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Hans Bethe's Statement to the FBI on Klaus Fuchs
February 14, 1950
On January 27, 1950 Klaus Fuchs, a British Scientist who had worked on the
atomic bomb at Los Alamos during the war, confessed to being a Soviet spy. On
March 1, 1950 he was tried and found guilty at the Old Bailey in London.
Dr. HANS BETHE, Nuclear Laboratory, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY., advised he
has known subject since 1934, when he met him at the University of Bristol in
England. Subject worked under his supervision at Los Alamos in the Theoretical
Division, from 1944 to 1946. Subject visited Dr. BETHE in Schenectady, N.Y.,
in the summer of 1946, and in Ithaca, N.Y., in the spring of 1943 or 1949. Dr.
BETHE visited the subject in England (Harwell), during the summer of 1948. Dr.
BETHE advised he never had any reason to suspect the subject of espionage, and
further that subject never seemed to be pro-Russian. To his knowledge, FUCHS
never attempted to elicit any confidential information from him. He described
him as extremely brilliant and as one of the top men in the world on atomic
energy. Dr. BETHE furnished the names of subject's know contacts in the United
Bureau teletype to Albany, 2/14/50
AT ITHACA, NEW YORK
Dr. HANS BETHE, Nuclear Laboratory, Cornell University, advised that he has
been a close associate and friend of subject, and that he considers him one of
the world's leading atomic scientists. He first met FUCHS at the University of
Bristol, Bristol England, in 1934. FUCHS was a graduate student, and BETHE was
a research assistant.
Dr. BETHE stated that they did not become too well acquainted at this time, and
that this period of association lasted for only half a year. He learned that
FUCHS had left Germany for political reasons, but did not learn the details of
his leaving. Dr. BETHE remembered that he had thought this to be quite
commendable at the time. Subject impressed him as a very brilliant and quiet,
and unassuming young man. Dr. BETHE recalled that many of the students and
research assistants would often gather for political discussions and that the
majority seemed to be very far to the left. However, subject never entered
into these discussions and did not appear to have any political learnings.
Further, he did not appear to have any particular friends or associates.
Dr. BETHE stated that after leaving England, he did not see subject for quite
some time. He believed, however, that he perhaps contacted him professionally
in 1936 and 1938, when he (BETHE) made visits to ENGLAND.
In 1944, Dr. BETHE was in charge of the Theoretical Division at the Los Alamos
Project. This division performed the calculations ahead of time as to how the
bomb was to be made and assembled and how it would work. As a result of the
Quebec Agreement, England furnished several top scientists to work in this
division. They were about twelve in number, and Dr. BETHE stated that he does
not believe that the bomb would have been completed as soon as it was without
their assistance. Dr. BETHE personally requested that Dr. RUDOLPH
PEIERLS, of the University of Birmingham, be assigned to the project. Dr.
PEIERLS accepted with the stipulation that he bring with him two of his
best collaborators (Dr. FUCHS and a research man named SKYRME). They joined
the laboratory, and with some ten American scientists, were assigned to the
particular task of determining the best way of bringing together parts of
materials, so that after assembly there would be more than the "critical mass).
Dr. BETHE stated that the name of this group is still classed as restricted
information due to the fact that their work was about the most highly
confidential work done. As a member of this group, subject was in as vital
a position as anyone on the entire project, and had access at all times to
all parts of the laboratory and all documents, except perhaps some "top secret"
documents. However, Dr. BETHE stated that this did not mean that he could not
examine the "top secret" documents which were necessary to his work, upon
clearance and permission.
Dr. BETHE advised that subject lived in a dormitory on the project. He had a
personal automobile, which he bought second-hand at this time. He had no
particular close friends. Subject worked at Los Alamos under the supervision
of Dr. BETHE from the summer of 1944, until January, 1946, when BETHE left.
FUCHS left during the summer.
In June or July, 1946, subject visited Dr. BETHE at the General Electric
Company, Schenectady, New York. He was on his way back to England. Dr. BETHE
recalled that their main topic of conversation was of a sad accident that had
occurred at Los Alamos, when Dr. SLOTIN was killed by radioactivity when one of
the reactors ran away. FUCHS attempted to calculate why such an accident had
happened. He did not spend much time at the plant, and did not question Dr.
BETHE concerning his work. It was Dr. BETHE's recollection that the subject's
sister from Boston, came to Schenectady to meet him. He stated that he did not
meet the sister and does not know her name. He believed that subject remained
in Schenectady only one day.
Since the above meeting, Dr. BETHE stated that he has seen subject two other
times. One occasion was in England, during the summer of 1948, when BETHE
spent a day and a half at Harwell. He talked to subject, as well as several
other scientists. FUCHS showed him around a bit, and told him something of the
theoretical work being done there. BETHE was under orders of the Atomic Energy
Commission not to talk of restricted matters, and so the conversation was
strictly one-sided. He stated that the subject did not appear to be
particularly interested in what was going on in this country.
During the spring of either 1948 or 1949, subject visited Dr. BETHE, at his
invitation, at Ithaca, New York. He had come from England to attend
Declassification Meetings, which were held in Washington. DR. BETHE advised
that he believes that FUCHS stayed one day. Their main topic of conversation
was nuclear reactors and declassification. Again Dr. BETHE was under orders
not to speak of restricted information, so all conversation was one-sided.
Dr. BETHE stated that during their association, he never had any reason to
suspect subject of espionage or even to consider him to be pro-Russian.
FUCHS-always remained aloof from political discussions. He was always very
quiet and reserved, and appeared to live for his work. He never spoke of his
life in Germany, or much concerning his family. He did mention his father from
time to time. Dr. BETHE stated that he had always understood from conversation
with his English associates that the elder FUCHS was a fine old gentleman. Dr.
BETHE advised that to his knowledge, FUCHS never attempted to elicit any
confidential information from any of his co-workers. But, as Dr. BETHE put it,
subject knew as much restricted information as anyone and really did not have
to do much questioning in order to know just what was going on. Dr. Bethe
stated that subject's arrest was a complete surprise to him, and he now feels
that he does not know whom he can ever trust since he had always regarded FUCHS
as absolutely loyal and trustworthy.
Based on his own personal knowledge, Dr. BETHE furnished the following
background data concerning subject. He immigrated from Germany in 1933 or 1934
to escape Nazi oppression. He was a student at Bristol University, Bristol,
England, from 1934 to 1935, taking his Doctor of Philosophy Degree there. He
remained at Bristol as an instructor until about 1940, when he was interned as
a German national and taken to Canada. His work, while at Bristol, was chiefly
concerned with the theory of solids.
Subject was returned to England and released in 1942, when he joined the
research staff of Dr. PEIERLS at the University of Birmingham. His work with
PEIERLS was concerned with atomic energy, particularly in the separation of
uranium isotopes by diffusion, which according to Dr. BETHE, is the basis of
the Oak Ridge Project. When the development of Oak Ridge was being considered,
Dr. PEIERLS was asked to come to this country as a consultant. He brought
FUCHS with him, and they planned many of the installations there, particularly
the diffusion plant. This work took place in New York in 1943.
In 1944, PEIERLS and FUCHS went to Los Alamos, where FUCHS remained until about
July, 1946, when he returned to England. Since that time, he has been employed
Dr. BETHE stated that he knew of no relatives of the subject in this country,
other than his sister in Boston. He listed the following persons as associates
of the subject in this country.
Dr. VICTOR WEISSKOPF - Physics Department, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Boston, Mass.
Dr. ROBERT MARSHAK - Physics Department, University of Rochester,
Rochester, New York.
Dr. EDWARD TELLER - Los Alamos Project
Dr. CARLSON MARK - Los Alamos Project
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