Atomic Bomb photo
The Race to Build the Atomic Bomb
Contra Costa County Office of Education

Exodus of Scientists
Just after Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nuremberg Laws were passed forbidding employment in the civil service to anyone with a Jewish parent or grandparent. This included the state-run universities.

Because of their fear and hatred of Hitler,scientists helped the US military. Ironically, they created the one weapon Germany needed to win the war.

Scientist Expatriots

Between 1901 and 1932, Germany had 25 Nobel Laureates in Physics and Chemistry while America had only five.

During the fifty years that followed, Germany had only 13 Nobel Prize winners while America boasted 67.

Read: Hitler's Gift to America

to scientists


Leo SzilardLeo Szilard was born in Budapest, Hungary, on February 11, 1898. He left Germany in 1933 because of anti-Jewish laws. With the news that German scientists discovered nuclear fission, Szilard immediately set up a series of experiments, in collaboration with Enrico Fermi, to see if the theory was correct.

Enrico FermiEnrico Fermi was born in Rome, Italy on 29th September, 1901. Won the Nobel Prize in 1938 and immediately emigrated to America, primarily to escape Mussolini's fascist dictatorship. He lead the team that created the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.


Stanislaw UlamStanislaw Ulam was born on April 3, 1909 in Lvov, Poland. He fled Poland in 1939 and found a position at Princeton. Invited by Hans Bethe, he arrived at Los Alamos in 1943. He developed the ‘Monte-Carlo' method, which greatly aided in creating an atomic bomb.

Albert EinsteinAlbert Einstein born in Württemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879. In 1933 he renounced his citizenship for political reasons and emigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton. He became a United States citizen in 1940.


Eugene WignerEugene Wigner born in Budapest, Hungary, on November 17, 1902, naturalized a citizen of the United States on January 8, 1937. He worked with Fermi at the Metallurgical Laboratory, from 1942 to 1945 determining whether a fission-induced chain reaction was possible.

Edward TellerEdward Teller born in Budapest, Hungary in 1908. Immigrated to US 1935 and became a citizen in 1941. Considered, "the father of the hydrogen bomb", he credits Werner Heisenberg with launching his career in physics.

Hans BetheHans Bethe born in Strasbourg, Germany on July 2 1906. He lost his university position because his mother was Jewish, then emigrated to England in October 1933. He moved to Cornell University in the US in 1935. As the director of the theoretical division for the Manhattan Project, his group calculated how much fuel was needed for the bombs.

Emilio SegreEmilio Segré was born in Tivoli, Rome, on February 1, 1905. Emigrated to the US in 1938 and lead the Radioactivity Group at Los Alamos. Their discovery of spontaneous fission of plutonium led to the reorganization of the Laboratory in the summer of 1944.

John von NeumannJohn von Neumann was born December 28, 1903 in Budapest, Hungary. He moved to Princeton University in 1930 and in 1943 von Neumann began working on the Manhattan Project, where he tackled the immense calculations required for construction of an atomic bomb.

  James FranckJames Franck was born in Hamburg, Germany, on August 26, 1882. Escaping Nazi Germany, he ended up as Director of the Chemistry Division of The Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, which was the center of the Manhattan District's Project.