According to this article at dailymail.co.uk and this article at news.com.au a declassified document "APO 696" (purportedly in the U.S. National Archives) includes testimony that indicates a possible nuclear explosion in Germany in early October 1944.

Above newspaper articles say that the "APO 696" document contains the following statement by a German test pilot Hans Zinsser:

In early October 1944 I flew away 12-15 km from a nuclear test station near Ludwigslust (south of Lübeck). A cloud shaped like a mushroom with turbulent, billowing sections (at about 7000 metres) stood, without any seeming connections over the spot where the explosion took place. Strong electrical disturbances and the impossibility to continue radio communication as by lighting turned up.

The Daily Mail article continues that Hans Zinsser

estimated the cloud stretching for 6.5miles and described further 'strange colourings' followed by a blast wave which translated into a 'strong pull on the stick' - meaning his cockpit controls.

I have not found online access to the "APO 696" document in the U.S. National Archives so I cannot confirm whether it states what is claimed in these articles.

However both articles also refer to the explosion to have been seen by a reporter named Luigi Romersa. According to this article in Spiegel Online (dated March 14, 2005) and the Wikipedia article about him, Mr. Romersa was a former war reporter for the Milanese newspaper Corriere della Sera (engl. "Evening Courier"). The Spiegel article states that:

For years Romersa, a Roman who is now 87, has been telling the story of how he visited Hitler in October 1944 and then was flown to an island in the Baltic Sea. Romersa says that he was taken to a dugout where he witnessed an explosion that produced a bright light, and that men wearing protective suits then drove him away from the site, telling him that what he had witnessed was a "fission bomb."

The news.com.au article relates above report to an incident involving a German treasure hunter by name Bernd Thälmann who, as it is told, had located a lump of uranium in the soil near Oranienburg (a German article about this is here at berliner-kurier.de, and an English one can be found here at independent.co.uk).

A problem I have with determining the truthfulness of these claims is that each story seems to me refer to a different location for the explosion. Consequently we have reports that would indicate WW2-era nuclear activity in

  1. Ludwigslust (south of Lübeck)
  2. an island in the Baltic Sea
  3. near Oranienburg (seems to be near Berlin?)


Is it plausible that there was a nuclear explosion in Germany during WW2?

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    If such a site can be identified, the soil in the area should show definite traces of radiation, with isotopes which would identify the specifics of the reaction to a considerable degree. Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 17:01
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    I have personally witnessed a "fake" A-bomb blast. But it was just bit of military pyrotechnics, intended to illustrate a combat scenario, and, no doubt, the blast was about 1000 times smaller than the real thing, though it did look quite impressive, with the mushroom cloud, et al. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 1:07
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    "In early October 1944 I flew away 12-15 km from a nuclear test station" -- how would he have known what it was? The very word 'nuclear' was pretty obscure outside physicist circles at that time.
    – LSerni
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 9:51
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    @LSerni The story is being told later and Zinsser isn't necessarily describing it in the terms he would have used at the time. For example, suppose you saw a woman and didn't recognise her as Angela Merkel. If you later learnt who she was, it would be completely accurate to say "I saw Angela Merkel." Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 12:01
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    @JohnColeman The V-2 carried a 1000kg payload; the US Little Boy uranium bomb was 4400kg and Fat Man was a little heavier still at 4670kg. It wasn't until 1954 that the US had an atomic bomb that was (almost) light enough to put on a V-2 (the 1090kg Mark-5). And a nuclear explosion doesn't necessarily imply a usable weapon: the first US hydrogen device, Ivy Mike, was essentially a small factory that weighed 82 tons. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


Most likely not, at least not in the way these claims are suggesting. The article's claims are shaky at best, and go against both US and German reports regarding Germany's nuclear program at the time.

APO 696: Two problems here. The linked articles base their claims on the "Recently declassified file APO 696 from the National Archives in Washington". A quick search through the national archives doesn't show any such document, though admittedly it could be part of some other documents and hard to find. Regardless, if it was declassified and public, there would have been no reason for them to not link the documents in the article.

Furthermore, 'APO' seems to mean 'Army Post Office', and according to this document 'APO 696' seems to have been located in New York. Perhaps the actual document the claims are referring was found at that post office and has another official name, however this again leads to question as to why the articles wouldn't give the actual name of the document or where to find it. It's more likely that 'APO 696' sounded official enough to be a believable document, so they used it without verifying whether it existed.

Luigi Romersa's Claim: The references to Romersa are likely references to the book Hitlers Bombe by Rainer Karlsch. However, a quick look at the Wikipedia article for it shows that not only did Karlsch's sources not claim to have witnessed a fission bomb but rather a dirty bomb or some other related device, he himself stated that he did not have any conclusive proof to back up the claims. So, clearly not the best source, but perhaps his sources were correct and they are the only people willing to talk about seeing it.

Feasibility: There is a lot of documentation on the German nuclear program, all of which points to the fact the German nuclear program was, at best, many years away from producing a bomb. One source of info regarding Germany's nuclear program is Albert Speer's Inside the Third Reich. I don't have the actual text to cite, however according to Speer there was little hope in producing a working nuclear weapon.

They had apparently solved the physics behind making a bomb, however the project to develop such a bomb was scrapped in mid-1942 when estimates stated that they would have it working no sooner than 1947, and only if they put their full focus behind it. Furthermore, by mid-1943 Speer allocated Germany's uranium stock to the production of ammunition. Further German nuclear research focused mainly on energy production, not bombs.

The Sites: It is very obvious where nuclear weapons are tested, as they leave behind various types of radioactive material that can rarely be found naturally. At least one site, the location mentioned by Karlsch, was tested in 2006 and no abnormal radiation levels were found. Although a lack of evidence doesn't necessarily mean a lack of an event, if any serious tests occurred there would certainly be some radiological evidence today, not to mention the fact that seismological data from the explosion could have been collected a thousand kilometers away.

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    @Matt The article you link describes the finding of a single lump of radioactive material in an area where the Allies bombed a known nuclear research facility. That's not at all the same thing as a nuclear test site.
    – G_B
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 10:26
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    @Matt: Germany had 1200 tons of uranium, so finding some doesn't mean anything. Plus, that article references the same (probably) fake APO 696 document almost verbatim from the other articles, so verification and journalism doesn't seem to be that site's priority.
    – Giter
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 12:01
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    Yet another example of The Daily Mail's less-than-stellar reputation for tabloid reporting
    – thanby
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 16:16
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    Worth noting that mushroom clouds are by no means unique to nuclear weapons. Maybe the pilot really saw an explosion and then later convinced himself that it was a nuclear one, since that's what mushroom clouds are connected with in the public imagination.
    – Tgr
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 3:58
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    "a lack of evidence doesn't necessarily mean a lack of an event": With above-ground nuclear explosions it emphatically does necessarily mean that. Hell, you have evidence on the other side of the planet. Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 9:44

A portion of the Zinsser document is photocopied in the 2004 book Reich of the Black Sun: Nazi Secret Weapons & the Cold War Allied Legend at page 20.

Another portion is on page 167 of Für und Wider "Hitlers Bombe"

And some portions are photographed in this article,

APO 696 is not the name or title of a document or file.

The name is [allegedly] "Investigations, Research, Developments and Practical Use of the German Atomic Bomb".

According to the 2007 book Verrat in der Normandie: Eisenhowers deutsche Helfer, the document is within the US National archives in RG [record group] 38, entry 98C, box 9.

Other references cite as RG 38, box 9-13, entry 98c.

RG 38 means here:



The first 2 references above say the document is also available through the Air Force Historical Research Agency of Maxwell Airforce Base.


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    An interesting book. What are its conclusions in regard to the question, and do they seem reliable? Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 4:39
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    Besides, all your references are highly dubious. Hitlers Bombe is already discussed – and dismissed – by the Spiegel Online article referenced in the question. Your linked article is from the Daily Express, a British tabloid. To call Reich of the Black Sun and Verrat in der Normandie "fringe science" may already be a euphemism. In particular, the publisher of the latter is rather well-known for being an outlet for holocaust deniers, history revisionists, and anti-semitists. Neither of these sources has any scientific value.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 14:31
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    @Schmuddi personally, I don't believe there was a nuclear explosion. I'm only trying to address the part of the question that says "I have not found online access to the "APO 696" document in the U.S. National Archives so I cannot confirm whether it states what is claimed in these articles.", because I don't think the other answer addresses that adequately.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 14:33
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    APO is also listed as a technical report series held by the Library of Congress: loc.gov/rr/scitech/trs/trsholdings/trsholdingsap.html . They can check their holdings for particular reports if you visit, as I have a dozen or so times now. I've looked at several historical WWII reports there. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 2:29
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    @BenTrettel but in this instance, as can be seen in the copy of the document on page 167 here: books.google.com/… , " APO 696 is a mailing address. Like this: ebay.ie/itm/2-3-1945-APO-696-Chantilly-France-WWII-army-cover-/… return address and this dlc.library.columbia.edu/catalog/ldpd:113432
    – DavePhD
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 19:20

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