Nazi Germany and the Atomic Term Paper
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In January 1942 the military became impatient with a lack of a single military application being developed appropriated, and was recategorized. Still, it was understood that the potential for energy was vast enough that funding continued under the kriegswichtig (vital for the war effort) designation.
On June 9, 1942, Adolf Hitler issued a decree for the reorganization of the RFR as a separate legal entity under the Ministry of Armament and Munitions under Reich marshal Hermann Goering. It was hoped that Goering would manage the effort as aggressively and efficiently as he had the Air Force. This was also a key moment in the history of German science -- there was recognition that it had been a mistake to exclude Jewish scientists from the product, and Abraham Esau was back as Goering's assistant, later replaced by Walther Gerlach.
The administrative control over the project is one of the areas that scholars point to as being a "crux point." Goering was certainly quite an efficient administrator and had he had control over the project earlier he might have seen the need to focus his scientists, or at least bring the teams together to work. It is also likely that Goering would have discussed the nuclear issue with Reichsmarshal Albert Speer, who as a brilliant architect and innovator, would surely have seen the greater applications for nuclear energy.
Nazi Aerospace Engineering -- Could the Bomb have been dropped? An interesting but often ignored side note regarding using a nuclear bomb in wartime was the delivery mechanism. We do know Hitler had an advanced rocketry program, and some research indicates that there may have been speculation on equipping them with "dirty" bombs. However, it was the realization that something new and advanced was needed aeronautically to reshape the war. The result, a stealth fighter the HO-229, which used wood and carbon, to increase radar absorption, and jet engines integrated into the fuselage. The plane would have been over London 8-10 minutes prior to being detected, and was probably 24-36 months ahead of the Allies in technological development. Understanding that the Battle of Britain was lost because of British Radar, Goering commissioned the 2-29 which, under reconstruction, looks amazingly like the stealth bomber of today. Most analysts do believe this could have changed the course of the war, but for our purposes the importance is in the captured notes that this plane was also tasked to the delivery of "a lethal new explosive" device over major European cities.
The Nazi "Brain Drain" - Germany lost many great scientific minds to their political ideology. The stifling atmosphere of Nazi Germany wiped out intellectual undertones in many cases with its sheer brutality and intolerance for the differing people and races within Europe. As rising inflation hit, academic institutions were some of the first to feel the impending suffering with severe funding cuts.
In fact, some of the scientists were German who first split the atom in the early 1930s. However, these successful German scientists actually conducted their work under Allied flags.
This intellectual and highly motivated population then came to the United States and elsewhere. While in the safety of Allied hands, these great German minds insisted powers like the United States and Great Britain to pursue the quest to split uranium atoms in order to harness such mass destruction.
According to research, "Refugee scientists fleeing Hitler's Germany […] soon brought the revolution in physics to America."
Eventually, all German academic institutions suffered great losses in the midst of an over-powering political ideology. Research states that "German universities shriveled as centers of learning as many of their illustrious scientists emigrated to Great Britain, the United States, Switzerland, and elsewhere."
This major problem within the set-up of the Nazi regime; "Later, the Nazis tried to implement their lunatic program of 'Aryan physics,' deliberately hobbling their scientific research by purging physics of the influence of Jewish Scientists."
Eventually, the nuclear program all but fell apart.
One of the major reasons this occurred was that most Nazi resources available were funneled too much into researching rockets and missiles. According to research, "Whereas the United States invested $23 billion of today's dollars, in this project, German funding for nuclear research was sporadic and the Germans made the mistake of having at least two competing teams of ill-equip scientists working at the same time."
Funding for the initial project led by Werner Heisenberg was eventual
cut in 1942, as it was believed to be relatively unnecessary by the grander scheme of the Nazi war strategy.
Yet, this funding was once again sporadically replaced and cut at several intervals during the entire length of World War II. To add to this fragmentation, there was a third group established in order to work specifically on implementing nuclear weapons on German U-boats.
Besides this fragmentation, the 1933 law "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" politicized the educational system in Germany. Essentially, this law hobbled much of German scientific advancement by removing anyone from faculty who was not Aryan, and changed the way admission to the University was handled. Many brilliant minds were not pedigreed. Some examples collected after the war show that:
14% of German University Faculty were driven from their posts, 1932-33.
Of the 26 German nuclear physicists cited in the professional literature prior to 1933, over half (50%) emigrated elsewhere.
10 physicists and 4 chemists who had won or would win the Nobel Prize emigrated from Germany shortly after Hitler came to power -- most coming to Britain or the United States (this included Einstein, and Hans Bethe; both important in the research that would eventually lead to an Allied bomb).
8 students or assistants of Max Born at the University of Goettingen eventually found work on the Manhattan project (Fermi, Oppenheimer, and Teller).
Max Planck, father of quantum physics, met with Hitler and told him by forcing Jewish scientists to emigrate would severely hinder Germany's ability. Hitler ranted against the Jewish issue, could not see past ethnicity.
The "Heisenberg" Affair - the unfortunate socialist policies regarding the politicization of science had severe consequences for National Socialism. Walter Heisenberg was a prime example of a "White Jew" (one who could be made to disappear), and who, had he been nourished intellectually and funded, would likely have driven the nuclear program far ahead of the Allies.
During the Second World War, Werner Heisenberg was one of the most influential scientists in Germany and its leading theoretical physicist. He had won a Nobel prize for his work on quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle, had become one of the youngest full professors in Germany when he began teaching at the University of Leipzig, and in 1942 at the age of 40 was appointed director of the prestigious Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics as well as professor at the University of Berlin. Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made numerous contributions to quantum mechanics. He was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics, but came under fire in an academically political debate with the Deutsche Physik movement. It took four years, and finally a visit between Heisenberg's mother and Himmler's mother, longtime friends, to convince Hitler himself to end the affair. Hitler did so -- a letter to SS Gruppenfuher Heydrich indicting that Germany could not afford to lose Heisenberg, he would be useful in teaching several generations of new physics students; and one to Heidrich encouraging Heidrich to make "a distinction between professional physics research results and the personal and political attitudes of the involve scientists."
While overall this was an academic victory, the timing was "too little, too late." Interestingly enough this entire idea of making science political caused there to be, at the close of the war, almost no physicists left in Germany born between 1915 and 1925.
In February 1942 Heisenberg gave a popular lecture to an influential audience of politicians, bureaucrats, military officers and industrialists. At the time, the future of Germany's uranium project was in doubt because the Army was only interested in weapons that could be delivered in time to influence the outcome of the war. As we know from a transcript of the talk, which was discovered by the historian David Irving in the 1960s, Heisenberg emphasized both the potential of nuclear weapons and how difficult it would be to make them. His conclusion was clear:
Energy generation from uranium fission is undoubtedly possible, provided the enrichment of isotope uranium-235 is successful. Isolating uranium-235 would lead to an explosive of unimaginable potency.
Common uranium can also be exploited to generate energy when layered with heavy water. In a layered arrangement these materials can transfer their great energy reserves over a period of time to a heat-engine. It thus provides a means of storing very large amounts of energy that are technically measurable in relatively…
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REFERENCES and WORKS CONSULTED
Alexander, Bevin. How Hitler Could Have Won World War II. Three Rivers Press, 2001.
Alperovitz, Gar & Bird, Kai, "The Centrality of the Bomb," Foreign Policy, 94 (Spring
Anderson, Danny J, "The Novels of Jorge Volpi and the Possibility of Knowledge,"
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