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WWII Hero Credits Luck and Chance in Foiling Hitler’s Nuclear Ambitions

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96 year old Norwegian Joachim Ronneberg was once in charge of blowing up the Norsk Hydro heavy water plant that was a key part of the Nazi nuclear effort.

Killing Jews significantly hurt their ability to build nuclear weapons. 

Historians have long argued over how close Hitler came to developing nuclear weapons. A German historian claimed in a controversial 2005 book that the Nazis conducted several nuclear weapons tests in 1944-45. But a more widely accepted view is that Hitler’s nuclear program, begun well before the Manhattan Project, stumbled badly because of its own inferior science and its enemy’s exceptional saboteurs.

It was handicapped by the flight and murder of Jewish scientists but suffered most gravely from a decision by the physicist Werner Heisenberg to use heavy water, deuterium oxide, instead of graphite, as a so-called moderator in the production of bomb-grade uranium. Heavy water was not only less effective than graphite but also far more difficult to obtain in sufficiently large quantities, leaving the Nazis dependent on steady supplies from the Norsk Hydro plant in Norway.

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