Hitler had atom bomb first
4 March 2005, HAMBURG/WASHINGTON - Adolf Hitler had the atom bomb first but it was too primitive and ungainly for aerial deployment, according to a new book that indicates the race to split the atom was much closer than previously believed. Nazi scientists carried out tests of what would now be called a "dirty" nuclear device in the waning days of World War II, writes German historian Rainer Karlsch in the book, entitled "Hitler's Bomb", which hits booksellers across Germany later this month. Concentration
4 March 2005
HAMBURG/WASHINGTON - Adolf Hitler had the atom bomb first but it was too primitive and ungainly for aerial deployment, according to a new book that indicates the race to split the atom was much closer than previously believed.
Nazi scientists carried out tests of what would now be called a "dirty" nuclear device in the waning days of World War II, writes German historian Rainer Karlsch in the book, entitled "Hitler's Bomb", which hits booksellers across Germany later this month.
Concentration camp inmates were used as human guinea pigs and "several hundred" died horribly in the tests, which were conducted on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen and at an inland test in wooded hill country about 100 kilometres south of Berlin in 1944 and early 1945.
Karlsch, 47, author of a number of books on Cold War espionage and the nuclear arms race, supports his findings on what his publishers call hitherto unpublished documents, scientific reports and blueprints.
American historian Mark Walker, an internationally recognized expert on the Third Reich's atomic weapons programme, lent his support to Karlsch's claims Thursday.
"I consider the arguments very convincing," Walker told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa.
However, Hitler's atomic weapon did not approach the devastating potential of the U.S. bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said Walker, a history professor at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.
Walker said the weapon secretly developed and tested by Nazi scientists was more comparable to a "dirty bomb" - nuclear material encased in explosives.
Such a weapon, which causes little actual destruction but which disperses large amounts of deadly radiation, could only have been used on the front to draw back enemy troops, he added.
Walker is the author of the 1990 book "Nazi Science: Myth, Truth, and the German Atomic Bomb".
The US historian praised Karlsch for writing "a whole new chapter" on Hitler's search for the "wonder weapon".
In the final days of the war, Hitler insisted that his scientists were developing a "wonder weapon" that would allow him to wrest last- minute victory from the jaws of impending defeat.
Hitler's claims have been dismissed as the rantings of a desperate and deranged man. But Karlsch's book lends credence to the possibility that Hitler may have been closer to getting his hands on his coveted "wonder weapon" than anyone has previously believed.
Hitherto, it was known that German scientists had carried out heavy-water experiments in an attempt to split the atom, using research facilities in Norway and elsewhere.
But it was widely believed that Nazi scientists had been hampered by a lack of pure-grade uranium, which was almost non-existent outside North America and Africa.
It was also surmised that Hitler had favoured conventional weapons over nuclear arms because his limited grasp of strategic warfare prevented him from seeing the ramifications of nuclear capability. It was believed that Hitler had discouraged development of the atom bomb.
But Karlsch claims to have been able to find documented proof of the existence of a nuclear reactor and nuclear weapons testing sites.
His publishers, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (DVA), say his work is based on four years of painstaking research and interviews with independent historians.
Among the most compelling pieces of evidence is a 1941 patent draft for a plutonium bomb, according to DVA spokesman Markus Desaga.
"He also based his research on contemporary research reports, construction blueprints, aerial surveillance photos, notebooks of some of the scientists involved as well as espionage reports by U.S. and Soviet agents," Desaga said.
"He also based his findings on radiation measurements and soil analysis," the spokesman added.
Karlsch, born in 1957, is a trained economics historian with a degree from Berlin's Humboldt University, where he holds a chair in economic history. He is also a member of the Berlin Historical Commission and teaches at Berlin's Free University.
He has written numerous articles, essays and books, including "Uranian Secrets" in 2002 and "The Oil Factor" in 2003 about the history of German oil production.
Subject: German news