cover image Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb

Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb

Thomas Powers. Alfred A. Knopf, $27.5 (607pp) ISBN 978-0-394-51411-6

In this important study, Powers addresses one of the lingering mysteries of WW II: why Germany, with its able scientists, material resources and the support of high military officials, failed to build an atom bomb. Throughout the war Allied authorities, fearing that the Germans would ``get there first,'' took steps to thwart their apparent efforts toward that end: the commando raid that destroyed the heavy-water plant in Norway, for instance, and the scheme to assassinate preeminent physicist Werner Heisenberg. Powers also describes how the Allies learned that the Germans never even came close to producing the Bomb, and he examines the popular theory that German scientists concocted a postwar story of moral compunction to excuse their failure. Sifting through the evidence, Powers concludes that Heisenberg did not exercise passive resistance but actually ``killed'' the Bomb program by convincing the authorities that it was unfeasible. But the question remains: why did Heisenberg not take credit for his heroic action? Powers is author of The Man Who Kept the Secrets. Photos. BOMC, History Book Club and QPB alternates. (Mar.)