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

Before tonight's update (very late tonight), a few notes:

1) The inspiration for this is that small paragraph in The Sum of All Fears, where it talks about Manfred Fromm being the chief engineer on Erich Honecker's most cherished project-East Germany's nuclear weapons program. That route is slow boredom. My route is much, much more fun.

2) We'll be getting into exactly what the East German's actually want in terms of nukes in....the post after next, maybe. I feel like I have to slide in a broader context post somewhere, so it might be two posts down the road.

3) I actually considered doing this same story, but with the Poles wanting their own nuclear arsenal. I considered that just a step too bonkers to actually pull off.

4) If you're interested in great fiction about East Germany, I recommend the Karin Mueller series by David Wolf (Stasi Child, Stasi Wolf, A Darker State, Stasi 77). They are very well written with a lot of minutae. Basically the Gorky Park of East Berlin, but better in my opinion.

A few more:

Q. How do you measure the acceleration of a Trabant?
A. With a diary.

Q. What's the difference between a Jehovah's Witness and a Trabant?
A. You can shut the door on a Jehovah's Witness.

Q. When does a Trabi reach its top speed?
A. When it's being towed.

During a visit to the Leipzig Trade Fair a filthy rich oil sheik heard that there was a car with a delivery time of over ten years. Since Rolls Royce usually delivered more quickly than that, he thought it must be quite an exceptional car, which he would certainly have to have in his collection. Sight unseen, he made a request to order this Trabant. In Zwickau they were aware of this great honour, and the potential PR coup, so they immediately changed the running "Five-Year Plan" and arranged to send him the very next car off the line. The car reached the Emirates in a matter of weeks, instead of years. The happy oil sheik immediately called his friends together, opened the container, and exclaimed in surprise: "Gosh! They may have incredibly long delivery times, but at least they send you a plastic model in advance — and the best thing is you can even drive it!"

A man went into a Trabant dealership and said to the salesman: "I'd like to buy a Trabant with a two-tone color scheme please? The salesman replied: "Certainly sir, we have one with that colour scheme, plus power steering, cruise control, adjustable power seats, air conditioning, and a digital instrument panel". The man replied: "You're joking!". The dealer responded: "Well, you started it!"
 
NATO nuclear artillery basically came in three sizes: 155mm (W48, W82), 203mm (W33 and W79), and the big 280mm/11-inch "Atomic Annie" (W9, W19, and a variant sleeved up to 16" called the W23 for the Iowa-class battleship).

Where it gets a bit strange is the yields. The W9 280mm was about as big as you'd expect from something of that size, 15-20kt in a shell weighing 600-800lbs. Everything else went from ~72 tons (W48) up to 1-2Kt (the W79 and cancelled W82) with regular and enhanced-radiation options. And then you look at the W33 and things go completely mental. Those could apparently be set to four yields: ~1Kt, two in the 5-15Kt range, and the W33Y2 that somehow packed 40 kilotons of boom into a 250-pound 8" shell. How exactly that one was achieved nobody quite knows.
Spherical implosion is more efficient than linear. Plus the extra shell size allows for optionally, tritium boosting.
 
Spherical implosion is more efficient than linear. Plus the extra shell size allows for optionally, tritium boosting.
Ah, but that's the thing: it wasn't a spherical implosion warhead. The W33 was a gun-type, albeit possibly a very weird one.
 
The Hunting License
"When I said that Wolf had to go and get a hunting permit, I actually meant that literally" the Admiral said.

The Chancellor had a confused look on her face.

"Hunting game was generally forbidden within the DDR; one had to have special written permission. Such rules generally didn't apply to the party brass, but Wolf wasn't quite yet at the Politburo level where they could dispense with the formalities, so Wolf had to fill out the paperwork to hunt on state lands with Honecker in January."

"Hunting? In the middle of...January?"

"First off, Honecker was obsessed with hunting, the man shot anything that moved. Secondly, ostensibly they were hunting rabbits, which don't hibernate."

"Go on." indicated the Chancellor

"On January 21st, 1972, Honecker and Wolf go hunting on state lands in Brandenburg-then the East German bezirk of Potsdam. After twenty minutes of discussing relatively routine intelligence reports concerning the West Germans-this is indeed the beginnings of Ostpolitik in the early 1970s, remember? Anyways, Honnecker suddenly starts talking about the threat posed by NATO's huge atomic arsenal, the disturbing developments going on in the West German nuclear industry, and the the nuclear arms race. And then Wolf remembers the next bit of Honecker's talk. You should read it word for word, Chancellor."

The Admiral grabbed the file and turned it to the relevant page. The photocopy was highlighted

The DDR stands on the frontline of the struggle between capitalism and socialism more than any other communist nation of the Warsaw Pact. We have thousands of nuclear warheads stationed within miles of the Inner German Border. Of course the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal exists to defend socialism from the current threat posed by the West. However, NATO may one day have the capability to inflict a first strike which decapitates the Soviet politburo out of the blue, leaving the Warsaw Pact defenseless from the West. It is therefore necessary that the German Democratic Republic obtain a limited nuclear arsenal as a failsafe against the threat posed to our socialist fatherland and our fraternal allies from the imperialists of NATO. In principle, it is is no different from the limited arsenals held by the United Kingdom and France to guard against an attack against the leadership of the United States. This must, of course, be done in secret outside of our existing nuclear program. If discovered, such an effort would have enormous international implications, and our Soviet comrades may misconstrue our intentions-they are not always capable of logical thought when it concerns Germany-even socialist Germany.

"Honecker then went on to direct Wolf to have Comrade Grossman assemble a small group to present a feasibility study for covertly obtaining the necessary fissile material for an arsenal of ten to twenty tactical nuclear warheads in the 10-50 kiloton range. A preliminary report was to be made to the General Secretary in four to six months. Four would be better." the Admiral said.
 
Well I have to say, if I trust an organization of professional paranoid to do something like this, it's probably the MfS.
Some of the few organizations that are able to keep such a project secret and "organize" the necessary components.
 
Well I have to say, if I trust an organization of professional paranoid to do something like this, it's probably the MfS.
Some of the few organizations that are able to keep such a project secret and "organize" the necessary components.
To the Stasi, I'd add the Israeli Mossad. Beyond those two...it gets iffy.
 
But I do wonder, how much was the Stasi penetrated by the KGB?
Oh, I'm sure it was to some extent. But the MfS was the king of counterintel-for decades the CIA got jack all from East Berlin, for example. But keep it small and compartmentalized, with very few knowing the big picture, and this can work.
 
But I do wonder, how much was the Stasi penetrated by the KGB?
Up to 1957 was Stasi subordinate of KGB, after that there were KGB liaison officers in Stasi main directorates and district offices (some sources give 8 main directorates and 15 teritorial offices), in 1978 Mielke did give these KGB officers exactly the same righs in GDR, as KGB officers had in USSR.
On the other side was Wolfs Hauptwerwaltung Aufklärung (Main Directorate for Reconnaissance) were in their own eyes the elite of Stasi and are considered totally loyal to SED. And there are allegations, that Stasi was the only inltelligence service, whom KGB feared. If at all, Wolf is someone who can do something like that, probably the only one.
 
Up to 1957 was Stasi subordinate of KGB, after that there were KGB liaison officers in Stasi main directorates and district offices (some sources give 8 main directorates and 15 teritorial offices), in 1978 Mielke did give these KGB officers exactly the same righs in GDR, as KGB officers had in USSR.
On the other side was Wolfs Hauptwerwaltung Aufklärung (Main Directorate for Reconnaissance) were in their own eyes the elite of Stasi and are considered totally loyal to SED. And there are allegations, that Stasi was the only inltelligence service, whom KGB feared. If at all, Wolf is someone who can do something like that, probably the only one.
That's the official part. But I was thinking more of an "non-official" part.
 
This reminds me of the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where we see the orbital nuclear platforms in orbit. There is a German Luftwaffe orbital platform (complete with German flag and Bundeswehr cross) alongside those from the USAF, France, and also the Chinese PLAAF ASAT platform.
 
Atombomben will resume tomorrow. Sorry for the lack of an update. Family drama (ponders if my brother would fit in a 203mm artillery piece so I could shoot him out of it), a surprise invite to the ACC championship, and the fact that today is my birthday have conspired to the delay.

Until then, a joke about Honecker:

Early in the morning, Honecker arrives at his office and opens his window. He greets the Sun, saying: "Good morning, dear Sun!" — "Good morning, dear Erich!" Honecker works, and then at noon he heads to the window and says: "Good day, dear Sun!" — "Good day, dear Erich!" In the evening, Erich calls it a day, and heads once more to the window, and says: "Good evening, dear Sun!" Hearing nothing, Honecker says again: "Good evening, dear Sun! What's the matter?" The sun retorts: "Kiss my arse. I'm in the West now!"
 
You Can Fit Two Nukes Into The Trunk of A Mercedes.....
"The next day, Wolf has a meeting with Grossman where he lays out what Honecker has requested, and it turns out that Grossman's already thinking ahead of him. Read."

I turned to Comrade Wolf and said "Fissile material for 10-20 medium yield tactical nuclear weapons. Stealing it from our side of Europe is practically impossible. Their Sonderwaffenlagers are guarded 24 hours a day. The Soviets don't trust technology like NATO does and they therefore have eyeballs on their bombs all the time-when they are forward deployed, which isn't the case right now. I've looked at the plans for their bunkers like the one at Stolzenhain, it can't be done. Stealing them in transit without the Soviets knowing is similarly almost impossible. We also don't have anyone in the Soviet atomic energy program or anyone in a fraternal socialist state that could help in a meaningful way, and we can't obtain it through our own domestic means. Unless you want to bring in the Luftstreitkräfte der Nationalen Volksarmee to make one of their strategic bombers fall out of the sky into the Baltic, it's not doable, and even then we'd have to re-engineer their bombs to suit our purposes. A complicated mess. Pass.

That leaves NATO; we do have contacts in their nuclear industry, but for an arsenal of 10-20 weapons, arranging for that much fissile material to fall into our hands would take a decade or more. Plus, you then have to build the bombs, which is more complicated. That leaves the several thousand tactical nuclear warheads stationed in the Federal Republic and Western Europe. When I asked how hard it would be for the West Germans to re-engineer an existing NATO warhead, he indicated that for certain artillery shells, they require very little work; the air dropped weapons contain PALs for security, their artillery shells not so much. So, that's the best option; 10-20 nuclear artillery shells; our expert said that if he were the West Germans, he'd go for the 203mm W33 weapons, which have yields ranging from 5 to 40 kilotons. They're gun type weapons, which are basically the AK-47 of the nuclear weapons-simpler, easier to convert, and easier to maintain, and almost guaranteed to work. Plus, they're relatively small and light; you can fit two nukes into the trunk of a Mercedes sedan, which makes them easier to exfiltrate once we have acquired them.

As for obtaining the weapons from NATO, I think it's doable. Don't get me wrong, they are well guarded, but they are only well guarded against certain types of theft. The security precautions NATO currently has in place are largely meant to deter theft by a terrorist group or unauthorized usage by their own forces; their security protocols are vulnerable to breach by a much more serious effort. When you asked me to look at the data, I talked with one of the experts who wrote the report on NATO nuclear weapons security, and he laid out two ideas for how he would do it, one of which dovetails better with our purposes. I'll bring him in to lay out both. We'll need to collect more intelligence to fill some knowledge gaps, it's manageable. I think we could ultimately keep the number of people who actually know that we're stealing the weapons down to less than 20, maybe 15 if we're lucky. Plus, I think we might even be able to make it look like someone else grabbed the bombs. I assume we have a blank check for this, Markus....?"

 
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