Tag Archives: Nobel Prize

What We Talk About When We Talk About Fritz Haber

18Here’s the thing: The reason billions of people haven’t starved to death is thanks to German scientist Fritz Haber and the Haber-Bosch Process, which basically allows large-scale fertilizers to exist. He won the Nobel Prize!

But he also pioneered chemical warfare, deriding those who called it inhumane by pointing out that death is death, no matter what horse it rides in on.

His wife Clara may have disagreed; shortly after Haber personally oversaw the deployment of chlorine gas at Ypres (which saw 67,000 deaths), Clara and Fritz argued and she shot herself in the head with his gun. Their 13-year-old son, Hermann, heard the shots and found her. (Hermann would later commit suicide after WWII and the death of his youngest daughter; his oldest daughter would do likewise.)

And just as Haber saw no difference between modes of death, the Nazis saw no difference between Jews, whether they had served their country during the Great War or not. Presuming himself safe from persecution after converting to Christianity, Haber was stunned when he was ordered to dismiss all Jewish employees. He was dead by January 1934.

Allegedly, some of Haber’s extended family would be killed in concentration camps, courtesy of chemicals that had been developed at his lab.

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