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Heisenberg in Poland
1.Elisabeth Heisenberg, Inner Exile (Birkhäuser, Boston, 1984).
2.Reference 1, p. 96.
3.This visit has been discussed in various degrees of completeness by David Cassidy, Uncertainty (Freeman, New York, 1992); Thomas Powers, Heisenberg’s War (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1993) and Mark Walker, Nazi Science (Plenum, New York, 1995) and German National Socialism and the Quest for Nuclear Power, 1939–1949 (Cambridge, U.P., Cambridge, 1989). I am very grateful to these authors for many helpful communications.
4.David Cassidy has studied the records of the Max-Gymnasium. He informs me that in the years 1911 to 1914 Erwin Heisenberg and Hans Frank were in the same class but different sections. However in 1914 there was only one section in which Frank and Erwin Heisenberg were both enrolled.
5.I am grateful to Helmut Rechenberg of the Heisenberg Archive in Munich for pointing this out and also for supplying an account of the correspondence that did lead to Heisenberg’s visit.
6.A scathing portrait of his mother and father is given by Niklas Frank in his book In the Shadow of the Reich, with Arthur S. Wensinger, Carol Clew Hoey (translator), Jonathan B. Segal (editor) (Knopf, New York, 1991). Frank who collaborated in a play about this material was born in 1939, but his memory of both the wartime and the immediate post-war experiences is very vivid. There is as yet no biography of Frank. The following websites with their links may be useful. http://www.dhm.de/lemo/htm/biografen/FrankHans/ and http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Frank
7.This quotation and the one that follows can be found in a fascinating essay called “The University of Cracow Library under Nazi Occupation: 1939–1945” by Mark Sroka, Libraries and Culture, Vol. 34, Winter 1999. Sroka is primarily concerned with the fate of the Polish libraries but he also discusses the general cultural life.
8.For information on this event, and many other aspects of this history, I am greatly indebted to Kryzstof Fialkowski, who is a theoretical physicist on the faculty of Jegellonian University in Cracow. He discussed Heisenberg’s visit with colleagues who have recollections and he also searched newspaper archives and other historical sources.
9.For a discussion of this see, for example, Michael Burleigh, Germany Turns Eastward (Cambridge U.P., Cambridge, 1988), pp. 253, 254. When a letter was circulated in Germany protesting the only physicist to sign it was Max von Laue.
10.I know a Polish physicist, Jacques Prentki, who received his education this way. Prenkti was himself arrested in a random operation in Warsaw but managed to escape the box car in which he had been placed in which he was being shipped to an extermination camp. He is not Jewish. Professor Fialkowski informs me that on the day of Sonderaktion his mother, who was a law student, was in the library across the street. She was with a friend who went to see what was happening and did not return for six months. He was later killed in the 1944 Warsaw uprising.
11.There is some disagreement about the number of volumes. At Nuremberg Frank said forty three, but only thirty eight were actually found. The National Archives and Records Administration has these on microfilm. Part of the copy I studied was very dark and not easy to read.
12.This quote can be found on the website http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/resource/document/DocFrank.htm. It is translated from the German and I have quoted this translation.
13.This recently came to light in a letter that Heisenberg wrote to his wife from Copenhagen. The letter in English and German can be found at http://werner-heisenberg.unh.edu
14.The letter is quoted in Ref. 3 (Powers, p. 121).
15.Reference 1, p. 49.
16.Rechenberg believes that it was the physicist Karl Wirtz and that the report was in 1942. Wirtz was one of the ten German scientists detained at Farm Hall near Cambridge. These conversations were recorded—see J. Bernstein, Hitler’s Uranium Club (Copernicus, New York, 2001). In one of them Wirtz says, “We have done things which are unique in the world. We went to Poland and not only murdered Jews, but for instance, the SS drove up to a girls’ school, fetched out the top class, and shot them simply because the girls were high school girls, and the intelligentia were to be wiped out.” p. 98. This does not appear to be the incident described by Elisabeth Heisenberg. There is no reason to assume that these girls were Jewish.
17.Mark Walker’s book Nazi Science (see Ref. 3) has been very helpful to me with these details.
18.For a full discussion of this see Ref. 9 (Burleigh).
19.I am grateful to Mark Walker for a file of these letters and to Helmut Rechenberg for permission to quote from them.
20.The quotation was supplied by Rechenberg.
21.For an account of this plunder see Jonathan Potropoulos, Art as Politics in the Third Reich (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1996), Lynn H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europa (Vintage, New York, 1995).
22.Reference 6, p. 309.
23.By Professor Fialkowski who asked those of his colleagues who knew physicists who were in Cracow at the time. There were a few who had actually been there and had tried to attend the lecture.
24.I am very grateful to Professor Fialkowski for finding this article in the library. The reference is Krakauer Zeitung, 1943,nr,302, December 18. He also sent me the German original from which this is a translation.
25.Niels Bohr Library, AIP,M140, 31526–31567. In the translation above I have left out the allusions to nuclear weapons. My problem with them is, considering the unbelievability of the rest of the letter, what are we to believe about this. Hier in München war ich auf der Schule zusammen mit einigen Leuten, die später grosse Nazis wurden, darunter der Herr Generalgoverneur von Polen—Frank. Der Frank war in der Schulklasse meines Bruders und daher kannten wir uns natürlich und duzten uns. Ich habe ihn völlig aus den Augen verloren und dachte, gut, dass ich nichts mit ihm zu tun habe. Dann schrieb er mir so im September 43 etwa, wenn ich mich recht erinnere, ich sollte doch mal nach Krakau kommen, um dort einen wissenschaftlichen Vortrag zu halten. Ich fand, es ist doch blöd, was habe ich da in Krakau zu suchen, der Frank geht mir sowieso nichts an. Aber er hatte nun so freundschaftlich geschrieben: mein lieber Freund! Kannst Du nicht …, so dass ich ihm dann schrieb: Lieber Frank! Ja, ich habe hier mit so vielen anderen Dingen zu tun, leider ist es mir unmöglich zu kommen. Dann aber schickte er mir noch einmal einen Brief und machte es so dringlich, und schon mit Wendungen, die nicht so ganz angenehm klangen, und da dachte ich, na ja, also verfeinden will ich mich nun auch nicht. Gut, ich halte den Vortrag in Krakau. Da bin ich also im Dezember 1943, wenn ich mich recht erinnere, nach Krakau gefahren, erstens war ich dann bei ihm Gast auf seiner Burg, dann habe ich einen Vortrag gehalten über ein ganz belangloses Thema, also, Quantentheorie oder so etwas. Dann hat er mich hinterher auf die Seite genommen und ausgefragt. Er hat gefragt: Wie est das eigentlich, man hört immer, dass es so eine Wunderwaffe gibt, vielleicht Atombomben oder so etwas. Da habe ich ihm ganz klar gesagt, dass es das alles nicht gibt auf deutscher Seite. Aber immerhin aus dieser Frage von dem Hans Frank schloss ich, dass doch in den höchsten Parteikreisen davon gemunkelt wurde. In the last part of letter Heisenberg says Frank questioned him about nuclear weapons. This is briefly discussed in The German Atomic Bomb, by David Irving (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1967), p. 240. Irving claims that Heisenberg told Frank that while the Germans could not make a bomb in wartime, the Americans might. This is not supported in the transcripts of the interview, nor am I aware that this was Heisenberg’s view.
26.In his testimony at Nuremberg, Frank stated that he did not arrive in Cracow until a few days after the Sonderaktion. He then, he tells us, devoted himself to getting the imprisoned faculty released. However, it was pointed out to him that in his journal he said that these professors should be returned to Poland either for liquidation or imprisonment. To this he responded that he had written that “to hoodwink my enemies.” Frank also claimed that he encouraged higher education in Poland under the occupation, something which certainly would come as a surprise to the people who lived under it. This testimony can be found on the site http://www.law.umke.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/nuremberg/franktest.html. In his diary Frank records his comment on the Sonderaktion. “We cannot burden the Reich concentration camps with our affairs. The trouble we had with the Cracow professors was awful. Had we dealt with the matter here it would have taken a different course. I should therefore like to request you urgently not to deport any more people to the concentration camps in the Reich, but to carry out the liquidation here or to impose a regular sentence. Anything else is a burden of the Reich and continually leads to difficulties. Here we have an entirely different form of treatment and this form must be maintained.” Hans Frank’s Diary, edited by Stanislaw Piotrowski (Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warsaw, Poland, 1961), p. 61.
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