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Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall [Paperback]

Jeremy Bernstein , David Cassidy
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 2001 0387950893 978-0387950891 2nd ed. 2001
From April through December of 1945, ten of Nazi Germany's greatest nuclear physicists were detained by Allied military and intelligence services in a kind of gilded cage at Farm Hall, an English country manor near Cambridge. The physicists knew the Reich had failed to develop an atomic bomb, and they soon learned, from a BBC radio report on August 6, that the Allies had succeeded in their own efforts to create such a weapon. But what they did not know was that many of their meetings and private conversations were being monitored and recorded by British agents. This book contains the complete collection of transcripts that were made from these secret recordings, providing an unprecedented view of how the German scientists, including two Nobel Laureates, thought and spoke about their roles during the war.

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Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall + Heisenberg's War: The Secret History Of The German Bomb + Hitler's Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil's Pact
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Upon hearing about the Hiroshima bomb, the German nuclear physicists were astounded, and voluble about figuring out how the weapon worked. Their reactions were secretly taped, and after 50 years, their conversations about nuclear physics and Nazi politics were released. This, their first book-form appearance, broadly consists of Bernstein's summary of prewar physics and the German nuclear research program (including a turning-point, 1942 Heisenberg lecture to Nazi officials), and at the core are 25 transcripts drafted by the monitors. The most dramatic are those of August 6 and 7, 1945, into which Bernstein (a qualified scientist) inserts his commentary on the accuracy of the Germans' remarks, as well as his indignation at the rationalization by some of them that they purposely failed in order to prevent a Hitler victory. Bernstein's obiter dicta make clear his disbelief in ethical compunctions, but readers can at last reach their own conclusion. Heavily technical in patches, yet this one-of-a-kind document earns large libraries' consideration with its human-interest aspects. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[Bernstein's] angered by [Copenhagen, suggesting] Heisenberg's attempt to play down his efforts for Hitler . . . may have been what upset Bohr." -- The New York Times, October 20, 2001 by James Glanz

(..) Did Heisenberg and the other scientists want to make the bomb? This insightful commentary explains the limitations of their knowledge and the materials available in Germany.... -- F. Potter, Choice

...a valuable part of the history of the modern world -- and indeed, well worthwhile reading for sheer human interest! -- Rapport Magazine

...an excellent source for understanding the ambitions of Heisenberg's team and the reason for its ultimate lack of success. -- Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 31, 2000

A most interesting and important contribution to the modern history of physics. -- Michael Eckert, Deutsches Museum, Germany

It is a fascinating document, revealing not only the limits of the scientists' wartime knowledge of physics, but their academic fragmentation, and their often lamentable concepts of political responsibility. -- Charles Maler, Center for European Studies, Harvard University

Jeremy Bernstein's thorough understanding of the physics, and his sharp but fair-minded criticism of Heisenberg's own approach to the problems involved, makes him an essential guide to the Farm Hall transcripts, and for me illuminated a great many things I had not properly appreciated before. -- Michael Frayn, author of Copenhagen

[The author] makes the technical discussions understandable to the layman, he compares them to the actual theory of nuclear explosions, he shows where Heisenberg's understanding is wrong and where it is right. -- Hans A. Bethe, Cornell University

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Copernicus; 2nd ed. 2001 edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387950893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387950891
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Myth or Reality? March 7, 2009
Format:Paperback
For decades after the end of the WWII there has been a debate among the physicists and science/history researchers about the reasons why Germany didn't manage to develop a nuclear weapon in the 1940's. This was despite the fact that the Nazi regime had a six-month head-start in the uranium fission research (discovered at Otto Hahn's lab in 1938) and also among their ranks, Werner Heisenberg, one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists at the time. Bernstein's book discloses both the secret recordings and his comments, on the dialogues taken place among some ten leading German nuclear scientists who were detained after the war at the Farm Hall, England, while their conversations were bugged and transcribed without their own knowledge. (The 1945 recordings were first released in 1992 and made available in the book "Operation Epsilon" published in 1993.) Based on the documents and other assorted evidence, it appears that Heisenberg, the main scientific leader of the uranium research under the Third Reich, had largely overestimated the amount of fissionable material needed to manufacture a nuclear bomb, and so he had instead steered towards a policy-program for building a working nuclear reactor, using heavy water as moderator. However, the latter substance was never enough in his possession due to destruction of the heavy water establishment in Vemork, Norway, in 1943 by a British partisan attack. In reality, despite the popular literature concentrating on him, Heisenberg was not the primary figure pursuing the German A-bomb, rather it was Paul Harteck, a physical chemist based at Hamburg who eventually moved to the USA in 1951. Read more ›
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A startling and sobering set of documents March 19, 2001
Format:Paperback
Toward the end of World War II, ten German nuclear physicists were captured by American and British forces and sent to Farm Hall, An English country house near Cambridge for six months. While there they were interrogated about Germany's nuclear research. Farm Hall was a comfortable prison, but it was bugged and their every word was secretly monitored by British agents. Now in a revised and updated second edition, Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings At Farm Hall is a complete collection of transcripts made from those secret recordings in 1945. Expertly annotated by Jeremy Bernstein and put in context by Bernstein (and with an informative introduction by David Cassidy). This startling and sobering set of documents provide an insight into the thoughts and feelings of these ten scientists as they considered the destruction of the Third Reich, the failure of their beloved "German Physics", and the roles they played in the Nazi war effort. Hitler's Uranium Club is a unique, informative, invaluable, and at times unsettling contribution to World War II studies.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get it from the horse's mouth, Werner Heisenberg himself. September 4, 2002
By Tony
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book consists of expertly annotated transcripts of conversations of German scientists taken at Farm Hall after the end of the WWII in Europe. The book is based on the recently de-classified "Farm Hall Transcripts", a revealing set of informative statements which demonstrates the low level of understanding that the German Scientists had of how to build Atomic Bombs. It is written and annotated by an American physicist, so you get some insights as to Heisenberg's mistakes. The book is a refutation of the book "Heisenberg's War" by Thomas Powers, a revisionist history that claims that Heisenberg, Germany's top scientist, really knew how an Atomic Bomb worked, but withheld this information from his colleagues and the German Government.
Heisenberg remains a mystery. He won a Nobel Prize in Physics in the early 1930s for his "Uncertainty Principle" which deals with Quantum Mechanics. Yet despite his brilliance, he sounds pretty ignorant at Farm Hall. Was he faking? I think not. To paraphrase Watergate: the question still is "What did Werner Heisenberg know and when did he know it? At Farm Hall, when he found out about Hiroshima, his ego deflated like an untied balloon. His comments were made at a vulnerable and candid moment. They reveal a knowledge one would expect from someone you picked at random at a shopping mall.
The Manhattan Project was at least as much engineering as science, and Heisenberg was more of a theologian than a nuts 'n bolts guy.
But hey, don't take my word for it. If you are really interested, I recommend this book along with "Heisenberg's War" so you get both sides. Then read "Alsos" by Samuel Goudschmidt, the scientific leader of the famous Alsos Mission, who along with Col. Boris T. Pash ("The Alsos Mission"), followed the allied armies into France and captured Heisenberg and the others. Goudschmidt was a physicist who offered the earliest (1947) and perhaps the most philosophical postmortem on the German A-bomb "program".
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition misses essential notes and comments August 27, 2009
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, the Kindle edition of this important and interesting book does not link correctly to the editor's notes and comments. These are absolutely essential -- this is a transcript, and the notes and comments clarify both historical and technical context. I finally had to get a printed copy of the book -- my Kindle edition was a waste of money!

Having read the printed copy, I give that edition very high marks. But don't buy the Kindle edition unless they fix the editorial notes and comments.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars useful historical doc...Heisenberg could not build a bomb
priced well and arrived promptly....I wish the government would give me 20 words to say what I think of Obamacare...I'm one of the 7. Read more
Published 2 months ago by 99th BG
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and knowledgeable account of German nuclear science durin...
Very absorbing account of the taped (bugged) conservations of German scientists held in detention in the U.K. at the end of the war. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Henry R. Feldman
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth waiting for.
Very interesting to read what the German scientists said and the slant taken on the moral high ground. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Anon.
3.0 out of 5 stars Farm Hall Transcripts
The Farm Hall Transcripts in English translation (some parts include the original German) with commentary. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Professor Joseph L. McCauley
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Reading
This book gives great insight into the psyche of the German physicists who worked on the German nuclear project. Read more
Published 17 months ago by L. Manchester
1.0 out of 5 stars DO NOT GET THE KINDLE EDITION
The one-star is only for the Kindle edition, as a warning.

The book itself appears to be excellent. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Sam Clemens
5.0 out of 5 stars Sociology of the scientific end of the "military industrial complex"
I am not surprised that parts of this remind me of working for Lockheed at the end of the Cold War: A theoretical physicist with narrow experience and interest, who knows how to... Read more
Published 23 months ago by David R. Ingham
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitler's Uranium Club
This book is about the history of the German effort to develop an atomic bomb. It shows how the Germans were on the wrong track and how their management was very poor. Read more
Published on September 2, 2011 by Vahe Keshishian
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work!
Excellent work - historically and personally. I can recommend this book to all readers interested in the topic of History of Science in the 20th century. Read more
Published on April 1, 2010 by Dietrich Hahn
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for insight into the early stages of the German nuclear program
Bernstein's approach to the transcripts of these recordings is interesting in that he provides running commentary on specific points alongside the transcript. Read more
Published on March 27, 2008 by Michael A. Grayson
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