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2017

Einstein on Refugees from the East, 30 December 1919

One year after the end of World War I, and more than 20 years prior to Hitler’s final solution, Albert Einstein issued his first public statement on Jewish affairs in response to a steady drumbeat of right-wing attacks that called for a halt to the alleged influx of Jewish immigrants “from the East daily by the hundreds and the thousands.” Charges of profiteering and black market dealing were leveled against them, and a call for removing Ostjuden from cities and driving them into internment camps was issued in Parliament in December 1919. Einstein wrote in the widely read Berliner Tageblatt:

“Measures that devastate so many individuals must not be triggered by slogan-like assertions… The public conscience is so dulled toward appeals for humanity that it no longer even senses the horrible injustice which is here being contemplated… It is disturbing when even leading politicians do not consider how much their treatment of Eastern European Jews will damage Germany’s political and economic position. Has it already been forgotten how much the deportation of Belgian laborers undermined the moral credibility of Germany?”

Most of the post-war refugees in Berlin were in fact of German descent. Einstein wrote: “Almost without exception they were forced to flee by the horrible conditions in Poland and to seek refuge here.” (The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Vol. 7, Doc. 29, p. 237, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.) 02-09-17


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