Werner Heisenberg, the Nazi who would have dissuaded his camp from building the atomic bomb

Why didn’t the Nazis finally manufacture the atomic bomb, despite a definite lead over the Americans in particular, who not only manufactured it, but also used it? One character seems to have played a determining role in this: Werner Heisenberg.

During World War II, why didn’t Nazi Germany build the atomic bomb despite a great lead? It is a story of individuals subjected to immense and constant pressure and to choices between moral obligations and great personal risks incurred. This renunciation remains a mystery in the history of the Second World War.

In the summer of 1939, Nazi Germany had two atomic weapons development programs, both of which came together in September 1939 under the direction of Werner Heisenberg, probably the most qualified scientist in the world to lead the program in terms of reputation , experience and skills. At this time in history, Germany had the industrial, scientific and financial resources to build this bomb.

So why didn’t they? Especially since, on the American side, the program called Manhattan Project began in 1941 (two years after Germany). The first nuclear bomb was then detonated for a test in July 1945 under the code name Trinity.

It seems that for the senior German scientists of the program led by Werner Heisenberg, five objectives were shared leading to the non-production of the bomb. 1: do not build the bomb; 2: avoid questions from the Gestapo about treason; 3: allow young physicists to avoid being sent to the front, which would have ended the program; 4: consequently, continue atomic research; 5: To avoid persecution by the German people after the war for not having made the bomb. Five goals achieved.

In The New York Review of Books, Thomas Powers, author of the work Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Bomb, says that it was at the end of the 1990s, when the family of the physicist began to publish the letters that he exchanged with his wife, Elisabeth Heisenberg, that we could learn more about the alleged role played by Werner Heisenberg. If the exchanges did not speak directly of nuclear power, we understand all the same that “ he and other German colleagues wanted to convince their camp to put less money into the nuclear field and redirect the work to other subjects writes Slate.

If some still deny his involvement in the non-construction of the atomic weapon, believing on the contrary that the account given by the couple’s letters served to cover up his real convictions, Werner Heisenberg will forever remain as the  » bastard hero », a mysterious and fascinating man. For Thomas Powers, who saw in the scientist a man quite simply revolted against his regime, this man  » who did not build a bomb, was the first physicist who was asked to justify himself « .

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