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After Hiroshima

by Max Klein Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020 at 12:18 PM

The fight for nuclear disarmament and the fight against climate change belong together, Rhodes said. They are the great challenge to the young generation that is gaining authority in the world. To pass both, he said, is the chance to renew and preserve the world.

After Hiroshima

by Max Klein

[This article published on Aug 17, 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

If there was anything worth knowing, understanding and taking to heart "correctly and thoroughly, it was the years around 1945", this was the advice of my revered teacher Gerhard Sack (1912-2006). On July 16, 1945 the conference in Potsdam begins, while in the desert of New Mexico the first atomic bomb, "Trinity", is detonated, Truman wants to impress Stalin. On August 6, 1945 about 100,000 people die in Hiroshima by the dropping of the second bomb on a sunny morning. In February 1945, Stalin commits himself in Yalta to declare war on Japan a few months after the German surrender. This happens on August 8, 1945, one day before more than 50,000 people die in Nagasaki when the third atomic bomb is dropped. On August 14, the Japanese emperor issues the decree of unconditional surrender. On September 9, the great Japanese army of China surrenders.

There were and still are discussions about the dropping on Hiroshima (see also Das Blättchen 21/2011). In June 1945 leading scientists, among others James Franck and Leo Szilard, declare in a "Report to the Secretary of War", Henry Stimson, that the deployment against Japan is not advisable ("inadvisable"). The Franck Report argues objectively, soberly, tries to persuade. There are rather no references to human suffering, it is about the reputation of the USA, technical questions, unfortunately they were not heard. Two years later, Stimson explains that there was a choice between a hundred thousand deaths from the A-bomb and a million victims from an invasion, a thesis that even after 75 years is still very contradictory, since it is based on the assumption that Japan capitulated because of the atomic bombs.

Ten years after Hiroshima, on 9 July 1955, the Einstein-Russell Manifesto, a call from eleven scientists, is published. Assuming that a third world war would be fought with nuclear weapons, they urgently call for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, an appeal to humanity, the reference to "paradise as an alternative to universal death". Russell was a philosopher, mathematician and Nobel Prize winner for literature (1950). In October 1945 he pleaded in an article for a nuclear pre-emptive strike against the USSR and for the establishment of a world government by the USA: again a plausibility consideration, like the one with Stimson, now the lives of hundreds of thousands of Russians against the survival of the whole world. Evil in Moscow, victors in Berlin with unspeakable sacrifices - good in Washington, also victors in Berlin, but which Hiroshima and Nagasaki had just accomplished. When the Soviet Union itself detonated an atomic bomb in 1949, Russell changed his dark vision of the future in favor of the manifesto that appeared five years later. When this became public, Einstein had already been dead for several months. The admonitions had some effect in the scientific world and led to the founding of the Pugwash movement in 1957, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, 35 years ago. The movement and its then chairman, Jo Rotblat, was probably the youngest co-signatory of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

On the anniversary of the Trinity Bomb, the White House declared in July of this year: "This remarkable testimony to great engineering and scientific achievement was the culmination of the Manhattan Project, which helped end World War II and usher in an unparalleled era of global stability, scientific innovation and economic progress. The Japanese Pugwash Committee immediately objected to this on July 20, 2020: "We [...] strongly object to this statement, which is not only unacceptable for all Hibakushas (the survivors of the atomic bombings - MK) but also untrue: historical facts show that the atomic bombs were not the decisive factor in ending World War II. In fact, nuclear weapons were a major destabilizing force in world politics and are a danger to humanity."

People are discussing these days what's worse, nuclear weapons or climate change. In SPIEGEL online Ulrich Kühn wrote on August 5th, "the greatest horror [...] (is) not nuclear war, it is probably the creeping global warming". There is an important book, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb", by Richard Rhodes, which was published in 1986 and won the Pulitzer Prize. Rhodes, now 83 years old, discusses in an editorial in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on August 6, 2020, the real political insight from the development of nuclear weapons. He reminds of Niels Bohr, who in 1944 explained to Franklin Roosevelt that we are in a completely new situation that wars cannot solve.

This was taken up by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in Geneva in 1985: "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never take place. Rhodes finally pays tribute to Olof Palme, Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr, who developed the concept of common security. Security not against each other, but with each other, that is the only hope. Collective security was also said in the East.

Today, the USA and Russia still have a staggering 13,000 warheads, and the other, now seven states, 1200 warheads. There is a struggle to extend the 50-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Suddenly, nuclear weapons and climate change demand the same thing: they require common security, not one first ("first"), but all together. People argue about whether Einstein said the following: "Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, but of the universe I am not yet sure." You have confidence in him, and you're worried. The Russell Einstein manifesto demands that humanity be put above all else. Humanity has nevertheless brought itself to the brink of its existence. Stringent action tends to carry a virus that can infect anyone today. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were yesterday, it seems, and the temperatures are slowly rising, it is thought. The fight for nuclear disarmament and the fight against climate change belong together, Rhodes said. They are the great challenge to the young generation that is gaining authority in the world. To pass both, he said, is the chance to renew and preserve the world. It is not possible without reason, education, heart and tolerance, may Einstein have been wrong for once.

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