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What, really, did we recover from the Nazis at the end of the war? To appreciate how badly written a finale it truly is, it is best to begin at the logical place: in Berlin, far below ground, in the last weeks of the war.

There, in the bizarre and surreal world of the Fuhrerbunker, the megalomaniac German dictator huddles with his generals, impervious to the rain of Allied and Soviet bombs that are reducing the once beautiful city of Berlin to piles of rubble.

Our long talks about World War Two had convinced us that there was much about the war that did not make sense, Hitler's and Stalin's genocidal paranoia notwithstanding.

Gradually, and one must say, predictably, the Germans themselves raced to uncover what lay hidden in the formerly inaccessible archival vaults of East Germany and the Soviet Union.

His observations open a veritable Pandora's box of horrifying research the Third Reich was conducting, research far more horrendous in its scope and terrible promise than mere atomic bombs.

More importantly, his observations also raise the disturbing question of why the Allied governments - America in particular - kept so much classified for so long.

Physics was also an interest for me, and another oddity lodged in my mind as I read the standard histories: the United States had never tested the uranium bomb it dropped on Hiroshima. It seemed to have the same sharp angles and corners as the Warren Commission's "magic bullet". Other odd facts accumulated over the years as if to underline the strangeness of the war's end in general and that fact in particular.

Then, in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and the two post-war Germanies raced toward reunification.

And I would like to thank the many people-too numerous to mention -who listened, read, and critiqued the book along the way. Farrell Tulsa, Oklahoma PART ONE: GOTTERDAMMERUNG "A comprehensive February 1942 (German) Army Ordnance report on the German uranium enrichment program includes the statement that the critical mass of a nuclear weapon lay between 10 and 100 kilograms of either uranium 235 or element 94....

In fact the German estimate of critical mass of 10 to 100 kilograms was comparable to the contemporary Allied estimate of 2 to 100....

The German scientists working on uranium neither withheld their figure for critical mass because of moral scruples nor did they provide an inaccurate estimate as the result of gross scientific error." "In southern Germany, meanwhile, the American Third and Seventh and the French First Armies had been driving steadily eastward into the so-called 'National Redoubt'....

The American Third Army drove on into Czechoslovakia and by May 6 had captured Pilsen and Karlsbad and was approaching Prague." The end of the Second World War in Europe, at least as normally recounted, does not make sense, for in its standard form as learned in history books that history resembles nothing so much as a badly written finale to some melodramatic Wagnerian opera.

As a consequence, while the Nazi regime's "image" becomes even more blackened, the image of the victorious Allies also suffers to a great degree.

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