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Einstein assassination, more detail

Illustration for article titled Einstein assassination, more detail

It was reported in 1921 that Rudolph (Rudolf?) Leibus, a fanatical nationalist, was fined 60 reichmarks by a Berlin court. He was found guilty of publicly urging and offering a cash reward for the murder of Einstein ("the hated Jew Scientist") and two other prominent leftists. His reason was that "it was a patriotic duty to shoot these leaders of pacifist sentiment." The fine of 60 reichmarks was equivalent to $16 at the time. According to Measuring Worth, $16 in 1921 would now be between $169 and $3,410 depending how you measure the value. Einstein was visiting the United States to promote the creation of a state of Israel at the time of the trial.


Einstein was not just a Jewish liberal intellectual famous around the world for his scientific advances. He was also an active campaigner against nationalism and militarism and a member of the League for Human Rights.

One of his co-targets was Maximilian Harden, an actor, famous liberal journalist and editor. Born Felix Ernst Witkowski he converted from Judaism to Protestantism in 1878. He was apparently outing members of the Royal Family of Hohenzollern as homosexuals after 1906. He was lauded as "The Greatest Molder of Public Opinion in Germany" and "... hardly needs any introduction in America" by the NY Times in 1909. He supported the German invasion of Belgium in 1914 but also supported the Treaty of Versailles. He has been credited with uttering the phrase "Never again war!" Kaiser Wilhelm II recommended that Harden be sent to Versailles to treat on behalf of Germany, though this was rejected. "He is my greatest enemy, and has been from the beginning; but you have no better peacemaker." Harden was a friend of Bismarck and introduced him to Rathenau. At the age of 60 on the 3rd of July 1922, three days after the assassination of Walther Rathenau by hand grenade, he was severely injured in an assault by three Freikorps paramilitaries. With eight wounds on his head and severe loss of blood his life was saved by prompt medical attention. He had to retire from journalism. Two of his assailants were jailed, Bert Weichardt for 2 years 5 months and Albert Wilhelm Grenz for 4 years. Harden died 5 years later.


Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster, the other target, was a Berlin philosopher and prominent pacifist. He blamed the aristocratic rulers of Germany for the War. In 1920 he published his own Mein Kampf - Mein Kampf gegen das militaristische und nationalistische Deutschland(My struggle against the militaristic and nationalistic Germany). This was obviously very unpopular with the nationalists. After death threats he fled to Switzerland in 1922. He died at the age of 96 in 1966.

There was a lot of bad feeling towards Einstein from the right wing in Germany immediately after the War. Another example was the Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutscher Naturforscher(Working Group of German Natural Scientists) who set out to discredit both Einstein and the Theory of Relativity. Einstein replied to them in a cool-headed essay, translated title "My Response. On the Anti-Relativity Company", in the liberal newspaper Berliner Tageblatt in 1920.


"Herr Weyland and Herr Gehrcke recently delivered a first lecture in this tenor at the Philharmonic; I myself was present. I am very well aware that both speakers are not worthy of an answer from my pen, because I have good reason to believe that motives other than the striving for truth are at the bottom of this business. (If I were a German nationalist with or without a swastika instead of a Jew with liberal international views, then ... ). I only answer because well-meaning circles have repeatedly urged me to make my opinion known."

His disdain for the critics was plain in one comment "Besides, I am happy to let the Herren of the Company have their fun."


Another member of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutscher Naturforscher was the Hungarian Nobel-prize winning physicist Phillip Lenard who claimed that he, rather than Roentgen, had discovered X-rays. He led a campaign of hate against other Nobel winners who were Jewish (Einstein), French (Jean Baptiste Perrin) and Polish (Marie Curie). He wrote a history of German science that omitted Einstein and Roentgen entirely. Roentgen was omitted because "he was a friend of Jews and acted like one." In 1922 Lenard wrote to the Nobel Committee to claim that Einstein was a“publicity-seeking Jew whose approach was alien to the true nature of German physics.” Antisemitism had delayed the award of the Nobel Prize to Einstein for 12 years.

The group became bolder, brownshirts mobbing Einstein's house, making death threats and violently disrupting his lectures. The publication of One Hundred Authors against Einstein by the group by 1929 led later to the wry comment from Einstein: "If I were wrong one would have been enough."


In 1925 Frau Einstein was attacked by a woman with a large hatpin. William Hermanns witnessed a threat to dynamite Einstein's house in 1930. He reports Einstein's wife giving her opinion: "I hate fame! I hate fame!" She shouted. "Every day there are laundry baskets full of mail, letters in all languages, letters from politicians, aristocrats, scientists, letters filled with insolence, anonymous letters threatening murder." Einstein grinned, "Yes, one wrote that I had thrown the sun out of its orbit and would be held responsible for the chaos of the world."

By 1933 Einstein had fled to the Norfolk Broads in England's eastward bump where he was carefully “guarded by two women secretaries, a farm laborer armed with rifles, and two detectives who questioned all visitors." Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson spoke in the House of Commons on the 26th of July 1933: "She [Germany] has even turned upon her most glorious citizen—Einstein. It is impertinent for me to praise a man of that eminence. The most eminent men in the world admit that he is the most eminent. But there was something beyond mere eminence in the case of Professor Einstein. He was beyond any achievements in the realm of science. He stood out as the supreme example of the selfless intellectual. And to-day Einstein is without a home. He had to write his name in a visitors' book in England, and when he came to write his address, he put "Without any." The Huns have stolen his savings. The road-hog and racketeer of Europe have plundered his place. They have even taken away his violin. A man who more than any other approximated to a citizen of the world without a house ! How proud we must be that we have afforded him a shelter temporarily at Oxford to work, and long may the tides of tyranny beat in vain against these shores."


After the Second War Lenard was excused from punishment for his crimes as a Nazi party member in aiding the persecution of intellectuals due to his age and he died two years later. I could not find any reference to what happened to Rudolf Leibus.


Anon "IT IS REPORTED" Advocate of Peace through Justice (1921) 83(4): 146-147 Tuesday 5:52pm


Bernstein, H Maximilian Harden New York Times (1909) May 30

Carter, PA Science and the Common Man The American Scholar (1976) 45(1): 778-794

Clark, R Einstein: The Life and Times (2011, Bloomsbury)

Einstein, A "My Response. On the Anti-Relativity Company" Berliner Tageblatt (1920)http://alberteinstein.info/vufind1/images…


Gerard, JW "Maximilian Harden" pp 3-13 in Harden, M I meet my contemporaries (1925, Henry Holt and Company)

Hansard, http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/

Hermanns, W and Einstein , A Einstein and the Poet: In search of the cosmic man. (1983, Branden Books)


Jerome, F Einstein on Race and Racism (2006, Rutgers University Press)

Weissmann, G "X-ray Politics: Lenard vs. Röntgen and Einstein" The FASEB Journal (2010) 24(6): 1631-1634 Wikipedia

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