The plans to arm the Bundeswehr with atomic weapons fill the signing atomic researchers with great concern. Some of them wrote to the responsible authorities in the last months. Today it is a question of public interest. The signees feel responsible to inform the public about facts that every expert may know about, but the public not enough.
1. Tactical nuclear weapons have the same destructive effect as normal atomic bombs. "Tactical" means only, that they will also be used against operating troops on the ground, not only against civilians. Every tactical atomic bomb or grenade has a similar effect as the first atomic bomb, which destroyed Hiroshima. Because tactical atomic weapons today exist in large quantities, they will have a much larger destructive potential. These bombs are only described as “small” in comparison to the "strategic" bombs, above all, the hydrogen bomb.
2. No natural limit is known for the developmental possibility of the life-destructing effect of strategic nuclear weapons. A tactical atomic bomb can destroy a small town, but an H-bomb is able to make the countryside of an area the size of the Ruhr area uninhabitable for a long time. Through the spread of radioactivity, it would probably be possible today to wipe out the entire population of Germany by using H-bombs. We know of no technical possibility to protect a large population from this danger.
We know how difficult it is to draw political consequences based on these facts. No one will allow us non-politicians to do so. Our profession is pure science and its application. Conveying our knowledge to young people make us responsible for the consequences of our profession. This is why we cannot remain silent on all political questions. We admit ourselves to the freedom, like the western world defends against communism today. We do not deny that the fear of the H-bomb contributes importantly to keeping peace in our world and protecting freedom in a part of the world. We do not believe, however, that that this method of protecting peace and freedom is reliable on a long-term basis and we consider the danger of failure to be deadly. We do not feel that we are in a position to make concrete suggestions for the politics of the world powers. For a small country like Germany, we do believe that the best way to promote world peace and to protect itself is to voluntarily do without all kinds of nuclear weapons. None of the signees would be willing to work on the production, testing of use of nuclear weapons. At the same time we emphasize that it is of utmost important to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and we would like to continue working on this task.
Fritz Bopp, Max Born, Rudolf Fleischmann, Walther Gerlach, Otto Hahn, Otto Haxel, Werner Heisenberg, Hans Kopfermann, Max v. Laue, Heinz Maier-Leibnitz, Josef Mattauch, Friedrich-Adolf Paneth, Wolfgang Paul, Wolfgang Riezler, Fritz Straßmann, Wilhelm Walcher, Carl Friedrich Frhr. v. Weizsäcker, Karl Wirtz