Die Atombomben der Bundesrepublik: An Oral History of Germany's Nuclear Weapons Program

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by politicalnomad, Nov 24, 2019.

Loading...
  1. FickleCrossroad Wrong on so Many Levels

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2012
    Location:
    Northwest Wawastan
    The threadmarks are out of order, but this is interesting.
     
  2. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2009
    Location:
    Canterlot
    Obviously, but in the scenario as set up it's not about the Russians "letting" East Germany have nuclear weapons so much as the East Germans not letting the Russians know they have nuclear weapons, or are even pursuing nuclear weapons.
     
    Halo117, Count, Rath and 2 others like this.
  3. The Wooksta! Resident soup dragon

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2013
    Location:
    There - but I like it here
    Any state that has nuclear power is a de facto nuclear power - the knowledge and skills base is already there to militarize it.
     
    Jack Brisco and MrHaakwood like this.
  4. Threadmarks: Comrade General Secretary, it's much easier to build a nuclear bomb if you cheat...

    politicalnomad Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2014
    The Admiral continued "Three months later, Wolf and Colonel Wolfgang Becker, the head of the atomic weapons section of the HVA's Sector for Science and Technology (Sektor Wissenschaft und Technik) delivered their findings to Honecker. The summary of the report is in the file. They first discussed the West German capability to produce atomic arms. Becker found that on a pure technical level, the Federal Republic could likely produce an atomic weapon. By mid 1971, West Germany had amassed a significant amount of civilian nuclear technology, and had been operating nuclear reactors for some time. Facilities such as the Obrigheim reactor complex could serve as the key building blocks towards an atomic weapons program. However, Wolf also stated that it would be almost technically impossible for the West Germans to build the infrastructure necessary to either enrich uranium or to reprocess plutonium into weapons grade material without it being noticed by Washington and London. He added
    that it would certainly be impossible to hide such a program from the DDR's intelligence apparatus."

    [​IMG]

    Kahl Nuclear Reactor, West Germany


    Chancellor said "...and that doesn't even broach the massive shitstorm of domestic political consequences such a program would have brought upon any government went down that road. NATO's dual key system was plenty good enough for the Brandt government in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Okay, what did they report about how Israel had gotten their bomb?"

    "Becker then stated that yes, Israel had indeed managed to obtain nuclear weapons. The big difference between Israel and a theoretical West German program was that the Israelis had gotten a lot of help. For example, the French had supplied the nuclear reactors at Dimona, the British special chemicals for reprocessing as well as fissile samples and heavy water, yellowcake uranium came from Argentina. The French were probably selling uranium to the Israelis as late as 1965. A large section of the West, particularly the French governments of the era, felt that Israel should get the bomb to prevent another Holocaust. President Kennedy tried to intervene in 1963, but by then the cake was baked. In other words, the West more or less either openly aided or turned a blind eye to Israel's ambitions. That's the direct opposite about how they would feel about a West German program."

    [​IMG]

    Dimona Nuclear Reactor Complex

    "Okay, Admiral. I think I knew most of that. But I'm sensing that's not the end of the report, is it?"

    "No, and here's where our story gets interesting. The Israelis obviously eventually built the infrastructure to be able to manufacture atomic weapons on their own. At the same time, they apparently took a massive shortcut to build their very first nuclear devices. The hardest part of any nuclear weapons program is obtaining a sufficient amount of fissile material to build a bomb. As Wolf said: "Comrade General Secretary, it's much easier to build a nuclear bomb if you cheat and skip this step, especially for an advanced nation state." The Israelis probably put together their first two devices by outright stealing at least 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium from a facility in Pennsylvania. Becker explained that the actual bombs themselves, although quite sophisticated, are much easier and less costly to build than the infrastructure necessary for obtaining fissile material."

    "I think I might see where this is going, but what happened next?"

    "Honecker asked Wolf and Becker if the West Germans could secretly build a bomb if they were to obtain the necessary fissile material, by say, stealing a nuclear warhead from a NATO stockpile. The answer was that it was probably difficult but possible that the West Germans could do so in secret on a very limited basis from the rest of NATO. Wolf added that he was doubtful that they could conduct such a project without the HVA knowing what was going on. After adding some qualifiers as to the insanity of such an act, Becker was dismissed. Honecker had another fact finding request for Wolf. I'll quote Wolf again: "Just how secure are NATO's nuclear materials and nuclear warheads in Western Europe, as compared to what was known about the same facilities and depots operated by our fraternal Soviet socialist brothers?"
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
    eios21, mayboro, Corax and 32 others like this.
  5. politicalnomad Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2014
    Threadmarks updated.
     
    FickleCrossroad likes this.
  6. matzeskatze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    First post is still the last threadmark...

    Otherwise I find it hilarious that the "bad little GDR" managed to pull the wool over both big alliances as well as the FRG...

    Lastly, inside joke... GDR... GroßDeutsches Reich... poor East Germans being settled with that :oops:
     
  7. politicalnomad Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2014
    Fixed now?

    Also, your joke reminds me of this one: Which three great nations in the world begin with "U"? — USA, USSR, and our GDR. (German: Was sind die drei großen Nationen der Welt, beginnend mit "U"? USA, UdSSR, und unsere DDR).
     
    Count, matzeskatze, oberdada and 2 others like this.
  8. andys Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2010
    Perhaps the Germans secretly modified a few Phantoms or Tornadoes as delivery platforms? Or secretly kept a small number of ex-DDR Scuds tucked away somewhere quiet and remote? The number of personnel involved must be very small to maintain the secret, possibly with many of them being fed a cover story of some sort to keep them involved but uninformed?

    And the Ossies stole a few weapons from the Russians?! Or more likely bought some from a corrupt Russian officer?
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
  9. jomorisin Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2006
    Fascinating. Subbed.
     
  10. Threadmarks: The Edges of The Puzzle

    politicalnomad Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2014
    The Chancellor leaned back in her chair and "Obviously the whole West German angle was a fig leaf, right?"

    The Admiral replied "Exactly. Washington watched everything the Federal Republic did closely, but the Russians, well they were obsessive paranoids on a whole other level. No way in hell could they ever run a top to bottom nuclear weapons program on their own without Moscow noticing. Honecker would have ended up in a gulag in a week."

    "But if the biggest job is already done for you, concealing the rest would be doable without Moscow noticing if you did it slowly and carefully, ja?"

    "Correct. After hearing the story of the Israelis diverting the enriched uranium, Honecker is basically asking Wolf how the DDR would go about stealing a limited number of warheads from a depot somewhere...and the interesting is that Wolf already knows some fairly large pieces of the puzzle. So he starts laying out the known borders of the jigsaw puzzle."

    "So when he makes his report in.....he knows.......?"

    "December 1971...that the idea of purloining a dozen warheads from a Soviet facility is a no go. Wolf's report takes four pages to say this the long way. The Soviets built five enormous nuclear storage bunkers in the GDR; the artillery shells and the missile warheads were stored at Stolzenhain and Lychen; the air delivered ones at the airfields at Brand, Finsterwalde, and Rechlin. Every single one of them a fortress guarded by much better than average security troops. Even if you're successful, the KGB and the Red Army would tear apart the Warsaw Pact until they found the damned things. Plus it would not take a lot of brain capacity to take a guess at who had the capabilities to steal them either. Later on, there would be a cursory look at stealing them out of a bunker in Poland; particularly the one at Podborsko in Pomerania, but that was quickly discarded. In any event, the Russians did not always keep the warheads fully forward deployed at all times; this changed in the early '80s, but in the era of detente, the Soviets largely opted to keep their warheads stashed in the Motherland. They could always be moved forward in an emergency."

    "On the other hand....."

    "Yes, on the other hand there's NATO which has most definitely forward deployed several thousand warheads in Western Europe; mostly in West Germany. That's already strangely enough a better starting point for Wolf for a few reasons. Firstly, you don't have a half a million paranoid Soviet eyes watching over you. There's a fair amount more freedom from the KGB to do things. Secondly, because you have NATO and the West German establishment thoroughly penetrated, you actually know more. A lot more. For example, the HVA knew a lot of things, but the design plans for Soviet nuclear warheads were not one of them. On the other hand, the HVA did had the designs for the B61 nuclear bombs and the W33 nuclear artillery shells. Along with specifications for some of the storage depots and bunkers where they're stored. There were some knowledge gaps, but he could see a path to those. Also, Wolf's HVA has a lot of experience moving things and people in and out of West Germany by now; the logistics are easier than trying to sneak things in from Poland or Czechoslovakia. Finally, the troops guarding the bunkers in West Germany are-well, you're largely dealing with the demoralized Vietnam era and post-Vietnam era US Army and Air Force. Morale is bad, and the Ordanance Corps isn't exactly attracting the cream of the crop either. In other words, stealing NATO atomic weapons is something that Markus Wolf thought was within the realm of possibility. He spends the next six pages walking Honecker through the known security vulnerabilities of NATO's atomic arms storage."

    "So you're saying that.....unsere atombomben are.....American? They never advertised that fact or suspected they ended up in....."

    "Rostock, the 12 warheads are stored at a secret facility the East German Navy built in Rostock. And Wolf hadn't actually settled on stealing them out of a US Army depot yet....."
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
    mayboro, Corax, rocky7106 and 33 others like this.
  11. Mumbles Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2014
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    No need, they already are ITTL. Not sure about the Phantoms, but the Tornado's have always had a nuclear delivery role in Luftwaffe service, taking over from the F-104G.
     
  12. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2013
    From what I could tell, it was easy to figure which storage bunkers had the 'special' weapons. They were the ones with the alert guards who didn't look sloppy, like the other sentries who were only slightly happier to be doing that, rather than the other make work deals in W.Germany, like painting rocks, picking up cigarette butts or polishing the paint on vehicles. Yes, I saw stuff with glossy OD paint over there.

    Things weren't that bad in W.Germany from what other bases had going on, after all,during the SE Asia ruckus, W.Germany was where you went to not be in South Vietnam:screw up too much, you got a C-141 ride to somewhere humid.
     
    Halo117 and Theoretical_TJ like this.
  13. The Wooksta! Resident soup dragon

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2013
    Location:
    There - but I like it here
    I remember one British Army veteran telling me some years back that the nuclear storage bunkers in Germany - even US ones - were largely guarded by British troops rather than Americans.
     
    bobbobbins3 likes this.
  14. oberdada Präsident des Welt- und Erdenballs

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Berlin/Germany
    Interesting.

    I am keen to learn who the chancellor is, and when she takes office.
    Obviously not Merkel.

    The newly elected head of government being informed of some crazy secret is a bit of a cliche, but if it was good enough for Joanne Rowling ...
     
    MrHaakwood and Gepetto887 like this.
  15. politicalnomad Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2014
    It honestly doesn't matter who the Chancellor is; the whole setup is just a vehicle for telling a story.
     
  16. Gepetto887 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2008
    It’s a very justified cliche, though. If there are crazy secrets, then there’s going to be a “revealing this to the new head of government” moment. Truman didn’t know much, if anything, about the atomic bomb until after FDR died.
     
    The Tai-Pan likes this.
  17. matzeskatze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    I like a good spy story now and then.
    To be honest, I liked the first John Ryan ones. At least until it got too far into tech solving.

    And here I like the format so far.
     
    dangerdalli likes this.
  18. politicalnomad Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2014
    The better analogy here is to the apartheid era South Africans, not the North Koreans (who want to be left alone and use their nukes as a means of extortion).

    A small arsenal of tactical weapons serves three purposes:

    a) For Honecker, they're a personal bargaining chip for that fateful day when the German Democratic Republic may buckle and collapse. He has no intention of going out like Hitler did. This is much, much less applicable to the Federal Republic.
    b) For both East Germany and the Federal Republic, their small arsenal is a vehicle to be revealed to get their enemies (probably the Russians) to think twice about doing something really stupid. Or to get their "allies" to aid them. Ask the Ukranians how well giving up their nukes worked for them of late. Treaties are only as good as the nations that sign them, but you can always rely on your arsenal for self defense.
    c) If either Germany was left isolated to themselves (NATO breaks down/USSR and WarPac collapse) and the shit really hits the fan, they're a last resort. A dozen tactical nukes, used judiciously, will stop pretty much any army cold. It's also enough to inflict a hell of a countervalue strike against population centers.
     
    Halo117, Rath, Count and 5 others like this.
  19. Jürgen Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2016
    The interesting part is the day when the media discover that FRG have nuclear weapons, but ironic it’s pretty easy to deal with... just deny, deny and deny. Which would place Germany in the interesting situation of having Schrödingers nuclear weapon.
     
    Halo117, Rath, Count and 3 others like this.
  20. Threadmarks: ....for a brief window of time East Germany could steal a functioning nuke that they could use off the shelf

    politicalnomad Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2014
    ".....although he is already mighty tempted for one other reason." the Admiral continued.

    "Why is that?"

    "Because Wolf knows that not all of those weapons are equipped with Permissive Action Links, devices which stop unauthorized usage of nuclear weapons. Wolf knew that the United States would not finish modifying all of their forward deployed warheads with PALs until 1974-1975. In other words, he knew that for a brief window of time East Germany could potentially grab a functioning nuke that they could more or less use off the shelf. That would allow the DDR to keep their initial nuclear weapons program very, very small indeed. Remember, the most important constraint isn't money, resources, or time-it was keeping the Russians in the dark. The smaller the flashlight you need to get the job done, the better."

    The Chancellor asked "So, he's clearly eyeing the atomic storage bunkers. Well, what other options did he have for getting the fissile material were there?"

    "Wolf was cautious and stayed within his initial remit of nuclear storage bunkers and nuclear facilities. Beyond the Sonderwaffenlagers in both Germanies, there are the plants and facilities that produce fissile materials for Soviet and NATO nuclear weapons production. The main Soviet facility at Mayak/Ozyorsk was a nonstarter. It's a closed city near Chelyabinsk, and Wolf judged his chances of getting fissile material from it as basically nil. Not without a huge and risky very long term operation. That left the British facility at Sellafield and the French complex at Marcoule. Wolf's intelligence sources in Britain were hit and miss; the British nuclear industry was a total black hole for the HVA. That left the French; as their nuclear industry was tightly tied into Germany's through Euratom, information flowed fairly freely to East Berlin. Wolf also had some sources within France, who when asked said that while French information security could be spotty, the physical security aspects around Marcoule were extremely tight. After the Apollo Affair in Pennsylvania, security got even tighter concerning fissile material. Wolf believed that Marcoule was a dead end."

    "...and the United States?" inquired the Chancellor?

    "For all of Wolf's successes in Western Europe, he never was able to crack into North America in a big way. He'd have to build an intelligence network from scratch to acquire nuclear material and get it back across the Iron Curtain. The juice simply is not worth the squeeze for him. Not when you have several thousand nukes sitting squarely within your operational wheelhouse."

    "So that leaves us back at pulling a heist from one of those nuclear storage depots, right?"

    "Well, that's all that there was for him to explore within his initial charge; to go any farther, he was going to have to get a hunting license from Honecker...."
     
    eios21, Corax, Halo117 and 29 others like this.
Loading...