A user who created an account to ask a fairly trollish question about rockets hitting a Jewish-majority country chose a user name of "vonbraun".

Wernher von Braun is the main person listed on the English language Wikipedia's disambiguation page for Von Braun (several of the other entries are his relatives, or things named after him, though the chemistry things aren't him). Von Braun was a rocket scientist who developed rockets for Nazi Germany (and the US) which were used in anger.

I flagged this username as inappropriate, and my flag was not merely not acted on, but declined.

I seriously doubt that the user involved just happens to have a surname of von braun - if they did, they would have chosen to use their first name as well, or only their first name.

This user's account name should be deleted.

  • It may not be rocket science, but is it brain surgery? – user11249 Jul 23 '17 at 13:23
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    Joking aside, AFAIK von Braun wasn't really connected to the holocaust or Nazis; he was just a German at the time of the war. He went on to live in the United States and was instrumental in getting the Apollo project off the ground. I have a model of a Saturn V rocket designed by von Braun sitting on my desk as I write this... I think we need to be very careful in assuming what a user intends with their username. It's certainly possible that some hidden meaning was intended, but it's equally – if not more – likely no deeper meaning was intended. – user11249 Jul 23 '17 at 13:26
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    @Carpetsmoker he visited forced labour camps. – Andrew Grimm Jul 23 '17 at 22:27
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    The forced labour camp issue is contentious; IIRC his own explanation is that he saw the forced labour, disliked it, but could not do anything to stop it; which is a perfectly plausible explanation of events. Whether it's also the truth is something we will never know... At any rate, I think you're vastly underestimating the complexity and many shades of grey of the second world war. – user11249 Jul 23 '17 at 22:40
  • @Carpetsmoker I guess I didn't notice the "really" in "wasn't really" the first time I read it. – Andrew Grimm Jul 24 '17 at 0:17
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    @Carpetsmoker He was a senior officer of the SS (Sturmbannführer) and a member of the NSDAP. He knew about and exploited the inhumane treatment of forced laborers. He visited Buchenwald. There is testimony that he flogged prisoners. He developed rockets which could only usefully be used to target civilians. It is estimated that the development of one of his rockets cost the lives of 20000 forced laborers. I guess that it is possible to see these actions in context, but to say that he was not connected to Nazis is just not correct. – tim Jul 24 '17 at 19:08
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    Yes, he was involved in the German war effort; but this does not make one a Nazi @tim. The testimony of von Braun "flogging prisoners" or being a fanatical SS officer are – at best – unsubstantiated by corroborating evidence. NSDAP membership was mandatory for many civil servants. And civilian lives being lost is the nature of war; I don't think we can hold von Braun responsible for that. What I meant with "connected" is that he wasn't actively promoting the Nazi cause, anti-Semitism, or any of the truly horrible things of WWII – he was "only" a German at the wrong time in history. – user11249 Jul 24 '17 at 20:24
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    @Carpetsmoker "fanatical" is a matter of definition, but he was an SS officer, and he did use slave laborers, many of whom died as a result. That is not representative of the average German during the war. Anyways, I think the username is questionable, but without any obviously actionable posts, I can see why it wasn't changed. – tim Jul 24 '17 at 20:42

I agree with Carpetsmoker. There is not a strong case that the username is to invoke Nazi-ism, and it is equally or more likely that it is not intended to invoke Nazi-ism at all.

  1. The user's post doesn't even seem to be anti-Israel let alone anti-semetic.
  2. Judging from his Wikipedia page, Von Braun appears to be more notable as a scientist than as a Nazi. Using the name VonBraun as a way to invoke Nazi-ism seems like a ineffectual choice.

The community as a whole (not necessarily everyone, but many of them) does not regard this as an inappropriate username.


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