Peenemünde looks out across the mouth of the River Peene where it drifts into the Baltic Sea. In 1935, engineer Wernher von Braun pinpointed the village, which offered a 400km testing range off the German coast, as the perfect, secret place to develop and test rockets.
Frantic building work began on the world’s largest and most modern rearmament centre. About 12,000 people worked on the first-ever cruise missiles and fully functioning large-scale rockets at the site, which spanned an area of 25 sq km. The research and development carried out in Peenemünde was not only crucial to the course of the biggest war in history, but impacted the future of weapons of mass destruction, as well as space travel.
Today, all that remains of the complex is an old red-brick power station that houses the Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum. When I visited, the solid, rectangular building with looming rusty chimneys and the model rockets scattered across the museum grounds created a chilling impression. But inside, the exhibits ‒ from old documents to hunks of broken and bent metal rudders, rocket tails and turbo pumps ‒ filled me with awe.