Biographies & Memoirs


Germany 1933


AS LONG AS I have any choice, I will only stay in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule. Political liberty implies liberty to express one’s political views orally and in writing, toleration, respect for any and every individual opinion.

These conditions do not obtain in Germany at the present time. Those who have done most for the cause of international understanding, among them some of the leading artists, are being persecuted there.

Any social organism can become psychically distempered just as any individual can, especially in times of difficulty. Nations usually survive these distempers. I hope that healthy conditions will soon supervene in Germany, and that in future her great men like Kant and Goethe will not merely be commemorated from time to time, but that the principles which they inculcated will also prevail in public life and in the general consciousness.

March, 1933.

Correspondence with the Prussian Academy of Sciences

The following correspondence is here published for the first time in its authentic and complete

form. The version published in German newspapers was for the most part incorrect, important

sentences being omitted.

The Academy’s Declaration of April 1, 1933, Against Einstein

THE PRUSSIAN ACADEMY of Sciences heard with indignation from the newspapers of Albert Einstein’s participation in atrocity-mongering in France and America. It immediately demanded an explanation. In the meantime Einstein has announced his withdrawal from the Academy, giving as his reason that he cannot continue to serve the Prussian State under its present Government. Being a Swiss citizen, he also, it seems, intends to resign the Prussian nationality which he acquired in 1913 simply by becoming a full member of the Academy.

The Prussian Academy of Sciences is particularly distressed by Einstein’s activities as an agitator in foreign countries, as it and its members have always felt themselves bound by the closest ties to the Prussian State and, while abstaining strictly from all political partisanship, have always stressed and remained faithful to the national idea. It has, therefore, no reason to regret Einstein’s withdrawal.

Prof. Dr. Ernst Heymann,

Perpetual Secretary

Le Coq, near Ostende, April 5, 1933

To the Prussian Academy of Sciences,

I have received information from a thoroughly reliable source that the Academy of Sciences has spoken in an official statement of “Einstein’s participation in atrocity-mongering in America and France.”

I hereby declare that I have never taken any part in atrocity-mongering, and I must add that I have seen nothing of any such mongering anywhere. In general people have contented themselves with reproducing and commenting on the official statements and orders of responsible members of the German Government, together with the programme for the annihilation of the German Jews by economic methods.

The statements I have issued to the Press were concerned with my intention to resign my position in the Academy and renounce my Prussian citizenship; I gave as my reason for these steps that I did not wish to live in a country where the individual does not enjoy equality before the law and freedom to say and teach what he likes.

Further, I described the present state of affairs in Germany as a state of psychic distemper in the masses and also made some remarks about its causes.

In a written document which I allowed the International League for combating Anti-Semitism to make use of for the purpose of enlisting support, and which was not intended for the Press at all, I also called upon all sensible people, who are still faithful to the ideals of a civilization in peril, to do their utmost to prevent this mass-psychosis, which is exhibiting itself in such terrible symptoms in Germany to-day, from spreading further.

It would have been an easy matter for the Academy to get hold of a correct version of my words before issuing the sort of statement about me that it has. The German Press has reproduced a deliberately distorted version of my words, as indeed was only to be expected with the Press muzzled as it is to-day.

I am ready to stand by every word I have published. In return, I expect the Academy to communicate this statement of mine to its members and also to the German public before which I have been slandered, especially as it has itself had a hand in slandering me before that public.

The Academy’s Answer of April 11, 1933

THE ACADEMY WOULD LIKE to point out that its statement of April 1, 1933, was based not merely on German but principally on foreign, particularly French and Belgian, newspaper reports which Herr Einstein has not contradicted; in addition, it had before it his much-canvassed statement to the League for combating anti-Semitism, in which he deplores Germany’s relapse into the barbarism of long-passed ages. Moreover, the Academy has reason to know that Herr Einstein, who according to his own statement has taken no part in atrocity-mongering, has at least done nothing to counteract unjust suspicions and slanders, which, in the opinion of the Academy, it was his duty as one of its senior members to do. Instead of that Herr Einstein has made statements, and in foreign countries at that, such as, coming from a man of world-wide reputation, were bound to be exploited and abused by the enemies not merely of the present German Government but of the whole German people.

For the Prussian Academy of Sciences,

(Signed) H. von Ficker,

E. Heymann,

Perpetual Secretaries

Berlin, April 7, 1933

The Prussian Academy of Sciences.

Professor Albert Einstein, Leyden,

c/o Prof. Ehrenfest, Witte Rosenstr.

Dear Sir,

As the present Principal Secretary of the Prussian Academy I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your communication dated March 28 announcing your resignation of your membership of the Academy. The Academy took cognizance of your resignation in its plenary session of March 30, 1933.

While the Academy profoundly regrets the turn events have taken, this regret is inspired by the thought that a man of the highest scientific authority, whom many years of work among Germans and many years of membership of our society must have made familiar with the German character and German habits of thought, should have chosen this moment to associate himself with a body of people abroad who—partly no doubt through ignorance of actual conditions and events—have done much damage to our German people by disseminating erroneous views and unfounded rumours. We had confidently expected that one who had belonged to our Academy for so long would have ranged himself, irrespective of his own political sympathies, on the side of the defenders of our nation against the flood of lies which has been let loose upon it. In these days of mud-slinging, some of it vile, some of it ridiculous, a good word for the German people from you in particular might have produced a great effect, especially abroad. Instead of which your testimony has served as a handle to the enemies not merely of the present Government but of the German people. This has come as a bitter and grievous disappointment to us, which would no doubt have led inevitably to a parting of the ways even if we had not received your resignation.

Yours faithfully,

(signed) von Ficker.

Le Coq-sur-Mer, Belgium,

April 12, 1933

To the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Berlin.

I have received your communication of the seventh instant and deeply deplore the mental attitude displayed in it.

As regards the fact, I can only reply as follows: What you say about my behaviour is, at bottom, merely another form of the statement you have already published, in which you accuse me of having taken part in atrocity-mongering against the German nation. I have already, in my last letter, characterized this accusation as slanderous.

You have also remarked that a “good word” on my part for “the German people” would have produced a great effect abroad. To this I must reply that such a testimony as you suggest would have been equivalent to a repudiation of all those notions of justice and liberty for which I have all my life stood. Such a testimony would not be, as you put it, a good word for the German nation; on the contrary, it would only have helped the cause of those who are seeking to undermine the ideas and principles which have won for the German nation a place of honour in the civilized world. By giving such a testimony in the present circumstances I should have been contributing, even if only indirectly, to the barbarization of manners and the destruction of all existing cultural values.

It was for this reason that I felt compelled to resign from the Academy, and your letter only shows me how right I was to do so.

Munich, April 8, 1933

From the Bavarian Academy of Sciences

to Professor Albert Einstein.


In your letter to the Prussian Academy of Sciences you have given the present state of affairs in Germany as the reason for your resignation. The Bavarian Academy of Sciences, which some years ago elected you a corresponding member, is also a German Academy, closely allied to the Prussian and other German Academies; hence your withdrawal from the Prussian Academy of Sciences is bound to affect your relations with our Academy.

We must therefore ask you how you envisage your relations with our Academy after what has passed between yourself and the Prussian Academy.

The President of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.

Le Coq-sur-Mer, April 21, 1933

To the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Munich.

I have given it as the reason for my resignation from the Prussian Academy that in the present circumstances I have no wish either to be a German citizen or to remain in a position of quasi-dependence on the Prussian Ministry of Education.

These reasons would not, in themselves, involve the severing of my relations with the Bavarian Academy. If I nevertheless desire my name to be removed from the list of members, it is for a different reason.

The primary duty of an Academy is to encourage and protect the scientific life of a country. The learned societies of Germany have, however—to the best of knowledge—stood by and said nothing while a not inconsiderable proportion of German savants and students, and also of professional men of university education, have been deprived of all chance of getting employment or earning their livings in Germany. I would rather not belong to any society which behaves in such a manner, even if it does so under external pressure.

A Reply

The following lines are Einstein’s answer to an invitation to associate himself with a French manifesto against Anti-Semitism in Germany.

I HAVE CONSIDERED THIS most important proposal, which has a bearing on several things that I have nearly at heart, carefully from every angle. As a result I have come to the conclusion that I cannot take a personal part in this extremely important affair, for two reasons:—

In the first place I am, after all, still a German citizen, and in the second I am a Jew. As regards the first point I must add that I have worked in German institutions and have always been treated with full confidence in Germany. However deeply I may regret the things that are being done there, however strongly I am bound to condemn the terrible mistakes that are being made with the approval of the Government; it is impossible for me to take part personally in an enterprise set on foot by responsible members of a foreign Government. In order that you may appreciate this fully, suppose that a French citizen in a more or less analogous situation had got up a protest against the French Government’s action in conjunction with prominent German statesmen. Even if you fully admitted that the protest was amply warranted by the facts, you would still, I expect, regard the behaviour of your fellow-citizen as an act of treachery. If Zola had felt it necessary to leave France at the time of the Dreyfus case, he would still certainly not have associated himself with a protest by German official personages, however much he might have approved of their action. He would have confined himself to—blushing for his countrymen. In the second place, a protest against injustice and violence is incomparably more valuable if it comes entirely from people who have been prompted to it purely by sentiments of humanity and a love of justice. This cannot be said of a man like me, a Jew who regards other Jews as his brothers. For him, an injustice done to the Jews is the same as an injustice done to himself. He must not be the judge in his own case, but wait for the judgment of impartial outsiders.

These are my reasons. But I should like to add that I have always honoured and admired that highly developed sense of justice which is one of the noblest features of the French tradition.

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