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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 02:38 GMT 03:38 UK
UK 'fears' over German scientists
Ministry of Supply documents
The scientists' letters indicated they had been approached by Russia
The UK drew up plans to "forcibly" employ leading German technicians and scientists after World War II to prevent them working for the Russians.

Experts in fields like nuclear physics, aeronautics and weapons would be invited to Britain with their families.

There were fears the Germans could help the Soviet air force become the most powerful in the world, papers released by The National Archives in Kew reveal.

About 100 ended up agreeing to work for the UK government in 1946 and 1947.

The Ministry of Supply correspondence noted that the intelligence services believed German influence in research and design would have a "considerable effect" for many years.

"If, therefore, German war scientists, in particular in the aeronautical field, are allowed to continue in application to their subject, they will constitute an extremely important factor in the war potential of the nation which utilises their services," a July 1947 document stated.

As the Cold War loomed, German scientific ability could allow the Russians "to achieve a long range bomber force superior to any other in the world", it added.

'Hostile power'

The so-called denial policy was first drawn up in the summer of 1946 and highlighted over 1,500 German scientists and technicians formerly involved in wartime research.

The longer we delay our approach to them the less our chance of getting the best ones

"We are particularly concerned with those who might be considered a danger to British and American security if their services were acquired by a potentially hostile power," a letter to security and military officials from the ministry's Scientific and Technical Research Board stated.

Its proposed measures included:

  • Compiling a list of German scientists and engineers who may constitute a serious danger in the hands of a potentially hostile power

  • Removing "as soon as possible from Germany, whether they are willing to go or not", those whom it is considered vital to deny to other powers

  • Encouraging in every way, employment with the British Empire of the others or in the US if American policy permits

    In another document entitled the Exploitation by British Industry of German scientific and industrial knowledge, the ministry noted:

    "Other nations are beginning to appreciate the opportunities for securing the services of leading German scientists and technicians.

    "The longer we delay our approach to them the less our chance of getting the best ones."

    'In extremis'

    Letters intercepted by the censorship bureau in the British zone showed "a closely-knit brotherhood of scientists... which it is unlikely any legislation can dissolve", said a memo written under the heading of Denial of German Aeronautical Scientists to the Russians.

    It said there was a "nostalgic yearning for the good old days" although no desire to see Germany re-emerge as a world power.

    If the western powers would not employ them, some scientists may be prepared to go to Russia where "agents appear to have made it quite plain they will be welcomed".

    But the memo noted that many regard working for Russia as a resort to be adopted "in extremis" and had already written offering services to British Commonwealth countries, Sweden, Switzerland, Brazil and South America.

  • The National Archive files also showed the UK floated the idea of bringing over specialist craftsman from Germany in industries such as imitation jewellery, porcelain and musical instruments in an attempt to create new trades for British workers.

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