We are certainly not feeling like we are on the winning side today after seeing the news alert on our phones that Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice, but we ended up seeing a show today called The Winning Side, a play about the true story of Wernher von Braun, the chief rocket engineer of the Third Reich and one of the founders of the U.S. space program. He was technically a Nazi working for the Nazis, but through Operation Paperclip, a secret program in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians, were recruited and granted U.S. citizenship, he gained citizenship and thus became an American. The play is probably one of my favorites that we have seen lately, and it does a very compelling job in asking its audience to question our views about science, technology, politics, and ethics. Was it really okay to bring someone like von Braun into the U.S. so that the U.S. could benefit from his great intellect and experience in rocket science despite the fact that he was a Nazi and basically overlooked what Hitler was doing to exterminate all non-German people? Can you truly remove yourself from politics when you are a rocket scientist on the Nazi side, trying to help future humankind while at the same time saying that you don’t really identify as a Nazi?
In the play, von Braun has an affair with a French woman who (fictionally) is an actress. While he was able to continue his life and move on to the U.S. and become a citizen, one who was quite respected, on the other hand, she got caught for this illicit affair and was called out for “collaboration horizontale” — French women who were involved in some way with any Germans during WWII. Along with countless other French women, she was publicly shamed, her head shaven, her body beaten, stripped naked, and spit on constantly by the crowds. She was then ostracized by her country and forced to flee to French Morocco, where she ended up destitute.
What is this, an ongoing theme of white men getting away with and even getting rewarded for all the crap they do, and women just having to suffer all the consequences of what the men did? It’s almost uncanny that we watched this just hours after hearing the Kavanagh confirmation news.
It’s like pain on top of pain. This was the case then. This is the case now. The unfairness goes on.