This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of the validity of analyzing the chosen scientific community of physicists within the period 1945 to 1949 as the subject of a history of mentality (histoire des mentalités, Duby). Layers of mentality are suggested. After a brief survey of the existing methodological literature, it sets the historical stage of defeated Nazi Germany and lists the various components of the mentality of German physicists in the immediate aftermath of World War II. The final section identifies the sources upon which the book is based, centering around the representative periodical Physikalische Blätter, private correspondence by physicists, and testimony from exiles.
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