Operation Epsilon


Ten leading German scientists, variously connected with Atomic Energy research, were detained, incommunicado, at Farm Hall, Godmanchester, near Cambridge, England. The scientists detained were Erich Bagge, Kurt Diebner, Walther Gerlach, Otto Hahn, Paul Harteck, Werner Heisenberg, Horst Korsching, Max von Laue, Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker and Karl Wirtz. Their conversations were secretly recorded by British Intelligence.


Throughout the work on the Manhattan Project directed by Major General Leslie R Groves, those engaged saw themselves as in a race with the Germans who had a head-start since nuclear fission had been discovered by Hahn in Germany at the end of 1938.

The ALSOS mission, under the scientific leadership of Samuel A Goudsmit, was charged with following closely behind the Western Allied invading forces in 1944 to locate and seize personnel, documents and material concerned with the German Atomic Bomb programme. Though the evidence collected by November 1944 was enough to convince Goudsmit that there was no German Atom Bomb in the making, there continued to be many, particularly in America, who would not believe it.

So the mission continued with much the same target, at least for Intelligence purposes. These ten individuals were selected by Goudsmit. Among those picked up, mostly at Hechingen, by an Anglo-American raiding party, which had made its way through a gap in the crumbling German front, under the leadership of Colonel Boris T Pash, the principal military officer of ALSOS. Hechingen is on the Eastern edge of the Black Forest. It was there that the greater part of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut fur Physik, in particular with its uncompleted nuclear reactor pile, had been relocated after being bombed out from Berlin.

It was R V Jones who pointed out that Farm Hall in England, which belonged to the British Secret Service, would be a suitable place to house them. He also suggested that microphones should be installed there before they arrived. This had become standard practice with senior prisoners-of-war. Experience had shown that their private conversations could be more revealing than interrogation.

The detention

1 May 1945

I (Major T. H. Rittner) received at HQ from Lieut. Cdr. Welsh instructions to proceed to Rheims (France), to report to G2 SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) and collect a party of German Scientists. A Chateau at SPA (Belgium) had been prepared for their detention.

A number of distinguished British and American Scientists would be visiting them in the near future. My instructions were that these Germans were to be treated as guests.

No one, repeat, no one, was to contact them except on instructions from HQ.

2 May 1945

I proceeded by air to Rheims and reported to SHAEF where I was informed that the Chateau at SPA was no longer available. The party was to be held at Rheims at 75 Rue Gambetta until other arrangements could be made.

Arrangements had been made to draw "American A Rations" ready cooked. A staff of two British Orderlies and an American cook had been provided by SHAEF in addition to the necessary guards.

The same evening, the following arrived at 75 Rue Gambetta, escorted by Major Furman, US Army : Prof. Hahn, Prof. Von Naue, Dr. Von Weizacker, Dr. Wirtz, Dr. Bagge, Dr. Korsching. Prof. Mattauch, whom I had been told to expect was not among the party.

The professors were friendly and settled down well. They expressed appreciation of the good treatment they were receiving. A very pleasant atmosphere prevailed. At my request, they gave me their personal parole not to leave the house or that portion of the garden which I alotted to them.

5 May 1945

The professors were by this time beginning to get restive. They were particularly worried about their families. They asked permission to write letters. After referring the matter to HQ and obtaining sanction, the letters were written. After being censored by me, they were handed to General Strong's secretary at SHAEF for transmission.

7 May 1945

SHAEF informed me that arrangements had been made to accomodate the party at Versailles and HQ had agreed to the move. A Dakota was put at our disposal. The party took off at 1700 hours in the expectation that at last the long awaited contact with their British and American colleagues was about to take place.

On arrival at Versailles, I reported to G2 SHAEF and found that the party was to be accomodated in a detention centre known as "Dustbin" at the Chateau du Chesnay. This centre had been set up for the purpose of interrogating German Nazi Scientists and Industrialists. The conditions were most unsatisfactory from my point of view, as complete segregation was impossible and there was great danger of undesirable contacts being made with the professors. In addition, only camp beds were provided. There was scarely any other furniture. The food was the ordinary PW rations. It was obviously impossible to carry out my mission in these surroundings but I was able to pacify the professors who accepted the situation with as good a grace as possible. I promised to do my best to get them moved as soon as possible. The Camp Commandant did his best to make them comfortable.

8 May 1945

In spite of the general holiday atmosphere at SHAEF and in London consequent upon the declaration of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) , I managed to contact HQ by telephone and explain the new situation. He told me to contact Major Furman, US Army, in Paris and try and make other arrangements through him. This I did and we decided to try and get the party back to the rue Gambetta at Rheims.

9 May 1945

Major Furman informed me that he was arranging for us to return to Rheims. In the meantime, the following Germans were to join the party : Prof. Heisenberg, Dr. Diebner.

The situation at the Chateau du Chesnay was becoming more and more difficult as the professors were highly indignant at being treated as "war criminals" as they put it.

In spite of the fact that other German Scientists were in the house and were being interrogated by British and American Officers, I was able to prevent the identity of my party being revealed. I had refused to submit a nominal roll or to allow any contact with them. Dr. Robertson, Scientific Advisor to SHAEF did, however, see Prof. von Laue out for exercise and spoke to him. But I was able to persuade him to break off the conversation and he accepted the situation well.

10 May 1945

The professors were becoming more and more restive. They begged me to contact Prof. Joliot in Paris, whom they assured me would help them. This request was of course refused. I told them they must have patience and that everything possible was being done for them. In order in some way to alleviate conditions, I took them in parties by car to Versailles to see gardens and Palace.

On one occasion, a guide asked for their identity cards in order to visit the Hall of Mirrors. We left the premises hurriedly, having pleaded a previous engagement.

11 May 1945

It was now clear that the difficulties which had arisen were due mainly to an order issued by the Supreme Commander stating that no preferential treatment was to be given to any captured German nationals. This order was given after reports had appeared in the press describing the good treatment being meted out to Reichsmarschal Goring.

General Strong refused to agree to my party returning to Rheims. But, arrangements were made by MIS (Military Intelligence Service), on the instructions of Brig. General Conrad, to accomodate the party for a short time at a villa at Le Vesinet, near St. Germain. The professors were overjoyed at the prospect of leaving what they called the concentration camp. After I had inspected the villa, I left Versailles with the party in command cars on the evening of the 11 May after informing HQ by cable of the arrangements which I had made.

The Villa Argentina, 89 Alee du Lac Inferieure at Le Vesinet was a large house standing in its own grounds. MIS provided a guard. They arranged for us to draw "American B Rations" in a semi-cooked condition from their mess. They also supplied us with canteen goods. During our stay at Le Vesinet, MIS gave me every possible assitance.

The professors were delighted with their new surroundings. The old atmosphere of cordiality quickly returned.

There was some trouble with the plumbing and electric light in the villa, which had been empty for some time. The professors all helped to remedy the defects. When outside help was necessary, such as on an occasion when the basement was flooded owing to a burst pipe, they were confined to their rooms whilst a very voluble and inquisitive French plumber dealt with the matter.

On the evening we arrived, Major Furman brought Prof. Harteck to join the party. As the party had now grown from six to nine, I asked the professors to renew their parole, which they did.

12 May 1945

As we could only have the use of the villa for a very limited period, I cabled HQ urging that efforts be made to bring the party to England, as it was obvious that it would not be possible to arrange accomodation on the continent suitable for carrying out my mission.

There was considerable speculation amongst the US troops and the French civilian population regarding the identity of the party. I was accused of harbouring Marshal Petain. A number of inquisitive people, including the owner of the villa who came post haste from Paris when he heard from the concierge that his house was being occupied, were dealt with. I was able to spread the story that my party consisted of active Anti-Nazis who were being kept by us for their own protection.

The information, inadvertantly let out by Major Furman, that French Colonial troops were still in occupation at Heichingen and Tailfingen caused consternation amongst the professors, who had been told that American troops would be taking over. Prof. Heisenberg asked permission to write a letter to his friend, Dr. Goudsmith of the US Army, who he believed was in Paris, asking him to get news of the families. I handed the letter to Dr. Goudsmit, who offered to do what he could. He subsequently gave me a letter from Prof. Heisenberg's wife, which I handed to him for which he was duly grateful.

17 May 1945

Brig. General Conrad came to the villa and I showed him over. He expressed his satisfaction with the arrangements that had been made and agreed that the "B" scale of rations should continue, although MIS wanted to reduce them to the "C" scale, which was that authorised for P.W. On the following day, however, the rations were cut without warning. I protested to Colonel FORD the C.O. of MIS who eventually agreed to restore the original scale.

The professors spent their time in Le Vesinet working in their rooms or sun-bathing in the garden. They developed a passion for physical exercise. Even the more aged Prof. von Laue and Hahn could be seen running solemnly round and round the garden at six o'clock in the morning. On Tuesdays and Fridays, they assembled in the common room to hear a lecture by one of themselves. I was able to supply them with books, technical journals, and games.

20 May 1945

I received a cable from VCSS informing me that Washington had been asked to agree to the professors being brought to England.

25 May 1945

MIS were pressing me to vacate the villa Argentina, which was urgently required to accomodate their own staff who were passing through Le Vesinet for re-deployment. I saw Colonel Ford and informed him that it was impossible for us to move until other suitable accomodation had been found. I assured him we were doing our best in this respect.

4 June 1945

A movement order was obtained from Colonel Ford. We left Le Vesinet at 1300 hours and arrived at the Chateau de Facqueval, Belgium at 2345 hours. There, only P.W rations were available. No provision had been made for a meal for the professors who had been travelling since midday. Fortunately, I had brought "American K rations" which we had eaten by the roadside.

5 June 1945

The routine at the Chateau was much the same as it had been at Le Vesinet. The weather being mainly fine, the professors spent most of their time in the garden. The guard troops had been provided with a piano and as they rarely used it, I persuaded them to give it to the professors. This instrument was in a very bad condition. A number of notes were missing, but it did not take them long to take the whole thing to pieces and repair it with improvised tools. I borrowed a local piano tuner's kit and they soon had it tuned. I also bought a wireless set, which proved a very welcome addition to the amenities of the house.

9 June 1945

The professors were very worried when they read in the newspapers that the Russians were extending their zone of occupation in Germany.

Dr. Diebner was frantic as it appeared that the town of Stadtilm, where his wife and son were, was to come under Russian Occupation. He begged me to get his wife and son moved into the British or American zone. In the meantime, Prof. Heisenber had told me that Mrs. Diebner had worked with her husband and knew about all his work and that of the others. He thought it would be unfortunate if she fell into Russian hands. I consequently cabled this information to HQ with the request for the family to be moved.

It was a great relief when I was able to inform him that his family had been moved to Neustadt Nr. Coburg. The receipt of this news moved him to such extent that he asked to be taken to Church although he admitted that he had had not been inside church for many years. I took him to the village church to mass the following Sunday.

14 June 1945

Professor Gerlach was brought from Paris to join the party. The professors were delighted to see their old colleague.

15 June 1945

By this time, the professors were again becoming very, very restive. They hinted to me that the time might soon come when they would take desperate measures to let the world know of their situation.

I had a long talk with Prof. Heisenberg. He told me that their main worry was the lack of information about their families. He also said that they suspected that their potential value was being judged by the documents found at their institutes. He said that these documents did not give a true picture of the extent of their experiments, which had advanced still further as a result of pooling of information since their detention. He begged for an opportunity of discussing the whole matter with British and American Scientists in order to acquaint them with their latest theories and work out scheme for future co-operation.

Prof. Heisenberg and Dr. Harteck suggested that Prof. Bonhoeffer of Leipzig, who they believed was at Friederichsbrunn in Ostharz, should be brought to join this party. They said he was an active Anti-Nazi who had worked with them and that it would be unwise to let him fall into Russian hands. The above information was passed to HQ by cable.

The professors again asked to be allowed to write to their families. I said I would try and arrange for the letters to be delivered. Letters were written. After censorship, which necessitated a lot of rewriting, these were handed by me to Lieut. Cdr. Welsh in London.

Lieut. Cdr. Welsh told me on the telephone that permission had been given for the professors to be brought to England. He asked me to come over as soon as possible to inspect Farm Hall.

17 June 1945

In order to get an air passage to the UK, I had to get myself temporarily attached to a British unit stationed at Brussels. I accordingly got myself attached to 21 Army Group. I got an authority from them and proceeded to London.

Lieut. Cdr. Welsh and I went to Farm Hall, where arrangements had already been made to install microphones. I had asked for such an installation from the day I took charge of the professors. We arranged with Colonel Kendrick to transfer the necessary staff of technicians from CSDIC (Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre) to man the installation.

26 June 1945

I returned to Belgium to complete the arrangements at Farm Hall. The professors received the news of the impending move to England with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they looked on it as a step forward in that they expected to meet their British colleagues. But on the other hand, England seemed much further away from home than Belgium.


The operation has been successful. The professors have been detained for over ten weeks without any unauthorised person becoming aware of their identity or place of detention. They have, with considerable difficulty, been kept in a good frame of mind.

The following are brief character sketches of the professors :

  • 01 : A man of the world. He has been the most helpful of the professors. His sense of humour and common sense has saved the day on many occasions. He is definitely friendly disposed to England and America.
  • 02 : A shy mild mannered man. He cannot understand the reason for his detention. He has been extremely friendly. He is very well disposed to England and America.
  • 03 : He has a very cheerful disposition and is easy to handle. He appears to be genuinely co-operative.
  • 04 : Charming personality. Has never caused any trouble. His one wish is to get on with his work. As he is a bachelor, he is less worried than the others about conditions in Germany.
  • 05 : A diplomat. He has always been very friendly and co-operative. I believe he is genuinely prepared to work with England and America, but he is a good German.
  • 06 : He has been very friendly and helpful. He is, I believe, genuinely anxious to co-operate with British and American Scientists, although he has spoken of going over to the Russians.
  • 07 : An egoist. Very friendly on the surface, but cannot be trusted. I doubt whether he will co-operate, unless it is made worth his while.
  • Y : Outwardly very friendly, but has an unpleasant personality. He is not to be trusted. He is disliked by all the others, except X.
  • X : A serious and very hardworking young man. He is unlikely to co-operate. His friendship with Y lays him open to suspicion.
  • Z : A complete enigma. He appears to be morose and surly. He very rarely opens his mouth. He has, however, become more human since his arrival in England.

The professors landed at Tempsford from Liege airport on the afternoon of 3rd July and were taken to Farm Hall by car together with four PW orderlies.

All the professors have renewed their parole to me in writing in respect of Farm Hall and grounds. I have warned them that any attempt by any one of them or by the orderlies to escape or to communicate with anyone will result in them all having their liberty considerably restricted.

Ordinary army rations are drawn for the professors, the officers, and troops. These are prepared by all by the PW cooks.

Microphones have been installed in all the bedrooms and living rooms used by the professors. This installation has enabled us to follow the trend of their thoughts.

The bi-weekly lectures are being continued. In fine weather, these take place out of doors.


6 July 1945

"I wonder whether there are microphones installed here?"

"Microphones installed? (laughing) Oh no, they're not as cute as all that. I don't think they know the real Gestapo methods. They're a bit old fashioned in that respect."
"They seem to be afraid that one might do something hostile to England, but they are hiding us from their own people. That is the amazing thing. If it had been the other way round, we never hid a foreign scientist in Germany, the other scientists all knew about it."

"It may be that the British Government are frightened of the communist professors. They say : 'If we tell Dirac or Blackett where they are, they will report it immediately to their Russian friends'. Kapitza and Comrade Stalin will come and say : 'What about the Berlin University Professors? They belong in Berlin'"

"It's quite possible they just don't want to say anything."

"Then of course they will have to wait until everything has been settled by the Big Three."

"They may not be able to say it openly because of Comrade Stalin."

"It is possible that the Big Three will decide it at Postdam, and that Churchill will come back and say : 'Off you go, the whole group is to return to Berlin' and then we'll be in the soup."

7 July 1945

"I think you should speak to the Commander and tell him we are very dissatisfied."

"Yes, and tell him in no uncertain terms that we are being wronged."

"You appear to have a certain influence on him. I think that you could achieve something with him."

"Well, I think I am more or less in his good books. I will point out to him that he has let ___ and ____ go on living happily in Germany, whilst we poor wretches have to let our wives and children starve."

"In the meantime, the British and American soldiers are looting everything at home."

"___ told him that we are living here like princes. But what use is that to us when we have no news of our families, have no idea what is to happen to us, and are out of touch with our work. Although we are well treated, we are nevertheless prisoners." 
"These people have detained us firstly because they think we are dangerous. That we have really done a lot with Uranium. Secondly, there were important people who spoke in our favour and they wanted to treat us well. These two facts were mixed up. Now they have got into this awful political muddle."

"The decent thing for them to do now would be to say to us : 'It is not possible to come to a decision about you so quickly. What shall we do? Would you like to remain with your families for the time being or --?' But they don't do that, but prefer to keep us on ice. That's not nice of them. I don't believe it is due malice that they do nothing with us, but it is just that they cannot come to a decision about us."

"The damnable thing is that they won't let one have any say in what is to happen to one or one's family, or give any hopeful indication of what is going to happen."

11 July 1945

"If we want to continue working on our subject, we will certainly have to work together with the Anglo-Americans. No one has any money in Germany."

"If one is convinced that Germany will be occupied by the Russians for a long time and you work on the production of weapons for the English, the end result will be that you will make Germany into the future battlefield."

"I was once talking to ____ and ____ and I said : 'It would certainly be a clever move for anyone who is thinking of working in England to acquire British nationality as otherwise he would be shot if he fell into Russian hands'. They both agreed that one would have to do that. If one is taken to England, one many have to stay there."

16 July 1945

After reading in the newspaper that Lord Cherwell was attending the Postdam conference.

"That's the man who has had us detained."

"If Cherwell knew we were detained here, something would happen. He doesn't know. He would certainly speak to one and discuss what he should or could do."

"Things like that will certainly be discussed. I imagine they will decide at the Big Three conference which scientists are to go to Russia."

17 July 1945

"I would be glad if we could stay here."

"It would be a wonderful thing if we could become English."

"And then have nothing more to do with the Party again. I would willingly take an oath never to have anything to do with the Party again."

18 July 1945

"I could also imagine that they are afraid of the following. Assume that it became known that we are here. Some clever journalist would turn and would have a look at the place from the outside, see us playing all sorts of games in the garden, sun bathing, etc. The next day there would be a terrific article in the newspaper just like it was with Goering : 'German Nazi Scientists enjoying life in England. For lunch they have --' I could well understand that is the reason they want to keep it secret here. "

"I would imagine that we will be given more freedom the moment the Russians say : 'We agree, you will take over the scientists.' They are negotiating with the Russians as to who shall be handed over to Russia and who shall not. Presumably that is being discussed in Berlin now."

"If I were ever to land with airborne troops in England, I would have all the men arrested straight away and they would be separated from their wives for two years just to show them what it's like."

"I think there is a 90% chance of our getting back to Germany."

"Yes. I think that is most likely. At first I thought they would really be more interested in getting information out of us. But they don't do that."

"They will wait until they can do it better themselves. Then we will have to swear on oath not to talk about the thing, etc. And then perhaps they will pay each of us £500."

"Not on your life! We will have to pay for having been here."

21 July 1945

"I think there is a very good chance we will get back to Germany. There is a 25% chance we will get back before 1 December." 

"The chance of getting back between 1 December and the end of next year, I would put at 70%."

"I think there is a 40% chance that we will never get back at all."

"I think there is a 15% chance that we will never to see our wives again"

"I can see no reason to assume that they want to treat us badly. But I can see a reason to assume that they don't want to have us in Germany, as they don't want us to pass our knowledge to other people."

"On the other hand, we may be shot. Not by the English, but by the people there. If one of us went to Hamburg University, some mad student might come and shoot one."

"I still feel very strongly that they are making an exception in our case, in that they are treating us better than most others. Therefore, I should say we will see our wives again even if we don't return to Germany. That would only be prevented if somthing unforeseen occured. Of course, one never knows. Something astounding may suddenly happen."

"That's what I think. I consider there is a 15% chance of that."

26 July 1945

"You must see that the situation is getting worse. Up to now I always hoped that the thing would come to end in some sensible way. But I have lost hope. That is the tragedy. I'm frightened. I'm reaching the end of my tether. (half sobbing)"

"About your family?"

"Yes. Of course that's one reason. That's been going on for three months and I'm supposed to look happy here. I shall go mad. I can't stand it much longer."

"You must stick it."

"I shall refuse to go downstairs. I shall eat nothing. I shall go on hunger strike."

30 July 1945

"I read an article in the Picture Post about the Uranium bomb. The newspapers had mentioned that such a bomb was being made in Germany. They will not let us go until they are absolutely certain that we will not fall into Russian hands or anything like that." 

"The longer one is detained here and knows nothing, the more one gets into a state where one racks one's brain to discover what is going to happen. I fight against it and make jokes. Also, I don't take life too seriously in that I always look on the bright side of things."

"I would have been just the same in Germany. The day before I went away, I said to my wife, "I suggest we commit suicide." I had reached that stage then."

"My wife was like that sometimes. That is why I am worried whether she will hold out without news."
"I am becoming more and more pro-English. They do everything very decently. The Major takes great trouble."

"He takes great trouble and he would probably consider us ungrateful if we suddenly sabotaged everything. We can't do that."

"No, no, that's out of the question."

6 August 1945

Shortly before dinner on the 6th August, I (Major T.H. Rittner) informed Prof. Hahn that an announcement had been made by the BBC that an atomic bomb had been dropped. Hahn was completely shattered by the news. He said that he felt personally responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people, as it was his original discovery which had made the bomb possible.

He told me that he had originally contemplated suicide when he realised the terrible potentialities of his discovery. He felt that now these had been realised and he was to blame.

Later, he was calmed down and we went down to dinner where he announced the news to the assembled guests. As was to be expected, the announcement was greeted with incredulity.

"If the Americans have a uranium bomb, then you're all second-raters. "

"They are fifty years further advanced than we."
"We always thought we would need two years for one bomb. If they have really got it, they have been very clever in keeping it secret."

"I'm glad we didn't have it."
"Who is to blame"

"Hahn is to blame"
"I think it's dreadful of the Americans to have done it. I think it is madness on their part."

"One can't say that. One could equally well say 'That's the quickest way of ending the war'"

"That's what consoles me"

All the guests assembled to hear the official announcement at 9 o'clock. They were completely stunned when they realised that the news was genuine.

"They have managed it either with mass-spectographs on a large scale, or else, they have been successful with a photo-chemical process."

"Well I would say photochemistry or diffusion. Ordinary diffusion. They irradiate it with a particular wavelength."

"Or using mass-spectographs in enormous quantities. It is perhaps possible for a mass-spectograph to make one milligramme in one day, say of '235'. They could make quite a cheap mass-spectograph which, in very large quantities, might cost a hundred dollars. You could do it with a hundred thousands mass-spectographs."

"Yes, of course. If you do it like that. They seem to have worked on that scale. 180,000 people were working on it."

"Which is a hundred times more than we had."

"That shows at any rate that the Americans are capable of real cooperation on tremendous scale. That would have been impossible in Germany. Each one said that the other was unimportant."

"How many people were working on V1 and V2?"

"Thousands worked on that"

"We wouldn't have had the moral courage to recommend to the Government in the spring of 1942 that they should employ 120,000 men just for building the thing up."

"I believe the reason we didn't do it was because all the physicists didn't want to do it, on principle. If we had all wanted Germany to win the war, we would have succeeded."

"I don't believe that. But, I am thankful we didn't succeed."

"One can say it might have been a much greater tragedy for the world if Germany had had the uranium bomb. Just imagine, if we had destroyed London with uranium bombs, it would not have ended the war. And when the war did end, it is still doubtful whether it would have been a good thing."

"The point is that the whole structure of the relationship between the scientist and the state of Germany was such although we were not 100% anxious to do it, on the other hand, we were so little trusted by the state, that even if we had wanted to do it, it would not have been easy to get it through."

"Even if we had got everything that we wanted, it is by no means certain whether we would have got as far as the Americans and the English have now. It is not question that we were very nearly as far as they were, but it is a fact that we were all convinced that the thing could not be completed during this war."
"It is possible that the war will be over tomorrow."

"The following day we will go home."

"If we had worked on an even larger scale, we would have been killed by the Secret Service. Let's be glad that we are still alive. Let us celebrate this evening in that spirit."

8 August 1945

All the guests have been extremely worried about the press reports of the alleged work carried out in Germany on the atomic bomb. As they were so insistent that no such work had been carried out, I suggested to them that they should prepare a memorandum setting out details of the work on which they were engaged, and they should sign it.

As the press reports during the last few days contains partly incorrect statements regarding the alleged work carried out in Germany on the atomic bomb, we would like to set out briefly the development of the work on the uranium problem.

1. The fission of the atomic nucleus in uranium was discovered by Hahn and Strassman in the Kaiser Wilhem Institute for Chemistry in Berlin in December 1938. It was the result of pure scientific research, which had nothing to do with practical uses. It was only after publication that it was discovered almost simultaneously in various countries that it made possible a chain reaction of the atomic nuclei and therefore, for the first time a technical exploitation of nuclear energies.

2. At the beginning of the war, a group of research workers was formed with instructions to investigate the practical application of these energies. Toward the end of 1941, the preliminary scientific work had shown that it would be possible to use nuclear energies for the production of heat, and thereby to drive machinery. On the other hand, it did not appear feasible at the time to produce a bomb with the technical possibilities available in Germany. Therefore, the subsequent work was concentrated on the problem of the engine, for which, apart from uranium, heavy water is necessary.

3. For this purpose, the plant of the Norsk Hydro at Rjukan was enlarged for the production of larger quantities of heavy water. The attacks on this plant, first by the Commando raid, and later by aircraft, stopped this production towards the end of 1943.

4. At the same time, at Freiburg and later at Celle, experiments were made to try and obviate the use of heavy water by the concentration of the rare isotope U 235.

5. With the existing supplies of heavy water, the experiments for the production of energy were continued first in Berlin and later at Haigerloch (Wurtemburg). Towards the end of the war, this work had progressed so far that the publiding of a power producing apparatus would presumably only have taken a short time.

Remarks :

Paragraph 1. The Hahn discovery was checked in many laboratories, particularly in the US, shortly after publication. Various research workers, Meitner and Frisch were probably the first, pointed out the enormous energies which were released by the fission of uranium. On the other hand, Meitner had left Berlin six months before the discovery and was not concerned herself in the discovery.

Paragraph 2. The pure chemical researches of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry on the elements produced by uranium fission continued without hindrance throughout the war and were published. The preliminary scientific work on the production of energy mentioned in paragraph 2 was on the following lines : theoretical calculations concerning the reactions in mixtures of uranium and heavy water; measuring the capacity of heavy water to absorb neutrons; investigation of the neutrons set free by the fission; investigation of the increase of neutrons in small quantities of uranium and heavy water. With regard to the atomic bomb, the undersigned did not know of any other serious research work on uranium being carried out in Germany.

Paragraph 3. The heavy water production at Rjukan was brought up to 220 litres per month, first by enlarging the existing plant, and then by the addition of catalytic exchange-fumaces which had been developed in Germany. The nitrogen production of the works was only slightly reduced by this. No work on uranium or radium was done at Rjukan.

Paragraph 4. Various methods were used for separating isotopes. The Clusius separating tubes proved unsuitable. The ultra-centrifuge gave a slight concentration of isotope 235. The other methods had produced no certain positive results to the end of the war. No separation of isotopes on a large scale was attempted.

Paragraph 5. Further a power producing apparatus was prepared which was to produce radioactive subtances in large quantities artificially without the use of heavy water but at very low temperatures.

Paragraph 3 and 5. On the whole, the funds made available by the German authorities (at first the Ordnance Department and later the Reichs Research Board) for uranium were extremely small compared to those employed by the Allies. The number of people engaged in the development (scientists and others, at institutes and in industry) hardly ever exceeded a few hundred.


- Otto Hahn - Walther Gerlach - P. Harteck - K. Wirtz - H. Korsching - M.v. Laue (My signature signifies that I share responsibility for the accuracy of the above statement, but not that I took any part whatever in the above mentioned work) - W. Heisenberg - C.F.C. Weizsacker - E. Bagge - K. Diebner

18 August 1945

Sir Charles Darwin, who was accompanied by Lt. Cdr. Welsh arrived at Farm Hall in time for tea on 18 August. This was the first time the guests had had contact with a scientist since their detention and they were delighted to have the opportunity of meeting him. After meeting the guests at tea, he had a conversation alone with Hahn and they were later joined by Heisenberg. Both expressed appreciation of the treatment they were receiving here and stated that their chief worry was the absence of news of their families. Heisenberg gave Sir Charles some details of the work carried out at his Institute.

"We have tried to make a machine which can be made out of ordinary uranium."

"With a little bit of enrichment?"

"No, not at all."

"With heavy water?"

"Yes. That worked out very nicely. So, we were interested in it. After our last experiments, if we had had 500 litres more heavy water, I don't doubt that we had got the machine going."

28 August 1945

The American Military Authorities sent Lieutenant Warner (US Army) to Germany with the letters the guests had written to their families, with instructions to bring back replies if possible. This officer returned with a numbers of replies and visited the guests at Farm Hall on 28 August.

Replies were received from the wives of von Laue, Hahn, Gerlach, Heisenberg, Wirtz and Badge, showing that these families were well and living under reasonable conditions. Von Weizsacker's wife had gone to her parents in Switzerland. Harteck and Korsching are bachelors and had not written.

The only unfortunate case was that of Diebner. When the American officer arrived at the home to deliver Diebner's letter, he found that Diebner's wife and child had left for an unknown destination accompanied by a certain Herr Rackwitz. Meanwhile, Diebner appears to be satisfied that his friend Rackwitz is protecting his interests in looking after his wife and child.

In a letter, Frau Wirtz stated that the Institute was still working. She and the other wives were being paid 60% of their husband's salaries.

Heisebnerg made it quite clear to me that he wishes to continue to work on uranium, although he realises that this could only be done under Allied control. His main interest at the moment is to get back to Germany to look after his family, who appear to be in some difficulty as they live in the mountains near Munich. His wife has no one to help her with her seven children. He is very distressed to hear from his wife, that his mother died two months ago, and that a women friend of his wife, who had been helping her had also died. He is perfectly prepared to give an undertaking on oath not to work on uranium, except under Allied control, if he is allowed to return to his family.

8 September 1945

Prof. Blackett and Lt. Cdr. Welsh arrived at Farm Hall on 8th September in the early evening, staying until after lunch on 9th September.

15 September 1945

Early in the morning of 15 September, Heisenberg proposed to Harteck, Von Weizsacker and Wirtz that he should write a letter to Prof. Blackett setting out their own wishes for their future which he could bring up at a supposed conference on 20th Setpember. All believe that their best hope for the future is to work under Allied, including Russian, control, as they will then be given more ample facilities.

Later, Heisenberg, having read his letter to Hahn, discusses it with him. He says that the letter, in fact, implies that, unless he is generously treated by the Western Allies, he will seriously consider working for the Russians.

17 September 1945

The letter was passed on September 17th to Lt. Com. Welsh

Dear Blackett. After our recent talk, I thought matters over and came to the conclusion that it might be as well to tell you about the special situation of my institute before we discuss the future of our institutes in general.

The 'Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut' for physics in Berlin was built by Debye. It was under his direction until January 1940. After Debye's departure, Diebner was in charge of the administration for some time. He was responsible for the conversion of the institute to nuclear physics. From spring 1941 onwards, I was practically in charge and later also officially. Since that time, the bulk of our work was done on uranium and on nuclear physics in general (high tension apparatus). Besides that, the work on cosmic rays and also work in the various departments (x-ray, low temperature, optics) was continued on a reduced scale.

As the first aim of our scientific work, we had intended to build a burner with D2O, graphite and uranium metal. This 'burner' was to be a strong source of neutrons. In war-time, naturally, these results would have been followed by technical developments, which would have aimed at a practical use of the energy. The quantities of D2O, graphite and uranium at Haigerlocch and Stadtilm would probably have been just sufficient for the construction of the 'burner'.

The first question regarding the future of the institute is whether Debye will return and take charge once more. If Debye does not return, the question of the future subject of our research will arise.

If we are to choose between two possibilities, either a very much reduced field of work without control, or a wider one but controlled by Allied physicists, then I should certainly prefer the latter possibility for the following reasons. If there were no control, policy would probably prohibit work on nuclear physics in general.

The question of the location of the institute can probably be decided only when the future of the 'Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft' as a whole is being discussed.

21 September 1945

Regarding the meeting on 20th September, I went to London on 21st September at the request of the Professors to find out the result of the meeting. On my return, without immediate permission to return everyone to Germany, a tense situation arose.

"The result of today's meeting was such that one still doesn't know what they want. There will be another meeting next week and it is hoped that a decision will be taken then."

23 September 1945

Harteck described to Hahn a method of producing deuterium oxide which he and Suess had discovered, which is considered more economical than any other method known to them.

24 - 30 September 1945

Major Rittner having suggested that they should write a memorandum on their political convictions and hopes for the future.

"The Major thought that we should put something about our political convictions into this memorandum, that is, something about the anti-Nazi convictions of our whole group."

The guests found some difficulty in composing the memorandum, as their principal desire is for something to be done for their families and not to protest their political convictions, which they feel are well enough known.

2 October 1945

A meeting between Professors Hahn, Von Laue and Heisenberg with various British scientists at the Royal Institution on 2nd October. In addition to the various British scientists, Heisenberg also met his brother-in-law, Herr Schuhmacher. On returning from the London meeting, Heisenberg gave the following account of what had taken place.

"Blackett has told me the following : the Americans have decided that we should return to Germany. They have made a condition, however, that we are not to return to the French zone."

"The Americans do not appear to raise objections against our going to the British sector. In accordance with a very detailed report which my brother-in-law gave me, conditions seem to be best in the English sector at present. Goettingen, Hamburg and Bonn came under discussion. Goettingen was mentioned as the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft has been evacuated to Goettingen. The only snag about Goettingen is the proximity of the Russian sector. Blackett thought that the Americans would not consider Goettingen for that reason."

"It will naturally be a tremendous task for any Allied organisation to endeavour to obtain an institute and accomodation for us, to get us there and to have our families and furniture brought along as well."

"We can influence matters considerably as they themselves don't know yet what they shall do."

Later that evening, Heisenberg suggested writing a letter to Prof. Blackett outlining their wishes.

3 October 1945

Having slept on the matter, the drafting of the letter was discussed again on the morning of the 3rd October. It appears that the meeting at the Royal Institution has greatly encouraged the guests, even to the point of dictating their own terms.

"The key to the whole problems seems to be that we cannot work in any place in Germany without our institutes. It is vital that, if we are to be moved, all the institutes and at the same time all our furniture and everything belonging to the families must be moved as well. We must make it clear to Blackett, therefore, that the Allied authorities cannot avoid negotiations with the French under any circumstances."

22 - 28 October 1945

The guests are becoming apathetic, no longer bothering to hold colloquia and none of them now troubles to do any scientific work.

16 November 1945

The Daily Telegraph's announcement of the award to Hahn of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry caused general pleasure and also deep misgivings, as no official confirmation was forthcoming. It was even thought that some unaccountable malice was responsible for our withholding the news. However, great efforts were made in London to try to verify the report.

As the source seemed reasonably reliable, the award was duly celebrated with songs, speeches and baked meats.

Von Laue's Speech

Dear Otto Hahn!

The longer our detainment drags on, the worse our customs become. Now there are even table speeches. But I have to tell you a little secret today.

Ten or more years ago you gave me your picture. I had it framed and hung it in my institute study; there in Hechingen it still hangs today - hopefully. On its back I wrote: Otto Hahn, born March 8, 1879, recorded in 1933 (which should be at least somewhat correct). I write such biographical notes on all pictures of acquaintances, so that they keep a certain value beyond my life, and so that the Goettingen history is not repeated, where pictures of Gauss and Bessel were mixed up.

But behind your picture there is also a quote :

Gifts, who doesn't have them? Talents, toys for children!
Only seriousness makes the man, only diligence makes the genius.

This was once written by Theodor Fontane to Adolf v. Menzel on his 70th birthday.

When I look at the scholars whose life I think to know to some extent, then I find none, on whom it fitted so well, as on you. Because - to mention only one point - for quick analyses of rapidly decaying radioactive substances, which you have so often carried out, gifts and talents are not sufficient; rather, a training of the innate abilities must be added, which requires deep work-seriousness and tremendous, life-long diligence.

But because you have both, so the series of your discovery can be compared also to a curve, which on high level - with the discovery of the Radiothor, which you made in this area beginning over the discovery of the Mesothorium (alias Megatherium) constantly rises, in order to find in the discovery of the Uranium fission a maximum, but no end.

And as an external crowning of your life's work you have now received the most beautiful honor that can be bestowed on a scientific researcher, the Nobel Prize.

I don't think there is a better way to congratulate you than with this little verse.

But my speech would be very incomplete if I did not remember another person: your wife. She must have received the news as well; how conflicting feelings may be rushing at her this evening! But I hope that in the end the joy, the proud joy of being the wife of such a man will prevail.

Gentlemen! We raise our glasses and drink to the health of Otto and Edith Hahn.

May they live well!


These fictitious newspaper extracts were invented and read by Heisenberg, von Weizsacker and Wirtz.

Excerpt from the '_____' of November 17, 1945.

Prof. Dr. Otto Hahn, German radiologist, has been awarded the 1944 Nobel prize for chemistry. It has been stated in official circles, that Otto Hahn has been detained since the end of the war. No further comment was available.

Translated from '____', November 18, 1945.


The latest atomic bomb is the news from Stockholm that Hitler's atomic expert, Prof. Otto Hahn from Berlin, has received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. As we have learned from reliable sources, the Swedish Academy has announced a prize at the same time as the award ceremony for the person who can provide useful information about the present whereabouts of Otto Hahn. Numerous solutions have been received and are awaiting processing.

The obvious assumption was that Otto Hahn from U boat 530 had been dropped off in Patagonia at the same time as Hitler and Eva Braun and was working there on the production of new and better atomic bombs. However, these suspicions have not yet been confirmed.

Another source now brings the sensational news that Otto Hahn was seen a few days ago in Tel Aviv, where he apparently wants to discuss the continuation of his work with other Frankfurt and Dahlem people living there. However, the need for specialists in atomic splitting no longer seems to be great there, and there is no certain confirmation of his presence in Tel Aviv so far.

In order to get reliable news about the whereabouts of O. Hahn, we have sent our special correspondent to Germany; he first visited the small Wuerttemberg town of Tailfingen, where Otto Hahn carried out his atomic fissions during the last years of the war. Since the professor's family has apparently changed their home several times recently, our correspondent only managed to reach a small, modest apartment after much effort, where he was not welcomed by Prof. Hahn, but by his charming daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, however, even this young lady could give no further information than that the professor had been taken away by American troops in April and was probably in England or America.

After several unsuccessful journeys, which took our correspondent to Heidelberg, Versailles and the Maas Valley near Luettich, he came across a rumor that Otto Hahn was being held under the most severe arrest in England in a small town of Godmanchester together with other war criminals.

A visit to Godmanchester showed that a red brick building with heavily barred windows was so closely guarded by secret police in civilian clothes and soldiers in uniform that any approach during the day seemed completely impossible. Our correspondent therefore tried to sneak across the neighboring meadows to the rear prison yard during the night, and succeeded in reaching an iron fence wrapped with barbed wire at first dawn, from which he could overlook a lawn behind the prison. Here a strange sight presented itself to him: A naked figure with a tired expression was walking continuously up and down a bed of roses, up and down, comparable to the polar bear in the zoological garden. At a silent call from our correspondent, the figure flinched and, with a cry of horror, ran in wild flight into the house. Who this pitiful figure was has not yet been determined with certainty.

A snapshot, which our correspondent managed to take, resulted in a bad shot, in which some scientists, asked for advice, actually wanted to recognize Otto Hahn's features. Sic transit gloria mundi! Even these findings have not brought any certainty about the whereabouts of Otto Hahn.

We have therefore followed up on other rumors which claim that Otto Hahn is well settled in England and is writing his memoirs there, which he intends to publish in book form under the title: 'From Oxford Street to Farm Hall'. This reference to Oxford Street prompted us to survey the department stores and shops in this neighborhood. We came across an elderly, dignified-looking matron, head of the sales department of a clothing store, who remembered Prof. Hahn well. She told with a happy smile about the time of her acquaintance with Otto Hahn, but she was not in a position to tell the more intimate details of this time. Any clue for the present whereabouts of Otto Hahn could not be gained here either.



In our series "Great Frankfurters" we span today two centuries of Frankfurt history with an illustrious pair of twins: our city may count Goethe, the splitter of the heart, on the one hand, and at the same time, to give the matter a new twist, Hahn, the splitter of atoms, among its own. Let us quickly pass over the life fate of the older of the two, which should be known to most of our readers, and turn our attention to the new pillar in the German chemist's circle, Otto Hahn.

Born in our city in 1879, we honor him as the discoverer of the Mesozoic era, the inventor of the cockscomb unit and the cocktail, the founder of several sports clubs and the long-time tireless reader of our newspaper. He is the honorary chairman of the Association for Thrift and Trade and the holder of several patents for increasing the life of razor blades, cigarettes and anecdotes. However, he has just recently put the crown of uranium fission on the barrel of his merits.

As we learn from the secretary of the League for Physical Culture, he is said to have used a new method for precipitating radiant bodies. He stood, so to speak, with one foot firmly between the stools of facts, but with the other he grasped the golden ladder of fame. With him, his hometown basks in the colorful glow of the deserved honor that has just befallen him, and we would like to be like a bird in several places at once, both to lay our sincere congratulations at the feet of the honoree and to be able to give our readers an eyewitness report of the latest and greatest world event.

P.S : We would like to point out that in the feuilleton of this paper, Wilhelm Westphal acknowledges Otto Hahn's academic achievements. Meanwhile in the business section we have an article from the valued pen of our special correspondent P.H. bring about the financial importance of the Nobel Prize

BUSINESS SECTION of the FRANKFURT NEWSPAPER : Nobel prize and nuclear energy

Otto Hahn, the discoverer of uranium fission, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

The first question that arises in the mind of the unbiased observer is: Is the amount of money he receives proportionate to the amount he has given to humanity through his discovery?

The Nobel Prize today is about 6,000 pound sterling. Under the assumption of the gold standard, this would be RM 120,000. The uncertainty of all monetary relationships suggests the need to choose a different scale of value based on basic human needs.

If we set the price of a pound of sugar at 40 penny, Prof. Hahn would receive the equivalent of 150,000 kg of sugar. This figure is still difficult to compare with the energy yield provided by his discovery because uranium cannot be eaten.

We therefore reduce sugar and uranium to the common measure of the calorie. One kg of sugar contains about 4000 Kcal; the Nobel Prize therefore amounts to about 600 million kilocalories. On the other hand, according to Hahn, about 10^13 Kcal. can be released from one ton of uranium 235.

The total amount of uranium on earth is known only by estimation. We assume that the hundred millionth part of the matter of the earth's surface consists of uranium. If we assume that uranium would be exploited to a depth of 1 km, then, since the dry surface of the earth is about 100 million square kilometers, we get 100 cubic kilometers of exploitable matter, of which one cubic kilometer is uranium. That is, since the specific gravity of uranium is about 20, 20 billion tons of uranium. About one hundredth of the uranium is uranium 235, so we would have 200 million tons of uranium 235.

2x10^8 to uranium 235 at 10^13 Kcal each give 2x10^21 Kcal. The 6x10^8 Kcal of the Nobel Prize are the three trillionth part of it or the fraction 3x10^13.

This number was probably chosen because it is just the radius of an atomic kernel.


Sung by Kurtz Diebner and Karl Wirtz at the celebration dinner.

THE FARMHALLER : Nobel-Prize Song

Detained since more than half a year.
Here's Hahn and us at Farm Hall.
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

The real reason, by the way
Is because we have worked on nuclei
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

The nuclei were for war
And for the general victory.
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

How is that possible, you ask?
The story about seems whimsical
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

The commanders, heads of state, newsboys,
Having him everyday in their mouth.
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

Even the sweethearts in the world
They now call themselves : atom-girls
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

If you lose your bets like this,
That's what it's called "you didn't split the atom"
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

Everybody knows that the accident came
As a result of splitting of uranium.
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

The energy makes everything warmer,
Only the Swedes get poorer.
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

At the academic behest
Germany gets a Nobel Prize.
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

In Oxford Street, there lives a being
She will read that today with tears.
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

Only one atom was missing at that time,
He would have said: I marry you, madam.
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

This is just our first celebration
I think things will get expensive
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is: Otto Hahn!

And let's get out of this burrow,
We hope, we'll be quite lucky now.
And one asks, who is to blame for it?
The answer is always: Otto Hahn!


This story was Bagge's contribution. The original joke, written in German language, contains aleatoric adjective.

The impeccable history of the useless nuclear physicists since their superfluous detainment.

On April 27, the representatives of KWI.f.Chemie in Tailfingen and KWI.f.Physik in Hechingen will set off on a sweet car ride into sour detainment.

Through crooked towns, past endless numbers of coarse tanks, the somber group of travelers marched westward, until they arrived in Heidelberg in the afternoon. They imagined they were already at the destination of their silent journey, but they was only to realize in the course of time that this was only the first stop on a long journey that they were starting with.

The next destination was Reims, where they arrived a few days later and waited for the end of the war. But then things went smart. In a flight from Reims to Versailles they crossed over northern France, only to reside for a few days in a heavenly chateau, all set up to receive the nuclear physicists with gusto. Here something unexpected happened. After spending the first night and day on icy cold field bed, reinforcements arrived. Mr. Heisenberg and Mr. Diebner arrived.

Nevertheless, the Detainees did not like to stay so long in Chesnay, so they decided to move excitedly from there to Vesinet, especially since the new place of residence offered them certain chances to get in touch with their families.

In the meantime it had become the end of May. Because one loved the puzzling change and because one already knew this questionable one well in many 100-lap runs around the Villa Argentina, one packed again the suitcases and traveled to Faqueval.

The considerate wishes of our detainer were also very much met, especially since in the meantime the shameless gentleman had been kindly and burned up invited to take part in this hypocritical trip, which he did willingly and with a witty face.

Finally, in Faqueval, the circle of atomists, which had meanwhile grown to nine people, experienced its last and final expansion when Herr Gerlach joined them.

However, as eager as they were to travel, they didn't last long in Faqueval. One wanted to go further. Yes, and after some dreadful hesitation, we always proceeded on the best and terrible terms with those peculiar to us.

Authorities into the now historic Godmanchester. Since their arrival on July 3, 1945, everyone has been spending their bare-legged days here in an honorable mood. Since then, the ten detainees are eager to make this flowery stay as daring as possible, and because the characters of the participants do not exactly match in all points, the leisure time is organized in different ways.

First there is the bold senior of our group, the modest Prof. Hahn. He works on his so-called memoroids, as long as he's not running a sleepy 10K to the admiration of his comrades at Farm Hall. But that's not the only thing that all the people around him know to say about him. If he didn't have other things on his mind - which we'll have to talk about later - then we still have to tell about his cocktails, which he serves in his tender goodness, about the seven split eggs on his head in Mossejaw, about the deeply felt lady on Oxford Street, about the Berliner Pfannkuchen doughnut, about the lost 300 thalers on a train journey and about the presidential turn that table conversations can take, but don't have to, when he contributes to the entertainment.

Much could be said of the other middle-class gentlemen of this circle, which for later generations of detainers could serve as a groundless guide to the wildly romantic pastime. But we have to be brief.

After all, the merits of the overmighty Herm v. Laue are quite undisputed, who has managed to get two eager lecturers every week for half a year for the colloquium he directs, and thus has contributed quite substantially to our seasoned stay.

Our graceful Mr. Gerlach, on the other hand, whiles away the time with the very heroic preoccupation with the humorous phenomena of magnetism, he also contributes to the hazy cocooning of our rooms by making the sweet resolution of looking after about 20 flower vases a day.

The sentimental leisure activities of our Mr. Heisenberg look different again. From the quantum theory and nuclear physics he came to the superconductivity. At first he was quite distressed because he had nothing more to do, but since he read the spiced Trollope, he no longer suffers greatly, but only a very little, but even this is overcome because the always friendly Mr. Harteck, there always puts him in a sporting mood. And if that doesn't help, Mr. Harteck knows how to lift our breathless spirits by calculating how long-shanked we are by determining the calorie content of our trusty food.

So you could still talk about many fellow sufferers, at their head our Capt. Brodie, Weizsacker with his snappy shaking rhymes, the sublime Wirtz, the capricious Diebner and his good-natured jokes, and Korsching with his beard. But we have to close with it.

Because even if life is very interesting because of these things alone with the hollow details, it has become really exciting, since Mr. Heisenberg discovered today in the 'Daily Telegraph' that our Prof. Hahn has been designated the God-ordained Nobel Prize winner.

We search catastrophically for the right adjectives to colossally describe this ingenious fact.

Our otherwise all-surpassing mood has suddenly climbed unequaled strict heights and we can look unbelievably into the unshakable future and in this sense we congratulate our never-ending Masters to this honor!

4 December 1945

Lt. Col. Calvert and Lt. Cdr. Welsh came down on 4th December to persuade Hahn to write a letter to Sweden accepting the Nobel Prize awarded to him but regretting that he did not think that it would be possible to go to Stockholm himself. Hahn was not at all keen to write without saying that he was prevented from visiting Stockholm by his detention at the hands of the Anglo-Americans. However he was eventually persuaded to write as required.

17 - 30 December 1945

The arrival of Lt. Cdr. Welsh.

The guests were considerably cheered by the news of their impending return to Germany, which the Commander conveyed to them. This, together with Christmas celebrations, produced a general feeling of good will.

"Who knows, he may have just made this up so that he will have a pleasant Christmas here."
"To be quite honest, I would not have minded being here another six months. They have looked after us marvellously."

"If one had only known that we were to go back after a certain time, there would have been absolutely nothing to complain about."
"There is one solid comfort, the Commander and Brodie are going to fly with us. So at least they don't intend to have us crash.
"It would be a mistake, when we get back to Germany, to say how marvellous everything has been."

"That should be avoided at all costs. But, on the other hand, we must do justice to the British who really have treated us extremely well."

"We should say that we were physically very well treated and mentally wretchedly."
"There is a lot to be said for the Commander after all, no matter how much we may cursed him. In any case, it may be wise to be in his good books. We never know when we may have another use for him.


The ten detainees were brought back to Germany on 3 January 1946, initially to the small village of Alswede.

On 12 March 1946, von Laue, von Weizsacker, Wirtz, Korsching and Bagge left Alswede for Gottingen. Hahn and Heisenberg having gone ahead of them to confirm the suitability of the space there in Prandtl's former Aerodynamics Research Establishment, which had been allocated by the British control authorities for the relocation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics and the Administration of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft. The Aerodynamics Research Establishment was available because aerodynamics research was forbidden to the Germans under the control laws.

Already before his return to Germany, Hahn had been invited to accept the presidency of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft in succession to the aged and ailing Max Planck, who was to die on 4 October 1947. Hahn accepted it. The British control authorities gave permission for the society to carry on with its work, only on condition that the name of Kaiser Wilhelm should be dropped. Hahn secured Max Planck's agreement to lending his name to the Society, and foundation of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft became official in the British Zone of Occupation on 11 September 1946.

Hahn's presidency was no mere honorific sinecure. It took all his persistence and diplomacy to win over the American control authorities, who had resolved that the Kaiser Wilhelm Society should be dissolved and re-establishment of its Institutes not permitted. But he got his way in the end. Soon after American objections were lifted in February 1948, the French also came round. By July 1948, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft had permission to function in all three Western zones of occupation, proceeding to re-establish most of the old Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes, and some new ones, at various points in Germany. With Heisenberg as Director of the German Research Council (Deutsche Forchungsrat), created early in 1946, the two of them played the leading parts in the post-war restoration of Germany scientific research. Hahn died in 1968.

In 1951, von Laue left Gottingen for Berlin-Dahlem to become Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry, which continued to call itself a "Kaiser Wilhelm" Institute until 1953 as the "Fritz Haber Institut of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft". Von Laue died in 1960. Korsching spent the rest of his career at the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics.

Heisenberg moved his Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics to Munich in 1958. He held an adjunct Professorship at the University there, and continued to find time for productive contributions to theoretical physics as well as for organizational matters, till forced by illness to retire in 1970. He died in 1976.

Harteck and Diebner left Alswede immediately for Hamburg. Diebner to set up a private Institute for Measuring Instruments. Harteck to resume his chair of Physical Chemistry at the University in Hamburg. In 1951, Harteck left Hamburg for the United States, becoming a Research Professor at the Rensselaer Polytechnice Institute. He died in 1985.

Von Weizsacker, pursuing his combined interests in cosmology and philosophy, was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hamburg in 1957. Meanwhile, he was to play a leading role in the German branch of the Pugwash movement. Gerlach departed to become a guest-Professor in Bonn. Thence after a year or so to resume his chair of Experimental Physics in Munich, later to become Rector of the University. He died in 1979. In 1957, Wirtz was appointed Professor at the Karlsruhe Technische Hochschule and Director of the Institute for Neutron Physics and Reactor Technology at the Nuclear Research Centre, Karlsruhe.

Bagge was appointed to a Professorship in Hamburg in 1948, later to become Professor and Head of the Department of Physics at the University of Kiel. Diebner, together with Bagge, was the driving force behind the foundation in 1956 for the "Society for Exploitation of Nuclear Energy in Shipbuilding and Shipping" in Hamburg. This developed into the GKSS-Forschungszentrum-Geesthacht GmbH, which built the first German nuclear-powered ship, launched in 1968 and named "Otto Hahn". By then, Diebner had died in 1964.

Album for Captain Brodie

The Farm Hall community sends you, dear Captain, very best wishes for Christmas and hopes you will have a few happy days of holiday in the circle of your family.

We ask you to accept this little Album compiled with the restricted facilities of Farm Hall, as a mark of thanks for the readiness to the help you have so often shown.

There was intended to be a picture on the front of each page, belonging with the text on the reverse. Perhaps it will be possible for each of us to provide a copy of photographs made by use for the purpose, for the missing ones.

Die Detainen

Best wishes for Chrismas. I would like, Herr Hauptmann Brody to express my thanks for having, as far as lay in your power eased my position

-- H. Korsching

I was born on 8th March 1879 in Frankfurt a. M.

After my schooling, I studied Chemistry in Marburg and Munich, then promoviert in July 1901 with an organic Doctor thesis.

After two years as an assistant, I went -- principally to learn English -- to London in the laboratory of Sir William Ramsay. He gave me a project in an area quite new to me, in radioactivity. By chance, I found a radioactive substance which I named Radiothorium. Ramsay advised me to continue with radioactivity. So, I went in winter 1905 to Montreal, Canada, to Professor E Rutherford.

In summer 1906, I came to Berlin, habilitierte myself there and received the title of Professor in 1910. On the foundation of the Kaiser Wilh. Gesellschaft, I became a member of the KWI for Chemistry. Except for the war years 1914-1918 when I was on active service, I remained continuously in the Kaiser Wilh. Institut, since 1928 as Director.

In 1933 I was for a few months a visiting Professor in Cornell University USA.

At the beginning of 1944, my Institute in Dahlem was totally destroyed by bombs. I transferred activities to Tailfingen in Wurthemberg. From there, I was taken away by American soldiers on 25th April 1945.

-- Otto Hahn

Born 9.10.1879 in Pfaffendorf near Koblemz. Became acquainted in his youth with a large realm by way of Brandenburg, Altona, Posen and Berlin. In Strasburg i.E I attended the long-famous Protestant Gymnasium from 1893 to 1898.

I studied in Strasburg, Gottingen, Munchen and Berlin. Promovierte in July 1903 in Berlin with a dissertation set by Planck on certain optical interference phenomena. In 1905 I became Planck's assistant. 1906, Privatdozent at the University of Berlin. 1909 at that in Munchen. There I wrote my book on relativity theory and came upon X-ray interference. In 1912 I came as a.o. Professor to the University of Zurich. 1914 as Ordinarius to Frankfurm a.M. 1919 to Berlin. I became Emeritus in 1943.

-- Max Theodor Felix Laue

Born 1 August 1889 at Biebrich on the Rhine as son of a doctor. Both parents came from old Frankfurt - Nassau families.

During my schooling at the Humanische Gymnasium in Wiesbaden, I interested myself equally in Natural Science, Classics and Religion. The pleasure learnt from my father in observing nature has remained me to this day.

From 1908 I studied in Tubingen Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics and Chemistry. Promovierte to Dr. rer. nat. on 29th February 1912 with Prof. F. Paschen and became assistant.

After service at the front in the war, I was 2 years in Industry, then Dozent, later Professor in Frankfurt a.M. From 1925 in Tubingen. Since 1929 I am Professor of Experimental Physics and Director of the Physical Institute of Munchen University. Lectures and Conferences brought me a number of times to England, France, Holland, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Spain.

My scientific work is concerned with problems of radiations, atoms and magnetism. I take particular pleasure in developing the education of the young. For leisure I make music with my wife or I wander for choice in wooded mountains or the Bavarian mountain foothills.

-- Walther Gerlach

I was born on 05.12.1901 in Wurzburg, where my father was a teacher at the Gymnasium and Dozent at the University. In 1909, my father was called to Munchen. There I grew up, learning languages, mathematics and music. Studied from 1920 onwards -- after a short interruption fighting as a volunteer -- Physics from Sommerfeld. At the same time, I familiarized myself in the youth-movement with wandering through the homeland and with many kinds of sport.

In 1924, I became a Dozent in Gottingen and worked out the quantum mechanics during a holiday stay on Heligoland.

In 1926 and 1927 I was a Lektor in Copenhagen, as pupil and friend of the great physicist and philosopher, Niels Bohr. From 1927 till 1941 I was a Professor in the University of Leipzig, where I instructed many young people, German and foreign, in Atomic Physics. In 1929 I gave lectures and courses in America, Japan and India. I have a family since 1937. In the war, 1941, I was called to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut fur Physik.

-- Werner Carl Heisenberg

Born 20.vii.02; Vienna

Learning and wander-years : Universities of Vienna and Berlin, Technische Hochschule Breslau.

1928 - 1933 at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut for Physical Chemistry with Geh. Haber.

1933 - 1934 Cambridge with Lord Rutherford

from 1934 Hamburg; Director of the Institute for Physical Chemistry of the University

-- P. Harteck

I was born on the 13 May 1905. After an Oberrealschule, I studied Natural Sciences in Halle and Innsbruck. I promovierte in November 1931 as Dr. rer. nat. My teacher was Prof. Hoffmann, known for his researches in Cosmic Rays.

From April 1931, I was an assistant in the Physics Institute of the University of Halle, working particularly on matters of Nuclear Physics. In 1934, I became a collaborator of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt and Referent in the research department of the HWA (Heereswaffenamt, Army Ordnance Office) for questions of Atomic Physics.

Since 1942 I was in the Reichsforschungstrat, at first Kommisarisch, then Hauptamtlich as personal assistant to Prof. Gerlach and active as leader of a research department.

-- Kurt Diebner

I was born on the 24 April 1910 in Koln a. Rhein. My father is a judge, my mother comes from South Germany. As a young boy I enjoyed physical-technical experiments.

I studied in Bonn, Freiburg and Breslau, Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry. In the year 1935, I became an Assistent in the Physico-chemical Institute of the University of Leipzig, partly moved by the wish to acquaint myself with modern physics in the neighbourhood of Heisenberg, whose relationship to the intellectual development of our time intereste me. Then I became an asisstant and finally a section leader in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut fur Physik in Berlin.

My scientifc work was chiefly on the molecular physics of liquids, and on problems at the border regions of physics and chemistry.

-- K Wirtz

I was born on 30 May 192 in Neustadt near Coburg. My youth was spent in my home town, from which from 1922 to 1931 I attended the Realgymnasium in Sonneberg.

After the Abiturienten examination, I studied at the Technische Hochschule, Munchen in the faculty of technical physics, where I -- with one year in between in Berlin -- carried out an experimental research on cosmic rays, to finish my studies, begun in 1935, with the Diplomexamen.

Then I moved to the Institute for Theoretical Physics of Prof. Heisenberg and Hund in Leipzig, and promovierte 1938 with a research on nuclear vibrations. Until my Habilitation 1941 in the same university, I was mainly occupied with carrying out theoretical investigations on problems of the cosmic radiation.

Then followed my posting to the Institut de Chimie Nucleaire of Prof. Joliot in Paris. Following that, I received a position as assistant in the K.W.I f. Physik in Berlin to carry out into practice a method of isotope-separation proposed by myself

-- Erich Bagge

Born 28.6.1912 in Kiel from a Swabian family. My childhood was spent, because my father was first a naval officer and then a diplomat, at varying places in Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Denmark.

In my school time I was interested in Astronomy and Philosophy. Early acquaintance with Heisenberg made it clear to me that in the present day, Atomic Physics would have a decisive influence on both these branch of learning.

Stadium with Heisenberg and Bohr, Dr. Phil. Leipzig 1933, there 2 years assistant with Heisenberg, 6 years assistant at the K.W.I.f. Physik, Dahlem, since 1937 at the same time Dozent in the University of Berlin, since 1942 Professor of Theoretical Physics in Strassburg.

Since 1937 married to a Swiss wife, 3 children.

I have worked above all on the structure of the atomic nucleus and on the evolution of stars. Still more than the abstract science, it is its meaning for the spirit of the time and its relationship with Philosophy and Religion which engages me.

-- Carl Friedrich Freiherr von Weizsacker

Further reading

  1. Sir Charles Frank, OBE, FRS (1993) "Operation Epsilon : The Farm Hall Transcripts" IOP Publishing
  2. Jeremy Bernstein (2001) "Hitler's Uranium Club : The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall" Springer Science + Business Media