side of the Iron Curtain?

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The Russians picked up a similar number of "rocket scientists" as the West, but the lesser ones. These were taken to newly-constructed but isolated scientific facilities at places like Gorodomiya Island on a lake northwest of Moscow.

They were housed with Russian scientists in relatively comfortable (by Russian standards) facilities, near their place of work. Basically, the Germans' job was to write papers on rocket technology to educate their Russian counterparts, while they received very little knowledge in return, so that their technical expertise would fall behind the Russians'. This continued for more than five years, until Stalin's death. By this time, the German scientists had "drained" of their knowledge, and having been kept in isolation, no longer represented a threat. Between this fact and the more liberal atmosphere that prevailed after Stalin's death, it was possible to send them home to West Germany.

The Germans in Russia did very little of the actual design work, but their theoretical knowledge was of some help to the Russians in understanding rocketry and designing missiles; to a lesser extent in designing rockets for the space program.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer. I had had the same impression this source gives: they did the grunt work, but not much of the important or exciting stuff. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 1 '14 at 20:28
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Many German scientists were either captured by the Soviet army or were surrended to the Soviets after their capture by Western armies. All of these scientists were enslaved by the Soviets and forced to work on various scientific projects.

The experience of one of Germany's greatest scientists, Manfred von Ardenne, is representative. After voluntarily foregoing capture by Americans he was seized by the Red Army and moved to the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter, at secret police compound of Lubyanka he was brought before a commission of Soviet scientists headed up by Lavrenty Beria. Beria made a veiled threat to kill him if he did not work for them. He agreed to work on a project to devise electromagnetic methods for the purification of Uranium 235, a subject in which he was expert. In 1954, after working on the Soviet nuclear program for nine years he was allowed to leave and settle in East Germany. See Ardenne's biography, "Mein Leben für Forschung und Fortschritt" for details.

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