Copenhagen Fall Out

2005 ,    »  -   13 Comments
Ratings: 8.59/10 from 17 users.

Copenhagen Fall OutDuring World War II, there were mounting fears that Hitler was building an atomic bomb. Such a prospect depended on two of the world's top nuclear scientists: brilliant German physicist Werner Heisenberg, and his Danish mentor, Niels Bohr. In 1941, Heisenberg traveled 200 miles in secret to Copenhagen to meet Bohr.

The meeting put both men in immense risk, and had a cataclysmic effect on their relationship. This film was made with access to their personal correspondence and newly released documents kept secret for half a century.

Copenhagen Fall Out explores Heisenberg's visit to Denmark and what happened during the pivotal meeting that was to become a defining moment of the nuclear age.

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13 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Dale Gervais

    wicked good,I've always wondered what hitler was planning on delivering with his V1 doodlebug and v2 rockets.The V2 while doing some damage to london could'nt carry a sufficient amount of conventional explosives to bring about the so called "Victory"that it's name implied.Heisenberg should have received another nobel prize for putting an end to the Uranium project.Had he not stayed and risked his life the world could be a very different place

  2. Yavanna

    Indeed - a tiny bit of history that if it had been in any way different could have effected everything since. All because of a chance friendship.

  3. marcus medler

    I understand Bohr's problem as one of great resentment and need for moral rationalization. He not Heisenberg had blood on his hands, not Jewish, not European but Asian. His friend had participated it.

    He could justify his late involvement with bomb making with the comfortable understanding that a rigorous German program was at work. Then he finds out that it had been canned! Deep within he must of felt the agitation and asked; "how do I now deal with this personal moral question". My failure?

    He under no duress had joined the American/English effort. For the most part, American scientist have avoided the moral question of personal involvement by passing the buck. It is up to someone else to decide(aiding and abetting) we are just scientists- the exact attitude Heisenberg was struggling with.(even if not understood in 42 by the fifties it was clear)

    Bohr on the other hand, had jumped at the chance to make a bomb. His life was not even at risk. For his own moral sanity, he must interpret the visit as sinister.

    I would love a documentary about the scientists(if any) in the "free" world that said NO, I will not aid and abet.

  4. listener

    One can only conclude from this documentary that Heisenberg's version of the meeting is the true account. Heisenberg would have come for making a deal with Neils Bohr. ( with or without Nazi patronage). But Bohr rejected the deal by not seeming to understand Heisenberg's proposal.
    Three aspects for this conclusion,
    1. Heisenberg's claim
    2. Bohr's refusal to discuss it with Heisenberg after which is completely puzzling. If Heisenberg was only trying to discuss his moral dilemma, there is more reason to patch up after the war as Heisenberg is clearly expressing his feelings about his actions. This completely fits Bohr rejecting the deal and going on to help Allied Atom Bomb. Finally Allies use it causing unprecedeted destruction. Bohr might have been ashamed for not accepting the deal.

    3. Why in the world would a German scientist meet with a Jewish scientist in a country occupied by Germany. It must have been business. Otherwise there is no reason for the Germans to allow it.

    Even if Bohr had accepted the deal, there is no way in the world it would make the whole Allied side to follow him.

  5. marcus medler

    Important to note, neither Bohr or Heisenberg were Jewish scientists. I am still disturbed by Bohr's voluntary and unneeded presence at Los Alamos. Many of today's bio science leading lights are faced with moral dilemma's as well.

  6. Ben

    @ marcus medler

    I disagree. You seem to be implying that the Heisenberg's second account, the one in the book published after the event, is the one that is true.

    It appears to me that Heisenberg only went along with the book's account of the copenhagen meeting because it portrayed him as a hero.

    I agree that the Nazis would not have allowed a visit to a Danish scientist without a purpose, but i think that Heisenberg had no intention of carrying out any orders the Nazi's would have given him during that meeting, given his distaste with the Nazi views. The doc mentioned he talked in code, incase any Nazis were listening in.

    The Bohr letters also reveal that the first account Heisenberg gave, and the second account, as told by the book written about them, are dramatically different. Heisenberg would have no reason to lie about the first account, as the war was over, and he was in no danger of retribution. He would, however, have an incentive to lie when he read the false account given by the book. By professing the second account he would be accepted back in to the scientific community.

    I don't believe Heisenberg came to copenhagen to make a deal with Bohr, even if that is what the Nazi's would have wanted. I believe that he did in fact come to copenhagen to ask Bohr what his opinion on the moral dilemma was. Bohr was his best friend and teacher, and Heisenberg would have felt better knowing what he thought of the work. When Bohr took the question wrong, he then explained why he came to him in the first place. Because his plan backfired and Bohr would not talk to him, he then changed his story for the book, in order to win the favor of the scientific community.

  7. Ben

    my previous post is actually directed to the user "Listener"

  8. gero2006

    Shocking documentary. Brings focus to bear on the moral dilemma which faces all scientists: should they facilitate development of new technologies when there is a reasonable suspicion that the technology will bring harm?

    Personally, I think Hippocrates' 'first do no harm' rule applies to science as well as medicine. Following this principle, I think Heisenberg should have left Germany when Hitler became Chancellor. I am not convinced by the excuses he gives to explain why he stayed. By staying he not only aligned himself with the Nazis but gave the regime access to his skills which, of course, they attempted to turn to evil. Heisenberg demonstrates how a scientist should not behave.

    I hope every under-grad on a science or engineering degree programme watches this documentary and really thinks about the ethical responsibilities of science and engineering. Put yourself in the shoes of any of the people involved: Bohr or Heisenberg, their wives, or friends, or colleagues. What would you have done?

    When I was young I felt deep contempt for scientists like Einstein (I used to refer to him as the 'moral imbecile') who worked on the bomb. But as you get older you get less quick to condemn and I thank God I have not been tested as much as that war-time generation were. I certainly think Heisenberg behaved unethically but would I have been any better? But for the grace of God...

  9. Philosophocles

    "I certainly think Heisenberg behaved unethically but would I have been any better? But for the grace of God…"

    Well said gero2006

    One cannot fathom the thoughts of those who involve themselves with war. Best to leave those thoughts in the history books and judge and hold accountable our leaders today. Lest we face another Earth shattering war, or worse, a natural disaster of catastrophic proportions. Neither of which our leaders have prepared the true VIPs (civilians) for.

  10. ddd

    They sound kinda gay to me.

  11. unlikely42 sexy and shaggable gay...consider youself gelded :)

  12. Jacob Sweden Tumelo Lunden-Wel

    Knowing and knowledge is a hard concept to understand because there is always some evidence that goes against our knowledge or different viewpoints. As a historian there are little things that are known since history studies sources, which could be distorted or falsified. In the Copenhagen fallout there are clearly two different perspectives, the perspective of the jewish Niels Bohr and (the nazi?/nazi working) Heisenberg. Niels Bohr didn’t know the exact reasons why Heisenberg worked for the Nazis and, therefore, creating a sort of false hatred towards Heisenberg. However, Heisenberg didn’t know how Niels Bohr would take hearing his old friend and colleague talk pro-Nazi ideals during the Copenhagen visit. If they would have known the true reasoning behind their actions, they would have probably been close friends or at least bury the things that were said during the Copenhagen visit

  13. saba

    Why not present Bohr's views post Hiroshima explosion? Heisenberg did not go through with the project. Bohr did. In fact, he seems to have volunteered. Why wasn't Bohr's participation in Los Alamos mentioned after the nuclear explosion? He knew exactly what the objective was. This shows contradiction to his expressed sentiments in Copenhagen. I feel that his guilt and hypocrisy are masquerading as anger in the unsent letter.

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