LONDON (UPI) -- Secret recordings of Hitler's top scientists when they were prisoners of w

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

LONDON (UPI) -- Secret recordings of Hitler's top scientists when they were prisoners of war in 1945 reveal their horror at the Hiroshima devastation caused by atom bombs they had raced to invent, The Times reported Saturday. The German scientists were so appalled that the leader of the Nazi project to develop the bomb wanted to commit suicide, the report said, citing transcripts released Friday at the request of the Royal Society and the British Academy. The scientists first dismissed as incredible the news that the Allies had dropped the bomb on Japan in August 1945. One suggested that ``some dilettante in America who knows little about it has bluffed them.'' Several of the Germans expressed relief that the Nazis lost the race to build the ``uranium bomb,'' the report said, quoting prisoner Karl- Friedrich von Weizacker. ``One can say that 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,'' he said. ``It would not have ended the war and when the war did end, it is doubtful if it would have been a good thing.'' The report named five German scientists secretly recorded during their captivity at Farm Hall near Cambridge, 40 miles north of London. Maj. Hugh Rittner, the British intelligence officer who told the prisoners about the Hiroshima bombing, said the first one he informed was Otto Hahn, the co-discoverer of nuclear fission, The Times said. ``He was completely shattered and said that he felt personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people,'' Rittner said of Hahn, noting he then plied Hahn with alcohol to calm him down enough to go tell the others. But Rittner said the German who took the news the hardest was Walther Gerlach, who led the Nazi research effort to build an atom bomb, The Times reported. Gerlach went to his room and lay on the bed, sobbing, saying he saw suicide as the only honorable course. But he lacked a gun to kill himself with, and Rittner eventually discouraged him from attempting suicide, the report said. Von Weizacker said he thought the bombing was madness but Hahn and Werner Heisenberg agreed it was the ``quickest way of ending the war.'' ``That's what consoles me,'' Hahn said. Discussing whether the Nazis could have invented the atom bomb if they had tried harder, Heisenberg said he never thought they could and ``at the bottom of my heart I was really glad.'' But von Weizacker said Hitler may have gotten his bomb if not for bad timing and bad luck. ``If we had started this business soon enough, we could have got somewhere. We might have had the luck to complete it in the winter of 1944-45,'' he said. The report said Britain's Public Records Office finally released the transcripts in response to pressure from researchers studying Hitler's failed efforts to develop the bomb. The tapes had been quoted by the head of the Manhattan Project that created the Allied bomb, but British officials had denied their existence, the report said. The tapes also recorded speculation by the German prisoners on whether their rooms were fitted with secret microphones, the report said. ``Microphones installed?'' Heisenberg said, 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.''

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank