Physics in Perspective

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 3–51 | Cite as

The Politics of Memory: Otto Hahn and the Third Reich

  • Ruth Lewin SimeEmail author
Original Paper


As President of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and its successor, the Max Planck Society, from 1946 until 1960, Otto Hahn (1879–1968) sought to portray science under the Third Reich as a purely intellectual endeavor untainted by National Socialism. I outline Hahn’s activities from 1933 into the postwar years, focusing on the contrast between his personal stance during the National Socialist period, when he distinguished himself as an upright non-Nazi, and his postwar attitude, which was characterized by suppression and denial of Germany’s recent past. Particular examples include Hahn’s efforts to help Jewish friends; his testimony for colleagues involved in denazification and on trial in Nuremberg; his postwar relationships with émigré colleagues, including Lise Meitner; and his misrepresentation of his wartime work in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry.


Otto Hahn Lise Meitner Fritz Haber Max von Laue Max Planck Ernst Telschow Fritz Paneth Richard Willstätter Philipp Hoernes Wilhelm Traube Maria Rausch von Traubenberg Otto Meyerhof Friedrich Hermann Rein Stefanie Horovitz nuclear fission Nobel Prizes Heinrich Hörlein Ernst von Weizsäcker Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry Kaiser Wilhelm Society German fission project Werner Heisenberg Gottfried von Droste Max Planck Society 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SacramentoUSA

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