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Einstein As Jew and German: Issues Statement Explaining His Position in Reply to Antisemitic Attacks

September 12, 1931
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The antisemitic papers in Germany have for months been conducting an agitation against Professor Einstein, on account of an article announced as his, which appeared in the London “Sunday Express” on May 24th., from which they quote phrases tending to suggest that Professor Einstein does not regard himself as a German citizen, but solely as of Jewish nationality. “Einstein is no German citizen”, the papers proclaim in big headings.

Professor Einstein, whose attention has only just been drawn to the matter, has authorised the Central Union of German Citizens of Jewish Faith to issue a statement that the cuttings which have been shown to him from these papers point to the article in question not being based on anything that he said while he was in England last summer, but on a letter which he had written about eleven years ago, without any thought of publication.

The article in question, which appeared at the time that Professor Einstein was in residence at Oxford University as Rhodes Memorial Lecturer, quoted Professor Einstein as saying:

“When I come across the phrase ‘German Citizen of the Jewish persuasion’, I cannot avoid a melancholy smile. What is this ‘Jewish persuasion’?. Is there then a kind of non-persuasion by virtue of which one ceases to be a Jew? There is not. What the description really means is that our beaux esprits are proclaiming two things: First, I wish to have nothing to do with my poor (East European) Jewish brethren; second, I wish to be regarded not as a son of my people, but only as a member of a religious community. Is this honest? Can an ‘Aryan’ respect such dissemblers? I am not a German citizen, nor is there any thing about me that can be described as ‘ Jewish persuasion’. But I am a Jew, and I am glad to belong to the Jewish people, though I do not regard it as ‘chosen’. I am a national Jew in the sense that I demand the preservation of the Jewish nationality, as of every other. I look upon Jewish nationality as a fact, and I think that every Jew ought to come to definite conclusions on Jewish questions on the basis of this fact. I regard the growth of Jewish self-assertion as being in the interests of non-Jews as well as of Jews.


The authorised Einstein biography, which was published recently, written by Anton Reiser, of whom Professor Einstein in his foreword says, “the author of this book is one who knows me intimately, in my endeavour, thoughts, beliefs in bedroom slippers”, describes his views on Jewish nationalism and German citizenship in the following way: “Einstein sees himself as a European, closely related to German culture. But he is a Jew, nevertheless, and realises that the nineteenth-century formula of a ‘German citizen of Jewish faith’ does not correctly represent the condition of the Jewis, even in times of peace and in democratically governed states, has helped to maintain and renew the Jewish community. At the end of the Great War and amidst the destruction which threatened the existence of the German state, this pressure increased tremendously, and resulted in a Jewish renaissance such as had not happened in centuries. The colonisation of Palestine is a symbol of this renaissance, and at the same time an example of a new self-sacrificing Jewish life. Yet Einstein has never desired a Jewish state, never desired the concentration of the Jewish people in Palestine, nor the abandonment of their old homes in Europe and America. The colonisation of Palestine has a totally different meaning for him: ‘Palestine will be a cultural centre for all Jews, a refuge for those most oppressed, a field of activity for the best among us, a unifying ideal and a source of spiritual health for the Jews of the entire world’. These words express anything but Jewish nationalism Among the many suspicions and aspersions that have been cast upon Einstein, this is the most ridiculous. His attitude is purely social. He sees the suffering of the Jews, he sees the ever-renewed tragic fate of a community which, in spite of all formal advances in their political condition, and in spite of all productive work for European culture, is hated, attacked and despised. He sees only two necessities: recognition and aid. The reconstruction of Palestine and the fostering of Jewish union outside of Palestine are for him means of social help and at the same time educational measures, which promise a more noble future. But Einstein is also deeply concerned in the fate of Europe and Germany”.

To be attacked by antisemites is no new experience for Professor Einstoin. When he went to America last year to do research work at the Mount Wilson Observatory, the chief Hitlerist organ, the “Voelkischer Beobachter” welcomed his departure, and added: “All we have to say about it is that we hope he will never come back to Germany”.

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