Operation Osoaviakhim

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Operation Osoaviakhim was a Soviet operation which took place on 22 October 1946, when NKVD and Soviet army units at gunpoint removed more than 2,200 German specialists – a total of more than 6,000 people including family members – from the Soviet occupation zone of post-World War II Germany for employment in the Soviet Union. [1] [2] Much related equipment was moved too, the aim being to literally transplant research and production centres, such as the relocated V-2 rocket centre at Mittelwerk Nordhausen, from Germany to the Soviet Union, and collect as much material as possible from test centres such as the Luftwaffe's central military aviation test centre at Erprobungstelle Rechlin, taken by the Red Army on 2 May 1945. The codename "Osoaviakhim" was the acronym of a Soviet paramilitary organisation, later renamed DOSAAF.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, abbreviated NKVD, was the interior ministry of the Soviet Union.

Soviet occupation zone one of the four Allied occupation zones of Germany created at the end of World War II

The Soviet Occupation Zone was the area of Germany occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II in 1945. On 7 October 1949 the German Democratic Republic (GDR), commonly referred to in English as East Germany, was established in the Soviet Occupation Zone.


Between midnight and 3am, when everybody was asleep. They knew exactly where I lived, first of all: a few days before I was captured, a fellow came. They had a key - they had everything to the apartment, to the door. There was one interpreter who told me [in German]: "Get up! You are being mobilized to work in Russia", and there were about half a dozen soldiers with machine guns, who surrounded me. When I wanted to get to the toilet, they checked it out first to make sure there was no escape hatch. It was a very tight operation. They did that with every family. Many families came, while I was alone.

Fritz Karl Preikschat, a German engineer recruited to the Soviet Union via Operation Osoaviakhim and held in the Soviet Union for six years [3]

The operation was commanded by NKVD deputy Colonel General Serov, outside the control of the local Soviet Military Administration (which in a few cases, such as Carl Zeiss AG, tried to prevent the removal of specialists and equipment of vital economic significance for the occupation zone, [4] unsuccessfully, as it turned out, with reportedly only 582 of 10,000 machines left in place at Zeiss [5] ). Planned some time in advance to take place after the zone's elections on 20 October, to avoid damaging the Bloc of the Anti-Fascist Democratic Parties Unity List's result, the operation took 92 trains to transport the specialists and their families (perhaps 10,000-15,000 people in all [6] ) along with their furniture and belongings. [7] Whilst those removed were offered contracts (the specialists were told that they would be paid on the same terms as equivalent Soviet workers [4] ), there was little doubt that failing to sign them was not a realistic option.[ citation needed ]

Ivan Serov KGB officer

State Security General Ivan Alexandrovich Serov was a head of the KGB between March 1954 and December 1958, as well as head of the GRU between 1958 and 1963. He was Deputy Commissar of the NKVD under Lavrentiy Beria, and played a major role in the political intrigues after Joseph Stalin's death. Serov helped establish a variety of secret police forces in Central and Eastern Europe after the lowering of the Iron Curtain, and played an important role in crushing the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

The Soviet Military Administration in Germany was the Soviet military government, headquartered in Berlin-Karlshorst, that directly ruled the Soviet occupation zone of Germany from the German surrender in May 1945 until after the establishment of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in October 1949.

Carl Zeiss AG German manufacturer of optical systems

Carl Zeiss AG, branded as ZEISS, is a German manufacturer of optical systems and optoelectronics, founded in Jena, Germany in 1846 by optician Carl Zeiss. Together with Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott he layed the foundation for today's multi-national company. The current company emerged from a reunification of Carl Zeiss companies in East and West Germany with a consolidation phase in the 1990s. ZEISS is active in four business segments with approximately equal revenue, Industrial Quality and Research, Medical Technology, Consumer Markets and Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology in almost 50 countries, has 30 production sites and around 25 development sites worldwide.

A major consideration of the Soviet decision to undertake the operation was fear of the German economy and technological potential re-acclimatizing amidst the cooperation of Soviet and German technical experts after the war, and the simultaneous desire to cultivate this technological potential for the Soviet Union's benefit (especially as it concerned the nascent rocket program thereof). [8] In particular, A. G. Myrkin of the Soviet artillery directorate wrote a letter to the head of NKVD operations in Germany complaining about the prominence of German scientists in important state-secure work. [9] Another possible reason for the operation was the Soviet fear of being condemned for noncompliance with Allied Control Council agreements on the liquidation of German military installations.[ citation needed ] New agreements were expected on four-power inspections of remaining German war potential, which the Soviets supported, being concerned about developments in the western zones. [10] The operation has parallels with Allied operations such as Alsos Mission, Operation Paperclip and Russian Alsos, in which the Allies brought military specialists, notably Wernher von Braun, from Germany (primarily to the United States).

Allied Control Council military occupation governing body of the Allied Occupation Zones in Germany

The Allied Control Council or Allied Control Authority, known in the German language as the Alliierter Kontrollrat and also referred to as the Four Powers, was the governing body of the Allied Occupation Zones in Germany and Austria after the end of World War II in Europe. The members were the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The organization was based in Berlin-Schöneberg. The council was convened to determine several plans for postwar Europe, including how to change borders and transfer populations in Eastern Europe and Germany. As the four Allied Powers had joined themselves into a condominium asserting 'supreme' power in Germany, the Allied Control Council was constituted the sole legal sovereign authority for Germany as a whole, replacing the extinct civil government of Nazi Germany.

Alsos Mission United States military operation of 1943-1945 to discover enemy scientific developments during World War II

The Alsos Mission was an organized effort by a team of United States military, scientific, and intelligence personnel to discover enemy scientific developments during World War II. Its chief focus was on the German nuclear energy project, but it also investigated both chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver them.

Key recruits by Operation Osoaviakhim (incomplete list)

Ferdinand Brandner, Helmut Gröttrup, Fritz Karl Preikschat.


  1. "Operation "Osoaviakhim"". Russian space historian Anatoly Zak. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  2. Exorcising Hitler; The Occupation and Denazification of Germany, Frederick Taylor, Bloomsbury Press
  3. Oral Interview with Fritz Karl Preikschat recorded by his son Ekhard Preikschat, Bellevue, WA, USA, April 21, 1994.
  4. 1 2 Naimark, p. 223
  5. Naimark, p. 229
  6. Naimark, p. 227
  7. Naimark, p. 220
  8. Naimark
  9. Dyadin
  10. Naimark, p. 225

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