Chapter Three - Uranium

 "Oh what idiots we have all been."
  Niels Bohr, physicist, Nobel Prize winner,
  upon hearing of the splitting of the atom.

  Until 14 May, 1945, the day U-234 surrendered to the United States at sea, Germany had always held the lead in the race for the atomic bomb - even before anybody knew there was a race being run.  Way back in 1789, 150 years before the pernicious purpose of uranium was conceived, Martin Klaproth discovered this last, and heaviest, of the elements found in nature.  Appropriately, given later physics history - or maybe inevitably - Klaproth was German.  In the century and a half between Klaproth's discovery and the splitting of the first atom - a uranium atom - little happened with the element.  In the small amounts that it could be found, uranium was considered relatively rare, although it has since been discovered in varying quantities almost everywhere on earth.   Prior to the effort to build a bomb, however, uranium was used almost exclusively as a pigment in ceramic glazes; no one could devise any other practical use for it.  But when the first atom was split at the end of 1938, the whole world changed.

  Advances in physics, particularly the effort to understand the make-up of the atom, had physicists and radiochemists across the globe experimenting with uranium, the natural world's largest atom.  As a result, the first atom was split, quite by accident, by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, two Germans, at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Physics in Berlin.

  Hahn and Strassmann - both radiochemists not physicists - did not immediately realize what they had achieved.  They had been bombarding uranium with slow neutrons expecting its transmutation to other isotopes of uranium or other heavy elements.  But the result of their experiment showed, along with isotopes of uranium, of which U238 is the most common, evidence of traces of barium were present as well, which has an atomic mass slightly larger than half of uranium's mass.

  At first, neither scientist could reckon how the atomic weight had been cut in half. The cleaving of an atom, with its powerful internal force holding it together, was considered impossible and splitting the atom had never crossed their minds. The pair assumed they had not carried out their experiments correctly; but careful checks using control samples they knew were pure proved they had not contaminated the experiment with material already containing barium. Only then did they consider that the impossible may have happened.  Hahn wrote his former co-worker, Lise Meitner, an Austrian-born Jew who, now in her 60s, had over 40 years experience in radiochemistry and a native genius for diagnosing chemical and nuclear puzzles.

  On Christmas Eve, while contemplating the remarkable events written to her in Hahn's letter during a holiday at the seaside in Sweden, Meitner was visited by her nephew and fellow researcher Otto Frisch.  Frisch would later be the one who coined the term 'fission'lvi - borrowed from the microbiology lexicon and which describes the dividing of living cells - as the moniker for the splitting of atoms. He would also shortly immigrate to the United States and perform the famous, and very dangerous, critical mass experimental studies on uranium at Los Alamos known as "tickling the tail of the dragon."

  Meitner and Fritsch discussed how it could be possible that barium should come from uranium, and in the course of considering several possibilities contemplated the puzzle in the light of Niels Bohr's new model of the nucleus - not a collection of tightly bound neutrons and protons, but "freely" bound neutrons and protons.  They reasoned that, although the nuclear force holding these components together is undoubtedly the strongest on earth - even though active for extremely small distances only - each proton in the nucleus contains a small electrical force of its own that counters, to a degree, that nuclear force. 

As the nucleus of each element in ascending order contains one or more additional protons than the previous element, by the time uranium - the natural element with the most protons of all, at 92 - is reached, the countering force of the cumulative protons is barely less than the total nuclear force.  The scientists realized that this would explain why there are no more natural elements beyond uranium - because the accumulated electrical force of the extra protons in an atom larger than uranium would counter the atomic force to a point where the nucleus is no longer able to hold itself together.  Any elements beyond uranium must have disintegrated to other elements earlier in earth's history.

  But the uranium nucleus holds together barely, the opposing forces causing the sub-nuclear particles to float "loosely" around one another in a liquid-like form.  The unstable geometric construction of a U235 atom, particularly, when struck by the energy of a neutron, may then start "wobbling," possibly becoming narrower in the middle, allowing the nuclear force in each of the two outer lobes to take control and parse off the lobes into independent, non-uranic spheres of their own - one of them barium.

  Thus Meitner and Frisch had explained, and therefore validated, Hahn's and Strassmann's discovery - and set in motion with their explanation the fearful, surreal absurdity that would become man's future.  Meitner also calculated that the nuclear reaction after the split caused by the repulsion of the protons in each nucleus pushing away from each other at one-thirtieth the speed of light, would generate about 200 million electron volts of energy per atom.lvii  In comparison, the strongest of chemical reactions such as a dynamite explosion, produces a very paltry five electron volts.

  Hahn had written not only Lise Meitner on that fateful December night, he had also contacted Paul Rosbaud, the editor of Germany's foremost scientific publication, Naturwissenschaften.lviii  Rosbaud would soon come to be known in Allied intelligence circles as The Griffin, the code-name assigned him upon joining the ranks of Germans spying for the Allies, and would from beginning to end of the war provide constant updates on the progress of Germany's atomic bomb project, including Ardenne's and Houtermans' efforts.  Many of Rosbaud's activities are recorded in Arnold Kramisch's excellent book, The Griffin.

  Presumably, General Groves would have received Rosbaud's reports through the United States/British intelligence master, Sir William Stevenson, and therefore known on an ongoing basis what was the condition of his nemesis' program.  Statements the General made during the war indicating that he often thought the enemy was a year or two ahead of the United States' program can, therefore the author believes, generally be considered accurate.  If this is the case, assertions made by General Groves after the war indicating that he had been wrong in this conclusion were probably designed to divert attention from the German isotope separation program. The idea being that if the existence of the German uranium enrichment program could be hidden, then the cover story could be established that Germany's atomic bomb effort consisted only of failed efforts to create a reactor pile to breed plutonium. This will be reviewed in more detail in a later chapter.

  On Hahn's request, Rosbaud had agreed to hold space in the next issue of his journal for an upcoming paper Hahn promised to prepare by print time.  The article not only ran in early January 1939, quickly spreading the news throughout the global scientific community, but Frisch returned to work with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen after his Christmas holiday with Meitner and told 'The Great Dane,' as he was affectionately called, of their theory.lix  Bohr responded before Frisch had hardly finished explaining, gasping, "Oh what idiots we have all been!  Oh but this is wonderful!  This is just as it must be."  The Great Dane left Denmark within a week of this revelation on a previously-planned trip to the United States to work for a short period at the Institute for Advanced Study.

 Once there, he was instrumental in disseminating the news to the rest of the world.  Then the new discovery's ultimate outcome was calculated - that a nuclear chain reaction might be created.  Szillard and Teller, quickly recognizing the unthinkable possibilities, contacted Einstein, who wrote his famous letter to Roosevelt in response to such a prospect.

  The chain reaction conclusion also made Hahn consider an action he had never before contemplated.  Upon realizing that the likely outcome of his discovery would be the loss of tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of lives - possibly millions - Otto Hahn seriously considered taking his own life.lx

  The taking of one life would have been a small matter and a futile action, however. The door had been opened and could never be closed again.  Despite later and persistent claims that Germany put little effort - and that erring - into the development of an atomic bomb, quite the opposite actually appears to have occurred.  As a nation with a disciplined, precise and loyal nationalistic character and a tradition of cultivating the ultimate in technology, under the rule of a dictator with a fetish for innovative armaments and a commitment to using them, Germany was already on the verge of waging war using the most technically-advanced fighting machine ever.

  The airplanes, tanks and submarines of Blitzkrieg were unsurpassed and it would be years before the Allies equaled the armaments of the Third Reich. During the course of the war, Hitler added rocketry, silent electric torpedoes and jets to his arsenal, none of which were matched by any other belligerent nation during the course of the conflict.  In truth, on the whole, German weaponry was probably never equaled during the war:  Many experts maintain that Germany lost World War II directly because of strategic blunders committed by Adolf Hitler and little else.

  With a superior technical culture, a lead on the field, and many of the best scientists available - all at the behest of a madman well-established to have a penchant for ingenious and decisive weaponry - it certainly would be expected that Germany would be running hard in the nuclear arms race and would break out of the gate first.  The idea accepted wholesale in the traditional history, that German efforts to produce the deciding weapon of the war, an atomic bomb, were vapid, poorly executed, uninspired projects, runs wholly counter to the character of the regime and the Germanic race, which to this day, in a world of global parity, is still looked up to as a technical leader of the world.

  According to author/historian David Irving, in his book, The German Atomic Bomb, the post-war criticism of Germany's supposedly insipid effort to create an atomic bomb is both inaccurate and unwarranted.lxi  And Irving adds that those who spread the misinformation should have known better; they knew the story and had all of the documentation.  Far from the official story of a handful of half-hearted German scientists working on an impotent reactor pile intended, but failing, to breed plutonium - as goes the story promoted by General Groves and the Manhattan Project's intelligence arm, Alsos (Greek for 'grove,' Alsos was the codename given the Manhattan Project's enemy information gathering function) - Irving states that some 50 German scientistslxii toiled night and day throughout the war, in both plutonium breeding and uranium separation efforts, many of which achieved high levels of success.

  By the Summer of 1939, scant months after Hahn's and Strassmann's discovery had been published, the German Army had established a uranium project in Gottow, near Berlin, with Dr. Kurt Diebner at the head.lxiii  By the time war broke out, Germany was the only country studying the use of atomic power for military means, and it pushed forward with vigor.  By contrast, the United States efforts stalled and were not to be purposefully pursued until General Groves was appointed head of the program more than two years later, near the end of 1942.

  A first secret conference on atomic power was held in Berlin on September 16, 1939.lxiv  Most of the Reich's top nuclear scientists soon afterward were inducted into the army - an action Groves would later seriously consider for the American program but was convinced otherwise by Oppenheimer -and assigned to laboratories throughout the Fatherland to study nuclear fission for military uses.  The first laboratory, in Dahlem, near Berlin, was established and called 'The Virus House,'lxv a name concocted as a ruse to cultivate an atmosphere of fear around the facility and thus drive off unwanted observers.

  Despite later assertions, the Third Reich very soon had on hand copious amounts of raw, as well as very highly refined, uranium, and controlled a great deal more - almost a limitless supply for its needs. The first ton of "extremely pure" uranium oxide was delivered in the first weeks of 1940.lxvi  This had already been refined from the raw uranium ore and was, for all intents and purposes, ready to be used for experimentation - or for enriching to bomb grade as soon as the technology could be developed.

  From June of 1940 to the end of the war, Germany seized 3,500 tons of uranium compounds from Belgium - almost three times the amount Groves had purchased from Union Minière - and stored it in salt mines in Stassfurt, Germany.lxvii  Groves brags that on 17 April, 1945, as the war was winding down, Alsos recovered some 1,100 tons of uranium ore from Stassfurt and an additional 31 tons in Toulouse, France, as well as eight tons of refined oxide from the Stassfurt mines.lxviii  And he claims that the amount recovered was all that Germany had ever held, asserting , therefore, that Germany had never had enough raw material to process the uranium either for a plutonium reactor pile or through magnetic separation techniques.

  Obviously, if Stassfurt once held 3,500 tons and only 1,130 were recovered, some 2,370 tons of uranium ore was unaccounted for - still twice the amount the Manhattan Project possessed and is assumed to have used throughout its entire wartime effort - and a quantity certainly far in excess of the amount Germany would have used for experimental needs. The material has not been accounted for to this day.

  Such copious quantities of this little-used material could have been employed virtually nowhere else, if not in full-scale atomic bomb production processes - as was the case with the United States using comparably colossal amounts in its enrichment efforts.

  As early as the Summer of 1941, according to historian Margaret Gowing,lxix Germany had already refined 600 tons of uranium to its oxide form, the form required for ionizing the material into a gas, in which form the uranium isotopes could then be magnetically or thermally separated or the oxide could be reduced to metal for a reactor pile.  In fact, Professor Dr. Riehl, who was responsible for all uranium throughout Germany during the course of the war, says the figure was actually much higher.lxx  In addition, the Nazi program was extracting one ton per month of uranium oxide from separate ore stocks left over from a private commercial venture following a previous extraction of radium to be used in German toothpaste!

  To create either a uranium or a plutonium bomb, at some point uranium must be reduced to metal.  In the case of plutonium, U238 is metalicized; for a uranium bomb, U235 is metalicized.  Because of uranium's difficult characteristics, however, this metallurgical process is a tricky one.  The United States struggled with the problem early and still was not successful reducing uranium to its metallic form in large production quantities until late in 1942.lxxi  The German technicians, however, true to their whiz-kid reputations, by the end of 1940lxxii had already processed 280.6 kilograms of uranium into metal, over a quarter of a ton.

  Dr. Werner Heisenberg headed the plutonium bomb effort for Germany.  As with the United States program, the Germans early had realized the benefits of a plutonium bomb over a uranium explosive.lxxiii  They knew plutonium could be bred from uranium and separated chemically much easier, faster and less costly than the isotopes of uranium could be separated from one another.  In addition, because the plutonium fission process was three times more powerful than uranium's, theoretically, to make an equal-size bomb only one-third the amount of plutonium was required.

  Heisenberg's efforts ran into a roadblock, however, when, in 1940, his co-worker Dr. Walther Bothe seriously miscalculated the neutron absorption rate of graphite,lxxiv which the researchers thought to use as a moderator to prevent any experimental chain reaction from becoming ungovernable and causing a meltdown.  The error would prove to have a profound impact on the success of the German plutonium project. In want of an alternate moderator, the scientists turned to deuterium oxidelxxv - heavy water - an isotope of common water but with an additional neutron.  The new requirement for heavy water, a rare substance not found in nature but requiring long amounts of time to process, would ultimately resign the German plutonium effort to - not failure, a chain reaction was eventually achieved - but to second place behind the American plutonium project.lxxvi

  The carbon miscalculation combined with the shortage of heavy water constituted the failure of the Germans to build a plutonium bomb, which proved later to be the perfect screen behind which General Groves was to hide Germany's other atomic bomb effort, uranium isotope separation.  As seems to have happened at almost every serious juncture, the two nations' programs appear to have followed parallel thinking and parallel processes.  But General Groves has buried the history of the German uranium enrichment effort.  Desiring after the war to destroy the evidence of German uranium isotope separation for reasons to be reviewed later, the General de-emphasized the Nazi uranium enrichment effort until its historic profile was small enough to be hidden safely behind the failed plutonium picture.

  General Groves does not appear to be the only person after the war to distort the facts of this episode to suit his own purposes. Professor Heisenberg and others, purportedly desiring to divest themselves of what they said was the undeserved stigma of working on an atomic bomb for the Nazis, but in reality desiring to hide their failure to build a nuclear reactor despite great and earnest efforts, decided to inculcate the fantasy, as well - and successfully did so, possibly in collusion with Groves.

  Heisenberg later contended that he and others of his staff had innocuously but bravely resisted their fascist government.  He insisted that he did not believe at the time the making of an atomic bomb to be a possibility at all, but had acted as though it were in order to keep the Nazis happy and distracted.lxxvii  The professor assured those who would listen that he had been resisting and subverting the objectives of the Nazi regime by monopolizing the invaluable services of some of the Reich's greatest men of science, who might otherwise have been forced to put their efforts to use for Hitler in projects more productive to the Fuehrer's pernicious purposes.

  In reality Heisenberg, like most scientists of his bent and professional stature, not only could not resist the pursuit of his science for the sheer inducement of discovering what lay around the next cosmic corner, but he did indeed believe a nuclear blast initiated by man was possible.  He had admitted to Manfred von Ardennelxxviii and to Niels Bohr, before the latter had escaped Denmark upon its occupation by the Nazis, that he thought an atomic bomb was possiblelxxix - even though Bohr, himself, at this time, did not believe such an explosion would ever be achieved.  Heisenberg tried to explain away this statement after the war as having been misunderstood by the Danish Nobel Laureate; but the Great Dane was certainly convinced he had understood correctly what had been said.

  Furthermore, Dr. Heisenberg was in the forefront from February to June of 1942, in an effort to get party leadership to more fully appreciate the value that atomic explosives could serve in the war.lxxx In June, he estimated a bomb could be built in as little as two years.lxxxi

  While developers of the American plutonium project would realize relatively late-in-the-game that they had a problem with triggering the plutonium bomb, and up to that time had given the plutonium program their prime effort and resources, serious doubts about the success of the German plutonium program came early because of the heavy water crisis, forcing the Nazis from almost the very beginning to concentrate their efforts, resources and expectations on isotope separation to enrich uranium.  By virtue of this fact alone, one would expect that the German isotope separation program would have been more successful than the plutonium effort, and would not have been left completely unpursued, as is asserted.

  At about this time, in mid-1942, American James B. Conant, one of the civilian administrators of the Manhattan Project and a personal confidant of Roosevelt, reported to the president that the Germans "might be ahead of us by as much as a year."lxxxii  Considering British spy, Paul Rosbaud's, position in the midst of the German effort, one can assume that Conant got this estimate from good sources.

  In fact, this estimate may have understated Germany's lead.  By this time, Germany already had at least five, and possibly as many as seven, serious isotope separation development programs underway.  From among these devices, three very innovative technologies were being pioneered, beginning with Dr. Erich Bagge's "isotope sluice" and a similar machine constructed by a Dr. Korsching.  Before the middle of 1944, Bagge's isotope sluice would enrich uranium on a single pass to four times that reported in the United States using gaseous diffusion.lxxxiii 

Gaseous diffusion is supposed to have saved the bomb enrichment program in the waning days of the American separation effort by providing needed, partially enriched, feedstocks to Lawrence's beta calutrons in the final hour.  (Oak Ridge records discovered by the author and reviewed later in this book, however, contradict this assertion.)  While Oak Ridge's first-phase production calutrons produced only partially enriched material, raising the U235 concentration from .7 percent to around 10 to 12 percent, Bagge's experimental isotope sluice alone had yielded 2.5 grams of "much enriched" uranium.lxxxiv  If a production quantity version of the isotope sluice was ever actually built, the yield was probably significantly higher than the United States' output.

  Had the Germans actually enriched uranium on a large-scale basis, and there is ample evidence they did, they may have used a multi-stage technique.  Passing already enriched uranium through enrichment processes a second or third time to further increase the level of U235 concentration was a procedure used by the American effort to bring enrichment levels up into the high eighty and low ninety percentiles required for a bomb. One may assume that the German effort followed a similar obvious path, as so often happened between the two programs, and that the product of the isotope sluice - or any of the other separation technologies - might therefore have been used as feedstocks for one of the other four separation techniques.

  The isotope sluice was not the strongest of the Nazis' separation efforts.  A stronger performer was the centrifuge, and then its progeny, the ultracentrifuge.  A special alloy called 'Bondur' had already been developed in 1941 specifically designed to handle the harsh, corrosive uranium compounds used in the ultracentrifuge.lxxxv The United States' isotope separation effort, on the other hand, struggled to find a similar material that would serve well against the corrosive uranium gases.

  By May 1944, compared with American production efforts that at their best resulted in enriching uranium from its raw state of .7 percent to about 10 to 12 percent on the first pass, the first German experimental ultracentrifuge succeeded with enriching the material to seven percent.lxxxvi  The experimental result was less than American production efforts and what had been predicted by its German inventors, but it was a good showing in its first experimental outing compared to what the Manhattan Project would produce from its already-tweaked production model calutrons.

  Ultracentrifuge output was so impressive, in fact, that following its very first experimental run, funding and authority were established to build ten additional production model ultracentrifuges in Kandern, a town in the southwest of Germany far from the fighting. When Allied bombing became continuous in the north, many separation processes had been moved south; Bagge's isotope sluice went to Hechingen and the 10 ultracentrifuges went to Kandern, located near the juncture of the borders of  Germany, Switzerland and France. The Nazis were now committed in a big way to ultracentrifuge production - and therefore to enriching uranium.

  True to form, however, Groves once again warped the truth, downplaying the production plants by mentioning only that "U235 separation experiments" were being conducted in Celle and Freiburglxxxvii - never anything of the ten ultracentrifuge production plants being built near the latter city or of Ardenne's efforts at Lichterfelde.

  Despite such subjugation of the truth, David Irving, in his book The German Atomic Bomb, identifies what, at least for a time, were thought by the Allies to be fourteen isotope separating facilities being built in the area.lxxxviii Groves himself admitted concern that these plants were being erected to enrich uranium. According to Groves, he saw patterns similar to Oak Ridge in these plants; but quick intelligence analysis suggested the facilities were crude and inefficient factories for synthetically converting shale to oil.  Such a revelation hints at their actually being a cover for nuclear weapons activity.

  After all, synthetic processing was the cover given the buna plant at Auschwitz. And there appears to have existed a "gentlemen's agreement" between I.G.Farben and Allied forceslxxxix not to bomb synthetic processing plants. Despite the "shale oil" plants' seeming inconsequence, as ultimately described by Groves, compared to the important schedule of non-nuclear strategic targets needing attention, Allied bombers were diverted from some of their important missions to destroy the chain of plants.  Surely the bombing was counter to the "gentlemen's agreement" unless there was something that justified their destruction beyond the fact they were allegedly synthetic processing plants.

  The converting of shale to oil is a synthetic gasification process pioneered by I.G. Farben and its technology is in many ways similar to that of producing synthetic rubber, also called buna.  Given events related later in this chapter and elsewhere, it would not be surprising to find that these plants had, indeed, been enriching uranium.

  Even the impressive successes of the ultracentrifuge do not match up to the "most far reaching" achievements attained in isotope separation by Baron Manfred von Ardenne.  Ardenne and his associate, Fritz Houtermans, as early as 1941, had already calculated the critical mass xc of U235  and had begun construction of  "a magnificent laboratory" underground - safe from the bombing of Allied airplanes - in Berlin Lichterfelde.xci  The laboratory contained a two million-volt electrostatic generator and a cyclotron - at the time there was only one other cyclotron throughout the Reich, that of the Curies, which had been commandeered in France.

  By April 1942, Ardenne also had in his laboratory a completed magnetic isotope separatorxcii not unlike the calutrons of Ernest Lawrence, which General Groves would not deploy at Oak Ridge for another year-and-a-half.  Ardenne had designed the separators in 1940, barely on the heels of the discovery of a possible fission explosion.  And so, supplied with his million-volt generator to provide the copious amounts of power needed to operate the magnetic separator, he seems to have been ahead of everybody else in the field of uranium enrichment.

  In addition, the ion plasma source Ardenne had designed for his isotope separator to sublime the uranium compound was far superior to that provided for the calutrons - a key distinction considering the calutron's sublimation process was one of its key weaknesses.  Calutron efficiency for sublimation ran between 40 and 75 percent.  Ardenne's invention was four times more efficient - and has come to be the premiere source world-wide for emitting particle rays, and is known to this day as 'The Ardenne Source.'

  One other important distinction separated Ardenne's and Houtermans' work from the other German efforts.  The other programs all worked under the direction and as part of the German Army, supplied by and accountable to the military.  By contrast, all of Ardenne's facilities - the bomb-proof lab, the million-volt generator, the cyclotron, and the magnetic isotope separators themselves - were provided by, and ongoing funding made available through, the patronage of one man, Reich Minister of Posts and member of the Reich President's Research Council on Nuclear Affairs, Wilhem Ohnesorge.  Like the Manhattan Project scientists, Ardenne and Houtermans worked within the intellectually freer environment of a civilian organization.

  Production for the German isotope enrichment projects, once the experimental and design work were completed by Ardenne and the others, appears to have been undertaken by the I.G. Farben company under orders of the Nazi Party. The company was directed to construct at Auschwitz a buna factory,xciii allegedly for making synthetic rubber. Following the war, the Farben board of directors bitterly complained that no buna was ever produced despite the plant being under construction for four-and-a-half years; the employment of 25,000 workers from the concentration camp, of whom it makes note the workers were especially well-treated and well fed; and the utilization of 12,000 skilled German scientists and technicians from Farben.  Farben also invested 900 million reichsmarks (equal to approximately $2 billion of today's dollars) in the facility. The plant used more electrical power than the entire city of Berlin yet it never made any buna, the substance it was "intended" to produce.

  When these facts were described to an expert on polymer production (buna is a member of the polymer, or synthetic rubber, family), Mr. Ed Landry,xciv Mr. Landry responded directly, "It was not a rubber plant, you can bet your bottom dollar on that."

  Landry went on to explain that while some types of buna are made by heating, which requires using relatively large amounts of energy, this energy is invariably supplied by burning coal.  Coal was plentiful and well-mined in the area and was a key reason for locating the plant at Auschwitz when it was still intended to be a buna facility.xcv The heating-of-buna process, to Landry's knowledge, was never attempted using electricity, nor could he envision why it would have been. Landry totally dismissed the possibility that a buna plant, had it tried an electric option, would ever use more electricity than the entire city of Berlin.  And the investment of  $2 billion is, "A hell of a lot of money for a buna plant" even these days, according to Mr. Landry.

  The probability of the Farben plant having been completed to make buna appears to be very slim to none.  The plant contained all of the characteristics of a uranium enrichment plant, however, which undoubtedly it would never have been identified as, but it would have had an appropriate cover story to camouflage it - such as it supposedly being a buna plant.  In fact, buna would have been an excellent cover because of the high level and types of technology involved in both. Indeed, as has been noted previously, General Groves and his intelligence analysts had already identified what he later alleged to be a similar process as a potential enrichment facility.

  One last detail of interest regarding this phantom factory: I.G.Farben had close ties with and often financed or otherwise served directly the clandestine purposes of Adolf Hitler - usually working through the Fuehrer's top aid, Martin Bormann, or through Bormann's bureaucracies.

  Ardenne's jump on the competition and superior technology, also supported by Martin Bormann through his friend Richard Ohnesorge and his postal ministry, combined with the possibility that the I.G. Farben plant may, indeed, have housed the production versions of Ardenne's uranium enriching magnetic separators or the German ultracentrifuges, likely means that Germany produced enriched uranium earlier, and in greater quantities, than did the United States. This is true especially when considering the possibility that the Nazis, toward the end of the war, may have combined all atomic bomb efforts. They may have multi-staged the partially-enriched product, as the Manhattan Project did, from the isotope sluice and/or the ultracentrifuges, then run the product through the Ardenne electro-magnetic isotope separators at Auschwitz, or vice versa.

  And this easily could have been done with a high degree of secrecy, even from other high-level Nazis, given Bormann's close-knit relationships with Ohnesorge; Schmitz, who was the chief of I.G. Farben; Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz; and Heinrich Mueller, who, among his many other duties as head of the Gestapo, oversaw the supplying of forced laborers to Auschwitz.xcvi



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