Viewing a single comment thread. View all comments

getBusyChild t1_j1inyjp wrote

Merry Chrstmas!

Now on to the question. Is there any evidence that Werner Heisenberg intentionally delayed or even sabotaged the German atomic bomb project? Seeing how news of Hiroshima it only took him a couple of minutes to figure out how the US/Allies did it, but he could not in 6-7 years under the Nazi's?


TheGreatOneSea t1_j1j31cn wrote

The theory isn't really the hard part, as a practical matter: making the Nuclear bomb in the US took over 30 project sites and over 100,000 workers, and about $36 Billion in today's money, and the US wasn't being bombed during development.

Germany, by contrast, hadn't even finished expanding its conventional factories at the start of WW2, and its entire warplan required the war to be over by the start of 1943, as Germany would simply run out of fuel if that wasn't the case, and could do little more than gradually lose.

The Germans were fully aware of all of this, and any work on a nuclear bomb was basically cannibalized for use in other projects. By 1943, an effective Nazi nuclear bomb program was about as realistic as gaining air supremacy with jets, so it didn't really matter what fantasy project Germany pursued.


Kobbett t1_j1j6zvs wrote

I believe he claimed later that he intentionally delayed the German project, but from the transcripts recorded while a held as a prisoner after the war he didn't believe an atomic bomb was practical anyway, and was surprised when he heard the news of the bombs dropped on Japan.


elmonoenano t1_j1j5r7s wrote

My understanding is it mostly came down to resources. Everyone leading up to the war was pretty much on the same page as far as theory went. There were a few paths that were the most likely to be successful. But the Germans estimated the cost and the timeline to develop them and thought it wasn't feasible for them, and that they should put there limited resources into other things.

The US was able to work on all the paths and quickly found out that one of the paths was much more viable then the others and then focused on it. When they released information a few days after the Hiroshima bomb to prove that it was an atomic bomb that they dropped on Japan, the release had enough information that Heisenberg and the others then understood the steps to get there.

The BBC has a podcast on the topic. The last episode focuses on the events your question is about. It's not my favorite podcast, but it's not a huge time suck and there is lots of good info in it.