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

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HEISENBERG: Perhaps they have done nothing more than produce 235 and make a bomb with it. Then there must be any number of scientific matters which it would be interesting to work on.

HAHN: Yes, but they must prevent the Russians from doing it.

HEISENBERG: I would like to know what STALIN is thinking this evening. Of course they have got good men like LANDAU, and these people can do it too. There is not much to it if you know the fission. The whole thing is the method of separating isotopes.

HAHN: No, in that respect the Americans and in fact all the Anglo–Saxons are vastly superior to them. I have a feeling that the Japanese war will end in the next few days and then we will probably be sent home fairly soon and everything will be much easier than it was before. Who knows that it may not be a blessing after all?

8. The guests decided among themselves that they must not outwardly show their concern. In consequence they insisted on playing cards as usual till after midnight. VON WEIZSÄCKER, WIRTZ, HARTECK, and BAGGE remained behind after the others had gone to bed. The following conversation took place:

BAGGE: We must take off our hats to these people for having the courage to risk so many millions.

HARTECK: We might have succeeded if the highest authorities had said 'We are prepared to sacrifice everything'.

WEIZSÄCKER: In our case even the scientists said it couldn't be done.

BAGGE: That's not true. You were there yourself at that conference in Berlin. I think it was on 8 September that everyone was asked – GEIGER, BOTHE and you, HARTECK, were there too– and everyone said that it must be done at once. Someone said 'Of course it is an open question whether one ought to do a thing like that.' Thereupon BOTHE got up and said 'Gentlemen, it must be done.' Then GEIGER got up and said 'If there is the slightest chance that it is possible – it must be done.' That was on 8 September '39.

WEIZSÄCKER: I don't know how you can say that. 50% of the people were against it.

HARTECK: All the scientists who understood nothing about it, all spoke against it, and of those who did understand it, one third spoke against it. As 90% of them didn't understand it, 90% spoke against it. We knew that it could be done in principal, but on the other hand we realized that it was a frightfully dangerous thing.

BAGGE: If the Germans had spent 10 milliard marks on it and it had not succeeded, all physicists would have had their heads cut off.

WIRTZ: The point is that in Germany very few people believed in it. And even those who were convinced it could be done did not all work on it.

[ . . . ]

WIRTZ: KORSHING is really right when he said there wasn't very good co–operation in the uranium group as GERLACH said. GERLACH actually worked against us. He and DIEBNER worked against us the whole time. In the end they even tried to take the engine away from us. If a German Court were to investigate the whole question of why it did not succeed in Germany it would be a very, very dangerous business. If we had started properly in 1939 and gone all out everything would have been alright.

HARTECK: Then we would have been killed by the British 'Secret Service'.

WIRTZ: I am glad that it wasn't like that otherwise we would all be dead.

[ . . . ]

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