Serving the Reich tells the story of physics under Hitler. While some scientists tried to create an Aryan physics that excluded any ‘Jewish ideas’, many others made compromises and concessions as they continued to work under the Nazi regime. Among them were three world-renowned physicists:
Max Planck, pioneer of quantum theory, regarded it as his moral duty to carry on under the regime.
Peter Debye, a Dutch physicist, rose to run the Reich’s most important research institute before leaving for the United States in 1940.
Werner Heisenberg, discovered the Uncertainty Principle, and became the leading figure in Germany’s race for the atomic bomb.
After the war most scientists in Germany maintained they had been apolitical or even resisted the regime: Debye claimed that he had gone to America to escape Nazi interference in his research; Heisenberg and others argued that they had deliberately delayed production of the atomic bomb.
Mixing history, science and biography, Serving the Reich is a gripping exploration of moral choices under a totalitarian regime. Here are human dilemmas, failures to take responsibility, three lives caught between the idealistic goals of science and a tyrannical ideology.