Hitler 'tested small atom bomb'
By Ray Furlong
BBC News, Berlin
Sceptics agree the book sheds new light on Nazi nuclear experiments
A German historian has claimed in a new book presented on Monday that Nazi scientists successfully tested a tactical nuclear weapon in the last months of World War II.
Rainer Karlsch said that new research in Soviet and also Western archives, along with measurements carried out at one of the test sites, provided evidence for the existence of the weapon.
"The important thing in my book is the finding that the Germans had an atomic reactor near Berlin which was running for a short while, perhaps some days or weeks," he told the BBC.
"The second important finding was the atomic tests carried out in Thuringia and on the Baltic Sea."
Mr Karlsch describes what the Germans had as a "hybrid tactical nuclear weapon" much smaller than those dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
He said the last test, carried out in Thuringia on 3 March 1945, destroyed an area of about 500 sq m - killing several hundred prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates.
The weapons were never used because they were not yet ready for mass production. There were also problems with delivery and detonation systems.
Karlsch has done us a service in showing that German research into uranium went further than we'd thought... but there was not a German atom bomb
Michael Schaaf, German physicist
"We haven't heard about this before because only small groups of scientists were involved, and a lot of the documents were classified after they were captured by the Allies," said Karlsch.
"I found documents in Russian and Western archives, as well as in private German ones."
One of these is a memo from a Russian spy, brought to the attention of Stalin just days after the last test. It cites "reliable sources" as reporting "two huge explosions" on the night of 3 March.
Karlsch also cites German eyewitnesses as reporting light so bright that for a second it was possible to read a newspaper, accompanied by a sudden blast of wind.
The eyewitnesses, who were interviewed on the subject by the East German authorities in the early 1960s, also said they suffered nose-bleeds, headaches, and nausea for days afterwards.
Karlsch also pointed to measurements carried out recently at the test site that found radioactive isotopes.
His book has provoked huge interest in Germany, but also scepticism.
The bomb was much smaller than the weapon dropped on Hiroshima
It has been common knowledge for decades that the Nazis carried out atomic experiments, but it has been widely believed they were far from developing an atomic bomb.
"The eyewitnesses he puts forward are either unreliable or they are not reporting first-hand information; allegedly key documents can be interpreted in various ways," said the influential news weekly Der Spiegel.
"Karlsch displays a catastrophic lack of understanding of physics," wrote physicist Michael Schaaf, author of a previous book about Nazi atomic experiments, in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
"Karlsch has done us a service in showing that German research into uranium went further than we'd thought up till now. But there was not a German atom bomb," he added.
It has also been pointed out that the United States employed thousands of scientists and invested billions of dollars in the Manhattan Project, while Germany's "dirty bomb" was allegedly the work of a few dozen top scientists who wanted to change the course of the war.
Karlsch himself acknowledged that he lacked absolute proof for his claims, and said he hoped his book would provoke further research.
But in a press statement for the book launch, he is defiant.
"It's clear there was no master plan for developing atom bombs. But it's also clear the Germans were the first to make atomic energy useable, and that at the end of this development was a successful test of a tactical nuclear weapon."
A dirty bomb is technically not an atomic bom.
Fission has to occur for it to be a true atomic weapon.
That's the crux of the matter… Interesting though!
Why is your sig ANdy? Why not Andy? or ANDY?
I am more curious to what type of isotopes were found, fission will produce many and they are pretty well known too. The isotopes found will determine if they had produced a fission weapon or just lumped some radioactive material together.
Yeah, whatever Fritz.
If the Nazis were so smart, how come they all got killed or ran away?
Hey, don't look at us!
Harrumpf! U-530 and U-977 surrendered to Argentina on 10 July 1945 and 17 August 1945 respectively.
On an interesting aside to this issue…
U-234 surrendered at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on May 16, 1945. U-234 departed from Norway on April 16, 1945. While at sea in the North Atlantic, U-234 learned of the surrender of Nazi Germany. Two Japanese Officers aboard committed suicide.
The cargo of U234:
one ton of diplomatic and personal mail
technical drawings and blueprints for advanced combat weaponry
advanced bombsights and fire-control systems
an Me 262 jet fighter
additional jet engines
560 kilograms of uranium oxide
Additionally the U-234 carried the following top Nazi experts.
Luftwaffe General Ulrich Kessler, on his way to become German air attache in Tokyo
Luftwaffe Lieutenant Colonel Fritz von Sandrart and Lieutenant Erich Menzel, experts in air communications, airborne radar, and AA defenses
Four Kriegsmarine officers, including a naval aviation expert, an AA expert, a naval construction engineer, and a naval judge (whose job would be to finally stamp out the last vestiges of the Sorge spy ring)
August Brinewald and Franz Ruf, experts in the technology and construction of jet aircraft whose mission was to begin production of Me 262 jet fighters in Japan
Dr. Heinz Schlike, a specialist in radar and infrared technologies
The U-234 however, was destined for Japan. The uranium oxide cargo was intended for Japan's uranium enrichment project at Hungnam in northern Korea under the direction of Dr Nishina.
Almost nothing is known about the Japanese operation at Hungnam as it fell into Soviet hands at the end of WWII. There have been persistent rumours since the end of WWII that the Japanese conducted some sort of small ('fizzer'?) atomic weapon test in the sea of Hungnam on 12 August 1945.
Interesting, but doubtful, I think if this story had been true, it would have come out much sooner.
"Fritz?" I see the man holds a grudge.
There are many things about WWII that are still classified 60 years after the fact.
Still, if it did happen, the isotopes found will determine if its true or not. There are certain isotopes that can only be produced via fission.
Wow, that was a hellava catch....
It dosent suprise me, the NAZI's were way ahead of there time. Look at all the technology that came from Nazi Germany, even stuff that is still in use today.
Atomic Bomb (even if this article proves to be false, they still thought of it first, and discovered fission)
V1 Cruise missles
B2 type bomber (AKA the NewYork Bomber)
blowback type weapons
First Assualt rifle (STG44)
Interstate Road System (autobaun)
Standard Issue Modern Camo (Fallshim Jagers)
Shaped Charges (Panzerfaust)
Air to Air Missiles
Air to ground wire guided Cruise missles
The first Jet Fighter
Rocket Powered intercepter (to quickly intercept incomming allied bombing)
These are just the few that I can think off the top of my head.... i'm sure there were many many more.
It is rather amazing the technology they invented in such a shot period of time... It is also amazing that we caught up so quickly to destroy them..... Although it took us many many years to completely catch up (rocket program, jet programs, ect....)
They just couldn't match the American Industrial might.