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The Manhattan Project and German citizenship for descendants of Jews

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Matthias Oppliger

I have been receiving services from this Law Firm for several years now and I want to say THANK YOU to the team, especially Joshua Pex. They are doing outstanding work. The services I have received for both our Israeli non profit association but also our social business have helped us solve many issues at hand and provided solutions in complicated situations. Personally, I am grateful for support in visa issues as a foreigner living now in Israel for many years.

The Manhattan Project is the name of a large-scale project that began in the United States in the midst of World War II. The goal of the project was to create a machine of mass destruction on a scale never seen before, and thus to create an international deterrent effect against fascist countries that wanted to take over the world (such as Germany, Japan and Italy). The project began thanks to Jewish scientists who fled Nazi Germany and areas under German control in Central Europe.

These scientists came to the United States after being fired from their jobs at the German universities, and there they found new jobs at prestigious American academies. The scientists, who all knew about the Germans’ plan to develop an atomic weapon they intended to use against their political enemies, hurried to write to the American president and warn him of the scenario that would happen if this plan were to come to fruition, and its fatal results.

In 1939, the physicists Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein wrote the famous “Einstein–Szilard letter” to the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt. In the letter, they said that it is possible to create a nuclear chain reaction with the help of a large mass of uranium, through which large amounts of stored energy and other radioactive elements would be released in an enormous explosion that would cause great destruction. This was the turning point in the story that brought the US president together with the top echelon to decide on the implementation of the American nuclear program.

The establishment of the unprecedented project employing almost 130 thousand workers, including many women, cost a fortune – a sum that translates to about 23.5 billion dollars today. In the course of the program, over about five years, the Americans managed to create weapons of mass destruction and thus get ahead of Nazi Germany, which had already begun the process of testing nuclear bombs on Soviet prisoners.

However, the German program was on a much smaller scale than the American one in terms of the complexity of the bombs, which were still relatively primitive compared to the American ones. In fact, they used what is known today as a “dirty bomb” — a conventional bomb to which radioactive materials are added together with nuclear waste to cause widespread radiation pollution.

In this article we wanted to relate the story about the help and intervention of the Jewish scientists, who were the definitive reason for the construction of the nuclear reactor that was established in New Mexico. These were a significant number of world-class physicists, who are known even today in the academic world for their contribution to the innovative enterprise, as well as for the discoveries that earned many of them Nobel prizes.

The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project – German citizenship for descendants of Jews

German science in the 30s of the last century was one of the most advanced and outstanding in Europe, in terms of the scope and size of its discoveries. In the period after the First World War, when there was general calm in Europe, especially in the western part of the continent, European countries were more concerned with technological development and allocated fewer resources to weapons of war.

At this time, the German dictatorship under Hitler’s leadership endeavored to take advantage of this military stagnation and, behind the scenes, began for the first time to bring together two different fields that European countries had never before combined: science and war.

After the discovery of nuclear fission in Germany in 1939 by senior local scientists, the theory of large-scale weapons production, previously unrecognized, began to gain traction. German science was considered the most advanced up until that time, partly due to other countries’ lack of information on the chain reaction caused by the chemical element uranium in a compressed plutonium core.

The necessary information about the importance of uranium in the process of nuclear fission, together with the assembly of simple explosives that lead to the powerful release of energy due to chemical chain reactions, was known to members of a limited circle of physicists in Germany and those who were close to them. Quite a few of them were Jews.

However, when the Jewish scientists were expelled from of the leading educational institutions in Germany and later even stripped of their citizenship, they felt the need to inform someone outside Germany of the extent of the inherent danger of an atomic bomb in the wrong hands.

The outbreak of World War II

While the German nuclear project was halted on September 1, 1939, with the start of World War II and the recruitment of senior physicists to the Wehrmacht (the German standing army), the Jewish scientists in the United States worked hard on the discovery, implementation and construction of the American nuclear reactor in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

In retrospect, it was very fortunate that the German authorities did not understand the magnitude of the matter and the importance of the production of the bomb, and therefore forced even the senior German scientists to enlist in the ranks of the army, which from that moment began fighting on several fronts from the north, south, east and west. This was due to the fact that, like in other totalitarian regimes, the military was given top priority.

The émigré scientists told President Roosevelt that there was a large deposit of uranium ores in the Belgian Congo, and advised him to import the chemical element from there. A special agency was appointed by the president for this large-scale and classified project, headed by Major General Leslie Groves. The conference called the “National Defense Research Conference on Uranium” appointed the Jewish-American physicist Robert Oppenheimer as head of the secret weapons laboratory project.

For five years, many of the scientists worked vigorously together with all those involved in the process (as mentioned, about 130 thousand people were employed by the American government under the project, but most of them did not know the real purpose of the project due to its secret classification), and in the summer of 1945 the first nuclear test was conducted in New Mexico, known as the “Trinity Experiment”. After the experiment, which left the operating team amazed at its success and shocked by the power of the bomb, the United States dropped two bombs on Japan several weeks later, the first on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the second on Nagasaki three days later.

The Manhattan Project

The immediate impacts created a vacuum in a radius of between 10-20 km from the center of the explosion. This means that whoever was within this range was vaporized, burned or blown away from the force of the explosion. The number of people who died in Hiroshima from the direct hit, together with those who died from their injuries in the first five years from the time the bomb was dropped, was about 126,000, and in Nagasaki about 80,000. This is aside from the long-term damage caused by radiation and burns, among other things.

At the end of the war, the interim president Harry Truman (who came to power after Roosevelt died of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage) announced in a letter – “We have won the race of discoveries against the Germans.”

Names of the scientists who were involved in the Manhattan Project

As mentioned, the American nuclear project could not have succeeded without the intervention and help of quite a few Jewish scientists, who warned against the malicious intentions of the Germans in the production of the bomb. The project was carried out in two other countries that were in alliance with the United States – Great Britain and Canada, which assisted in understanding the mixing of the required materials and their measured quantities in the nuclear research. However, the vast majority of the project was done in America, especially with regard to the practical aspect of the military mission – the construction of the facility and its maintenance.

A significant number of Jewish scientists contributed greatly to the development of the atomic bomb with the help of their professional understanding, skill and genius. Some of them became known as world geniuses in the scientific field, as well as key figures in understanding physical theories and complex scientific methods such as quantum theory, relativity, the structure of the atom, the development of the electronic computer, the discovery of the hydrogen bomb, algebraic topology, number theory and more. Here is the list of the Jewish scientists who helped in the project of the construction of the American nuclear reactor:

  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Eugene Paul Wigner
  3. Edward Teller
  4. Hans Bethe
  5. Niels Bohr
  6. John von Neumann
  7. Otto Frisch
  8. Victor Weisskopf
  9. Emilio Segre
  10. Otto Stern
  11. Leo Szilard
  12. George Placzek
  13. Rudolph Peierls
  14. Joseph Rotblat
  15. Hans von Halban
  16. James Frank
  17. Max Born
  18. Klaus Fuchs
  19. Stanislaw Ulam
  20. Lilli Hornig
  21. Dieter Gruen
  22. Theodore von Karman
  23. George de Hevesy

The Manhattan Project

German passport eligibility for Nazi regime persecution victims – German citizenship for descendants of Jews

As we have noted, at the beginning of the 30s, hundreds of thousands of Jews who lived in Germany left it due to the racist restrictions imposed on them. About 300,000 Jews managed to escape before the war broke out, but over 200,000 of those who remained suffered greatly or perished during the Holocaust.

Today, the descendants of all these former German citizens , whether they stayed in Germany during the war or left it before, are entitled to receive a German passport. The new laws apply to every Jew who left Germany starting from January 30, 1933 – when the Nazi Party came to power.

In order to be recognized as eligible, official documents of the persecution victim who left Germany must be presented. In general, anyone who left Germany starting from this date is defined by the law as persecuted – whether male or female. If the descendants do not have any document that indicates a German civil connection in the past, you can look for one in the German archives. In most cases, the archives contain the documents of former German citizens, which the Germans take care to keep for many hundreds of years.

These documents can be located with the professional help of a qualified genealogical researcher, such as the ones employed in our offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is also important to mention that even Jews who lived in Germany but did not have citizenship during the years in question are entitled to citizenship along with their descendants, i.e. children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on. Also, those who obtain citizenship are not required to give up current citizenship, pass German language tests or live in Germany.

Contact us about German citizenship for Jewish descendants

Arranging the process of obtaining German citizenship with the help of a lawyer specializing in immigration. Our offices have been providing comprehensive service for years to thousands of satisfied clients. We assist in obtaining foreign citizenships based on familial roots for nationalities such as Austrian, Portuguese, Romanian, Hungarian and of course German. For more information, contact us and we will be glad to clarify for you in an initial conversation whether you are eligible to receive a German passport or not.

For the full article on obtaining German citizenship, click here.

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