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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [3]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Bertrand Goldschmidt was a French physicist, the only Frenchman to work on the Manhattan Project. He later became an international authority on nuclear policy. In this interview, he recalls his role in 1944 in informing Charles De Gaulle that a new kind of weapon is about to be created that will help end the war. France’s subsequent decision to develop its own atomic capability, he says, was a function of several considerations. Security concerns and national prestige both played a part. More specifically, he cites France’s residual national feelings towards Germany after the war, the French leadership’s “humiliation” during the Suez crisis of 1956, and the overriding desire (of De Gaulle especially) to ensure France’s independence from the United States in this field. Dr. Goldschmidt also discusses the politics of nuclear sharing within NATO, particularly the very different relationship that developed between the U.S. and its two allies, Britain and France. In addition, the interview touches on certain moral questions relating to the creation of nuclear weapons, a development that does not trouble Dr. Goldschmidt in itself since he believes that the actions of humans – in this case their determination that such weapons will not be used – is what matters most.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [3]

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.



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Raw video

Media Type


Manhattan Project (Organization)
Gaulle, Charles de, 1890-1970
Gaillard, Felix, 1919-1970
France. Commissariat a l’energie atomique
Sinai Campaign, 1956, Israel--History--Suez Campaign, 1956
Polaris (Missile)
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
United States
Edicia Sputnik
Soviet Union
Great Britain
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
German rearmament
Joliot-Curie, Frederic
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Goldschmidt, Bertrand (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [3],” 03/11/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed March 24, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_8B6220D3D305444D87DF246CC88BC071.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [3].” 03/11/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. March 24, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_8B6220D3D305444D87DF246CC88BC071>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [3]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_8B6220D3D305444D87DF246CC88BC071
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