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In the Shadow of Dora

Patrick Hicks

February 8, 2022

In the Shadow of Dora by Patrick Hicks (Stephen F. Austin University Press 2020) explores the space program’s path from the Dora Mittelbau concentration camp in 1940’s Nazi Germany, to the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Eli Hessel has lost his entire family and is pulled out of the Auschwitz death camp to march with thousands of other emaciated prisoners to the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp in central Germany, where they’ll be forced to help build the Third Reich’s V-2 rocket program. Eli glimpses Werher von Braun and other scientists, who helped developed the V-2 rocket and were later recruited in Operation Paperclip to work in the United States on our nascent rocket program. Hicks describes Hessel’s struggle to survive the deprivations and torture by sociopathic ‘kapos’ in control of daily humiliations, cruelty, and murder at Dora. Approximately 20,000, mostly Jews, were murdered there, and very few survived. Eli survives, immigrates to New York, studies astrophysics, and gets recruited by the Kennedy Space Center. One day, he sees the infamous Wernher von Braun, now a respected United States citizen – his expertise, along with those of other Nazis, enabled the building of our space program. This is a story about resilience in the face of evil and the human capacity to recuperate, rebuild, and re-start.

Patrick Hicks is the author of over ten books, including The Collector of Names, Adoptable, and This London—he also wrote the critically and popularly acclaimed novel, The Commandant of Lubizec, which was published by Steerforth/Random House. He earned a doctorate in Irish Literature from the University of Sussex and is currently writer in residence at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he teaches creative writing, Irish literature, and Holocaust Studies. His work has appeared in such journals and magazines as Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Salon, Chronicle of Higher Education, Commonweal, Huffington Post, Guernica, The Utne Reader, and many others. When he’s not writing Hicks is busy raising his son, who was adopted from South Korea. He is passionate about international travel and lived in Europe for seven years. He has plans to visit Spain, England, Ireland, and Germany, followed by trips to Israel and England.

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