Otto Hahn heads a delegation to Israel
Otto Hahn’s trip to Israel started a new chapter of political and scientific cooperation. The aim of the trip was not just scientific networking between the two new nations, but also the normalisation of the relationship between Germany and Israel in general. In the process, which was initiated by the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and the German federal chancellor Konrad Adenauer, science was to contribute to healing the wounds left by the Shoah (holocaust). Josef Cohn, who had emigrated from Germany in 1933 and who played a crucial role as a mediator and scientific organiser for Israel, was committed to the cooperation. Upon receiving an invitation from the Weizmann Institute, a publicly funded establishment for basic research, like the MPS, Hahn set out accompanied by outstanding scientists. Hahn’s son Harro, an art historian of the Bibliotheca Hertziana, represented the human sciences in the Max Planck Society; Wolfgang Gentner, Director of the MPI for Nuclear Physics, and biochemist Feodor Lynen from the MPI for Cellular Chemistry represented the two natural sciences divisions.
During the ten-day trip, the delegation visited the Weizmann Institute and other scientific institutions in order to explore the possibilities of cooperation. Hahn later said of the trip that a certain awkwardness among the German guests was soon dispelled by a very “warm and friendly atmosphere”. The successful trip was the start to an active exchange of scientists between the two nations: as early as in 1961, the first German scientist, Lorenz Krüger, was able to go to the Weizmann Institute for an extended stay.