By Jay Parini
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Extra resources for British Writers Classics, Volume ll
Bohr had renounced religion at the age of eighteen. But in Nazi terms he remained a Jew. Bohr's work in atomic physics earned him the Nobel Prize in 1922; he gave the gold medal to charity. He later tried to persuade Roosevelt and Churchill to renounce the use of atomic weapons and after the war was awarded the Atoms for Peace prize in 1956 by the Ford Foundation. He died in 1962, venerated both as a scientist and as a man. Back in 1924, when their son Ernest was a week old, Bohr had gone off on a walking tour with Heisenberg.
He comes across, in the play as in his memoirs, as a Till Eulenspiegel figure. " Had he left Germany, his family would have been held hostage. At certain expansive moments, having about a third of a pint of Jewish blood in my veins, I like to claim to be a Jew. But only to Gentiles. I haven't yet met a Jew I thought would believe me. (Constructions no. 101) The racial laws were applied in the occupied territories, often with the support of local people. Denmark is a shining exception. Only seventy-seven Danish Jews died in the Holocaust, and the evacuation of the rest is a part of the story of Copenhagen.
At any time . . for any reason . . BOHR: Perhaps Margrethe will be kind enough to sew a yellow star on my ski-jacket. HEISENBERG: Yes. Yes. Stupid of me. (p. 16) CRITICAL REACTION AND WIDER RESPONSE But Copenhagen does not lack comic tone and even comic scenes. In act 1, they are particularly The initial critical reaction to Copenhagen was almost universally positive. The London press 32 COPENHAGEN that Copenhagen ignores this basic fact of the Bohrs' existence in 1941. was lavish in its praise, seeing this as an important play of ideas, and it won both the Evening Standard and the Critics' Circle awards for best play of the year.