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All About History - - EDITOR’S PICKS - Jack Par­sons Ed­i­tor

“I don’t be­lieve a word of the whole thing,” de­clared Werner Heisen­berg, the sci­en­tific head of Nazi Ger­many’s nu­clear pro­gram, after hear­ing the news that the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Au­gust 1945.

Ger­many had a sig­nif­i­cant lead over the Man­hat­tan Project, be­gin­ning its re­search in April 1939, with some of the best sci­en­tists, a strong in­dus­trial base, and suf­fi­cient ma­te­ri­als. The Al­lies were con­cerned enough about the

Nazi nu­clear threat that Churchill and Roo­sevelt agreed that it had to be stopped at any cost. Co­de­named Op­er­a­tion Pep­per­mint, scores of British lives were lost as un­der­cover agents led dar­ing raids on the heavy wa­ter plant at Ve­mork, in Ger­man-oc­cu­pied Nor­way. How­ever, as Heisen­berg’s dis­be­lief shows, the Nazis were ac­tu­ally far from devel­op­ing the bomb. From nukes to Tiger tanks to more fan­tas­ti­cal ray guns, even to­day we of­ten think of the Nazis as hav­ing had the tech­no­log­i­cal edge dur­ing World War II. How­ever, as you’ll dis­cover from page 30, the se­cret of Hitler’s so-called su­per weapons is that they were of­ten mo­ti­vated by pan­icked des­per­a­tion, grounded in mag­i­cal think­ing (of­ten of the most lit­eral kind), and held up by sys­temic dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion.

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