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The Military

Lost Nazi Uranium Found In a Dutch Scrapyard 205

colin_faber writes "Lewis Page of the Register is reporting that forensic nuclear scientists at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre traced the two pieces of metal found in a Dutch scrapyard — described as a cube and a plate — back to their exact origins and dates. Apparently both came from ores extracted at the 'Joachimsthal' mine in what is now the Czech Republic from the former Nazi nuclear-weapons programme of the 1940s." The article runs through the roadblocks that, unknown to the Allies, the Nazi regime erected against their possible success in any nuclear bomb development during the war.
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Lost Nazi Uranium Found In a Dutch Scrapyard

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  • by DrJimbo ( 594231 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:32AM (#31240710)
    ... to bring us this information. Context:

    Furthermore the Germans were hampered by having driven many top physicists out of the country with their anti-Semitic policies, and also by drafting other boffins into the army to fight as ordinary soldiers.

    • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:36AM (#31240726)

      Why can't we talk about 1940s Germany without bringing up the Jews?

      but you fuck one goat...

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:48AM (#31240810)

        The article is about Germany trying to build an atomic bomb during WWII. Jewish scientists who fled Germany around that time include Einstein (E=mc^2, the basis for atomic bombs), Teller (father of the hydrogen bomb), Bloch (worked with neutrons, worked on the Manhattan project), Wigner (told Roosevelt about Nazi bomb plans, worked on the Manhattan project), Szilard (same as Bloch, one of the people who first conceived the a-bomb) and Frisch (same as Szilard).

        Do you suppose some of those guys might have been kind of useful to a German atomic weapons program?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Vahokif ( 1292866 )
          Teller, Wigner and Szilárd were actually from Hungary, not Germany.
        • by drfreak ( 303147 )

          Yeah, but Einstein fucks one goat... and all credibility goes out the door []!

        • by Xest ( 935314 )

          Yep, even those who weren't Jews such as Godel ended up in the US because he was shunned for having been associated with them. As you say, it's kind of hard not to bring the Jews into it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mosb1000 ( 710161 )

          Einstein had nothing to do with the atomic bomb, other than supporting it politically. Not to say that he wasn't a brilliant physicist, but he really had nothing to do with it.

          • Have you never read the letter he wrote to Roosevelt that most credit as the document which convinced the president to start the Manhattan Project? There's copies of it all over the world; the one I read was at the WWII memorial museum at Juno Beach in northern France.

            You're right that Einstein didn't do any of the actual work of designing, testing, and building a nuclear bomb, but he did have significant political clout, and was instrumental to getting the Manhattan Project actually started.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by idontgno ( 624372 )

              Technically, Einstein didn't draft the letter. Leó Szilárd wrote the letter and convinced Einstein to sign it, mostly for credibility purposes.

              Wikipedia linky. []

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            Einstein didn't directly do any work on the atomic bomb, but he did urge that it be developed and a lot of his work lays the foundation for both the quantum mechanics necessary to make the thing work and the mass-energy equivalency that suggests an atomic bomb should be particularly powerful.

        • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @06:32AM (#31242518) Homepage

          Einstein did many things, and yes his formula was instrumental in predicting the power that a nuclear explosion would have (and yes - he miscalculated the first time, everyone did). However his contribution to the atomic bomb was limited to the suggestion that "matter should be convertible into energy". Not much more than that sentence. Of course, that sentence was the reason a lot of scientists re-examined the properties of known radioactive materials, leading to :

          The direct basis for atomic bombs, for a quick neutron-cascade reaction in enriched uranium, laid by these scientists :
          Otto Hahn (German, Nazi)
          Fritz Strassman (German, most likely also a Nazi)
          Lise Meitner, Jewish, who initially received a "special exception" from the Nazi regime for her work, and protection from a thoroughly Nazi university in Austria, but then was forced to flee anyway

          But this was only fission itself, and the suggestions that if somehow large amounts of U-235 were used with cadmium-enriched water between them that a "large amount" of energy would be released. This release of energy was not yet a bomb, it is what we call today a "meltdown". Dangerous, very hot, and poisonous, but nowhere near an atomic explosion. Niels Bohr calculated exactly how much energy a meltdown would produce : 200 million electron-volts PER split atom. The principle that guides bomb development was still missing 2 concepts : enrichment and the discovery of "critical mass".

          Incidentally, Otto Hahn was part of the nazi nuclear weapon development program (in fact he was the one that suggested the Nazi's start one). Enrichment was eventually mostly perfected by Otto Hahn, in parallel with the enrichment accomplishments in the Manhattan program.

          Critical mass, the actual direct cause for an explosion (nazi weaponization of nuclear power at that point was mostly focused on e.g. launching bombs with it, or producing oil with it, that sort of stuff), was discovered by Francis Perrin.

          Then, in 1939, all elements to produce a working atomic bomb were in place. Eventually, while Otto Hahn has in fact drawn up plans that would have worked before the Americans had a working plan, the Americans were the first to get a working atomic bomb in July 1945, a month after the fall of the third reich.

          • by selven ( 1556643 )

            Don't nuclear bombs just rely on nuclear potential energy, with every particle that comes in coming out so no matter actually gets physically converted into energy at all? If so, how does e=mc^2 figure into it?

          • You might be interested in reading the work of Oxford-trained researcher Jospeh P. Farrell, especially if you're not yet familiar with him.

            There's also plenty on YouTube and various radio stations, interview wise..

            He goes into the strangeness of the U.S. never testing the uranium bomb before actually dropping it on Japan, how a German submarine was capture (or given away as decoy while some head honchos escaped) wit on-board two Japanese people .. and infrared

            I cannot copy/paste from it unfortunately, but c

            • by JerkBoB ( 7130 )

              He goes into the strangeness of the U.S. never testing the uranium bomb before actually dropping it on Japan


              What was the Trinity Test [] then?

              • by JerkBoB ( 7130 )

                Hmm. The plutonium-based design was tested, but not the U-235 design. Should have read the entire entry. Fascinating, scary stuff.

        • by martyros ( 588782 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @07:18AM (#31242722)

          I think the quote from Heisenberg in the article is particularly interesting:

          "We definitely did not want to get into this bomb business," said Heisenberg. "I wouldn't like to idealize this; we did this also for our personal safety. We thought that the probability that this would lead to atomic bombs during the War was nearly zero. If we had done otherwise, and if many thousand people had been put to work on it and then if nothing had been developed, this could have had extremely disagreeable consequences for us."

          In other words, simple-minded tyrants think that the best way to motivate people is to say, "Make this happen or die." (And less powerful but just as simple-minded people in the workplace use "Make this happen or lose your job.") But one result is that no one is willing to suggest the idea of anything moderately risky, for fear that they'll be put to work on making that happen, and punished when it can't be done.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by pugugly ( 152978 )

            A notation appended to my Evil Overlord list now -

            "I will never say 'Make this happen or die.' I will say 'Whatcha Got?' "


        • by houghi ( 78078 )

          Probably, but then part of the rise in power came through the hatred. So if Hitled would not have disliked the Jews so much, he might not have been elected and there would have been no war and thus no need for an atomic bomb.
          OTOH it could have well been that I would now be speaking German if they would not have fled. (Hey, wait. I DO speak German as well as English, French, Dutch and some Spanish.)

        • That there's no such person as Edward Teller? It's always Edward Tellerfatherofthehydrogenbomb...


      • by VValdo ( 10446 )

        Why can't we talk about 1940s Germany without bringing up the Jews?

        I knew sooner or later someone would invoke Niwdog.


  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:34AM (#31240716)
    An irradiated lead refrigerator with the body of the legendary tomb raider Indiana Jones was also discovered.
  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:37AM (#31240736) Homepage
    There's been a lot of controversy over whether Heisenberg deliberately sabotaged the Nazi bomb-making or whether he tried to help but was incompetent or whether the failure was due to factors beyond Heisenberg. Although I have not read the book, I've been told that Paul Rose's book "Heisenberg and the Nazi Atomic Bomb Project" presents a strong case that Heisenberg tried his hardest to assist the Nazi regime in the building of the atom bomb.
    • There's been a lot of controversy over whether Heisenberg deliberately sabotaged the Nazi bomb-making or whether he tried to help but was incompetent

      I guess we'll never really know. Maybe it was both.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by iluvcapra ( 782887 )

        Everybody should read "Copenhagen" at some point, it's really the first and last word on this issue. There's very little in the historical record to guide us to the 'right' answer to the question of what Bohr or Heisenberg were trying to accomplsh, the best we can do is consider the different possibilities.

        Whatever happened, thank G-d Bohr didn't ask Heisenberg if he'd double checked his reaction cross-section radius...

        • by radtea ( 464814 )

          Everybody should read "Copenhagen" at some point, it's really the first and last word on this issue.

          It certainly isn't the first word: the Farm Hall debriefings would probably qualify as that. But as someone who knows a little bit about neutron diffusion calculations I do believe it is the last: Frayne has put together a very difficult argument to answer regarding Heisenberg's role in any NAZI A-bomb project. His portrayal of Heisenberg as a experimentally naive theorist also rings true.

          Read it if you must, but play is definitely worth seeing, although the first part of the second act limps a bit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 )

        There's been a lot of controversy over whether Heisenberg deliberately sabotaged the Nazi bomb-making or whether he tried to help but was incompetent

        I guess we'll never really know. Maybe it was both.

        Ohh! I've got a Hollywood retro-movie pitch! The Mouse that Roared meets The Pink Panther with a bit of Dr. Strangelove.... and some Schindler's List to "modern" it up a bit. Now if we can just find someone who can play Sellers playing Heisenberg...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The longer it takes for the joke to sink in, the funnier it is.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by radtea ( 464814 )

        I guess we'll never really know. Maybe it was both.

        We do really know. There is no plausible answer to Michael Frayn's argument in his play "Cophenhagen". Ergo, the matter is incontrovertibly settled: there is simply no way that Heisenberg could have got his initial estimate of the mass of a uranium bomb so badly wrong (several tonnes) at Farm Hall if he had been working on such a project for the NAZIs.

        This is one of those controversies that has been going on for so long that there's a little industry built up around it, but like buggy-whip makers the pro

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I guess we'll never really know. Maybe it was both.

          We do really know..

          That sound you just heard? Yep, you got it. Whoosh

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

          There is no plausible answer to Michael Frayn's argument in his play "Cophenhagen". Ergo, the matter is incontrovertibly settled: there is simply no way that Heisenberg could have got his initial estimate of the mass of a uranium bomb so badly wrong (several tonnes) at Farm Hall if he had been working on such a project for the NAZIs.

          You assume that research invariably produces an incontrovertible and utterly final answer - when nothing could be further from the truth.

          Take for example, from the Manha

    • Heisenberg himself claimed that he had worked against the project's success, but any such claims are suspect given his obvious motive to avoid ending up at Nuremberg.

  • Fun trivia (Score:5, Informative)

    by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:39AM (#31240750)
    Fun trivia: Joachimsthal mine is where we get the modern word "dollar." Silver extracted from this mine was minted to attest its purity and the coin thus produced was called a "thaler." TH is a relatively unusual consonant sound in many languages, and corrupts to D in romance languages like French, and here we are.
  • Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:50AM (#31240828)

    The issue of Heisenberg, and any theoretical physicist being treated like a pariah (and thus dooming Nazi Germany's atom bomb program) is very instructive. The Nazi's made a political and ideological decision, to wit:

    Quantum mechanics and general relativity is all about 'relativism' and 'ambiguity,' and is unworthy of Aryan science. It's emphasis on relative physical laws and indeterminacy are endemic of its moral turpitude and obvious Jewish origins.

    They would then cast about trying to find every white atheist physicist who had doubts about 20th century physics, and then give them huge grants, fat think tank jobs, and would promote their work to the moon and back. On the other hand they would work to suppress the contributions of people like Lise Meitner, who used the 'Jewish physics' to provide them with proof of the first lab fission reaction.

    I suppose there's some sort of argument pro or con of climate change in this... exercise for the reader.

    • Re:Politics (Score:5, Informative)

      by grouchomarxist ( 127479 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @01:19AM (#31240972)

      Atheist? Perhaps non-Jewish, but I've never heard of the Nazi's having an inclination to promote a person *because* they were atheist, as opposed to Protestant or Catholic.

      The Nazi's were at least superficially Christian and opposed atheism:'s_religious_views#Hitler.27s_reaction_to_atheism [] []

      Or perhaps you mistyped and mean Aryan.

      • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:26AM (#31243516)

        The Nazi's were at least superficially Christian and opposed atheism:'s_religious_views#Hitler.27s_reaction_to_atheism [] []

        The Nazis were more than just superficially Christian, most of them were very Christian, and had the overt support of the leadership of both the two main Christinan churches in Germany at the time (Catholic and Lutheren), for both the party in general and the policy of exterminating the Jews in particular.

        The reason so many people believe the Nazis were athiests is because of a couple of quotes taken out of context, and because the Catholic church has spared no expense (or Jesuit historian) rewriting history and glossing over their own involvement in both the policies and the atrocities. Indeed, they've even managed to gloss over the fact that Hitler was quite devoutly Catholic (and not particularly out of character in his behaviour--just look at how Columbus treated the natives of the West Indies, or Cortez the Mayans and Aztecs, or...the list goes on, ad nauseum, all with the blessing, both tacit and overt, of the Catholic Christian authorities).

        This actually becomes more obviuos when you look at the longer history of Catholic pogroms and inquisitions against the Jews that litter the history of Europe. The Nazi holocaust is merely the latest and most notorious. What a coup, to help organise and support such a massive Christian pogrom against a people, then send out your cadres of revisionist "historians" to recharacterise those responsible not as fellow Christians, but as Athiests...about the only group who wouldn't be inclined to support, much less lead, a pogrom against a population simply because their ancesters are rumourted to have cricified one of their deities two thousand years earlier.

        Indeed, as you note, the Nazis came after Athiests with much the same ferver as todays Teabaggers, Truthers, and other right-wing zealots. Some things never change.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kismet ( 13199 )
          Carrol Quigley disagrees with you. But then, you probably accuse him of being the Jesuit historian who "re-wrote" history.

          This is the usual way with "debunkers" who seek to tear down a mass movement in order to supplant it with another. Hitler desperately needed a Jewish devil, so he accused the Jews of rewriting their history. Actually, it was Hitler who invented a new history in which the Jew became a sub-human perpetrator of evil. In the same way, as you have demonstrated, the anti-Christian demands a Ch
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hey! ( 33014 )

        Well, I'd put it this way. The Nazis, intellectually speaking, weren't anything.

        Tyrannies of that type use ideology, but aren't about ideology. Trying to take their "ideologies" seriously as ideologies only leads to confusion, because they weren't interested in consistency, much less truth. They used language purely for its utility.

        Take their idea of "Jewish science". You can't take that notion seriously, because it's all a fantasy they cooked up to target people they were afraid of. So they just lump t

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      In fact, Einstein and his theories were outcast in the "German Physics" the nazi were building. Einstein was jewish and traitor in their eyes. The nazis really lacked science buffs in their government. They had some success in rewriting history, in creating a non-jewish litterature, they did not understand why it could not be possible to make a non-jewish physics. They did not understand that Einstein was not an author of his laws, but a mere discoverer.

      It is very interesting to look into the "Uranium Ve
    • by hitmark ( 640295 )

      ah, politics and ideology, making the world "interesting" throughout recorded history...

    • "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."

    • Re:Politics (Score:5, Informative)

      by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @07:42AM (#31242834) Journal

      Your post misses the mark: Nazis were not opposed to Christian scientists. They were against Jewish scientists. Against as in, first they marginalized them, made it difficult for them to work, then to find a job and finally (if the scientists and their family were stil residing in Germany or a Nazi-occupied country) deported to a concentration camp and gassed.

      Germany COULD have had a nuclear weapon before the allies, if only they didn't engage in their futile/counterproductive policy of extermination, genocde and racial discrimination against Jews. Scientists like Szilard (father of nuclear fission) would have stayed in Germany instead of moving to the USA where they then worked on the Manhattan project.

      And a note at the end: had the Nazis had a nuclear weapon, it would have changed the course of history. They didn't necessarily need more than one, either: just blow up one major USSR city (say, Moscow) and watch the Eastern front fold up and a truce being signed.

      • I'm not sure it was counterproductive. Their initial basis of power was picking an unpopular minority and demonizing it. Backing away from that stance would have required some pretty savvy political maneuvering.

        Assuming that they had created a functional nuclear weapon, said peace might have been signed if they'd managed to nuke Stalin, but remember that there were plenty more casualties due to conventional carpet bombing than there ever were from nukes and that did not cause a surrender from anyone.

  • by Tibor the Hun ( 143056 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:52AM (#31240842)

    I misread that as "Lost Nazi Uniforms Found in a Dutch Scrapyard" and failed to see why that would make news.

    • by Wuhao ( 471511 )

      I misread that as "Lost Nazi Uniforms Found in a Dutch Scrapyard" and failed to see why that would make news.

      Because careful analysis shows them to be genuine Nazi issue, and the bodies wearing them were killed by WW2-issue bullets, yet their state of decomposition shows that they died in the past 12 months.

      (quick jump to black, creepy sound effect)

  • 2080 (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @01:11AM (#31240930) Journal

    2080: "Toldja Iraq had WMD's"

  • I've got an idea for a new Dirk Pitt novel...

    • by Dexter Herbivore ( 1322345 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @02:06AM (#31241232) Journal
      There's no such thing as a *new* Dirk Pitt novel, they all have roughly the same plot.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by HalifaxRage ( 640242 )
        What, you mean the one about smugglers? I thought he stole that from ~275 Hardy Boys books.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by u38cg ( 607297 )
        Dirk Pitt here, stuck in a cave/submarine/aircraft/other contrived and dangerous situation at the start of my latest novel, and I'd just like to take a few moments (checks Doxa dive watch) to disagree with you, I never repeat plot elements. Once I get out of my current contrived situation, I'm going to hook up with Loren and do something that'll really surprise you. So there. Now where that little Italian guy?
  • FTA: Furthermore, they had taken good care not to big that aspect of the research up to their Nazi masters, for reasons of self-interest

    I doubt Heisenberg ever said that, even translated from the German. To big [...] up. Jesus wept, is that OK in journalism now? Not only 21st century lazy slang but a split infinitive as well.
  • Boffin (Score:5, Informative)

    by burningcpu ( 1234256 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @02:15AM (#31241282)
    In case any of you Americans were wondering what a Boffin is, it is a scientist. Here is a quote from wikipedia,

    "In the slang of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, boffins are scientists, medical doctors, engineers, and other people engaged in technical or scientific research.
    The word 'boffin' (or 'boff'—often as an insult[1]) can also be used to refer to any particularly clever person. The closest American equivalent is "egghead"." []
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I thought they were the ones who told the rebel alliance about the second Death star at endor....IT'S A TRAP.

      • No, those are Bothans.

        Boffins are one of the major families of hobbits, of course, who are included as part of Bilbo Baggins' ancestry.

    • Thanks! I was also wondering if the author could afford a thesaurus.
  • I thought we were all clear on that. []

  • but this story godwinned itself, so what's the point?

  • by Mendenhall ( 32321 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @09:07AM (#31243358)

    There is a truly excellent book, "Hitler's Uranium Club" which documents what the Germans themselves said about their efforts. It is edited by Jeremy Bernstein. It is a collection of transcriptions of conversations among the leading German scientists (Heisenberg, Laue, etc., not all of whom were actually doing nuclear physics), who were captured lat in the war and transferred to Farm Hall in England. They were recorded secretly, so what is said is very candid.

    Anyone interested in this history should definitely read the book. The conversations run the gamut from very technical, to various fights over social issues.


  • by careysub ( 976506 ) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @10:28AM (#31244140)

    The fact this can be traced to production batches at Joachimstal during the war is interesting for the following reason: it was a mine incapable of supporting a nuclear weapon program.

    Joachimstal (Jachymov today) is an ancient and famous mining district (others have noted here that Thaler == Dollar originated from its name) and due to radon gas in its mine is also the earliest recorded incidences of death from occupational radiation exposure - - - lung cancer was a common cause of death of underground miners from the 16th century onward. It was also a prominent source of material for the discovery of radiation and radioactive elements.

    But it could only produce a few tens of tons of uranium annually! Something like a 1000 tons of uranium was needed to support an effective nuclear weapons program.

    Germany had however a couple of thousand tons of already mined and processed ore from the Belgian Congo, captured at the outset of the war. This material was perfect for a nuclear weapons program - if it had one. This material was captured by the U.S. at the end of the war unused. A couple of thousand tons of ore from this same mine and shipped to the U.S. before the war in fact powered the Manhattan Project through most of its wartime operations.

    That Germany was still relying on old pre-war supply arrangements through Joamchimstal to obtain research uranium is very interesting. It is another manifestation of the failure to create a real weapons program.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin