Oleg Zabluda's blog
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
After Nazis kicked out a bunch of physicists, especially Jews and anti-Nazis, seemingly the only one of consequence...
After Nazis kicked out a bunch of physicists, especially Jews and anti-Nazis, seemingly the only one of consequence left to do any atom bomb work was Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976). But instead of doing a good job, he probably just kept saying "Principally, things are very uncertain, Mein Führer".

When he grossly miscalculated the amount of U-235 needed for 15kt bomb to be 12500 kg, instead of correct 45 kg spherical untamped (what he assumed) or 20kg spherical tamped, or 65 kg cylindrical tamped (real Little Boy), rendering the whole program moot, there was nobody left to check on his calculations. In US, the correct calculation were made by a Jewish refugee from Austria Otto Robert Frisch (1904-1979), (who fled with his aunt 1/4 baptized Jew Lise Meitner (1878-1968), who refused to participate in Manhattan Project), his friend Jewish refugee from Germany Rudolf Peierls (1907-1995), a  Heisenberg's student (student bested teacher), and baptized 1/2 Jewish refugee from Germany Hans Bethe (1906-2005).

AFAIK, nobody in Germany proposed Plutonium bomb. In US Plutonium bomb was built, among other people, by Jewish refugee from Italy Emilio Segre (1905-1989), Enrico Fermi (1901-1954), whose wife Laura was Jewish (as well as most of his research assistants, who were now out of work), baptized Jewish refugee from Germany John von Neumann (1903-1957), baptized 1/2 Jewish refugee from Germany Hans Bethe (1906-2005), Jewish refugee from Germany Edward Teller (1908-2003)

Leo Szilard (1898-1964), a Jewish refugee from Austria invented chain reaction, patented nuclear reactor with Fermi, and did a lot more. 

German Atom bomb project started April 1939, just months after the discovery of nuclear fission by the Germans (Hahn-Strassman-Meitner-Frisch) in January 1939. Zenith of the project was in Jul 1942, with ~70 scientists working on the project full time, with about 40 devoting more than half time).


In addition to kicking out Jews and anti-Nazis, there was also so common and familiar politicization of the science and education system and the rise of the anti-Semitic "Deutsche Physik" movement (after they called Heisenberg a "White Jew", he had to sent his mother to Himmler's mother to resolve the conflict.

All that immediately produced both quantitative and qualitative losses to the physics community. At the close of the war, physicists born between 1915 and 1925 were almost nonexistent in Germany. Out of 26 German nuclear physicists cited in the literature before 1933, 50% emigrated. 11 physicists and 5 chemists who had won or would win the Nobel Prize emigrated from Germany shortly after Hitler came to power, most of them in 1933.

These 16 (at least partially Jewish, unless otherwise specified below) Nobel Prize winners were:
- Hans Bethe (1906-2005). worked on the bomb
- Felix Bloch (1905-1983), worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, then on radar at Harvard
- James Franck (1882-1964) worked on the bomb,
- Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1906-1972), worked on the bomb, her husband was Jewish
- Eugene Wigner (1902-1995), sorta worked on the bomb
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), did not work on the bomb, but signed the famous memo
- Max Born (1882-1970), did not work on the bomb but three of his Ph.D. students (Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Oppenheimer, Weisskopf, and three of his assistants (Fermi, Teller, and Wigner) did,
- Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), did not work on the bomb, was Max Born's assistant
- Peter Debye (1884-1966), did not work on the bomb
- Dennis Gabor (1884-1966) did not work on the bomb
- Fritz Haber (1868-1934) did not work on the bomb
- Gerhard Herzberg (1904-1999) did not work on the bomb
- Victor Hess (1883-1964) did not work on the bomb, his wife was Jewish
- Otto Stern (1888-1969), did not work on the bomb. Received 1943 Nobel Prize in Physics for Stern-Gerlach experiment, but his friend Walther Gerlach didn't, because he was active in Nazi Germany (in their Atom Bomb project)
- Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) a bit cowardly anti-Nazi, fled to Ireland  
- George de Hevesy (1885-1966), fled to Sweden

- 17th Nobel prize winner was Niels Bohr (1885-1962), a Jewish refugee from Denmark (in 1943), worked on the bomb.

The University of Göttingen had 45 dismissals from the staff of 1932–1933, for a loss of 19%. Eight of the students, assistants and colleagues of the Göttingen theoretical physicist Max Born fled and eventually worked on the bomb. They were Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller, Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Eugene Wigner, John von Neumann, James Franck, Victor Weisskopf (1908-2002).

Not everyone who was kicked out worked on Atom Bomb, but many worked on other war-time things, freeing others to work on The Bomb. The opposite was true in Germany.

In 1933, Max Planck(1858-1947) told Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) that forcing Jewish scientists to emigrate would mutilate Germany and the benefits of their work would go to foreign countries. Hitler responded with a rant against Jews. The National Socialist regime would only come around to the same conclusion as Planck in the 6 July 1942 meeting regarding the future agenda of the Reichsforschungsrat (RFR, Reich Research Council) to which control of the nuclear project was transferred on 9 June 1942, but by then it was too late.

In 1945, nine of the prominent German nuclear scientists were incarcerated at Farm Hall in England in England under Operation Epsilon: Erich Bagge, Kurt Diebner, Walther Gerlach, Otto Hahn, Paul Harteck, Werner Heisenberg, Horst Korsching, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker and Karl Wirtz. Also, incarcerated was Max von Laue, although he had nothing to do with the nuclear energy project. During their detention, their conversations were recorded relevant ones were transcribed and the transcripts were released in 1992. Bernstein has published an annotated version of the transcripts in his book "Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall". From those records we know the nobody but Heisenberg had any clue, and Heisenberg was factor of 200x off. Heisenberg initially thought the Hiroshima was a hoax.

The Soviets also got some of the German nuclear scientists. One of them was Heinz Pose (1905-1975), who was made head of Laboratory V in Obninsk. When he returned to Germany on a recruiting trip for his laboratory, Pose wrote a letter to Werner Heisenberg inviting him to work in the USSR, lauding the working conditions, the available resources, and the favorable attitude of the Soviets towards German scientists. Heisenberg politely declined.


Otto Hahn (1879-1968) was awarded Nobel Prize for Uranium fission in 1945, but Lise Meitner (1878-1968) was not.
Otto Hahn (1879-1968) was awarded Nobel Prize for Uranium fission in 1945, but Lise Meitner (1878-1968) was not.

He was an an excellent experimental chemist, the discovery was chemical in nature (he detected minute amount of Barium in an ultra-pure Uranium, exposed to neutrons, and his 1945 Nobel prize was in Chemistry.

Hahn and Meitner closely collaborated for over 30 years prior and during the discovery, right before she had to flee Nazi Germany, being baptized 1/4 Jew. She was important, if not critical for the discovery. She was the first to theoretically explain the results, as well as predict new ones, and was encouraging him to proceed. Hahn claimed that his chemistry had been solely responsible for the discovery of Barium, thought that fission was the only explanation, but he was very reluctant to get into the nuclear physics, he didn't understand.

The Nobel Committee for Chemistry consisted of some Swedish chemists, just as clueless in nuclear physics as Otto Hahn was, aggravated by isolation during the war, being a "neutral" Nazi satellite state. Other scientists were telling them at the time they should get a clue, but they wouldn't listen.

Otto Hahn was a decent man, but not a hero. He asked old Max Planck to gather well-known German professors in order to issue a public proclamation against the treatment of Jewish professors, but Planck replied, "If you are able to gather today 30 such gentlemen, then tomorrow 150 others will come and speak against it, because they are eager to take over the positions of the others. So Hahn stopped. 

Meitner fled with 10 Reichsmarks and a diamond ring Otto Hahn had given her, which he had inherited from his mother.

Hanh continued to correspond with Meitner during and after the discovery, but he didn't publish jointly with Meitner in 1939 (not a hero).  Hahn had sent the manuscript of their paper to Naturwissenschaften in December 1938, simultaneously communicating their results to Meitner in a letter. Meitner correctly interpreted their results as being nuclear fission and published their paper in Nature.

Meitner refused an offer to work Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Hahn didn't work on the Nazi bomb either, not that they had much of a project, except indirectly by continuing his research, which was very much relevant (fission products, isotope separation, and measurement of nuclear constants).

After the war, Meitner, while acknowledging her own moral failing in staying in Germany from 1933 to 1938, was bitterly critical of Hahn and other German scientists who had collaborated with the Nazis and done nothing to protest against the crimes of Hitler's regime, especially Heisenberg.

In 1946 Meitner was nominated (by Bohr) to Nobel Prize in physics, but was narrowly voted down. If Hahn nominated her, she probably would have won. She had a good career otherwise, staying in Sweden.

Nobel prize committee discussion archives become public after 50 years. Hahn's and Meitner's became public in 1996. This, as well as prior years, allow the look into the process, which Physics Today did in 1997:

They reveal that the process is full of political/organizational/personal biases, igrorance, arbitrariness, carelessness, corruption, and haste, decided by second-rate Swedish scientists. They didn't forget to award 5 prizes in physics and chemistry to themselves (4 to the members of the Nobel committees) in 1901-1945, (one physics prize to Nils Dalen for regulators in lighthouses), while awarding 0 to Norway and 1 chemistry prize to Finland's Artturi Virtanen for his silo method of conserving cattle fodder. 

Nevertheless, it is highly unusual for the committees to review the contributions of a senior scientist as extensively as the chemistry committee did in the case of Lise Meitner between 1939 and 1945 without reaching an informed opinion as to whether or not she should be included in the award. It is also highly unusual for a review, such as the one conducted by Hulthen in 1946, not to be based on the established historical record of a discovery. The decision not to recommend Meitner for the physics prize of 1946 was a rare instance in which personal negative opinions apparently led to the exclusion of a deserving scientist.

That personal negative is the fact that Meitner was moving from Hulthen's institute to a rival one within Swedish physics community, and he didn't want to give boost to a rival.

It's a shame the society still gives that much weight to Nobel Prizes, and no alternative with more weight appeared, although by now it's well known that Peace and Literature prizes are a joke.

Although Lise Meitner and Rosalind Franklin are the most known non-recipients, there are many many more, but nobody cares, likely because they are almost all men.


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