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2017

Einstein on Internationalism and Peace, April 1918

Six months before the end of World War I, Einstein, the pacifist, wrote to the mathematician David Hilbert, asking that scientists speak out publicly for internationalism, peace, and human rights:

“Countless times in these desolate years of general nationalistic delusion, men of science and the arts issued statements to the public that have already inflicted incalculable damage to the feeling of solidarity that had been developing with such promise before the war among those who devote themselves to higher and freer purposes. The hue and cry raised by strait-laced preachers and servants of the bleak principle of power is becoming so loud, and public opinion is being misled to such a degree by methodical silencing of the press, that those with better intentions, feeling wretchedly isolated, do not dare to raise their voices. Day by day the danger is growing that even those who have been clinging with all their might to the ethical ideals of a happier phase in human development will eventually despair and will also fall victim intellectually to the general derangement. This serious situation places those, who through fortunate intellectual achievements have gained an elevated position among scholars throughout the entire civilized world, before a mission they must not evade: They must make a public declaration that could serve as support and consolation for those who in their solitude have not yet lost their belief in moral progress.” (The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Vol. 8, Doc. 521)

The current and past staff and students at the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech is made up of men and women, scientists, historians, engineers, and philosophers, hailing from 20 countries: Australia, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Thailand, Philippines, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States. 02-23-17


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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