Poor Werner Heisenberg; once the poster boy for modern physics, his reputation has taken a beating in recent years. Rose's book is only the latest, and the least, in this trend. At the heart of the Heisenberg controversy is why he stayed to "build" the A-Bomb for Hitler. Why did he visit Bohr in Copenhagen? What was he after? It would seem that, barring any heretofore undiscovered revelations, these questions will go unanswered. Thus, all we have left is speculation, uncertainty.
While most writers give Heisenberg the benefit of the doubt on his character (After all, he was not anti-Semitic, nor was he a member of the Nazi Party.), Rose sees him as a continuation of the German revolutionary spirit that dates back to Luther, and thus condemns Heisenberg as guilty, especially as Heisenberg was a German patriot, and it is extremely difficult for Rose (as with most people) to distinguish a patriot from a Nazi.
However, If Rose were a prosecutor, a jury would need only ten minutes to acquit Heisenberg on all counts. Rose simply fails to make his case. The alleged anti-Semitic remark by Heisenberg is second-hand via Max Born back in 1945. Hardly the testimony that can convict. It also comes late in the book, after we have been subjected to much screed about a German radical anti-Semetic tradition that Heisenberg wanted no part of at any time. Otherwise he would have been a good Party member, as were others in his scientific circle. Also, as the excellent earlier review asserts, this trend would have been long noticeable at Gottingen, the center of German physics and natural science. No, Rose simply has no case and spends over 300 pages making a hysterical justification for something that simply never was.
However, this does not mean I am leaning toward the portrait of Heisenberg given in Thomas Powers's book. Powers makes Heisenberg out to be a sort of James Bond character, brilliantly defying the Nazis to prevent the mad Hitler from obtaining the ultimate weapon. Nonsense. The simple truth about Heisenberg was that he was both naive and a coward. Any chance of him openly defying the Nazis was laid to rest with the attacks on his "Jewish physics" in the SS newspaper. It is interesting that he had to have his mother intervene with Himmler's mother to clear his name. It tells us much about the character of Heisenberg.
Also consider Heisenberg's theory that Hitler would lose the war and then evertything would come out all right. Heisenberg felt the scientist was above mere politics, and politics were only an unwanted intrusion into science. As the Second World War bore out, he was not the only one to have that view. Heisenberg's visit to Bohr may have been to ask for advice on how to proceed in building a bomb. It seems Heisenberg wanted some sort of absolution for remaining in Germany, and if he confessed to Bohr, that would have assauged his guilt. But because Bohr refused to speak with him in private, Heisenberg did the next best thing: he took the money for nuclear research and farted it away on baseless research. The Allies were surprised at how little the Germans accomplished in their program. But the real question is how much did the OSS know? Powers has Moe Berg walking next to Heisenberg in Switzerland with a revolver in his pocket, ready to blow Heisenberg's brains out. Yet, he doesn't pull the trigger. Could it have been that Berg discovered how little progress Heisenberg had made? If that were to be leaked out, especially to those at Los Alamos, would our scientists, many of whom were Jewish German emigres, hace continued work on America's A-Bomb?
It is most interesting that Rose never touches on this point in his screed, for it would undermine his argument. Instead he focuses on Heisenberg's lack of technical expertise in understanding how the bomb could be built. Heisenberg did indeed lack those engineering skills, but so did his counterpart in America, Robert Oppenheimer. But Oppenheimer compensated with a tremendous will to build the unthinkable, while Heisenberg was content not to ask to further funds or to even speculate that a bomb could be built. The transcripts at Farm Hall pretty much seem to bear this out, and in the process, destroy Rose's case.
Heisenberg did not build the bomb, and he was crucified for it. One only pauses to think how history would have treated him if he actually did build a bomb.