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Dzimas
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« Reply #1920 on: February 18, 2008, 01:41:37 AM »

I've started in on the Los Alamos section of the book, and it is fascinating how Oppenheimer turned out to be such a fine administrator, especially for such a large an organization as this one.  I think for Oppenheimer it represented the dream opportunity to bring the greatest physicists and other scientists and engineers under one roof, and he was thrilled to have the chance to lead this group. While Oppenheimer was a "true blue patriot," initially wanting all persons who worked at Los Alamos to register in the Army, he quickly gave into the consensus of the group and adopted a more lax atmosphere.  It was described as a Silicon Valley type environment, with everyone pretty much setting his own hours, but with very clear deadlines as to delivering what they were supposed to deliver.  Gen. Groves seemed to accept pretty much whatever Oppenheimer put forward, as the gargantuan general seemed to have complete faith in the "genius," that he would deliver the US the bomb.  It was funny when Oppenheimer passed a note to Serber saying to use a less loaded term like "gadget" when talking about the bomb so not to attract the attention of workers still putting together the facilities.

So many apocalyptic bits of information tossed out in these chapters, such as the worry expressed by Teller and Oppenheimer that a "chain reaction" might actually ignite the atmosphere, and the possible use of strotium-90 to poison German food supplies, speaking of the enormous number of deaths associated with it in a "Strangelovian" way.  But, most fascinating (to me anyway) was the mention of Richard Feynman, a young 24-year old physicist who Oppenheimer made it a point to have on his team, going so far as to arrange a TB sanatorium in Albuquerque for her. Feynman was touched, as it seems so many others were at the lengths Oppenheimer would go to accomodate them.  Serber went so far as to say that he genuinely felt more intelligent, more alive, whenever he was around Oppenheimer, and that Oppie was able to draw the best out of those around him.

Oppenheimer had a unique ability to bring people together and focus them on a particular task at hand.  He could interpret results quickly.  Apparently, there was no aspect of the operation Oppenheimer didn't understand, which is probably what impressed Groves the most. There was probably no other person in the US who could have pulled such a project off.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2008, 04:52:06 AM by Dzimas » Logged
Dzimas
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« Reply #1921 on: February 18, 2008, 06:31:29 AM »

Quote
Not to mention the betrayal of his friend Chevalier, who claims he never quite understood why Opp behaved as he did.

In reading Chapt. 17, it seemed to me that Oppenheimer got cornered by Pash into divulging much more about Eltenton that he wanted to, including noting associations in that interrogation.  Opp apparently thought they would be discussing Lomanitz, whom Opp wanted to have on his staff, but the Army not only denied the young physicist security clearance, but drafted him so that he would be pretty much sequestered for the duration of the war. 

Lansdale and Groves worked on Opp until he finally named Chevalier.  Opp must have have very nervous by what all was transpiring.  No doubt it served as a major distraction from his work, which he said to Groves was his priority, staking his reputation as a scientist on it. This seemed to convince Groves that Opp was sincere,

"Fierce ambition was a character trait Groves respected and trusted.  It was a trait he shared with Oppie, and together they had a single transcendent goal -- to build this primordial weapon that would defeat fascism and win the war."

From Opp's perspective, Fascism had always been what he fought against.  He participated in Communist Party events because he felt the Soviets were the best able to defeat fascism, and he felt that most, if not all, of his friends felt the same way, but unlike some of his friends, the German-Soviet pact, dispelled this illusion, and Opp would have no more to do with the CP after that.  I think this served as a breach between himself and many of his friends, and it was something that Groves and Lansdale and Pash were able to exploit. 
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madupont
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« Reply #1922 on: February 18, 2008, 09:48:42 AM »

Jews in America at that time had to walk a thin line.  It is my understanding (corrections welcome) that many turned to Communism because of the anti-semitism of the Nazis.  Then a few years later, Communism became The Big Threat and activities and donations that were related to helping European friends and relatives were held against them. 

When the Soviets developed a bomb of their own, Americans quickly forgot the price they had paid in WWII in fighting the Germans. 


The majority of Jews in America were relatively unaware of anti-Semitic activities begun soon after Hitler became chancellor.  This unawareness had a lot to do with the Depression having depleted personal resources for the average American to continue travelling abroad as they had before the Crash.

The heiress of the Cunard Line, Nancy Cunard, was one of those who continued to travel to good purpose. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/01/books/review/weber.t.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/04/01/books/01webe2.html

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/04/01/books/01webe3.html

Another was the daughter of a ship owner and financier, John Ellerman; and who took the name Bryher. 
"In a 1933 article in Close up entitled "What Shall You Do in the War?", Bryher wrote about the situation of Jews in Germany, urging readers to take action. Starting that year, her home in Switzerland became a "receiving station" for refugees; she helped more than 100 people escape Nazi persecution before she was forced to flee herself in 1940."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryher

Another person from America was Bryher's friend the poet H.D, (Hilda Doolittle)
"In 1933, H.D. travelled to Vienna in order to undergo analysis with Sigmund Freud. She had long been interested in his ideas, which is evident from the pamphlet on Borderline as well as some of her earlier works. She was referred to him by Bryher's psychoanalyst due to her increasing paranoia about the approach of World War II—and the first Great War (World War I) had left her feeling shattered. She had lost her brother in action, while her husband suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from combat experiences, and she believed that the onslaught of the war indirectly caused the death of her child with Aldington: she also believed it was her shock at hearing the news about the RMS Lusitania that directly caused her miscarriage.

The rise of Adolf Hitler indicated another world war, an idea that she found intolerable. Writing on the Wall, her memoir about this analysis, was written concurrently with Trilogy and published in 1944; in 1956 it was republished with Advent, a journal of the analysis, under the title Tribute to Freud."

Really I am no longer certain whether it was H.D. or Bryher, who in the course of being in Germany(which in H.D.'s case would have meant traveling from Vienna to Berlin) wrote from Berlin in personal letters about being on a tram and witnessing the "Brown Shirts" in the streets "demonstrating" which included burning the books at the Institute for Sexual Studies.

But I found an interesting bit unknown before:THE EINSTEIN AFFAIR

THE EINSTEIN AFFAIR
History of the Discovery of the Life Energy Documentary Volume A-XI-E Wilhelm Reich, Biographical Material
Orgone Institute Press, 1953

On December 30, 1940, Reich wrote a letter to Albert Einstein asking to meet with him to discuss "a difficult and urgent scientific matter," the discovery of a "specific biologically effective energy which in many ways behaves differently from anything that is known about electromagnetic energy." They met soon afterward and this documentary volume makes available their subsequent correspondence, particularly as it related to the temperature difference experiment with the orgone energy accumulator.

Bound Xerox $26.95

(this is at the Wilhelm Reich Museum, Rangeley,Maine)  Apparently, they did a certain amount of correspondence on these ideas)


But back to where I began about the economic restraints of the Depression and why there was such little awareness. The recent discovery, documented in The New York Times, about the discovery of the letters written by the father of Anne Frank in files stored in a warehouse in Brooklyn, which he had originally written in application for immigration, makes this unawareness dreadfully apparent.



There was a performance that ran some time on Broadway, starring Spielberg's first wife, Amy Irving (and again, I have forgotten the name of that play)concerning the breakdown of a Jewish woman in American who has prescient dreams/nightmares about what is occurring in Europe caused by her subliminally picking up what in turn she represses from consciousness.  The sociological consensus of opinion on this situation in American society is that people were so economically strapped but managing to survive that they were either unaware or forced themselves to remain unaware of the predicament of Jews in Europe.

Of my mother's school friends from nursing school,of German American background, one in particular was interested in traveling to the Olympics in Germany and, because of her back-ground,came back singing the praises of Adolf Hitler for having accomplished so much in the way of employment and economic recovery, witness  -- through the construction of the autobahn.


On that other matter of Leo Szilard, Hungarian Jew, I would have been a little young to know him although I read his fanciful stories about the real intelligence of dolphins when I was a young adult. He was however known to a relative of mine who had been living in Chicago,within the Kenmore neighborhood close to the Univ.of Chicago. When Jacob Loeb was curious to meet and talk with visitors about to set up a project laboratory, he invited them to dinner at his Kenmore home and expected Hazel White to be his hostess as usual so that they could have a private dinner, and then withdraw for "cigars and port", as gentlemen still did in those days. His brother Albert was vice-president of Sears and Roebuck over a decade earlier.


As to communists in the US, that was also a natural part of the social landscape of the 1930's consequent to the Depression. The Spanish Civil war exacerbated the situation in their  "social consciousness" and young men took off in droves as had our famous adventure writer, Ernest Hemingway, to become ambulance drivers, or otherwise cover the story as journalists.  I think West Village poet, e.e. cummings, was one of these former but I may be wrong as there were so many. Warren Beatty practically tapped them out when he made, "Reds".

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weezo
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« Reply #1923 on: February 18, 2008, 10:01:00 AM »

Maddie,

I can't state when anti-semitism began in Germany and other European countries, but it was certainly a factor in Einsteins youth and his difficulty in finding an academic position in the early years of the 20th century. Also, Kurlansky, in "A Chosen Few" suggests that anti-semitism preceeded Hitler by decade. The difference was that under Hitler, it was more than a matter of prejudice and discrimination, and became a full blown attemp to eradicate the Jews.
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Lhoffman
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« Reply #1924 on: February 18, 2008, 11:29:21 AM »

Most imformative, Madupont, thank you.  Bird and Sherwin mention that as early as 1933, Jewish professors were being fired from University positions, and that in 1934 Oppenheimer and his colleagues began to raise funds to get Jewish physicists out of Germany.
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madupont
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« Reply #1925 on: February 18, 2008, 11:33:31 AM »

weezo. re:#1960
"Seems to me there was a lot of propagandizing going on in this country during the forties/fifties and regarding the danger, or lack of same, from communists. You may want to keep this in mind as you are reading about Oppie's adventures with the FBI."


But, since you have just responded on Jews on Europe yet again, physical eradication of Jews by Europeans is a matter of recorded History long before Kurlansky. When you get an opportunity, I suggest that you visit a Jewish Community Center within some metro area and go directly to their library and begin reading with the permission of the librarian.  I think the evidence will shock you.

As I said, I read about Einstein's youth prior to the Isaacson book on the Spring book lists, because i was a young adult in the 1950s and read a lot of Kafka and Rilke, and there was no reason I would not have noticed Einstein showing up in Life Magazine to trumpet his arrival in the US  during the earlier period since the Second World War was taking place in my childhood and I went to high-school with many Jewish refugees.  Prior to that I lived with Austrians who may or may not have been secular Jews who left before the Anschluss; my mother and father rented a floor in a property bought by their landlord when he arrived from Austria before I was born, because my father took over the medical practice of a retiring doctor in an old German working class neighborhood in the Midwest when it still had boulevards and parks and very old fashioned European restaurants. Naturally, the building that the Austrian baker chose for his business and his home behind the bakery was that old style German city-house with the backstaircase enclosed, as well as an open front stairwell between floors so that patients  come in from the front door at street level and go directly to the waiting room for their appointments in the doctor's office, whereas we had a seperate household entrance from the back or side of the house in order to go to the garages or a small enclosed somewhat hidden yard where I played making mud cakes to imitate what Oscar did in the cellar baking area once I was done eating my way through the pastry frosting.  We lived above the bakery across from the doctor's office. So you might say, I was born into the awareness of what was going on.

The  anti-semitism preceeds The Third Reich, despite Kurlansky, and perhaps you should check over your reading again, by far more than a decade but goes back as far as the Christianizing of Europe when Jews arrived as slaves of the Roman Empire, they have lived there ever since and were  consigned to second-class citizenship in the Germanic regions largely because of the tribal marriage customs of those areas. The Roman frontier during the conquest of Gaul, meant that despite being the Conqueror that Romans faced one more baffling "foreign way of doing things" in which the conquered had different customs than the new arrivals.  Women and slave-women captives among Germanic tribes were dispensed as  loot by tribal chieftains to their subordinates; these secondary female captives were secondary wives in their custom but, as Christian missionaries came to the fore,Germans excluded second wives from formal Christian marriage during the conversion of tribes.  You can read more about this in the works of George Duby and Phillipe Aries whom I recently discussed about another matter and had been trying to find for thanatopsy for some time.  The Romans had slaves from the Eastern Mediterranean, which was part of the empire, just as they had procurators or other indigenous officials from their settlements along the entire northern Mediterranean cost who reported back to Rome about their communities(for instance we know that about Pontius Pilate, of Spain, as well as Herod, during the time of Christ who was admittedly  "Jewish".

The most quoted record of history however is the pronouncement of Martin Luther hammered to the church door in Germany which may be readily accessible to you as a matter of European history.  This had a tremendous effect on the attitudes of Europe's Roman Catholics and the new Lutheran denomination in Western Europe.  Of course, then we have also come to the record of Queen Isabella's expulsion of the Jews, along with the Muslims, of Spain which is regularly mentioned along with the financing of Columbus' voyages which led to the exploration of the Americas. They went somewhere, notably to Holland(the Nederlands)and also to Germany where they remained ghettoized in various European countries from Italy to Northern Europe until the period of the Enlightenment. There were "Jew Laws" in the civil law code of most European communities.

Einstein experienced the usual social attitudes when he went to school in Munich,Bavaria. Isaacson points out this had a lot to do with the formation of his whimsical character as a nonauthoritarian.

During those high-school years of mine, in an effort to take extra credits, I attended summer school in the part of the city where I had first been raised(before my parents bought a home of their own for an enlarging family), taking courses in civics and social studies, and then I had an offer of a lot of rides home from the west side of town to the north shore area, which meant a number of young men dawdled about the driveway and lawn. My mother was used to the idea and she continued to also entertain my brothers' friends during all the successive periods as they went through the Marlon Brando era and the Jame Dean period, etc. Likewise with my sisters who followed late in the game.  My father turned out to be veritably anti-semitic in the years following the war, in that subtle way that takes over and is currently taking place relative to other people, so he quickly discerned that all those boys from the old neighborhood were Jews whose families had left the old inner city ghetto where their properties were rented out to arriving Blacks in the late Twenties, while the Jewish family moved to the West-side suburbs with upscale temples.  He immediately, forgot the fact that in earlier years I had spend a good deal of time at the house kitty-corner across the street with Mrs. Skolnick who had lost her only daughter.  But that was the point, you see, earlier, rather than adolescent. Many parents make that discrimination.

Much later, I made a very good friend when I went to visit my godmother in western Wisconsin,whose "best friend" and neighbor Frieda became somebody I worked beside during the autumn months in an orchard. She had arrived in a Swiss settlement in Wisconsin, Mt. Horeb, best known for its William Tell festival, along with her sister and parents when they thought it best to leave Zurich,Switzerland in about 1927 because of the change that was taking place; although they had a German name, there was a steady increase in refuges or immigrants coming into Switzerland (they are called haflingers in German) to whom in no time the Swiss were not particularly amenable. The changes were already obvious in Europe and her family decided to relocate while the going was good.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2008, 11:47:09 AM by madupont » Logged
madupont
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« Reply #1926 on: February 18, 2008, 11:44:13 AM »

Most imformative, Madupont, thank you.  Bird and Sherwin mention that as early as 1933, Jewish professors were being fired from University positions, and that in 1934 Oppenheimer and his colleagues began to raise funds to get Jewish physicists out of Germany.

I should say that I think this pretty well accounts for my father's anti-semitic attitude as well, in part, by the post war-years, as consequent to living in a predominantly German-American community.  As a professor of Anatomy in a Medical School, he was often slyly questioned quite casually by people as to whether or not he was Jewish. Nope, he was a Scots Presbyterian who became a Roman Catholic when he married my mother, and he had gone to a Jesuit run Medical school when he was a med.student.   But there are many people who look at the physiognomy of a Scotsman and feel that in some way it resembles a  Jew because of the prominent features of forehead and nose. I suspect,that if you keep hearing about it over and over at a period in history when the local citizenry is either being American patriot or on the contrary German Bund patriotic, you tend to realize how this can distort your medical practice and the support of your family, enough to cause some peculiar adjustments to your usual thinking.
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weezo
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« Reply #1927 on: February 18, 2008, 01:43:53 PM »

Maddie,

Either I left out a critical word or two, or you misunderstood me. I did not say, or at least did not intend to say that Kurlansky said or implied that anti-semitism was a modern phenomena, but that it had preceded the rise of Hitler by quite some time. Let us not forget that many of the Jews in Europe arrived when the newly consolidated Kingdom of Spain expelled all Jews from their territory. So, it is unlikely that the disdain for Jews in Europe came ONLY from their arrival during Roman rule, but there were events in Europe between the Roman rule and Hitler, that caused these anti-semitic feeling to come forward and become acted upon.

Maddie, please stop trying to establish the point that I, and others on here have not "been around". I don't think anyone questioned whether your father, or any other fathers of posters on here were anti-semitic or not. I cannot even imagine it being a question asked about my parents, or needing to establish that they were not anti-semitic.

There was a Jewish famiily living in our neighborhood when I was growing up. The boy was in my class and I was not aware that he was Jewish until something interesting happened over the exchange of names for Christmas gifts one year, perhaps 5th or 6th grade. The boy got my name, and apparently, unwilling either to admit that his family did not celebrate Christmas, and apparently, equally unwilling to ask his family to help him purchase a gift, he slipped a rather expensive ring from his sister's jewelry box (don't know whether with or without her knowledge), and to my surprise, I received a beautiful jewel on a gift exchange that was supposed to be small, inexpensive gifts. My mother immediately recognized the problem, called the family and the ring was returned. At the time, I understood little about Judaism, so was unhappy that I had to give up the pretty gift. As I got older I understood. Sometimes people just do what is right, rather than because they are anti-semitic or not.

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Dzimas
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« Reply #1928 on: February 18, 2008, 02:18:29 PM »

I'm sure the Einstein book is very interesting, but the subject of this month's reading group is Oppenheimer.  If you want to start a thread on Einstein, please do so in the World History forum, which is currently not getting much activity.  It is hard enough maintaining one book discussion in this forum, much less two.
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« Reply #1929 on: February 18, 2008, 04:05:15 PM »

Einstein and his theories were subject to anti-semitic attacks in Germany as early as 1919, according to Ronald Clark in Einstein: The Life and Times.
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« Reply #1930 on: February 18, 2008, 04:05:40 PM »

Teller really doesn't come off very well in American Prometheus.  The story of him keeping the Nobel Laureates awake at night with his piano is fairly charming.  But Kai/Sherman leave me with the sense that during the security hearings, Teller was just as glad to be rid of Opp....payback for his opposition to the H Bomb.
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« Reply #1931 on: February 18, 2008, 04:20:29 PM »

re ``Los Alamos section of the book, and it is fascinating how Oppenheimer turned out to be such a fine administrator, especially for such a large an organization `` and secrecy ...


It makes you wonder how anyone managed to survive those spartan conditions!  I understand that it can get extremely hot in summer and unbearably cold in winter because of strongs winds up in that mountainous region.  With people living in tents much of the time and working for exceptionally long hours - how did they do it ?? !!

On top of all that, Colonel Pash, General Groves, and Colonel Lansdale hounded Opp for more details on Chevalier and the alleged security leaks.  Opp and the scientists were civilians while these three were military men accustomed to iron discipline and obedience from subordinates.  Naturally, much conflict could be expected from such an agglomeration of strong willed personnel.

And yet, they managed!

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« Reply #1932 on: February 18, 2008, 04:49:23 PM »

re: Los Alamos.....also make you wonder that Oppenheimer and Groves got on so famously.
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weezo
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« Reply #1933 on: February 18, 2008, 05:31:30 PM »

Dzimas,

What would suit my druthers would be to have discussions on a given subject/person, from the perspective of the participants reading more than a single source. Perhaps that will come about sometime.
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« Reply #1934 on: February 18, 2008, 07:58:05 PM »

Quote
Apparently, there was no aspect of the operation Oppenheimer didn't understand, which is probably what impressed Groves the most. There was probably no other person in the US who could have pulled such a project off.

One of Oppenheimer's assets was that he was a "fast sudy." No matter what book I read on him, authors always point that out---Kai Bird says somewhere that he could read something rather quickly and understand it almost instantly, that he could discern where a student was going with a doscussion and proceed there before the student ended his question....that he could reduce the complicated to the simple.

All of these are very valuable techniques when one is running something, which Oppenheimer had never done--but picked up on it rather quickly. Birds says it had a transforming effect on him. I agree. With his type of personality and his brilliance, being put in charge of something ignited his need for order and his need to reduce the complex to the simple. It took an introverted, retiscent person and transformed him into a formal leader. It magnified his abilities to organize and sythesize. Beforehand he was doing this with  ideas and theories--now he was doing with people.

Groves had the same organizational abilities and I think it was one of the reasons they got along so well.
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