Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Jewish Refugee Scientists Lauded for Their Contribution to Atomic Discovery

August 8, 1945
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The active contribution made by Jewish scientists to the discovery of the Atomic Bomb, leading to the “atomic age,” is emphasized today in various circles here as proof of the benefit which the Allied countries derived from admitting Nazi-persecuted Jews. Many of the scientists responsible for the discovery and the development of the method to release atomic energy are Jewish refugees from Europe.

Leading the list is Dr. Lise Meitner, a Jewish woman physicist, who was born in Vienna in 1870 and who since 1922 was a lecturer in Berlin University. In 1933, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, she was dismissed from the University on racial grounds, but continued for some time her research for a method of releasing atomic energy at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. Just about the time when she completed her discovery, she was exiled from Germany as a Jewess. She took her secret along with her denying it to the Nazis.

Second on the list is Dr. Otto Robert Frish, also born in Vienna, who was dismissed as a Jew from the Hamburg University in 1933. After Dr. Meitner was compelled to leave Germany, she lost no time communicating the results of her research to Dr. Frisch who was at that time in Copenhagen, working as associate of Dr. Meitner repeated the experiments and established beyond any doubt that they had discovered the longsought method of releasing atomic energy.

Dr. Bohr, whose mother is Jewish, was at that time in the United States. On January 24, 1939, the Meitner-Frisch experiment was repeated at Columbia University in New York by Dr. Bohr and Prof. Enrico Fermi, an anti-Fascist refugee from Italy whose wife is Jewish. Three days later, Dr. Bohr and Prof. Fermi, both holders of the Nobel prize, dramatically announced the results of these experiments at a meeting of physicists at George Washington University in Washington.

Late in 1939 the possibility of using atomic energy for military purposes was brought to the attention of President Roosevelt. He appointed a committee to survey the problem. This resulted in the establishment later of a special laboratory in an isolated area in the vicinity of Santa Fe, N.M. This laboratory where the Atomic Bomb was “born” was planned, organised and directed by Dr. J. Robert Oppenhcimer of the University of California, a Jewish scientist, who was born in New York and graduated from Harvard in 1925. He later attended Cambridge and received his Ph. D. from the University of Goettingen in Germany in 1927.

“The development of the atomic bomb itself,” Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson said in an official statement last night, “has been largely due to Dr. Oppenheimer’s genius and the inspiration and the leadership he has given to his associates.” Dr. Oppenheimer is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Sciences.

Credit for helping in the development of the Atomic Bomb was given in a statement issued last night by former Prime Minister Churchill to Prof. Rudolf Peierls, a Jewish scientist from Germany who was forced to leave his native land after the Nazis came to power there, and who is now a British subject. Another Jewish refugee scientist credited by Churchill with contributing to the development of the Atomic Bomb is Dr. Franz Eugen Simon who was admitted to England after being forced to leave Germany.

Recommended from JTA