THE WORLD ON THE EVE OF WAR
“Until recently, I lived in Switzerland, and while I was there, I did not think about my Jewishness.. When I arrived in Germany, I first learned that I was a Jew, and non-Jews helped me to make this discovery,” wrote Einstein.
Life in Germany was becoming more difficult day by day. Colossal inflation, widespread unemployment, political crisis… And against this background – waves of anti-Jewish sentiment. For a Jew, even a world-renowned scientist, it was unsafe to stay in such a country. The authorities did not seem to bother him, they were even quite supportive, but the clouds were definitely thickening.
In 1929, for his fiftieth birthday, the Berlin municipality presented him with a house, but at the same time, like all scientists of Jewish origin, he was stripped of all titles. In 1932, he realized that it was necessary to leave. Actually, it was no longer a departure, but rather a successful escape.
The first thing he saw fit to do was to draw the world’s attention to the threatening position of German scholars of Jewish origin. In a short time, Einstein traveled to many countries and everywhere called to save German science, to protect his former colleagues from literally physical extermination.
While in Britain, he met with scientists and politicians. Winston Churchill, after meeting with Einstein, ordered the famous physicist Frederick Lindemann to invite Jewish scientists to scientific institutions in Britain as actively as possible.
In 1933, Albert Einstein secured a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and moved with his family permanently to the United States. In protest against the atrocities of Nazism, for the second time he renounced German citizenship and broke off all cooperation with its scientific institutions.
America welcomed him with open arms. Princeton tried to create the most favorable conditions for him. It was finally possible to completely forget about working with students, only science in its purest form – research, disputes and conversations with colleagues – an ideal atmosphere! Einstein tried hard to deduce a unified field theory, but this riddle never succumbed to him.
In 1936, Elsa passed away, and since then he has lived alone. Helen Dukas, his secretary, helped him to manage the household. No romances, no hobbies. He was only interested in science. He whiled away his free time solving puzzles. Knowing this weakness of his, fans sent him the most entertaining problems and puzzles from different parts of the world.
Einstein was not interested in politics. “Yes, the world is imperfect,” he complained. “One way or another, everyone is involved in solving political issues, even mathematicians. But here’s the thing – politics is a passing business, and mathematics is eternal”. Einstein has always been an opponent of wars and violence, he was not interested in empires and their predatory appetites – he was interested in the world around him, alive, whole and unharmed.
He was against any weapons. But in August 1939, when rumors reached him about the creation of a German uranium project, he signed a letter to US President Franklin Roosevelt. The letter said that Germany is preparing to develop bombs of amazing destructive power, the action of which will be built on the principle set forth in the formula E = mc2.
The letter served as the impetus for the launch of the Manhattan Project. The result of the project was devastating: the creation of the atomic bomb in 1945. Einstein was not personally involved in this project; he opposed the creation of nuclear weapons. As for the letter, he regretted signing it, considered it his biggest mistake. But at the same time he admitted that in those circumstances he could not do otherwise.
FOR THE WORLD
In 1955, he decided to correct his “mistake”. Together with Bertrand Russell, an English philosopher, logician and mathematician, he wrote an anti-war appeal – a manifesto, which was signed by 11 world famous scientists: Einstein himself, Frenchman Frederic Joliot-Curie, British Bertrand Russell, Jozef Rotblat and Cecil Frank Powell, German Max Born, Americans Percy Williams Bridgman, Linus Karl Pauling and Hermann Joseph Muller, Leopold Infeld from Poland, Hideki Yukawa from Japan. Most are Nobel laureates.
“We believe that in the tragic situation facing humanity, scientists should gather at a conference to assess the danger that has emerged as a result of the creation of weapons of mass destruction,” said the first lines of the manifesto.
And in his conclusion, scientists believed, a reasonable solution to the problem: “In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the Governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them”.
Scientists called for convening a conference to address issues on the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons. The first such conference met in the Canadian town of Pugwash in 1957, two years after the death of Albert Einstein.
He died on April 18, 1955 at Princeton Hospital. As his youngest adopted daughter Margot recalled, he left quietly and with dignity, accepting his death as a natural phenomenon. He ordered in advance to organize his funeral as modest as possible, without pompous celebrations and long speeches, and therefore bequeathed that the place of his burial should not be disclosed.
He entrusted Helen Dukas with overseeing the execution of his will. Only a dozen of those closest to him attended the funeral. Each of them could say many kind words about him, but Einstein decided everything for them, wished to leave, as he lived – quietly and modestly.
Modesty was an integral part of his character. Moreover, he was even characterized by some shyness and self-doubt. He did a lot to create the State of Israel, but when he was offered to become its president, he refused: he explained this by fear of responsibility and inability to work with people.
Perhaps he really did not know how to do this. Kindness and natural gentleness of character were inherent in him. English mathematician Godfrey Harold Hardy spoke about him succinctly: “Meek and wise”. Robert Oppenheimer, theoretical physicist and head of the Manhattan Project, recalled: “He always had some kind of magical purity, both childish and infinitely stubborn”.
All his life he was unusually modest, lived quietly and inconspicuously, tried not to stand out. Only in recent years the image of such a mad scientist was entrenched in him, those around him began to notice some of his oddities.
For example, that he never wore socks, that he suffered from forgetfulness all his life. Somehow he even had to call the department and ask for his own home address; they didn’t recognize him at the other end of the line, and he had to prove for a long time that it was him…
And the canonical portrait of the genius of physics of the twentieth century was a funny photo of an old man with reared gray hair and protruding tongue. That was one of his unexpected antics. After some festive reception, reporters bumped into him and clicked their cameras. “Professor, smile!” One of them called him. And Einstein, already in the car, turned around and stuck out his tongue. After all, not everyone and everything can be serious.