The United States needed 125,000 people, including six future Nobel Prize winners, to develop the atomic bombs that exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
The uranium enrichment facility alone, including its security zone, was the size of the western German city of Frankfurt. Dubbed the Manhattan project, the quest ultimately cost the equivalent of about $30 billion.
In his new book, “Hitler’s Bomb,” Berlin historian Rainer Karlsch claims Nazi Germany almost achieved similar results with only a handful of physicists and a fraction of the budget.
The author writes that German physicists and members of the military conducted three nuclear weapons tests shortly before the end of World War II, one on the German island of Ruegen in the fall of 1944 and two in the eastern German state of Thuringia in March 1945. The tests, writes Karlsch, claimed up to 700 lives.
If these theories were accurate, history would have to be rewritten. Ever since the Allies occupied the Third Reich’s laboratories and interrogated Germany’s top physicists working with wunderkind physicist Werner Heisenberg and his colleague Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, it’s been considered certain that Hitler’s scientists were a long way from completing a nuclear weapon.
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