Nobel Medals, Dissolved and Bottled

Stephan Schwartz writes, in the magazine Gamma:

In an autobiographical essay, George de Hevesy (1943 Nobel Laureate) writes:

George de Hevesy

”My work was interrupted only one day during the enemy occupation of Denmark. When, in the morning of Denmark’s occupation [9 April 1940], I arrived in the laboratory, I found Bohr worrying about Max von Laue’s Nobel medal, which Laue had sent to Copenhagen for safe-keeping. In Hitler’s empire it was almost a capital offense to send gold out of the country and, Laue’s name being engraved into the medal, the discovery of this by the invading forces would have had very serious consequences for him. (Three years later the invading army occupied Bohr’s Institute.) I suggested that we should bury the medal, but Bohr did not like this idea as the metal might be unearthed. I decided to dissolve it. While the invading forces marched in the streets of Copenhagen, I was busy dissolving Laue’s and also James Franck’s medals. After the war, the gold was recovered and the Nobel Foundation generously presented Laue and Franck with new Nobel Medals.”

(Thanks to Simon Singh for bringing this to our attention.)