As set out in my review Volpi’s narrator, Gustav Links, is saved from certain execution by the death of Judge Roland Fleisler through a bomb while the People’s Court was in session on
February 3, 1945. In real life Fleisler was killed in a
slightly less dramatic fashion by dying after adjourning court though there are
conflicting stories on whether it was from a falling beam or from a bomb
fragment outside the building. What was true is that one of conspirators in the
July assassination attempt of Hitler, Fabian von Schlabrendorff, was on trial that day and survived the war
because of Fleisler’s death.
Volpi acknowledges the American Alsos missions which sought out information on German scientific research during the war. He adds the twist of a scientific adviser to Hitler who operates under the pseudonym of Klingsor. There was no secret adviser. For much of the war Hitler relied on the recommendations of such men as Albert Speer whom he had made Minister of Armaments. There was far too much competition for power between competing leading Nazis for there to have been any secret adviser.
Volpi has Heisenberg justify working on the bomb for
when, in reality, as outlined in my post on Heisenberg’s
War he led German physicists in avoiding bomb development by stressing
technical difficulties. Heisenberg clearly stated that they did not want to put
the bomb in Hitler’s hands. Germany
In the book Volpi then has Heisenberg dramatically reverse the accusation against him by saying it was the Allied physicists who actually developed the bomb and brought about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in
and Hiroshima .
There is no indication Heisenberg ever made such a statement. Nagasaki
Volpi posits there was a battle to make the bomb. There was no battle. The
invested huge resources to build a bomb. The Nazis puttered along contributing
enough for basic research that never progressed beyond a small reactor. U.S.
In the book Heisenberg is made into a bad guy to provide a worthy adversary for Bacon. In history he was the man who denied the Nazis the chance at the bomb.
I acknowledge the facts of history are not clear. There are conflicts over Heisenberg’s role. In Albert Speer – His Battle with the Truth by Gitta Sereny there is a Heisenberg more eager to develop the bomb than is portrayed than in Heisenberg’s War. Examining the respective accounts I found Heisenberg’s War more convincing.
At the end of the war Volpi adapts the secretly taped conversations of the 10 interned German physicists to have them assert their failure to progress on the development of the bomb was because they were denied funds by the mysterious Klingsor. In real life they never asked for the funding that would have let them try to develop the bomb.
In real life there would never have been a need after WW II to search for a Klingsor for, even if such an anonymous figure existed, the Allies and Soviets had swiftly searched out all the leading scientists of Germany and took them into protective (from each other) custody. The top 10 physicists were actually in American hands before the war ended.
I admire how Volpi used history as the foundation of his book and was intrigued by how he adjusted history to tell his story.