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Transcript of Surreptitiously Taped Conversations among German Nuclear Physicists at Farm Hall (August 6-7, 1945)

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WIRTZ: The result would have been that we would have obliterated LONDON but would still not have conquered the world, and then they would have dropped them on us.

WEIZSÄCKER: I don't think we ought to make excuses now because we did not succeed, but we must admit that we didn't want to succeed. If we had put the same energy into it as the Americans and had wanted it as they did, it is quite certain that we would not have succeeded as they would have smashed up the factories.

DIEBNER: Of course they were watching us all the time.

WEIZSÄCKER: 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.

[ . . . ]

HEISENBERG: Yes. (Pause) About a year ago, I heard from SEGNER (?) from the Foreign Office that the Americans had threatened to drop a uranium bomb on Dresden if we didn't surrender soon. At that time I was asked whether I thought it possible, and, with complete conviction, I replied: 'No'.

WIRTZ: I think it characteristic that the Germans made the discovery and didn't use it, whereas the Americans have used it. I must say I didn't think the Americans would dare to use it.

4. HAHN and LAUE discussed the situation together. HAHN described the news as a tremendous achievement without parallel in history and LAUE expressed the hope of speedy release from detention in the light of these new events.

5. When GERLACH left the room he went straight to his bedroom where he was heard to be sobbing. VON LAUE and HARTECK went up to see him and tried to comfort him. He appeared to consider himself in the position of a defeated General, the only alternative open to whom is to shoot himself. Fortunately he had no weapon and he was eventually sufficiently calmed by his colleagues. In the course of conversation with VON LAUE and HARTECK, he made the following remarks:–

GERLACH: When I took this thing over, I talked it over with HEISENBERG and HAHN, and I said to my wife: "The war is lost and the result will be that as soon as the enemy enters the country I shall be arrested and taken away". I only did it because, I said to myself, this is a German affair and we must see that German physics are preserved. I never for a moment thought of a bomb but I said to myself: "If HAHN has made this discovery, let us at least be the first to make use of it". When we get back to Germany we will have a dreadful time. We will be looked upon as the ones who have sabotaged everything. We won't remain alive long there. You can be certain that there are many people in Germany who say that it is our fault. Please leave me alone.

6. A little later, HAHN went up to comfort GERLACH when the following conversation ensued:–

HAHN: Are you upset because we did not make the uranium bomb? I thank God on my bended knees that we did not make a uranium bomb. Or are you depressed because the Americans could do it better than we could?


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