What did Hitler think of Albert Einstein?

Pacifism in the Age of Extremes

The Einstein year 2005 was dominated by memories of the great physicist, but his political commitment to peace was rarely discussed. Einstein spoke for everyone who hated war and wanted to build a world of peace.

Anyone who wants to think further about Albert Einstein (1879–1955) today should first try to understand the pacifist from his time. Einstein lived neither in the ivory tower of science nor in peaceful times, but in the "Age of Extremes", as the British historian Eric Hobsbawm put it. This saw two world wars, dictatorships, the Holocaust and the first use of nuclear weapons. Einstein's political convictions can only be adequately understood against this background.

In the years of the first German republic, Einstein was committed to the League of Nations and a policy of understanding. Several times he took part in large-scale rallies of the “Never Again War!” Movement. It is reported how Carl von Ossietzky drove around with him in the car in the early 1920s and the great scholar and peace preacher was cheered. From 1928 onwards, Einstein considered conscientious objection to be the most appropriate means of preventing war and advocated it at every opportunity. The German-American historian Fritz Stern, an admirer of Einstein, commented critically about his commitment in the 1920s: “In the time obsessed with revenge between Versailles and Hitler, he became a representative of a militant pacifism. He believed in peace and tolerance so much that he only partially took into account the forces that stood in the way of these hopes. ”Einstein's well-intentioned advice therefore sometimes lacked“ a certain degree of realism ”.

In one point Einstein was more realistic than most other pacifists: in answering the question of how Hitler should be judged and how the pacifists and the guarantors of the Versailles peace treaty should react to his government. Here he turned out to be a political person who at that time showed what was probably the only promising way to prevent war. He recognized the danger of war that National Socialist Germany posed astonishingly quickly and did not hesitate to adjust to the new situation - as he said in July 1933, "retrain". Einstein renounced the absolute pacifism, which he had previously advocated so ardently, and recommended that western governments prepare for a war of aggression in Germany. In order to save civilization and Europe, the western democracies must now be ready and able to defend themselves militarily. Under the changed circumstances, he expressly advised against conscientious objection to military service in the countries threatened by Hitler's Germany - this would only benefit the potential aggressor.

Einstein repeatedly emphasized that his change of position was of a temporary nature, but not a few of his supporters were persistently irritated. Despite violent personal attacks, he countered his critics: “As long as Germany systematically prepares the war of revenge through material armament and training of citizens, the Western European countries are unfortunately dependent on military defense. In fact, I claim that if they are smart and careful they will not wait to be attacked ... They can only do so if they are adequately prepared. I do not enjoy saying this because I hate violence and militarism no less in my heart than I have ever before. But I cannot close my eyes to reality. If you know any other way in which the countries that have remained free can protect themselves, I would be more than happy to learn from you. But I don't know any other way out as long as the present threatening condition has not been overcome. On the other hand, if there is no other way out, we have to be honest enough to acknowledge it. ”In September 1933 Einstein complained:“ I can't believe why the whole civilized world has not come together in a common struggle over this modern barbarism To put an end to it. Doesn't the world see that Hitler is dragging us into a war? "...

Prof. Dr. Wolfram bet

August 30, 2007

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