Discovery and Despair - The Story of the Dora Factory

Secrets of the underground production of German V-1 and V-2 rockets, the dark and foreboding beginning of the modern space age, will be shown in a display of photographs by Philadelphia-based photographer Alvin Gilens at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Sept. 15-Oct. 20. An opening reception will be held Friday, Sept. 15, from 5-7 p.m. at the Gallery.

Secrets of the underground production of German V-1 and V-2 rockets, the dark and foreboding beginning of the modern space age, will be shown in a display of photographs by Philadelphia-based photographer Alvin Gilens at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Sept. 15-Oct. 20. An opening reception will be held Friday, Sept. 15, from 5-7 p.m. at the Gallery.

Entitled Discovery and Despair—The Story of the Dora Factory, this exhibit of contemporary photographs includes artifacts from the factory and tells the story of one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of rockets. The first successful intercontinental ballistic missiles were produced in an immense underground factory near Nordhausen, Germany in 1944-45. Prisoners of war, racial victims and political dissenters from many countries were sent from concentration camps to dig huge tunnels and chambers where many of them lived for months at a time without ventilation or sanitation. The photographs explore what remains of these factories where 60,000 men worked in the “Factory of Death,” and over one-third of them died of cruelty, disease and starvation.

The successful Saturn Rocket design that powered the Apollo moon landings was based directly on the development of the V-2 rocket, under the supervision of the same scientist, Wernher von Braun. The photographs were first exhibited in 1995 to commemorate the liberation of the Mittlebau-Dora slave labor camp by the American Army in 1945. Since that time the work has been exhibited at the Imperial War Museum in London as well as in Berlin, Munich, Antwerp and other sites in Europe and the United States.

Gilens is the only American photographer to have a one-man exhibit at Israel’s Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. The interpretive photographs of Holocaust sites and monuments throughout the world were displayed for more than five months, and then became part of the museum’s permanent collection. Subsequently he was invited to exhibit the photographs at the United States Congress; the display was opened by remarks from Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. This exhibit of images of the former Nazi camp of Mittlebau-Dora has been touring Europe since its opening in April, 1995 at the Meyenburg Museum in Nordhausen, Germany. The photographs have been exhibited at the Imperial War Museum in London, the Urania Institute in Berlin and the galleries of the DGB in Munich as well as numerous other European venues. In the United States the work has had solo exhibits at the Karpeles Museum in Santa Barbara, Calif., and at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. In 1991, the State Jewish Museum of Prague held a one-person exhibit of his photographs—the first contemporary artist to be exhibited in the museum. Solo exhibits of Alvin Gilens’ photographs have been held in museums, galleries and universities worldwide, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. His works are in internationally renowned public and private collections.

Located in Whitehead Campus Center, the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. On Wednesday evenings, the Gallery will stay open until 8 p.m. There will be Gallery Talks by Alvin Gilens on Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 4:15 p.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call (610) 896-1287 or visit www.cantorfitzgeraldgallery.org.