Neufeld, Michael J. 1951-
Neufeld, Michael J. 1951-
Born July 7, 1951, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; son of Henry John (a bookkeeper) and Isabel Grace Maclean (a nurse) Neufeld; married Sheila Faith Weiss, May 29, 1983 (divorced, December 22, 1992); married Karen Lee Levenback (a college professor) June 14, 1994. Education: University of Calgary, B.A. (with first-class honors), 1974; University of British Columbia, M.A., 1976; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1980, Ph.D., 1984. Hobbies and other interests: Amateur astronomy.
Historian, museum curator, educator, writer, and editor. Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY, part-time assistant professor, 1983-85; State University of New York College at Oswego, visiting assistant professor, 1985-86; Colgate University, Hamilton, NY, visiting assistant professor, 1986-88; National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, curator in Aeronautics Division, 1990-99, curator in Space History Division, 1999—, chair, beginning 2007.
History of Science Society, Society for the History of Technology, Society for Military History, German Studies Association.
Fellow, National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, 1988-90; History Manuscript Award, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1995, and Dexter Prize, Society for the History of Technology, 1997, both for The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era; Leopold Prize, Organization of American Historians, Secretary's Research Prize, Smithsonian Institution, both 2008, both for Von Braun.
The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era, Free Press (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor) Yves Béon, Planet Dora, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1997.
(Editor, with Michael Berenbaum) The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It?, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War, Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Historian Michael J. Neufeld has authored The Skilled Metalworkers of Nuremberg: Craft and Class in the Industrial Revolution, The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era, and Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War. With Michael Berenbaum, he has also edited The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It?, a collection of fifteen essays from a variety of contributors that examine the historical question.
In The Skilled Metalworkers of Nuremberg, Neufeld focuses upon the impact of technical advancements and political and social organizations on German society from 1835 to 1905. "Piecing together a fascinating story from diverse sources, Neufeld presents a nuanced picture without losing sight of the broader trends," commented Joan Campbell in the American Historical Review. She added: "As a soundly researched and intelligent essay in local history by a scholar fully apprised of the latest developments in German and labor studies, this book can be recommended to all those interested in the changing world of work in the nineteenth century."
"Although trained as a labor and social historian, I lost interest in pursuing that research further, and decided by the mid-1980s to combine my training in German history with my lifelong enthusiasm for aerospace technology. The Rocket and the Reich is the beginning, I think, of a career writing about the history of space flight and rocket technology, but also about aviation and the impact of strategic bombing," Neufeld once told CA. The Rocket and the Reich details the development of ballistic missiles by the Nazis during World War II, focusing on such engineers as Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger. Drawing on previously untapped sources, Neufeld also analyzes the roles of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and the use of slave labor. "This is a hard-hitting book," wrote Richard J. Evans in the New York Times Book Review, "but it is also a fair and scholarly one that does equal justice to all aspects of the German rocket program—technical, political, moral and human. It bids fair to become the standard work on this subject for many years to come." Neufeld's study, noted Raymond G. Stokes in Science, "is a definitive historical analysis" that "provides a history of Nazi rocket technology in its full political, social, and moral dimensions." Writing in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, James Schwoch found it to be a "wonderfully researched historical study that clearly reveals the interdependence of both American and Soviet rocketry and space sciences on the foundation of work done by scientists in Nazi Germany."
In The Bombing of Auschwitz, Neufeld and coeditor Michael Berenbaum gather together essays exploring the question of whether the Allies should have bombed the concentration camp at Auschwitz as a way to put an end to the slaughter going on there. While the Allies had the military muscle to successfully attack the camp, the strategic reasons for doing so were insufficient. A raid on the camp would have taken needed planes away from the battlefield, perhaps resulting in a loss that would have lengthened the war's duration. A bombing that was only partially successful would have resulted in the deaths of many prisoners without putting an end to the camp's activities. Despite the emotional incentive to bomb Auschwitz, the Allies chose to focus their military forces on war-winning activities only. The contributors to The Bombing of Auschwitz represent a variety of views on the question. William D. Bushnell in the Library Journal believed that, of the essays presented, "best are the pro and con essays by James H. Kitchens and Stuart G. Erdheim, as well as the discussions of intelligence collection." George Cohen, in his review for Booklist, called it "an absorbing collection."
In his 2007 book, Von Braun, Neufeld looks at the life, career, and legacy of Wernher von Braun, who went from being the chief rocket engineer for Germany during World War II and developer of the infamous V-2 rocket to becoming one of the founding fathers of the U.S. space program. Neufeld closely examines von Braun's efforts for the Third Reich during World War II and how much he knew about the starving slave laborers who worked in a secret underground plant helping to build the V-2s, which were used to bomb London and Antwerp. As the author points out, thousands of these slave laborers died, and von Braun knew about the deaths but kept as quiet as possible about them. "We like to have everything resolved black, white; hero, villain, and he's a complicated, difficult character, and I would agree that there's a lot of room for ethical debate about what you can hold him responsible for and what you could have expected him to do," the author told Diane Tedeschi in an interview for Air & Space magazine.
In the book, Neufeld describes how von Braun and his group quickly surrendered to the Americans at the end of the war. Realizing his scientific skills, the Americans brought the rocket scientist to the United States, where he worked on guided missiles, helped launch the first American satellite, and headed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), eventually moving from behind the scenes to become a household name in 1950s America as the handsome and likable von Braun began appearing on television touting interplanetary travel. Neufeld also explores how von Braun never completely eliminated the questions about his past wartime actions.
"This book, truly a historian's masterpiece, will become the definitive biography," wrote Mark Walker in a review on the American Scientist Web site. Referring to Von Braun as a "thoroughly satisfying biography," New York Times Book Review contributor Alex Roland noted: "Von Braun has been the subject of at least nine previ- ous English-language biographies. But Neufeld's version, exhaustively researched in German and American archives and written in clear, fast-paced prose, offers the most complete, fully documented and critical account that the imperfect documentary record is likely to yield."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Air & Space, January, 2008, Diane Tedeschi, "A & S Interview: Michael J. Neufeld."
American Historical Review, February, 1991, Joan Campbell, review of The Skilled Metalworkers of Nuremberg: Craft and Class in the Industrial Revolution, pp. 190-191.
Biography, winter, 2008, review of Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War, p. 210.
Booklist, July 1, 2000, George Cohen, review of The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It?, p. 1994; August, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Von Braun, p. 18.
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, June, 1998, James Schwoch, review of The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era, p. 295.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of Von Braun.
Library Journal, July, 2000, William D. Bushnell, review of The Bombing of Auschwitz, p. 114; September 15, 2007, James A. Buczynski, review of Von Braun, p. 83.
New York Times Book Review, January 1, 1995, Richard J. Evans, review of The Rocket and the Reich, p. 2; November 18, 2007, Alex Roland, "He Aimed at the Stars but Hit London," review of Von Braun.
Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2007, review of Von Braun, p. 58.
Science, May 26, 1995, Raymond G. Stokes, review of The Rocket and the Reich, p. 1200.
SciTech Book News, March, 2008, review of Von Braun.
American Scientist,http://www.americanscientist.org/ (July 4, 2008), Mark Walker, "A 20th-Century Faust," review of Von Braun.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (July 4, 2008), Michelle Jones, "Head in the Stars," review of Von Braun.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (July 4, 2008), Laurel Maury, review of Von Braun.
Space Jobs,http://spacejobs.com/ (January 31, 2001), Douglas M. Messier, review of The Rocket and the Reich.
Space Review,http://www.thespacereview.com/ (November 26, 2007), Jeff Foust, "Review: Von Braun."