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Hitler's Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil's Pact

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  447 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
An eye-opening account of the rise of science in Germany through to Hitler’s regime, and the frightening Nazi experiments that occurred during the Reich

A shocking account of Nazi science, and a compelling look at the the dramatic rise of German science in the nineteenth century, its preeminence in the early twentieth, and the frightening developments that led to its collap
Paperback, 592 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2001)
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(showing 1-30)
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Aug 05, 2011 Wendy rated it it was ok
This was boring as shit. That's about all I have to say. It took me two years to read it. But I was turned off it early on for the author's take on Hitler's alleged vegetarianism. I have seen it said Hitler was a veg, and I have also seen it that he ate pheasant. Therefore, he was not a vegetarian. Regardless of whether he was, the author presents Hitler as an ignoramus who thought he knew all about science but did not -- and this does not seem farfetched to me -- but the section at the beginnin ...more
Jan 12, 2011 Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some books don't live up to the promise of the Title, while others, like this one, give more than expected from the title alone. Cornwell discusses many of Germany's leading scientists, some of whom chose to leave their homeland as the Nazi's came to power, others who felt compelled to stay due to their Nationalistic feelings, and others who willingly and knowingly participated in the racist philosophy of the Nazi's. But the book also give a lot of historical context of the era, from WWI up to a ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 06, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
I picked up this book as a corrective to the stuff I've read and seen about Nazi 'wonder weapons' during WWII--things like 'foo fighters', flying saucers, antigravity devices and the like. While they are glancingly mentioned as unrealized projects, this book actually has a much broader and more serious agenda.

Cornwall writes in a variety of fields (religion, philosophy and literature as well as history) and this, while principally a history of German science and technology from WWI through WWII,
May 31, 2011 Smonroe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book full of detailed information. I was amazed at the names that later became famous for many varieties of science that were involved with the Third Reich, and also to hear stories of those who stood up to Hitler and his cronies.

Each chapter takes on a different aspect of science in Germany from the 1900s through the 1950s, concentrating on their impact during the Second World War.

A good half inch of the back of the book is indexing and the foot notes proving the author's
Aug 01, 2008 Glenn rated it really liked it
Good stuff.

The author probes the idea of healing in the Nazi regime. This is not the typical book relating the ghastly deeds of of Hitler's Scientists, although there is a bit of that to be sure. However, the focus is on figuring out how doctors and scientists went completely counter to their roles and duties as public servants - to do no harm.

He tackles how these forces actually changed attitudes, not that the doctors were simply following orders, but their intrinsic belief in what they were do
Aug 04, 2016 Jimmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-ww2
An abridged audio cd by the author of Hitler's Pope. Filled with some interesting stories and some that are so horrible they take a huge step to understand how human beings can be so monstrous to each other. I think it also shows the dangers of scientific ignorance.

There were some fun stories mixed in. My favorite is about Niels Bohr. He was explaining a mathematical formula when he said "And" and then became silent for several moments. Then he said "So" and continued out loud further down the
Arto Heino
Mar 19, 2017 Arto Heino rated it did not like it
This book was a wake up call, I never realized that a writer could try and rewrite history and promote a narrative of hatred and negative propaganda of the worst kind. I read this book twice just to make sure it was not a alternative universe with alternative facts. There are so many assumptions and misunderstandings that it read like a fairy tale written to misinform and mislead the reader into thinking that the German people were incompetent. I don't think John Cornwell did much research into ...more
Joe Oaster
Feb 18, 2017 Joe Oaster rated it it was amazing
recommend to anyone who does any scientific research. Author asks serious questions as to morals an ethics of research. Several times in book the quote "People first, science second" leaves some real questions as to the guardrails needed for scientific research
Sep 01, 2013 Heikki rated it it was amazing
Hitler's Scientists

A terrifying book, if you think of what might have been

John Cornwell has produced a book that is at the same time gripping as a detective novel, readable as a John Grisham book, and terrifying like the very best horror stories by H.P. Lovecraft. In this 500 page book is the entire spectrum of Nazi science from basic research to its gruesome applications in the concentration camps, and from utterly useful processes for producing nitrogen fertilizers to the Vergeltungswaffen and
Vickie D
Mar 14, 2017 Vickie D rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
3.5⭐; Audiobook. Shocking details about scientific practices within the Nazi regime and throughout the world. Although advances and discoveries were made, the brutal back door deals and poor treatment of so many people was devastating to read. ...more
Friedrich Haas
From the outside, everyone looks at the German War Machine of WW2 as awesome, high-tech, efficient, nearly unstoppable, but for the combined volume of Russian soldiers and American equipment. As you study the inside, it is amazing that it did as well as it did in spite of the chaotic, capricious, egotistical, uninformed, self-destructive way it was run. Hitler was truly his own worst enemy, a passionately driven, amateur, a cunning political operative, but a military hack, crippled by the very ...more
Joanna Pennyworth
A good alternate subtitle for this book would be "turns out a whole ton of those dudes you learned about in high school science class were straight up Nazis, surprise!"
Jacob Antony
Apr 21, 2008 Jacob Antony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone!
Recommended to Jacob by: Myself
As I struggled to wrap my (figurative) hands over my twisted and warped ideas about the Nazis and what they did to millions of Jews, I decided that it was time to find out the truth.
And so I was thrust down into the pages of a world of tyranny, prejudice, greed, threats, twisted idealisms, and pure pandemonium.
As the brilliant minds of the Manhattan Project toiled in the United States, the Nazi scientists of Hitler were embarking on a series of attempts to create the ultimate weapons. Such of
John Gordon
Jul 24, 2011 John Gordon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is an interesting read of a different perspective of the Third Reich, namely that of the Nazi scientists and their activities. The book stretches from World War One to the War on Terror and poses some thoughtful perspectives regarding whether science (knowledge) can be pursued independently of politics, and therefore ultimate responsibility. Some frightening things were done under the Nazi regime and it amazes me that educated and intelligent people condoned and conducted these activities. ...more
Aug 22, 2011 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a good book to choose as an audio book because it was very dense and I couldn't easily flip back and look up names or people I had forgotten along the way. It covered a wide range of scientists and sciences during WWI and WWII. Although I definitely didn't get as much out of this book from listening as I would have through reading, I was struck by two things: science shouldn't be done in a moral vacuum, and how important community and communication is to scientific discovery. I might come ba ...more
Oct 15, 2008 Tapestrymlp rated it liked it
This look at science before, during and after WWII in Germany is at once fascinating and frustrating. While I learned a few things I didn't know before, most of the time I found the writing too top-level and distant. The author skims the various topics and doesn't linger long enough on any of them. Overall it felt disjointed and too spotty. The stories were interesting but not well told. It read more like a dry history text-book with no spark or life. I actually recall a history text-book or two ...more
Sandra Woods
Jan 04, 2014 Sandra Woods rated it really liked it
My Remembrance Day tradition is to read a book about the military or military service, including UN missions and accounts of civilians in wartime situations.
Hitler's Scientists is a very scary illustration of how scientists can themselves become weapons, and of the power wielded by the Nazi regime over science in Germany and the countries under its control.
This book should be required reading for anyone studying or working in any field of science, medicine, bioethics, politics, and philosophy.
Recato Cristiano
It is sad when authors try to give us "new" history. For instance Albert Speer was never a member of the NAZI-party. You only have to read Speer's "Inside the Third Reich" that he did not. At Nürnberg he was found not guilty on the charge of belonging to the NAZI-party.

So why the author mentions briefly that Speer was a member is totally the opposite to what history teaches us.

Just had to get that off my chest.
David Glad
Maybe I have just gone through too many (audio)books, but really felt the same information could be had elsewhere and in probably more complete form as it seemed even the History Channel (talking 90s when they had some real content.. before Ancient Aliens and other supernatural shows took over) would give this book a run for its money. It seemed another book that was more a sampler/potential starting point rather than being an authority.
Apr 19, 2016 Deborah rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Interesting take on the Nazi relationship with science. Did the Nazis sabotage weapons development by exiling so many prominent scientists?

The book also gives a portrait of some of the more important scientists. Did they purposely delay or sabotage Germany's nuclear bomb program? Did some adhere to the Nazi policies on race? Why did some cooperate while others defied Hitler?

There are no definitive answers in this book. But it does give a very accessible introduction to the subject.
Pleasantly surprised with this one. Title seemed indicative of an exploitative 'oh-the-horror' book, but this was a well-researched analysis of the ethical dilemmas which faced the brilliant German scientists of the era. Covers several technical areas, and eras ranging from WWI (Fritz Haber is an especially interesting case) to the Cold War. Hitler's astonishing ignorance of technical affairs played a role in Germany's misapplied research programs in WW2.

A necessary and interesting book.
Mar 26, 2013 Keith rated it really liked it
A fascinating read on German science from prior to WWI to the 1950's. It was most interesting to me because it told the a story about WWII that is overlooked in most books on this topic. My main complaint was that sometimes it is hard to keep up with some of the theories, especially if you take a few breaks in the middle of a chapter.
Karthikeyan Iyer
May 05, 2014 Karthikeyan Iyer rated it really liked it
Is science truly neutral? Or, the better question would be, are scientists truly neutral? Where does their allegiance lie? Is there a definitive answer? How does political climate influence scientists, and therefore science? These are some of many interesting questions questions that pop up while reading this book and the questions are relevant even today.
Fernando del Alamo
"Los científicos de Hitler" es el título de este libro en castellano. El autor explica muchos tejemanejes de lo que fue de los científicos durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, planteando muchas cuestiones éticas sobre cuál debe ser el papel del científico en el caso de una guerra: ¿debe ayudar a su país o no hacerlo?. El libro es muy recomendable e interesante.
Patrick Book
Jun 27, 2013 Patrick Book rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
This is not so chilling or dramatic a book as the cover and blurbs would imply. It is, however, a thorough and thoughtful examination of not only the actions of scientists during a dark period of human history but also thought-provoking analysis of the moral implications of their action (or inaction, as the case may be). It was a bit of a slog at times but on the whole a piece worth considering.
Jul 26, 2011 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Definately worth the's nice to read something aboutt WWII from a British perspective and the author definately opened my eyes on how the German scientific community played (or failed to play) a role in Hitler's Third Reich. Chemical warfare, the development of the rocket program and the dealings that the scientific community from Nazi leaders was truly interesting.
Petar Tomov
Dec 28, 2014 Petar Tomov rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A book which gives very clear details on the science in the 20th century. A very good reference data is also provided, which is highly appreciable. In a conclusion, the book is definitely a must reed.
Jul 12, 2007 Namrirru rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Interesting, well written, and well resourced. The book is not just about the scientists and politicians who shaped warfare during WW1 and WW2, but it also clearly explains the science and the political backdrop.
Jul 08, 2013 LM rated it liked it
Shelves: history-military
Niet kapot van, interessante visie op 2e wereldoorlog vanuit wetenschappelijk oog punt. Weinig echte diepgang en in sommige fragmenten over gedetailleerd. De status van het Duitse kernwapen programma was zeer interessant.
The overview of the players; Nazis, German scientists, and Allied scientists is good. Unfortunately, the book is just that, an overview. I found it slightly boring, I'm not exactly sure why, perhaps because the book seems superficial. The narration by Simon Prebble was excellent.
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