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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Hitler Had Only One Left Bomb 

A book to be published next week in Germany reportedly alleges that Hitler's scientists developed and tested atomic devices before the end of World War II. At least we think that's what it alleges. When it comes to a-bomb lingo, we don't quite trust the author of the item below (from the Times of London), since he plainly has no idea what a dirty bomb is or how it works:
Hitler’s scientists tested a battlefield nuclear bomb and were close to deploying the so-called “wonder weapon” towards the end of the war, according to a book to be published in Germany this month.

Hundreds of prisoners of war were burned and killed in the tests in 1944 and 1945 which led Hitler to believe that he could win the race for the atomic bomb and tip the war in his favour.

Rainer Karlsch, a social historian, says that the Nazi bomb was never anywhere as strong as the US bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Postwar scholars have therefore tended to discount the likelihood of Hitler having, or being close to having, such a devastating weapon: there seemed to be no physical evidence.

But Dr Karlsch says in Hitler’s Bomb that Germany had built an atomic reactor in Gottow, a village outside Berlin that now amounts to no more than a few chunks of concrete. The Nazis were also, he says, harvesting sufficient nuclear material to build so-called “dirty bombs” whereby tons of conventional explosives are wrapped around a nuclear device. The effect of such bombs is to magnify several thousand times the force of a conventional explosion and Hitler, until close to the end of the war, seemed to be counting on these to drive back the Red Army.

Dr Karlsch’s arguments are based on East German, British, American and Russian archives. Soviet military intelligence infiltrated the SS unit supervising the nuclear tests. He also took soil samples from the test areas on the island of Rügen and the state of Thuringia and interviewed survivors who saw test explosions. “The evidence presented is very persuasive,” said Professor Mark Walker, of Union College in New York State, an authority on German nuclear research.
UPDATE: We love the smell of hype in the morning. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
However, Hitler's atomic weapon did not approach the devastating potential of the US bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said Professor Walker, a history professor at Union College in Schenectady, New York state.

He said the weapon secretly developed and tested by Nazi scientists was more comparable to a dirty bomb, nuclear material encased in explosives.
As we suspected: a dirty bomb, not an a-bomb. Yet the lede of the SMH article states that:
Adolf Hitler had the atom bomb first but it was too primitive and ungainly for aerial deployment, says a new book that indicates the race to split the atom was much closer than is believed.

Nazi scientists carried out tests of what would now be called a dirty nuclear device in the waning days of World War II . . . .
An atom bomb is a fission weapon. A dirty bomb is a radiological weapon. A dirty nuclear device is a redundancy. We still don't know which of the three Hitler supposedly had.

UPDATE II: A quote from Reuters quoting Karlsch's publisher quoting Karlsch:
According to the publisher, Karlsch says Nazi scientists tested “nuclear bombs” in 1944 and 1945 on the Baltic island of Ruegen and in central Germany under the supervision of the SS, but they were not ready to be deployed before the war ended.
So who knows? We're giving it a rest until next week. Thank you for your patience.

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