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WWII secretary to Wernher von Braun dies in Alabama

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The World War II secretary to German rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun has died in Alabama, where she spent much of her postwar life.

Dorette “Dorothea” Hertha Kersten Schlidt died Monday in Huntsville, according to a funeral home obituary. She was 100.

Born in Stargard in what is now northwestern Poland, Schlidt worked as von Braun’s secretary in the 1940s at the German rocket factory at Peenemuende, where thousands of concentration camp prisoners died in the Nazi war effort.

Heidi Weber Collier, a friend who visited with Schlidt recently, told al.com that Schlidt had been working in a law office when von Braun hired her as an aide at the complex. She helped von Braun retrieve notes and documents about the project after an Allied bombing raid, Collier said.

“He would work late at night and read out things he wanted her to type,” Collier said. “She didn’t sleep much, but they would be ready for him to review in the morning.”

It was at Peenemuende that she met Rudolf Schlidt, a guided missile expert who helped develop the Nazis’ V-2 rocket, which killed thousands of civilians in Britain. The couple married in 1945, and in a then-secret U.S. effort known as Operation Paperclip, they joined hundreds of other German scientists in moving to the United States.

Schlidt now had a new, Cold War mission — developing U.S. military and space technology — and they settled in Huntsville when von Braun’s team moved to Redstone Arsenal to develop the first U.S. rockets.

Rudolf Schlidt was one of the last surviving team members when he died in 2012.

The Associated Press