Daily Archives: September 26, 2016

“Hahn: If they have really got it, they have been very clever in keeping it secret.”

German History in Documents and Images: Transcript of Surreptitiously Taped Conversations among German Nuclear Physicists at Farm Hall (August 6-7, 1945).(PDF)

“At the beginning of the war, Germany’s leading nuclear physicists were called to the army weapons department. There, as part of the “uranium project” under the direction of Werner Heisenberg, they were charged with determining the extent to which nuclear fission could aid in the war effort. (Nuclear fission had been discovered by Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner in 1938.) Unlike their American colleagues in the Manhattan Project, German physicists did not succeed in building their own nuclear weapon. In June 1942, the researchers informed Albert Speer that they were in no position to build an atomic bomb with the resources at hand in less than 3-5 years, at which point the project was scrapped.

After the end of the war, both the Western Allies and the Soviet Union tried to recruit the German scientists for their own purposes. From July 3, 1945, to January 3, 1946, the Allies incarcerated ten German nuclear physicists at the English country estate of Farm Hall, their goal being to obtain information about the German nuclear research project by way of surreptitiously taped conversations. The following transcript includes the scientists’ reactions to reports that America had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The scientists also discuss their relationship to the Nazi regime and offer some prognoses for Germany’s future. As the transcript shows, Otto Hahn was especially shaken by the dropping of the bomb; later, hecampaigned against the misuse of nuclear energy for military purposes.”

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