A review by Joey Madia
As one looks back on the many watershed moments in U.S. history—the result of decisions made by a small group of White men that cost at times millions of lives around the globe—the country’s role in World War II and its aftermath are perhaps the most hotly debated (with Vietnam an equally strong contender) because of the late-war actions of dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Operation Paperclip/the start of the Cold War. America and Russia bringing Nazi scientists—many of whom would not have faired well at Nuremberg—into the fold of the fledging military–industrial complex that Eisenhower and Kennedy tried so hard to forestall set a tone for immoral action on the global stage, the repercussions of which are still being felt.
Science, and scientists, are at the heart of Hannah’s War, which is A-list historical fiction centering on a Jewish Austrian scientist named Hannah Weiss, an analog for real-life scientist and discoverer of nuclear fission, Dr. Lise Meitner. Because she was female and Jewish, Meitner was omitted from the Nobel Prize given to her male, Gentile partner.
Weiss is working at Los Alamos under Robert Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project, having escaped Germany in the early days of the rise of the Third Reich after doing the bulk of her foundational work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. “Jew Physics,” as termed by the Nazis, who saw it as illegitimate, led to an exodus from and then purging of the Institute, to the (thankful) detriment of the Reich’s science, especially when it came to the A-bomb, which they were (again thankfully) unable to develop. Continue reading