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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: July 2009

14 - Nuclear Weapons and Reactor Research at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics



The story of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics (KWI für Physik, KWIP) begins with Albert Einstein. In 1914, Max Planck lured his young colleague to Berlin with an attractive package of positions and benefits that allowed Einstein to work without any teaching obligations. Two years later, Einstein published his work on general relativity and quickly became famous. In 1917, Einstein was given a “paper” Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI) including a salary, an office, and grant money he could dispense. Four years later, Einstein received the Nobel Prize. Max von Laue, also a Nobel laureate, became the second director of the institute and handled most of the administration. Einstein was one of the few German scientists who had real political significance in Germany because of his fame, outspoken internationalism during the First World War and Weimar Republic, public advocacy of Zionism, and public criticism of anti-Semitism. When the National Socialists came to power in Germany in 1933, Einstein was in the United States, where he stayed.

Max Planck, another Nobel laureate for physics who became president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft, KWS) in 1930, wanted very much to establish a “real” KWIP. He managed to do this with money from the American Rockefeller Foundation, despite the Foundation's misgivings about the policies of the National Socialist (NS) government. After all, this came after the purge of the German civil service in 1933 and passage of the infamous Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935.

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The Kaiser Wilhelm Society under National Socialism
  • Online ISBN: 9780511576355
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