[ RadSafe ] Fwd: [New post] New Book: A Short History of NuclearFolly

Jaro Franta jaro_10kbq at videotron.ca
Tue May 28 22:43:39 CDT 2013

There were several rival groups in various parts of wartime Germany, with
different levels of commitment to Germany's "uranium project" (ex. Harteck,
von Ardenne, Riehl, Döpel, others)
Some of them resented the leadership of Heisenberg, a theoretical physicist.
Harteck especially complained later that the guy who was put in charge of
the uranium project - Heisenberg - never once ran an experiment.
There was also competition for increasingly scarce resources for project

This obit from PhysicWEB sheds some light on the issue:

Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker: 1912--2007 
1 May 2007

The physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, who was the
last surviving member of the team that tried and failed to build a nuclear
bomb for Germany during the Second World War, died on 28 April at the age of
94. After the war, von Weizsäcker controversially claimed that he and other
German physicists had deliberately chosen not to build the bomb because they
did not want to equip the Nazi regime with such a dangerous weapon. Von
Weizsäcker also accompanied Werner Heisenberg to visit Niels Bohr in
Nazi-occupied Denmark in September 1941 -- a famous meeting that was later
to inspire Michael Frayn's stage play Copenhagen.

Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker was born on 28 June 1912 in the northern
German port city of Kiel. Between 1929 and 1933 he studied physics,
astronomy and maths in Berlin, Göttingen and Leipzig, where he worked with
some of the leading physicists of his day, including Heisenberg, Bohr and
Erwin Schrödinger. As a young physicist, von Weizsäcker became interested in
the binding energy of atomic nuclei and in 1937 determined what later became
known as the "Bethe—Weizsäcker formula", which predicts the energy of the
nucleus in terms of the number of constituent protons and neutrons. 

In 1939 von Weizsäcker became part of Germany's "uranium project" -- a loose
network of scientists across the country who began carrying out research
into nuclear reactors, isotope separation and nuclear explosives. Although
these scientists never succeeded in building a practical nuclear weapon,
historians have long wondered why this was the case. Some have argued that
physicists like Heisenberg and von Weizsäcker simply lacked the technical
knowledge to build a bomb. Others claim that these physicists did not bother
determining key quantities like the critical mass of the bomb because they
knew the German government did not have the resources to ever build such a
device, which made it pointless to carry out such a calculation. 

After the war, von Weizsäcker claimed that the real reason why he and other
German scientists had not built a bomb was that they had deliberately chosen
not to, fearing its appalling consequences in the hands of the Nazi regime.
Von Weizsäcker first put forward this version of events in interviews he
gave with the historian Robert Jungk, whose 1957 book Brighter than a
Thousand Suns suggested that von Weizsäcker and Heisenberg had acted
honourably all along. 

The full story only emerged years later when transcripts of conversations
between von Weizsäcker, Heisenberg and eight other German physicists, who
had been secretly recorded while they were interned by the British military
at Farm Hall, near Cambridge, were finally published in 1993. It turned out
that von Weizsäcker had deliberately encouraged his fellow physicists to
argue that they had never wanted to build a bomb, even though they knew this
was not strictly true. 
After the war, von Weizsäcker returned to research, being appointed director
of the department of theoretical physics at the Max Planck Institute in
Göttingen before taking up a professorship at the
University of Hamburg in 1957. That he year he was one of 18 prominent
scientists to sign the "Göttingen declaration", which called for West
Germany to not develop nuclear weapons. 

A committed Christian, von Weizsäcker also turned his attention to
philosophy, developing a keen interest in ethics and responsibility. His
books include The World View of Physics, The Unity of Nature and The
Politics of Peril. Von Weizsäcker's younger brother, Richard von Weizsäcker,
was German president between 1984 and 1994. 

Von Weizsäcker briefly returned to the spotlight in 2002 when he commented
on the release of letters that Bohr had written -- but never sent --
concerning the visit of Heisenberg and Von Weizsäcker to Copenhagen in
September 1941. These letters suggest that Heisenberg and colleagues had
indeed been working flat-out on a bomb between 1939 and 1941.

About the author
Matin Durrani is editor of Physics World


-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Steven Dapra
Sent: May-28-13 8:57 PM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Fwd: [New post] New Book: A Short History of

May 28

         Amazon.com has 19 reviews of "Heisenberg's War."  It's by Thomas
Powers, who also wrote "The Man Who Kept the Secrets," a biography of
Richard Helms, director of the CIA.

         One or more of the "Heisenberg" reviewers recommends "German
National Socialism and the Quest for Nuclear Power 1939 - 1949" by Mark
Walker (1993).  Walker's book has four reviews on Amazon.com.  One of
Walker's reviewers notes that the National Socialists planned on winning the
war by 1941 or 1942, hence there was no need to expend a great deal of
effort to build an atomic bomb.  The Allies realized the war would be a long
drawn out affair, hence the bomb could affect its outcome, so they went
ahead and did the work to build one.

Steven Dapra

At 06:22 AM 5/28/2013, you wrote:
>With regards to the  Nazi nuclear weapons program, the best book I've 
>read on the subject is "Heisenberg's War" - this went a long ways 
>towards convincing me that the Nazis (including Hitler) were avidly 
>pursuing nuclear weapons and that Heisenberg and other scientists 
>helped delay matters because of their concerns.


>-----Original Message-----
>From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
>[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Roger Helbig
>Sent: Saturday, May 25, 2013 4:44 AM
>Subject: [ RadSafe ] Fwd: [New post] New Book: A Short History of 
>I really doubt that Nazi scientists knew how to and had the capability 
>to make an atomic weapon but "chose" not to.  I wonder what other 
>fiction that Herzog might have buried in this book.  Has anyone had the 
>opportunity to read it?
>Roger Helbig


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