Albert Einstein. The world as I see it
Only individuals have a sense of responsibility. --Nietzsche
This book does not represent a complete collection of the articles,
addresses, and pronouncements of Albert Einstein; it is a selection made
with a definite object-- namely, to give a picture of a man. To-day this man
is being drawn, contrary to his own intention, into the whirlpool of
political passions and contemporary history. As a result, Einstein is
experiencing the fate that so many of the great men of history experienced:
his character and opinions are being exhibited to the world in an utterly
To forestall this fate is the real object of this book. It meets a wish
that has constantly been expressed both by Einstein's friends and by the
wider public. It contains work belonging to the most various dates-- the
article on "The International of Science" dates from the year 1922, the
address on "The Principles of Scientific Research" from 1923, the "Letter to
an Arab" from 1930--and the most various spheres, held together by the unity
of the personality which stands behind all these utterances. Albert Einstein
believes in humanity, in a peaceful world of mutual helpfulness, and in the
high mission of science. This book is intended as a plea for this belief at
a time which compels every one of us to overhaul his mental attitude and his
In his biography of Einstein Mr. H. Gordou Garbedian relates that an
American newspaper man asked the great physicist for a definition of his
theory of relativity in one sentence. Einstein replied that it would take
him three days to give a short definition of relativity. He might well have
added that unless his questioner had an intimate acquaintance with
mathematics and physics, the definition would be incomprehensible.
To the majority of people Einstein's theory is a complete mystery.
Their attitude towards Einstein is like that of Mark Twain towards the
writer of a work on mathematics: here was a man who had written an entire
book of which Mark could not understand a single sentence. Einstein,
therefore, is great in the public eye partly because he has made
revolutionary discoveries which cannot be translated into the common tongue.
We stand in proper awe of a man whose thoughts move on heights far beyond
our range, whose achievements can be measured only by the few who are able
to follow his reasoning and challenge his conclusions.
There is, however, another side to his personality. It is revealed in
the addresses, letters, and occasional writings brought together in this
book. These fragments form a mosaic portrait of Einstein the man. Each one
is, in a sense, complete in itself; it presents his views on some aspect of
progress, education, peace, war, liberty, or other problems of universal
interest. Their combined effect is to demonstrate that the Einstein we can
all understand is no less great than the Einstein we take on trust.
Einstein has asked nothing more from life than the freedom to pursue
his researches into the mechanism of the universe. His nature is of rare
simplicity and sincerity; he always has been, and he remains, genuinely
indifferent to wealth and fame and the other prizes so dear to ambition. At
the same time he is no recluse, shutting himself off from the sorrows and
agitations of the world around him. Himself familiar from early years with
the handicap of poverty and with some of the worst forms of man's inhumanity
to man, he has never spared himself in defence of the weak and the
oppressed. Nothing could be more unwelcome to his sensitive and retiring
character than the glare of the platform and the heat of public controversy,
yet he has never hesitated when he felt that his voice or influence would
help to redress a wrong. History, surely, has few parallels with this
introspective mathematical genius who laboured unceasingly as an eager
champion of the rights of man.
Albert Einstein was born in 1879 at Ulm. When he was four years old his
father, who owned an electrochemical works, moved to Munich, and two years
later the boy went to school, experiencing a rigid, almost military, type of
discipline and also the isolation of a shy and contemplative Jewish child
among Roman Catholics-- factors which made a deep and enduring impression.
From the point of view of his teachers he was an unsatisfactory pupil,
apparently incapable of progress in languages, history, geography, and other
primary subjects. His interest in mathematics was roused, not by his
instructors, but by a Jewish medical student, Max Talmey, who gave him a
book on geometry, and so set him upon a course of enthusiastic study which
made him, at the age of fourteen, a better mathematician than his masters.
At this stage also he began the study of philosophy, reading and re-reading
the words of Kant and other metaphysicians.
Business reverses led the elder Einstein to make a fresh start in
Milan, thus introducing Albert to the joys of a freer, sunnier life than had
been possible in Germany. Necessity, however, made this holiday a brief one,
and after a few months of freedom the preparation for a career began. It
opened with an effort, backed by a certificate of mathematical proficiency
given by a teacher in the Gymnasium at Munich, to obtain admission to the
Polytechnic Academy at Zurich. A year passed in the study of necessary
subjects which he had neglected for mathematics, but once admitted, the
young Einstein became absorbed in the pursuit of science and philosophy and
made astonishing progress. After five distinguished years at the Polytechnic
he hoped to step into the post of assistant professor, but found that the
kindly words of the professors who had stimulated the hope did not
Then followed a weary search for work, two brief interludes of
teaching, and a stable appointment as examiner at the Confederate Patent
Office at Berrie. Humdrum as the work was, it had the double advantage of
providing a competence and of leaving his mind free for the mathematical
speculations which were then taking shape in the theory of relativity. In
1905 his first monograph on the theory was published in a Swiss scientific
journal, the Annalen der Physik. Zurich awoke to the fact that it possessed
a genius in the form of a patent office clerk, promoted him to be a lecturer
at the University and four years later--in 1909--installed him as Professor.
His next appointment was (in 1911) at the University of Prague, where
he remained for eighteen months. Following a brief return to Zurich, he
went, early in 1914, to Berlin as a professor in the Prussian Academy of
Sciences and director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Theoretical
Physics. The period of the Great War was a trying time for Einstein, who
could not conceal his ardent pacifism, but he found what solace he could in
his studies. Later events brought him into the open and into many parts of
the world, as an exponent not only of pacifism but also of world-disarmament
and the cause of Jewry. To a man of such views, as passionately held as they
were by Einstein, Germany under the Nazis was patently impossible. In 1933
Einstein made his famous declaration: "As long as I have any choice, I will
stay only in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of
all citizens before the law are the rule." For a time he was a homeless
exile; after offers had come to him from Spain and France and Britain, he
settled in Princeton as Professor of Mathematical and Theoretical Physics,
happy in his work, rejoicing in a free environment, but haunted always by
the tragedy of war and oppression.
The World As I See It, in its original form, includes essays by
Einstein on relativity and cognate subjects. For reasons indicated above,
these have been omitted in the present edition; the object of this reprint
is simply to reveal to the general reader the human side of one of the most
dominating figures of our day.
The World As I See It
The Meaning of Life
What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To
answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you
ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of
his fellow-creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost
disqualified for life.
The World as I see it
What an extraordinary situation is that of us mortals! Each of us is
here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes
thinks he feels it. But from the point of view of daily life, without going
deeper, we exist for our fellow-men--in the first place for those on whose
smiles and welfare all our happiness depends, and next for all those unknown
to us personally with whose destinies we are bound up by the tie of
sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer
life depend on the labours of other men, living and dead, and that I must
exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am
still receiving. I am strongly drawn to the simple life and am often
oppressed by the feeling that I am engrossing an unnecessary amount of the
labour of my fellow-men. I regard class differences as contrary to justice
and, in the last resort, based on force. I also consider that plain living
is good for everybody, physically and mentally.
In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a
disbeliever. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in
accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer's saying, that "a man can do
as he will, but not will as he will," has been an inspiration to me since my
youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience
in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others'. This feeling
mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes
paralysing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too
seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humour, above all, has its
To inquire after the meaning or object of one's own existence or of
creation generally has always seemed to me absurd from an objective point of
view. And yet everybody has certain ideals which determine the direction of
his endeavours and his judgments. In this sense I have never looked upon
ease and happiness as ends in themselves--such an ethical basis I call more
proper for a herd of swine. The ideals which have lighted me on my way and
time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been
Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Without the sense of fellowship with men of
like mind, of preoccupation with the objective, the eternally unattainable
in the field of art and scientific research, life would have seemed to me
empty. The ordinary objects of human endeavour--property, outward success,
luxury--have always seemed to me contemptible.
My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has
always contrasted oddly with my pronounced freedom from the need for direct
contact with other human beings and human communities. I gang my own gait
and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my
immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have
never lost an obstinate sense of detachment, of the need for solitude--a
feeling which increases with the years. One is sharply conscious, yet
without regret, of the limits to the possibility of mutual understanding and
sympathy with one's fellow-creatures. Such a person no doubt loses something
in the way of geniality and light-heartedness ; on the other hand, he is
largely independent of the opinions, habits, and judgments of his fellows
and avoids the temptation to take his stand on such insecure foundations.
My political ideal is that of democracy. Let every man be respected as
an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have
been the recipient of excessive admiration and respect from my fellows
through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the
desire, unattainable for many, to understand the one or two ideas to which I
have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite
aware that it is necessary for the success of any complex undertaking that
one man should do the thinking and directing and in general bear the
responsibility. But the led must not be compelled, they must be able to
choose their leader. An autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon
degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it
to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels.
For this reason I have always been passionately opposed to systems such as
we see in Italy and Russia to-day. The thing that has brought discredit upon
the prevailing form of democracy in Europe to-day is not to be laid to the
door of the democratic idea as such, but to lack of stability on the part of
the heads of governments and to the impersonal character of the electoral
system. I believe that in this respect the United States of America have
found the right way. They have a responsible President who is elected for a
sufficiently long period and has sufficient powers to be really responsible.
On the other hand, what I value in our political system is the more
extensive provision that it makes for the individual in case of illness or
need. The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not
the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone
creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in
thought and dull in feeling.
This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the
military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in
formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has
only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This
plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed.
Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that
does by the name of patriotism--how I hate them! War seems to me a mean,
contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in
such an abominable business. And yet so high, in spite of everything, is my
opinion of the human race that I believe this bogey would have disappeared
long ago, had the sound sense of the nations not been systematically
corrupted by commercial and political interests acting through the schools
and the Press.
The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the
fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.
He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is
as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of
mystery--even if mixed with fear--that engendered religion. A knowledge of
the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the
profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to
our reason in their most elementary forms--it is this knowledge and this
emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in
this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who
rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we
are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical
death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such
notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me
the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous
structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to
comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests
itself in nature.
The Liberty of Doctrine--à propos of the Guntbel Case
Academic chairs are many, but wise and noble teachers are few;
lecture-rooms are numerous and large, but the number of young people who
genuinely thirst after truth and justice is small. Nature scatters her
common wares with a lavish hand, but the choice sort she produces but
seldom. We all know that, so why complain? Was it not ever thus and will it
not ever thus remain? Certainly, and one must take what Nature gives as one
finds it. But there is also such a thing as a spirit of the times, an
attitude of mind characteristic of a particular generation, which is passed
on from individual to individual and gives a society its particular tone.
Each of us has to do his little bit towards transforming this spirit of the
Compare the spirit which animated the youth in our universities a
hundred years ago with that prevailing to-day. They had faith in the
amelioration of human society, respect for every honest opinion, the
tolerance for which our classics had lived and fought. In those days men
strove for a larger political unity, which at that time was called Germany.
It was the students and the teachers at the universities who kept these
To-day also there is an urge towards social progress, towards tolerance
and freedom of thought, towards a larger political unity, which we to-day
call Europe. But the students at our universities have ceased as completely
as their teachers to enshrine the hopes and ideals of the nation. Anyone who
looks at our times coolly and dispassionately must admit this.
We are assembled to-day to take stock of ourselves. The external reason
for this meeting is the Gumbel case. This apostle of justice has written
about unexpiated political crimes with devoted industry, high courage, and
exemplary fairness, and has done the community a signal service by his
books. And this is the man whom the students, and a good many of the staff,
of his university are to-day doing their best to expel.
Political passion cannot be allowed to go to such lengths. I am
convinced that every man who reads Herr Gumbel's books with an open mind
will get the same impression from them as I have. Men like him are needed if
we are ever to build up a healthy political society.
Let every man judge according to his own standards, by what he has
himself read, not by what others tell him.
If that happens, this Gumbel case, after an unedifying beginning, may
still do good.
Good and Evil
It is right in principle that those should be the best loved who have
contributed most to the elevation of the human race and human life. But, if
one goes on to ask who they are, one finds oneself in no inconsiderable
difficulties. In the case of political, and even of religious, leaders, it
is often very doubtful whether they have done more good or harm. Hence I
most seriously believe that one does people the best service by giving them
some elevating work to do and thus indirectly elevating them. This applies
most of all to the great artist, but also in a lesser degree to the
scientist. To be sure, it is not the fruits of scientific research that
elevate a man and enrich his nature, but the urge to understand, the
intellectual work, creative or receptive. It would surely be absurd to judge
the value of the Talmud, for instance, by its intellectual fruits.
The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure
and the sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self.
Society and Personality
When we survey our lives and endeavours we soon observe that almost the
whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other
human beings. We see that our whole nature resembles that of the social
animals. We eat food that others have grow, wear clothes that others have
made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our
knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through
the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our
mental capacities wuuld be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher
animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage
over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if
left alone from birth would remain primitive and beast-like in his thoughts
and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive. The individual is what
he is and has the significance that he has not so much in virtue of his
individuality, but rather as a member of a great human society, which
directs his material and spiritual existence from the cradle to the grave.
A man's value to the community depends primarily on how far his
feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of
his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this
matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended
entirely on his social qualities.
And yet such an attitude would be wrong. It is clear that all the
valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from
society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative
individuals. The use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam
engine--each was discovered by one man.
Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for
society--nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the
community conforms. Without creative, independently thinking and judging
personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the
development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the
The health of society thus depends quite as much on the independence of
the individuals composing it as on their close political cohesion. It has
been said very justly that Græco-Europeo-American culture as a whole, and in
particular its brilliant flowering in the Italian Renaissance, which put an
end to the stagnation of mediæval Europe, is based on the liberation and
comparative isolation of the individual.
Let us now consider the times in which we live. How does society fare,
how the individual? The population of the civilized countries is extremely
dense as compared with former times; Europe to-day contains about three
times as many people as it did a hundred years ago. But the number of great
men has decreased out of all proportion. Only a few individuals are known to
the masses as personalities, through their creative achievements.
Organization has to some extent taken the place of the great man,
particularly in the technical sphere, but also to a very perceptible extent
in the scientific.
The lack of outstanding figures is particularly striking in the domain
of art. Painting and music have definitely degenerated and largely lost
their popular appeal. In politics not only are leaders lacking, but the
independence of spent and the sense of justice of the citizen have to a
great extent declined. The democratic, parliamentarian regime, which is
based on such independence, has in many places been shaken, dictatorships
have sprung up and are tolerated, because men's sense of the dignity and the
rights of the individual is no longer strong enough. In two weeks the
sheep-like masses can be worked up by the newspapers into such a state of
excited fury that the men are prepared to put on uniform and kill and be
billed, for the sake of the worthless aims of a few interested parties.
Compulsory military service seems to me the most disgraceful symptom of that
deficiency in personal dignity from which civilized mankind is suffering
to-day. No wonder there is no lack of prophets who prophesy the early
eclipse of our civilization. I am not one of these pessimists; I believe
that better times are coming. Let me shortly state my reasons for such
In my opinion, the present symptoms of decadence are explained by the
fact that the development of industry and machinery has made the struggle
for existence very much more severe, greatly to the detriment of the free
development of the individual. But the development of machinery means that
less and less work is needed from the individual for the satisfaction of the
community's needs. A planned division of labour is becoming more and more of
a crying necessity, and this division will lead to the material security of
the individual. This security and the spare time and energy which the
individual will have at his command can be made to further his development.
In this way the community may regain its health, and we will hope that
future historians will explain the morbid symptoms of present-day society as
the childhood ailments of an aspiring humanity, due entirely to the
excessive speed at which civilization was advancing.
Address at the Grave of H. A. Lorentz
It is as the representative of the German-speaking academic world, and
in particular the Prussian Academy of Sciences, but above all as a pupil and
affectionate admirer that I stand at the grave of the greatest and noblest
man of our times. His genius was the torch which lighted the way from the
teachings of Clerk Maxwell to the achievements of contemporary physics, to
the fabric of which he contributed valuable materials and methods.
His life was ordered like a work of art down to the smallest detail.
His never-failing kindness and magnanimity and his sense of justice, coupled
with an intuitive understanding of people and things, made him a leader in
any sphere he entered. Everyone followed him gladly, for they felt that he
never set out to dominate but always simply to be of use. His work and his
example will live on as an inspiration and guide to future generations.
H. A. Lorentz's work in the cause of International Co-operation
With the extensive specialization of scientific research which the
nineteenth century brought about, it has become rare for a man occupying a
leading position in one of the sciences to manage at the same time to do
valuable service to the community in the sphere of international
organization and international. politics. Such service demands not only
energy, insight, and a reputation based on solid achievements, but also a
freedom from national prejudice and a devotion to the common ends of all,
which have become rare in our times. I have met no one who combined all
these qualities in himself so perfectly as H. A. Lorentz. The marvellous
thing about the effect of his personality was this: Independent and
headstrong natures, such as are particularly common among men of learning,
do not readily bow to another's will and for the most part only accept his
leadership grudgingly. But, when Lorentz is in the presidential chair, an
atmosphere of happy co-operation is invariably created, however much those
present may differ in their aims and habits of thought. The secret of this
success lies not only in his swift comprehension of people and things and
his marvellous command of language, but above all in this, that one feels
that his whole heart is in the business in hand, and that, when he is at
work, he has room for nothing else in his mind. Nothing disarms the
recalcitrant so much as this.
Before the war Lorentz's activities in the cause of international
relations were confined to presiding at congresses of physicists.
Particularly noteworthy among these were the Solvay Congresses, the first
two of which were held at Brussels in 1909 and 1912. Then came the European
war, which was a crushing blow to all who had the improvement of human
relations in general at heart. Even before the war was over, and still more
after its end, Lorentz devoted himself to the work of reconciliation. His
efforts were especially directed towards the re-establishment of fruitful
and friendly co-operation between men of learning and scientific societies.
An outsider can hardly conceive what uphill work this is. The accumulated
resentment of the war period has not yet died down, and many influential men
persist in the irreconcilable attitude into which they allowed themselves to
be driven by the pressure of circumstances. Hence Lorentz's efforts resemble
those of a doctor with a recalcitrant patient who refuses to take the
medicines carefully prepared for his benefit.
But Lorentz is not to be deterred, once he has recognized a course of
action as the right one. The moment the war was over, he joined the
governing body of the "Conseil de recherche," which was founded by the
savants of the victorious countries, and from which the savants and learned
societies of the Central Powers were excluded. His object in taking this
step, which caused great offence to the academic world of the Central
Powers, was to influence this institution in such a way that it could be
expanded into something truly international. He and other right-minded men
succeeded, after repeated efforts, in securing the removal of the offensive
exclusion-clause from the statutes of the "Conseil." The goal, which is the
restoration of normal and fruitful co-operation between learned societies,
is, however, not yet attained, because the academic world of the Central
Powers, exasperated by nearly ten years of exclusion from practically all
international gatherings, has got into a habit of keeping itself to itself.
Now, however, there are good grounds for hoping that the ice will soon be
broken, thanks to the tactful efforts of Lorentz, prompted by pure
enthusiasm for the good cause.
Lorentz has also devoted his energies to the service of international
cultural ends in another way, by consenting to serve on the League of
Nations Commission for international intellectual co-operation, which was
called into existence some five years ago with Bergson as chairman. For the
last year Lorentz has presided over the Commission, which, with the active
support of its subordinate, the Paris Institute, is to act as a go-between
in the domain of intellectual and artistic work among the various spheres of
culture. There too the beneficent influence of this intelligent, humane, and
modest personality, whose unspoken but faithfully followed advice is, "Not
mastery but service," will lead people in the right way.
May his example contribute to the triumph of that spirit !
In Honour of Arnold Berliner's Seventieth Birthday
(Arnold Berliner is the editor of the periodical Die
I should like to take this opportunity of telling my friend Berliner
and the readers of this paper why I rate him and his work so highly. It has
to be done here because it is one's only chance of getting such things said;
since our training in objectivity has led to a taboo on everything personal,
which we mortals may transgress only on quite exceptional occasions such as
the present one.
And now, after this dash for liberty, back to the objective! The
province of scientifically determined fact has been enormously extended,
theoretical knowledge has become vastly more profound in every department of
science. But the assimilative power of the human intellect is and remains
strictly limited. Hence it was inevitable that the activity of the
individual investigator should be confined to a smaller and smaller section
of human knowledge. Worse still, as a result of this specialization, it is
becoming increasingly difficult for even a rough general grasp of science as
a whole, without which the true spirit of research is inevitably
handicapped, to keep pace with progress. A situation is developing similar
to the one symbolically represented in the Bible by the story of the Tower
of Babel. Every serious scientific worker is painfully conscious of this
involuntary relegation to an ever-narrowing sphere of knowledge, which is
threatening to deprive the investigator of his broad horizon and degrade him
to the level of a mechanic.
We have all suffered under this evil, without making any effort to
mitigate it. But Berliner has come to the rescue, as far as the
German-speaking world is concerned, in the most admirable way: He saw that
the existing popular periodicals were sufficient to instruct and stimulate
the layman; but he also saw that a first-class, well-edited organ was needed
for the guidance of the scientific worker who desired to be put sufficiently
au courant of developments in scientific problems, methods, and results to
be able to form a judgment of his own. Through many years of hard work he
has devoted himself to this object with great intelligence and no less great
determination, and done us all, and science, a service for which we cannot
be too grateful.
It was necessary for him to secure the co-operation of successful
scientific writers and induce them to say what they had to say in a form as
far as possible intelligible to non-specialists. He has often told me of the
fights he had in pursuing this object, the difficulties of which he once
described to me in the following riddle: Question : What is a scientific
author? Answer: A cross between a mimosa and a porcupine.* Berliner's
achievement would have been impossible but for the peculiar intensity of his
longing for a clear, comprehensive view of the largest possible area of
scientific country. This feeling also drove him to produce a text-book of
physics, the fruit of many years of strenuous work, of which a medical
student said to me the other day: "I don't know how I should ever have got a
clear idea of the principles of modern physics in the time at my disposal
without this book."
Berliner's fight for clarity and comprehensiveness of outlook has done
a great deal to bring the problems, methods, and results of science home to
many people's minds. The scientific life of our time is simply inconceivable
vzthout his paper. It is just as important to make knowledge live and to
keep it alive as to solve specific problems. We are all conscious of what we
owe to Arnold Berliner.
*Do not be angry with me for this indiscretion, my dear Berliner. A
serious-minded man enjoys a good laugh now and then.
Popper-Lynhaus was more than a brilliant engineer and writer. He was
one of the few outstanding personalities who embody the conscience of a
generation. He has drummed it into us that society is responsible for the
fate of every individual and shown us a way to translate the consequent
obligation of the community into fact. The community or State was no fetish
to him; he based its right to demand sacrifices of the individual entirely
on its duty to give the individual personality a chance of harmonious
Obituary of the Surgeon, M. Katzenstein
During the eighteen years I spent in Berlin I had few close friends,
and the closest was Professor Katzenstein. For more than ten years I spent
my leisure hours during the summer months with him, mostly on his delightful
yacht. There we confided our experiences, ambitions, emotions to each other.
We both felt that this friendship was not only a blessing because each
understood the other, was enriched by him, and found ins him that responsive
echo so essential to anybody who is truly alive; it also helped to make both
of us more independent of external experience, to objectivize it more
I was a free man, bound neither by many duties nor by harassing
responsibilities; my friend, on the contrary, was never free from the grip
of urgent duties and anxious fears for the fate of those in peril. If, as
was invariably the case, he had performed some dangerous operations in the
morning, he would ring up on the telephone, immediately before we got into
the boat, to enquire after the condition of the patients about whom he was
worried; I could see how deeply concerned he was for the lives entrusted to
his care. It was marvellous that this shackled outward existence did not
clip the wings of his soul; his imagination and his sense of humour were
irrepressible. He never became the typical conscientious North German, whom
the Italians in the days of their freedom used to call bestia seriosa. He
was sensitive as a youth to the tonic beauty of the lakes and woods of
Brandenburg, and as he sailed the boat with an expert hand through these
beloved and familiar surroundings he opened the secret treasure-chamber of
his heart to me--he spoke of his experiments, scientific ideas, and
ambitions. How he found time and energy for them was always a mystery to me;
but the passion for scientific enquiry is not to be crushed by any burdens.
The man who is possessed with it perishes sooner than it does.
There were two types of problems that engaged his attention. The first
forced itself on him out of the necessities of his practice. Thus he was
always thinking out new ways of inducing healthy muscles to take the place
of lost ones, by ingenious transplantation of tendons. He found this
remarkably easy, as he possessed an uncommonly strong spatial imagination
and a remarkably sure feeling for mechanism. How happy he was when he had
succeeded in making somebody fit for normal life by putting right the
muscular system of his face, foot, or arm! And the same when he avoided an
operation, even in cases which had been sent to him by physicians for
surgical treatment in cases of gastric ulcer by neutralizing the pepsin. He
also set great store by the treatment of peritonitis by an anti-toxic
coli-serum which he discovered, and rejoiced in the successes he achieved
with it. In talking of it he often lamented the fact that this method of
treatment was not endorsed by his colleagues.
The second group of problems had to do with the common conception of an
antagonism between different sorts of tissue. He believed that he was here
on the track of a general biological principle of widest application, whose
implications he followed out with admirable boldness and persistence.
Starting out from this basic notion he discovered that osteomyelon and
periosteum prevent each other's growth if they are not separated from each
other by bone. In this way he succeeded in explaining hitherto inexplicable
cases of wounds ailing to heal, and in bringing about a cure.
This general notion of the antagonism of the tissues, especially of
epithelium and connective tissue, was the subject to which he devoted his
scientific energies, especially in the last ten years of his life.
Experiments on animals and a systematic investigation of the growth of
tissues in a nutrient fluid were carried out side by side. How thankful he
was, with his hands tied as they were by his duties, to have found such an
admirable and infinitely enthusiastic fellow-worker in Frälein Knake! He
succeeded in securing wonderful results bearing on the factors which favour
the growth of epithelium at the expense of that of connective tissue,
results which may well be of decisive importance for the study of cancer. He
also had the pleasure of inspiring his own son to become his intelligent and
independent fellow-worker, and of exciting the warm interest and
co-operation of Sauerbruch just in the last years of his life, so that he
was able to die with the consoling thought that his life's work would not
perish, but would be vigorously continued on the lines he had laid down.
I for my part am grateful to fate for having given me this man, with
his inexhaustible goodness and high creative gifts, for a friend.
Congratulations to Dr. Solf
I am delighted to be able to offer you, Dr. Solf, the heartiest
congratulations, the congratulations of Lessing College, of which you have
become an indispensable pillar, and the congratulations of all who are
convinced of the need for close contact between science and art and the
public which is hungry for spiritual nourishment.
You have not hesitated to apply your energies to a field where there
are no laurels to be won, but quiet, loyal work to be done in the interests
of the general standard of intellectual and spiritual life, which is in
peculiar danger to-day owing to a variety of circumstances. Exaggerated
respect for athletics, an excess of coarse impressions which the
complications of life through the technical discoveries of recent years has
brought with it, the increased severity of the struggle for existence due to
the economic crisis, the brutalization of political life--all these factors
are hostile to the ripening of the character and the desire for real
culture, and stamp our age as barbarous, materialistic, and superficial.
Specialization in every sphere of intellectual work is producing an
everwidening gulf between the intellectual worker and the non-specialist,
which makes it more difficult for the life of the nation to be fertilized
and enriched by the achievements of art and science.
But contact between the intellectual and the masses must not be lost.
It is necessary for the elevation of society and no less so for renewing the
strength of the intellectual worker; for the flower of science does not grow
in the desert. For this reason you, Herr Solf, have devoted a portion of
your energies to Lessing College, and we are grateful to you for doing so.
And we wish you further success and happiness in your work for this noble
I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity
forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The
example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can produce fine
ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts
its owners irresistibly to abuse it.
Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of
Education and Educators
Dear Miss _____,
I have read about sixteen pages of your manuscript and it made
me--smile. It is clever, well observed, honest, it stands on its
own feet up to a point, and yet it is so typically feminine, by
which I mean derivative and vitiated by personal rancour. I
suffered exactly the same treatment at the hands of my teachers,
who disliked me for my independence and passed me over
when they wanted assistants (I must admit that I was somewhat
less of a model student than you). But it would not have been
worth my while to write anything about my school life, still less
would I have liked to be responsible for anyone's printing or
actually reading it. Besides, one always cuts a poor figure if one
complains about others who are struggling for their place in the
sun too after their own fashion.
Therefore pocket your temperament and keep your manuscript
for your sons and daughters, m order that they may derive
consolation from it and--not give a damn for what their teachers
tell them or think of them.
Incidentally I am only coming to Princeton to research, not to
teach. There is too much education altogether, especially in
American schools. The only rational way of educating is to be an
example--of what to avoid, if one can't be the other sort.
With best wishes.
To the Schoolchildren of Japan
In sending this greeting to you Japanese schoolchildren, I can lay
claim to a special right to do so. For I have myself visited your beautiful
country, seen its cities and houses, its mountains and woods, and in them
Japanese boys who had learnt from them to love their country. A big fat book
full of coloured drawings by Japanese children lies always on my table.
If you get my message of greeting from all this distance, bethink you
that ours is the first age in history to bring about friendly and
understanding intercourse between people of different countries; in former
times nations passed their lives in mutual ignorance, and in fact hated or
feared one another. May the spirit of brotherly understanding gain ground
more and more among them. With this in mind I, an old man, greet you
Japanese schoolchildren from afar and hope that your generation may some day
put mine to shame.
Teachers and Pupils
An address to children
(The principal art of the teacher is to awaken the joy in creation
My dear Children,
I rejoice to see you before me to-day, happy youth of a sunny and
Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are
the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite
labour in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as
your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it, add to it, and
one day faithfully hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve
immortality in the permanent things which we create in common.
If you always keep that in mind you will find a meaning in life and
work and acquire the right attitude towards other nations and ages.
As late as the seventeenth century the savants and artists of all
Europe were so closely united by the bond of a common ideal that
co-operation between them was scarcely affected by political events. This
unity was further strengthened by the general use of the Latin language.
To-day we look back at this state of affairs as at a lost paradise. The
passions of nationalism have destroyed this community of the intellect, and
the Latin language, which once united the whole world, is dead. The men of
learning have become the chief mouthpieces of national tradition and lost
their sense of an intellectual commonwealth.
Nowadays we are faced with the curious fact that the politicians, the
practical men of affairs, have become the exponents of international ideas.
It is they who have created the League of Nations.
Religion and Science
Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with
the satisfaction of felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep
this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and
their development. Feeling and desire are the motive forces behind all human
endeavour and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may
present itself to us. Now what are the feelings and needs that have led men
to religious thought and belief in the widest sense of the words? A little
consideration will suffice to show us that the most varying emotions preside
over the birth of religious thought and experience. With primitive man it is
above all fear that evokes religious notions--fear of hunger, wild beasts,
sickness, death. Since at this stage of existence understanding of causal
connexions is usually poorly developed, the human mind creates for itself
more or less analogous beings on whose wills and actions these fearful
happenings depend. One's object now is to secure the favour of these beings
by carrying out actions and offering sacrifices which, according to the
tradition handed down from generation to generation, propitiate them or make
them well disposed towards a mortal. I am speaking now of the religion of
fear. This, though not created, is in an important degree stabilized by the
formation of a special priestly caste which sets up as a mediator between
the people and the beings they fear, and erects a hegemony on this basis. In
many cases the leader or ruler whose position depends on other factors, or a
privileged class, combines priestly functions with its secular authority in
order to make the latter more secure; or the political rulers and the
priestly caste make common cause in their own interests.
The social feelings are another source of the crystallization of
religion. Fathers and mothers and the leaders of larger human communities
are mortal and fallible. The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts
men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of
Providence who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes, the God who,
according to the width of the believer's outlook, loves and cherishes the
life of the tribe or of the human race, or even life as such, the comforter
in sorrow and unsatisfied longing, who preserves the souls of the dead. This
is the social or moral conception of God.
The Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the
religion of fear to moral religion, which is continued in the New Testament.
The religions of all civilized peoples, especially the peoples of the
Orient, are primarily moral religions. The development from a religion of
fear to moral religion is a great step in a nation's life. That primitive
religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples
purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must be on our guard. The
truth is that they are all intermediate types, with this reservation, that
on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates.
Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their
conception of God. Only individuals of exceptional endowments and
exceptionally high-minded communities, as a general rule, get in any real
sense beyond this level. But there is a third state of religious experience
which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form,
and which I will call cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to
explain this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as
there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.
The individual feels the nothingness of human desires and aims and the
sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in
the world of thought. He looks upon individual existence as a sort of prison
and wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The
beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear in earlier stages of
development--e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the
Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learnt from the wonderful writings of
Schopenhauer especially, contains a much stronger element of it.
The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind
of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's
image; so that there can be no Church whose central teachings are based on
it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men
who were filled with the highest kind of religious feeling and were in many
cases regarded by their contemporaries as Atheists, sometimes also as
saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and
Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to
another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology?
In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken
this feeling and keep it alive in those who are capable of it.
We thus arrive at a conception of the relation of science to religion
very different from the usual one. When one views the matter historically
one is inclined to look upon science and religion as irreconcilable
antagonists, and for a very obvious reason. The man who is thoroughly
convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a
moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of
events--that is, if he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously.
He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or
moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for
the simple reason that a man's actions are determined by necessity, external
and internal, so that in God's eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than
an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it goes through. Hence
science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is
unjust. A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy,
education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would
indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear and punishment
and hope of reward after death.
It is therefore easy to see why the Churches have always fought science
and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that cosmic
religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific
research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the
devotion which pioneer work in theoretical science demands, can grasp the
strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from
the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the
rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a
feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must
have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labour in disentangling
the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with
scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily
develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who,
surrounded by a sceptical world, have shown the way to those like-minded
with themselves, scattered through the earth and the centuries. Only one who
has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what
has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their
purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that
gives a man strength of this sort. A contemporary has said, not unjustly,
that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are
the only profoundly religious people.
The Religiousness of Science
You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds
without a peculiar religious feeling of his own. But it is different from
the religion of the naive man. For the latter God is a being from whose care
one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a
feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one
stands to some extent in a personal relation, however deeply it may be
tinged with awe.
But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The
future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There
is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious
feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural
law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with
it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly
insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life
and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of
selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has
possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.
The Plight of Science
The German-speaking countries are menaced by a danger to which those in
the know are in duty bound to call attention in the most emphatic terms. The
economic stress which political events bring in their train does not hit
everybody equally hard. Among the hardest hit are the institutions and
individuals whose material existence depends directly on the State. To this
category belong the scientific institutions and workers on whose work not
merely the well-being of science but also the position occupied by Germany
and Austria in the scale of culture very largely depends.
To grasp the full gravity of the situation it is necessary to bear in
mind the following consideration. In times of crisis people are generally
blind to everything outside their immediate necessities. For work which is
directly productive of material wealth they will pay. But science, if it is
to flourish, must have no practical end in view. As a general rule, the
knowledge and the methods which it creates only subserve practical ends
indirectly and, in many cases, not till after the lapse of several
generations. Neglect of science leads to a subsequent dearth of intellectual
workers able, in virtue of their independent outlook and judgment, to blaze
new trails for industry or adapt themselves to new situations. Where
scientific enquiry is stunted the intellectual life of the nation dries up,
which means the withering of many possibilities of future development. This
is what we have to prevent. Now that the State has been weakened as a result
of nonpolitical causes, it is up to the economically stronger members of the
community to come to the rescue directly, and prevent the decay of
Far-sighted men with a clear understanding of the situation have set up
institutions by which scientific work of every sort is to be kept going in
Germany and Austria. Help to make these efforts a real success. In my
teaching work I see with admiration that economic troubles have not yet
succeeded in stifling the will and the enthusiasm for scientific research.
Far from it! Indeed, it looks as if our disasters had actually quickened the
devotion to non-material goods. Everywhere people are working with burning
enthusiasm in the most difficult circumstances. See to it that the
will-power and the talents of the youth of to-day do not perish to the
grievous hurt of the community as a whole.
Fascism and Science
A letter to Signor Rocco, Minister of State, Rome.
My dear Sir,
Two of the most eminent and respected men of science in Italy
have applied to me in their difficulties of conscience and
requested me to write to you with the object of preventing, if
possible, a piece of cruel persecution with which men of learning
are threatened in Italy. I refer to a form of oath in which fidelity
to the Fascist system is to be promised. The burden of my
request is that you should please advise Signor Mussolini to
spare the flower of Italy's intellect this humiliation.
However much our political convictions may differ, I know that
we agree on one point: in the progressive achievements of the
European mind both of us see and love our highest good. Those
achievements are based on the freedom of thought and of
teaching, on the principle that the desire for truth must take
precedence of all other desires. It was this basis alone that
enabled our civilization to take its rise in Greece and to celebrate
its rebirth in Italy at the Renaissance. This supreme good has
been paid for by the martyr's blood of pure and great men, for
whose sake Italy is still loved and reverenced to-day.
Far be it from me to argue with you about what inroads on
human liberty may be justified by reasons of State. But the
pursuit of scientific truth, detached from the practical interests of
everyday life, ought to be treated as sacred by every
Government, and it is in the highest interests of all that honest
servants of truth should be left in peace. This is also undoubtedly
in the interests of the Italian State and its prestige in the eyes of
Hoping that my request will not fall on deaf ears, I am, etc.
To be called to account publicly for everything one has said, even in
jest, an excess of high spirits, or momentary anger, fatal as it must be in
the end, is yet up to a point reasonable and natural. But to be called to
account publicly for what others have said in one's name, when one cannot
defend oneself, is indeed a sad predicament. "But who suffers such a
dreadful fate?" you will ask. Well, everyone who is of sufficient interest
to the public to be pursued by interviewers. You smile incredulously, but I
have had plenty of direct experience and will tell you about it.
Imagine the following situation. One morning a reporter comes to you
and asks you in a friendly way to tell him something about your friend N. At
first you no doubt feel something approaching indignation at such a
proposal. But you soon discover that there is no escape. If you refuse to
say anything, the man writes: "I asked one of N.'s supposedly best friends
about him. But he prudently avoided my questions. This in itself enables the
reader to draw the inevitable conclusions." There is, therefore, no escape,
and you give the following information: "Mr. N. is a cheerful,
straightforward man, much liked by all his friends. He can find a bright
side to any situation. His enterprise and industry know no bounds; his job
takes up his entire energies. He is devoted to his family and lays
everything he possesses at his wife's feet. . . "
Now for the reporter's version : "Mr. N. takes nothing very seriously
and has a gift for making himself liked, particularly as he carefully
cultivates a hearty and ingratiating manner. He is so completely a slave to
his job that he has no time for the considerations of any non-personal
subject or for any mental activity outside it. He spoils his wife
unbelievably and is utterly under her thumb. . ."
A real reporter would make it much more spicy, but I expect this will
be enough for you and your friend N. He reads this, and some more like it,
in the paper next morning, and his rage against you knows no bounds, however
cheerful and benevolent his natural disposition may be. The injury done to
him gives you untold pain, especially as you are really fond of him.
What's your next step, my friend? If you know, tell me quickly, so that
I may adopt your method with all speed.
Thanks to America
Mr. Mayor, Ladies, and Gentlemen,
The splendid reception which you have accorded to me to-day puts me to
the blush in so far as it is meant for me personally, but it gives me all
the more pleasure in so far as it is meant for me as a representative of
pure science. For this gathering is an outward and visible sign that the
world is no longer prone to regard material power and wealth as the highest
goods. It is gratifying that men should feel an urge to proclaim this in an
In the wonderful two months which I have been privileged to spend in
your midst in this fortunate land, I have had many opportunities of
observing what a high value men of action and of practical life attach to
the efforts of science; a good few of them have placed a considerable
proportion of their fortunes and their energies at the service of scientific
enterprises and thereby contributed to the prosperity and prestige of this
I cannot let this occasion pass without referring in a spirit of
thankfulness to the fact that American patronage of science is not limited
by national frontiers. Scientific enterprises all over the civilized world
rejoice in the liberal support of American institutions and individuals--a
fact which is, I am sure, a source of pride and gratification to all of you.
These tokens of an international way of thinking and feeling are
particularly welcome; for the world is to-day more than ever in need of
international thinking and feeling by its leading nations and personalities,
if it is to progress towards a better and more worthy future. I may be
permitted to express the hope that this internationalism of the American
nation, which proceeds from a high sense of responsibility, will very soon
extend itself to the sphere of politics. For without the active co-operation
of the great country of the United States in the business of regulating
international relations, all efforts directed towards this important end are
bound to remain more or less ineffectual.
I thank you most heartily for this magnificent reception and, in
particular, the men of learning in this country for the cordial and friendly
welcome I have received from them. I shall always look back on these two
months with pleasure and gratitude.
The University Course at Davos
Senalores boni viri, senatus autem bestia. So a friend of mine, a Swiss
professor, once wrote in his irritable way to a university faculty which had
annoyed him. Communities tend to be less guided than individuals by
conscience and a sense of responsibility. What a fruitful source of
suffering to mankind this fact is! It is the cause of wars and every kind of
oppression, which fill the earth with pain, sighs, and bitterness.
And yet nothing truly valuable can be achieved except by the unselfish
co-operation of many individuals. Hence the man of good will is never
happier than when some communal enterprise is afoot and is launched at the
cost of heavy sacrifices, with the single object of promoting life and
Such pure joy was mine when I heard about the university courses at
Davos. A work of rescue is being carried out there, with intelligence and a
wise moderation, which is based on a grave need, though it may not be a need
that is immediately obvious to everyone. Many a young man goes to this
valley with his hopes fixed on the healing power of its sunny mountains and
regains his bodily health. But thus withdrawn for long periods from the
will-hardening discipline of normal work and a prey to morbid reflection on
his physical condition, he easily loses the power of mental effort and the
sense of being able to hold his own in the struggle for existence. He
becomes a sort of hot-house plant and, when his body is cured, often finds
it difficult to get back to normal life. Interruption of intellectual
training in the formative period of youth is very apt to leave a gap which
can hardly be filled later.
Yet, as a general rule, intellectual work in moderation, so far from
retarding cure, indirectly helps it forward, just as moderate physical work
does. It is in this knowledge that the university courses are being
instituted, with the object not merely of preparing these young people for a
profession but of stimulating them to intellectual activity as such. They
are to provide work, training, and hygiene in the sphere of the mind.
Let us not forget that this enterprise is admirably calculated to
establish such relations between members of different nations as are
favourable to the growth of a common European feeling. The effects of the
new institution in this direction are likely to be all the more advantageous
from the fact that the circumstances of its birth rule out every sort of
political purpose. The best way to serve the cause of internationalism is by
co-operating in some life-giving work.
>From all these points of view I rejoice that the energy and
intelligence of the founders of the university courses at Davos have already
attained such a measure of success that the enterprise has outgrown the
troubles of infancy. May it prosper, enriching the inner lives of numbers of
admirable human beings and rescuing many from the poverty of sanatorium
Congratulations to a Critic
To see with one's own eyes, to feel and judge without succumbing to the
suggestive power of the fashion of the day, to be able to express what one
has seen and felt in a snappy sentence or even in a cunningly wrought
word--is that not glorious? Is it not a proper subject for congratulation?
Greeting to G. Bernard Shaw
There are few enough people with sufficient independence to see the
weaknesses and follies of their contemporaries and remain themselves
untouched by them. And these isolated few usually soon lose their zeal for
putting things to rights when they have come face to face with human
obduracy. Only to a tiny minority is it given to fascinate their generation
by subtle humour and grace and to hold the mirror up to it by the impersonal
agency of art. To-day I salute with sincere emotion the supreme master of
this method, who has delighted--and educated--us all.
Some Notes on my American Impressions
I must redeem my promise to say something about my impressions of this
country. That is not altogether easy for me. For it is not easy to take up
the attitude of an impartial observer when one is received with such
kindness and undeserved respect as I have been in America. First of all let
me say something on this head.
The cult of individual personalities is always, in my view,
unjustified. To be sure, nature distributes her gifts variously among her
children. But there are plenty of the well-endowed ones too, thank God, and
I am firmly convinced that most of them live quiet, unregarded lives. It
strikes me as unfair, and even in bad taste, to select a few of them fur
boundless admiration, attributing superhuman powers of mind and character to
them. This has been my fate, and the contrast between the popular estimate
of my powers and achievements and the reality is simply grotesque. The
consciousness of this extraordinary state of affairs would be unbearable but
for one great consoling thought: it is a welcome symptom in an age which is
commonly denounced as materialistic, that it makes heroes of men whose
ambitions lie wholly in the intellectual and moral sphere. This proves that
knowledge and justice are ranked above wealth and power by a large section
of the human race. My experience teaches me that this idealistic outlook is
particularly prevalent in America, which is usually decried as a
particularly materialistic country. After this digression I come to my
proper theme, in the hope that no more weight will be attached to my modest
remarks than they deserve.
What first strikes the visitor with amazement is the superiority of
this country in matters of technics and organization. Objects of everyday
use are more solid than in Europe, houses infinitely more convenient in
arrangement. Everything is designed to save human labour. Labour is
expensive, because the country is sparsely inhabited in comparison with its
natural resources. The high price of labour was the stimulus which evoked
the marvellous development of technical devices and methods of work. The
opposite extreme is illustrated by over-populated China or India, where the
low price of labour has stood in the way of the development of machinery.
Europe is half-way between the two. Once the machine is sufficiently highly
developed it becomes cheaper in the end than the cheapest labour. Let the
Fascists in Europe, who desire on narrow-minded political grounds to see
their own particular countries more densely populated, take heed of this.
The anxious care with which the United States keep out foreign goods by
means of prohibitive tariffs certainly contrasts oddly with this
notion.…But an innocent visitor must not be expected to rack his
brains too much, and, when all is said and done, it is not absolutely
certain that every question admits of a rational answer.
The second thing that strikes a visitor is the joyous, positive
attitude to life. The smile on the faces of the people in photographs is
symbolical of one of the American's greatest assets. He is friendly,
confident, optimistic, and--without envy. The European finds intercourse
with Americans easy and agreeable.
Compared with the American, the European is more critical, more
self-conscious, less goodhearted and helpful, more isolated, more fastidious
in his amusements and his reading, generally more or less of a pessimist.
Great importance attaches to the material comforts of life, and peace,
freedom from care, security are all sacrificed to them. The American lives
for ambition, the future, more than the European. Life for him is always
becoming, never being. In this respect he is even further removed from the
Russian and the Asiatic than the European is. But there is another respect
in which he resembles the Asiatic more than the European does: he is lest of
an individualist than the European--that is, from the psychological, not the
economic, point of view.
More emphasis is laid on the "we" than the "I." As a natural corollary
of this, custom and convention are very powerful, and there is much more
uniformity both in outlook on life and in moral and æsthetic ideas among
Americans than among Europeans. This fact is chiefly responsible for
America's economic superiority over Europe. Co-operation and the division of
labour are carried through more easily and with less friction than in
Europe, whether in the factory or the university or in private good works.
This social sense may be partly due to the English tradition.
In apparent contradiction to this stands the fact that the activities
of the State are comparatively restricted as compared with Europe. The
European is surprised to find the telegraph, the telephone, the railways,
and the schools predominantly in private hands. The more social attitude of
the individual, which I mentioned just now, makes this possible here.
Another consequence of this attitude is that the extremely unequal
distribution of property leads to no intolerable hardships. The social
conscience of the rich man is much more highly developed than in Europe. He
considers himself obliged as a matter of course to place a large portion of
his wealth, and often of his own energies too, at the disposal of the
community, and public opinion, that all-powerful force, imperiously demands
it of him. Hence the most important cultural functions can be left to
private enterprise, and the part played by the State in this country is,
comparatively, a very restricted one.
The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by
the Prohibition laws. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this
country is closely connected with this.
There is also another way in which Prohibition, in my opinion, has led
to the enfeeblement of the State. The public-house is a place which gives
people a chance to exchange views and ideas on public affairs. As far as I
can see, people here have no chance of doing this, the result being that the
Press, which is mostly controlled by definite interests, has an excessive
influence over public opinion.
The over-estimation of money is still greater in this country than in
Europe, but appears to me to be on the decrease. It is at last beginning to
be realized that great wealth is not necessary for a happy and satisfactory
As regards artistic matters, I have been genuinely impressed by the
good taste displayed in the modern buildings and in articles of common use;
on the other hand, the visual arts and music have little place in the life
of the nation as compared with Europe.
I have a warm admiration for the achievements of American institutes of
scientific research. We are unjust in attempting to ascribe the increasing
superiority of American research-work exclusively to superior wealth; zeal,
patience, a spirit of comradeship, and a talent for co-operation play an
important part in its successes. One more observation to finish up with. The
United States is the most powerful technically advanced country in the world
to-day. Its influence on the shaping of international relations is
absolutely incalculable. But America is a large country and its people have
so far not shown much interest in great international problems, among which
the problem of disarmament occupies first place today. This must be changed,
if only in the essential interests of the Americans. The last war has shown
that there are no longer any barriers between the continents and that the
destinies of all countries are closely interwoven. The people of this
country must realize that they have a great responsibility in the sphere of
international politics. The part of passive spectator is unworthy of this
country and is bound in the end to lead to disaster all round.
Reply to the Women of America
An American Women's League felt called upon to protest against
Einstein's visit to their country. They received the following answer.
Never yet have I experienced from the fair sex such energetic rejection
of all advances; or, if I have, never from so many at once.
But are they not quite right, these watchful citizenesses? Why should
one open one's doors to a person who devours hard-boiled capitalists with as
much appetite and gusto as the Cretan Minotaur in days gone by devoured
luscious Greek maidens, and on top of that is low-down enough to reject
every sort of war, except the unavoidable war with one's own wife? Therefore
give heed to your clever and patriotic women-folk and remember that the
Capitol of mighty Rome was once saved by the cackling of its faithful geese.
Politics and Pacifism
The importance of securing international peace was recognized by the
really great men of former generations. But the technical advances of our
times have turned this ethical postulate into a matter of life and death for
civilized mankind to-day, and made the taking of an active part in the
solution of the problem of peace a moral duty which no conscientious man can
One has to realize that the powerful industrial groups concerned in the
manufacture of arms are doing their best in all countries to prevent the
peaceful settlement of international disputes, and that rulers can achieve
this great end only if they are sure of the vigorous support of the majority
of their peoples. In these days of democratic government the fate of the
nations hangs on themselves; each individual must always bear that in mind.
The Pacifist Problem
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very glad of this opportunity of saying a few words to you about
the problem of pacificism. The course of events in the last few years has
once more shown us how little we are justified in leaving the struggle
against armaments and against the war spirit to the Governments. On the
other hand, the formation of large organizations with a large membership can
of itself bring us very little nearer to our goal. In my opinion, the best
method in this case is the violent one of conscientious objection, with the
aid of organizations for giving moral and material support to the courageous
conscientious objectors in each country. In this way we may succeed in
making the problem of pacificism an acute one, a real struggle which
attracts forceful natures. It is an illegal struggle, but a struggle for
people's real rights against their governments in so far as the latter
demand criminal acts of the citizen.
Many who think themselves good pacifists will jib at this out-and-out
pacifism, on patriotic grounds. Such people are not to be relied on in the
hour of crisis, as the World War amply proved.
I am most grateful to you for according me an opportunity to give you
my views in person.
Address to the Students' Disarmament Meeting
Preceding generations have presented us, in a highly developed science
and mechanical knowledge, with a most valuable gift which carries with it
possibilities of making our life free and beautiful such as no previous
generation has enjoyed. But this gift also brings with it dangers to our
existence as great as any that have ever threatened it.
The destiny of civilized humanity depends more than ever on the moral
forces it is capable of generating. Hence the task that confronts our age is
certainly no easier than the tasks our immediate predecessors successfully
The foodstuffs and other goods which the world needs can be produced in
far fewer hours of work than formerly. But this has made the problem of the
division of labour and the distribution of the goods produced far more
difficult. We all feel that the free play of economic forces, the
unregulated and unrestrained pursuit of wealth and power by the individual,
no longer leads automatically to a tolerable solution of these problems.
Production, labour, and distribution need to be organized on a definite
plan, in order to prevent valuable productive energies from being thrown
away and sections of the population from becoming impoverished and relapsing
into savagery. If unrestricted sacro egoismo leads to disastrous
consequences in economic life, it is a still worse guide in international
relations. The development of mechanical methods of warfare is such that
human life will become intolerable if people do not before long discover a
way of preventing war. The importance of this object is only equalled by the
inadequacy of the attempts hitherto made to attain it.
People seek to minimize the danger by limitation of armaments and
restrictive rules for the conduct of war. But war is not like a parlour-game
in which the players loyally stick to the rules. Where life and death are at
stake, rules and obligations go by the board. Only the absolute repudiation
of all war is of any use here. The creation of an international court of
arbitration is not enough. There must be treaties guaranteeing that the
decisions of this court shall be made effective by all the nations acting in
concert. Without such a guarantee the nations will never have the courage to
Suppose, for example, that the American, English, German, and French
Governments insisted on the Japanese Government's putting an immediate stop
to their warlike operations in China, under pain of a complete economic
boycott. Do you suppose that any Japanese Government would be found ready to
take the responsibility of plunging its country into such a perilous
adventure? Then why is it not done? Why must every individual and every
nation tremble for their existence? Because each seeks his own wretched
momentary advantage and refuses to subordinate it to the welfare and
prosperity of the community.
That is why I began by telling you that the fate of the human race was
more than ever dependent on its moral strength to-day. The way to a joyful
and happy state is through renunciation and self-limitation everywhere.
Where can the strength for such a process come from? Only from those
who have had the chance in their early years to fortify their minds and
broaden their outlook through study. Thus we of the older generation look to
you and hope that you will strive with all your might to achieve what was
denied to us.
To Sigmund Freud
Dear Professor Freud,
It is admirable the way the longing to perceive the truth has
overcome every other desire in you. You have shown with
irresistible clearness how inseparably the combative and
destructive instincts are bound up with the amative and vital ones
in the human psyche. At the same time a deep yearning for that
great consummation, the internal and external liberation of
mankind from war, shines out from the ruthless logic of your
expositions. This has been the declared aim of all those who
have been honoured as moral and spiritual leaders beyond the
limits of their own time and country without exception, from
Jesus Christ to Goethe and Kant. Is it not significant that such
men have been universally accepted as leaders, in spite of the
fact that their efforts to mould the course of human affairs were
attended with but small success?
I am convinced that the great men--those whose achievements,
even though in a restricted sphere, set them above their
fellows--are animated to an overwhelming extent by the same
ideals. But they have little influence on the course of political
events. It almost looks as if this domain, on which the fate of
nations depends, had inevitably to be given over to violence and
Political leaders or governments owe their position partly to
force and partly to popular election. They cannot be regarded as
representative of the best elements, morally and intellectually, in
their respective nations. The intellectual èlite have no direct
influence on the history of nations in these days; their lack of
cohesion prevents them from taking a direct part in the solution
of contemporary problems. Don't you think that a change might
be brought about in this respect by a free association of people
whose work and achievements up to date constitute a guarantee
of their ability and purity of aim? This international association,
whose members would need to keep in touch with each other by
a constant interchange of opinions, might, by defining its attitude
in the Press--responsibility always resting with the signatories on
any given occasion--acquire a considerable and salutary moral
influence over the settlement of political questions. Such an
association would, of course, be a prey to all the ills which so
often lead to degeneration in learned societies, dangers which
are inseparably bound up with the imperfection of human nature.
But should not an effort in this direction be risked in spite of this?
I look upon the attempt as nothing less than an imperative duty.
If an intellectual association of standing, such as I have
described, could be formed, it would no doubt have to try to
mobilize the religious organizations for the fight against war. It
would give countenance to many whose good intentions are
paralysed to-day by a melancholy resignation. Finally, I believe
that an association formed of persons such as I have described,
each highly esteemed in his own line, would be just the thing to
give valuable moral support to those elements in the League of
Nations which are really working for the great object for which
that institution exists.
I had rather put these proposals to you than to anyone else in the
world, because you are least of all men the dupe of your desires
and because your critical judgment is supported by a most
earnest sense of responsibility.
>From a letter
Instead of permission being given to Germany to introduce compulsory
service it ought to be taken away from everybody else: in future none but
mercenary armies should be permitted, the size and equipment of which should
be discussed at Geneva. This would be better for France than to have to
permit compulsory service in Germany. The fatal psychological effect of the
military education of the people and the violation of the individual's
rights which it involves would thus be avoided.
Moreover, it would be much easier for two countries which had agreed to
compulsory arbitration for the settlement of all disputes arising out of
their mutual relations to combine their military establishments of
mercenaries into a single organization with a mixed staff. This would mean a
financial relief and increased security for both of them. Such a process of
amalgamation might extend to larger and larger combinations, and finally
lead to an "international police," which would be bound gradually to
degenerate as international security increased.
Will you discuss this proposal with our friends by way of setting the
ball rolling? Of course I do not in the least insist on this particular
proposal. But I do think it essential that we should come forward with a
positive programme; a merely negative policy is unlikely to produce any
Germany and France
Mutual trust and co-operation between France and Germany can come about
only if the French demand for security against military attack is satisfied.
But should France frame demands in accordance with this, such a step would
certainly be taken very ill in Germany.
A procedure something like the following seems, however, to be
possible. Let the German Government of its own free will propose to the
French that they should jointly make representations to the League of
Nations that it should suggest to all member States to bind themselves to
(1) To submit to every decision of the international court of
(2) To proceed with all its economic and military force, in concert
with the other members of the League, against any State which breaks the
peace or resists an international decision made in the interests of world
Systematic disarmament within a short period. This is possible only in
combination with the guarantee of all for the security of each separate
nation, based on a permanent court of arbitration independent of
Unconditional obligation of all countries not merely to accept the
decisions of the court of arbitration but also to give effect to them.
Separate courts of arbitration for Europe with Africa, America, and
Asia (Australia to be apportioned to one of these). A joint court of
arbitration for questions involving issues that cannot be settled within the
limits of any one of these three regions.
The International of Science
At a sitting of the Academy during the War, at the time when national
and political infatuation had reached its height, Emil Fischer spoke the
following emphatic words: "It's no use, Gentlemen, science is and remains
international." The really great scientists have always known this and felt
it passionately, even though in times of political confusion they may have
remained isolated among their colleagues of inferior calibre. In every camp
during the War this mass of voters betrayed their sacred trust. The
international society of the academies was broken up. Congresses were and
still are held from which colleagues from ex-enemy countries are excluded.
Political considerations, advanced with much solemnity, prevent the triumph
of purely objective ways of thinking without which our great aims must
necessarily be frustrated.
What can right-minded people, people who are proof against the
emotional temptations of the moment, do to repair the damage? With the
majority of intellectual workers still so excited, truly international
congresses on the grand scale cannot yet be held. The psychological
obstacles to the restoration of the international associations of scientific
workers are still too formidable to be overcome by the minority whose ideas
and feelings are of a more comprehensive kind. These last can aid in the
great work of restoring the international societies to health by keeping in
close touch with like-minded people all over the world and resolutely
championing the international cause in their own spheres. Success on a large
scale will take time, but it will undoubtedly come. I cannot let this
opportunity pass without paying a tribute to the way in which the desire to
preserve the confraternity of the intellect has remained alive through all
these difficult years in the breasts of a large number of our English
The disposition of the individual is everywhere better than the
official pronouncements. Right-minded people should bear this in mind and
not allow themselves to be misled and get angry: senatores boni viri,
senatus autem bestia.
If I am full of confident hope concerning the progress of international
organization in general, that feeling is based not so much on my confidence
in the intelligence and high-mindedness of my fellows, but rather on the
irresistible pressure of economic developments. And since these depend
largely on the work even of reactionary scientists, they too will help to
create the international organization against their wills.
The Institute for Intellectual Co-operation
During this year the leading politicians of Europe have for the first
time drawn the logical conclusion from the truth that our portion of the
globe can only regain its prosperity if the underground struggle between the
traditional political units ceases. The political organization of Europe
must be strengthened, and a gradual attempt made to abolish tariff barriers.
This great end cannot be achieved by treaties alone. People's minds must,
above all, be prepared for it. We must try gradually to awaken in them a
sense of solidarity which does not, as hitherto, stop at frontiers. It is
with this in mind that the League of Nations has created the Commission de
coopération intellectuelle. This Commission is to be an absolutely
international and entirely nonpolitical authority, whose business it is to
put the intellectuals of all the nations, who were isolated by the war, into
touch with each other. It is a difficult task; for it has, alas, to be
admitted that--at least in the countries with which I am most closely
acquainted--the artists and men of learning are governed by narrowly
nationalist feelings to a far greater extent than the men of affairs.
Hitherto this Commission has met twice a year. To make its efforts more
effective, the French Government has decided to create and maintain a
permanent Institute for intellectual co-operation, which is just now to be
opened. It is a generous act on the part of the French nation and deserves
the thanks of all.
It is an easy and grateful task to rejoice and praise and say nothing
about the things one regrets or disapproves of. But honesty alone can help
our work forward, so I will not shrink from combining criticism with this
greeting to the new-born child.
I have daily occasion for observing that the greatest obstacle which
the work of our Commission has to encounter is the lack of confidence in its
political impartiality. Everything must be done to strengthen that
confidence and everything avoided that might harm it.
When, therefore, the French Government sets up and maintains an
Institute out of public funds in Paris as a permanent organ of the
Commission, with a Frenchman as its Director, the outside observer can
hardly avoid the impression that French influence predominates in the
Commission. This impression is further strengthened by the fact that so far
a Frenchman has also been chairman of the Commission itself. Although the
individuals in question are men of the highest reputation, liked and
respected everywhere, nevertheless the impression remains.
Dixi et salvavi animam naeam. I hope with all my heart that the new
Institute, by constant interaction with the Commission, will succeed in
promoting their common ends and winning the confidence and recognition of
intellectual workers all over the world.
A letter to the German Secretary of the League of Nations
Dear Herr Dufour-Feronce,
Your kind letter must not go unanswered, otherwise you may get
a mistaken notion of my attitude. The grounds for my resolve to
go to Geneva no more are as follows: Experience has,
unhappily, taught me that the Commission, taken as a whole,
stands for no serious determination to make real progress with
the task of improving international relations. It looks to me far
more like an embodiment of the principle ut aliquid fieri
videatur. The Commission seems to me even worse in this
respect than the League taken as a whole.
It is precisely because I desire to work with all my might for the
establishment of an international arbitrating and regulative
authority superior to the State, and because I have this object
so very much at heart, that I feel compelled to leave the
The Commission has given its blessing to the oppression of the
cultural minorities in all countries by causing a National
Commission to be set up in each of them, which is to form the
only channel of communication between the intellectuals of a
country and the Commission. It has thereby deliberately
abandoned its function of giving moral support to the national
minorities in their struggle against cultural oppression.
Further, the attitude of the Commission in the matter of
combating the chauvinistic and militaristic tendencies of
education in the various countries has been so lukewarm that no
serious efforts in this fundamentally important sphere can be
hoped for from it.
The Commission has invariably failed to give moral support to
those individuals and associations who have thrown themselves
without reserve into the business of working for an international
order and against the military system.
The Commission has never made any attempt to resist the
appointment of members whom it knew to stand for tendencies
the very reverse of those it is bound in duty to foster.
I will not worry you with any further arguments, since you will
understand my resolve yell enough from these few hints. It is not
my business to draw up an indictment, but merely to explain my
position. If I nourished any hope whatever I should act
differently--of that you may be sure.
The Question of Disarmament
The greatest obstacle to the success of the disarmament plan was the
fact that people in general left out of account the chief difficulties of
the problem. Most objects are gained by gradual steps: for example, the
supersession of absolute monarchy by democracy. Here, however, we are
concerned with an objective which cannot be reached step by step.
As long as the possibility of war remains, nations will insist on being
as perfectly prepared militarily as they can, in order to emerge triumphant
from the next war. It will also be impossible to avoid educating the youth
in warlike traditions and cultivating narrow national vanity joined to the
glorification of the warlike spirit, as long as people have to be prepared
for occasions when such a spirit will be needed in the citizens for the
purpose of war. To arm is to give one's voice and make one's preparations
not for peace but for war. Therefore people will not disarm step by step;
they will disarm at one blow or not at all.
The accomplishment of such a far-reaching change in the life of nations
presupposes a mighty moral effort, a deliberate departure from deeply
ingrained tradition. Anyone who is not prepared to make the fate of his
country in case of a dispute depend entirely on the decisions of an
international court of arbitration, and to enter into a treaty to this
effect without reserve, is not really resolved to avoid war. It is a case of
all or nothing.
It is undeniable that previous attempts to ensure peace have failed
through aiming at inadequate compromises.
Disarmament and security are only to be had in combination. The one
guarantee of security is an undertaking by all nations to give effect to the
decisions of the international authority.
We stand, therefore, at the parting of the ways. Whether we find the
way of peace or continue along the old road of brute force, so unworthy of
our civilization, depends on ourselves. On the one side the freedom of the
individual and the security of society beckon to us, on the other slavery
for the individual and the annihilation of our civilization threaten us. Our
fate will be according to our deserts.
The Disarmament Conference of 1932
May I begin with an article of political faith? It runs as follows: The
State is made for man, not man for the State. And in this respect science
resembles the State. These are old sayings, coined by men for whom human
personality was the highest human good. I should shrink from repeating them,
were it not that they are for ever threatening to fall into oblivion,
particularly in these days of organization and mechanization. I regard it as
the chief duty of the State to protect the individual and give him the
opportunity to develop into a creative personality.
That is to say, the State should be our servant and not we its slaves.
The State transgresses this commandment when it compels us by force to
engage in military and war service, the more so since the object and the
effect of this slavish service is to kill people belonging to other
countries or interfere with their freedom of development. We are only to
make such sacrifices to the State as will promote the free development of
individual human beings. To any American all this may be a platitude, but
not to any European. Hence we may hope that the fight against war will find
strong support among Americans.
And now for the Disarmament Conference. Ought one to laugh, weep, or
hope when one thinks of it? Imagine a city inhabited by fiery-tempered,
dishonest, and quarrelsome citizens. The constant danger to life there is
felt as a serious handicap which makes all healthy development impossible.
The magistrate desires to remedy this abominable state of affairs, although
all his counsellors and the rest of the citizens insist on continuing to
carry a dagger in their girdles. After years of preparation the magistrate
determines to compromise and raises the question, how long and how sharp the
dagger is allowed to be which anyone may carry in his belt when he goes out.
As long as the cunning citizens do not suppress knifing by legislation, the
courts, and the police, things go on in the old way, of course. A definition
of the length and sharpness of the permitted dagger will help only the
strongest and most turbulent and leave the weaker at their mercy. You will
all understand the meaning of this parable. It is true that we have a League
of Nations and a Court of Arbitration. But the League is not much more than
a meeting-hall, and the Court has no means of enforcing its decisions. These
institutions provide no security for any country in case of an attack on it.
If you bear this in mind, you will judge the attitude of the French, their
refusal to disarm without security, less harshly than it is usually judged
Unless we can agree to limit the sovereignty of the individual State by
all binding ourselves to take joint action against any country which openly
or secretly resists a judgment of the Court of Arbitration, we shall never
get out of a state of universal anarchy and terror. No sleight of hand can
reconcile the unlimited sovereignty of the individual country with security
against attack. Will it need new disasters to induce the countries to
undertake to enforce every decision of the recognized international court?
The progress of events so far scarcely justifies us in hoping for anything
better in the near future. But everyone who cares for civilization and
justice must exert all his strength to convince his fellows of the necessity
for laying all countries under an international obligation of this kind.
It will be urged against this notion, not without a certain
justification, that it over-estimates the efficacy of machinery, and
neglects the psychological, or rather the moral, factor. Spiritual
disarmament, people insist, must precede material disarmament. They say
further, and truly, that the greatest obstacle to international order is
that monstrously exaggerated spirit of nationalism which also goes by the
fair-sounding but misused name of patriotism. During the last century and a
half this idol has acquired an uncanny and exceedingly pernicious power
To estimate this objection at its proper worth, one must realize that a
reciprocal relation exists between external machinery and internal states of
mind. Not only does the machinery depend on traditional modes of feeling and
owe its origin and its survival to them, but the existing machinery in its
turn exercises a powerful influence on national modes of feeling.
The present deplorably high development of nationalism everywhere is,
in my opinion, intimately connected with the institution of compulsory
military service or, to call it by its less offensive name, national armies.
A country which demands military service of its inhabitants is compelled to
cultivate a nationalistic spirit in them, which provides the psychological
foundation of military efficiency. Along with this religion it has to hold
up its instrument, brute force, to the admiration of the youth in its
The introduction of compulsory service is therefore, to my mind, the
prime cause of the moral collapse of the white race, which seriously
threatens not merely the survival of our civilization but our very
existence. This curse, along with great social blessings, started with the
French Revolution, and before long dragged all the other nations in its
Therefore those who desire to encourage the growth of an international
spirit and to combat chauvinism must take their stand against compulsory
service. Is the severe persecution to which conscientious objectors to
military service are subjected to-day a whit less disgraceful to the
community than those to which the martyrs of religion were exposed in former
centuries? Can you, as the Kellogg Pact does, condemn war and at the same
time leave the individual to the tender mercies of the war machine in each
If, in view of the Disarmament Conference, we are not to restrict
ourselves to the technical problems of organization involved but also to
tackle the psychological question more directly from educational motives, we
must try on international lines to invent some legal way by which the
individual can refuse to serve in the army. Such a regulation would
undoubtedly produce a great moral effect.
This is my position in a nutshell: Mere agreements to limit armaments
furnish no sort of security. Compulsory arbitration must be supported by an
executive force, guaranteed by all the participating countries, which is
ready to proceed against the disturber of the peace with economic and
military sanctions. Compulsory service, as the bulwark of unhealthy
nationalism, must be combated; most important of all, conscientious
objectors must be protected on an international basis.
Finally, I would draw your attention to a book, War again To-morrow, by
Ludwig Bauer, which discusses the issues here involved in an acute and
unprejudiced manner and with great psychological insight.
The benefits that the inventive genius of man has conferred on us in
the last hundred years could make life happy and care-free if organization
had been able to keep pace with technical progress. As it is, these hard-won
achievements in the hands of our generation are like a razor in the hands of
a child of three. The possession of marvellous means of production has
brought care and hunger instead of freedom.
The results of technical progress are most baleful where they furnish
means for the destruction of human life and the hard-won fruits of toil, as
we of the older generation experienced to our horror in the Great War. More
dreadful even than the destruction, in my opinion, is the humiliating
slavery into which war plunges the individual. Is it not a terrible thing to
be forced by the community to do things which every individual regards as
abominable crimes? Only a few had the moral greatness to resist; them I
regard as the real heroes of the Great War.
There is one ray of hope. I believe that the responsible leaders of the
nations do, in the main, honestly desire to abolish war. The resistance to
this essential step forward comes from those unfortunate national traditions
which are handed on like a hereditary disease from generation to generation
through the workings of the educational system. The principal vehicle of
this tradition is military training and its glorification, and, equally,
that portion of the Press which is controlled by heavy industry and the
soldiers. Without disarmament there can be no lasting peace. Conversely, the
continuation of military preparations on the present scale will inevitably
lead to new catastrophes.
That is why the Disarmament Conference of 1932 will decide the fate of
this generation and the next. When one thinks how pitiable, taken as a
whole, have been the results of former conferences, it becomes clear that it
is the duty of all intelligent and responsible people to exert their full
powers to remind public opinion again and again of the importance of the
1932 Conference. Only if the statesmen have behind them the will to peace of
a decisive majority in their own countries can they attain their great end,
and for the formation of this public opinion each one of us is responsible
in every word and deed.
The doom of the Conference would be sealed if the delegates came to it
with ready-made instructions, the carrying out of which would soon become a
matter of prestige. This seems to be generally realized. For meetings
between the statesmen of two nations at a time, which have become very
frequent of late, have been used to prepare the ground for the Conference by
conversations about the disarmament problem. This seems to me a very happy
device, for two men or groups of men can usually discuss things together
most reasonably, honestly, and dispassionately when there is no third person
present in front of whom they think they must be careful what they say. Only
if exhaustive preparations of this kind are made for the Conference, if
surprises are thereby ruled out, and an atmosphere of confidence is created
by genuine good will, can we hope for a happy issue.
In these great matters success is not a matter of cleverness, still
less of cunning, but of honesty and confidence. The moral element cannot be
displaced by reason, thank heaven ! It is not the individual spectator's
duty merely to wait and criticize. He must serve the cause by all means in
his power. The fate of the world will be such as the world deserves.
America and the Disarmasnent Conference
The Americans of to-day are filled with the cares arising out of
economic conditions in their own country. The efforts of their responsible
leaders are directed primarily to remedying the serious unemployment at
home. The sense of being involved in the destiny of the rest of the world,
and in particular of the mother country of Europe, is even less strong than
in normal times.
But the free play of economic forces will not by itself automatically
overcome these difficulties. Regulative measures by the community are needed
to bring about a sound distribution of labour and consumption-goods among
mankind; without them even the people of the richest country suffocate. The
fact is that since the amount of work needed to supply everybody's needs has
been reduced through the improvement of technical methods, the free play of
economic forces no longer produces a state of affairs in which all the
available labour can find employment. Deliberate regulation and organization
are becoming necessary to make the results of technical progress beneficial
If the economic situation cannot be cleared up without systematic
regulation, how much more necessary is such regulation for dealing with the
problems of international politics! Few people still cling to the notion
that acts of violence in the shape of wars are either advantageous or worthy
of humanity as a method of solving international problems. But they are not
logical enough to make vigorous efforts on behalf of the measures which
might prevent war, that savage and unworthy relic of the age of barbarism.
It requires some power of reflection to see the issue clearly and a certain
courage to serve this great cause resolutely and effectively.
Anybody who really wants to abolish war must resolutely declare himself
in favour of his own country's resigning a portion of its sovereignty in
favour of international institutions: he must be ready to make his own
country amenable, in case of a dispute, to the award of an international
court. He must in the most uncompromising fashion support disarmament all
round, which is actually envisaged in the unfortunate Treaty of Versailles;
unless military and aggressively patriotic education is abolished, we can
hope for no progress.
No event of the last few years reflects such disgrace on the leading
civilized countries of the world as the failure of all disarmament
conferences so far; for this failure is due not only to the intrigues of
ambitious and unscrupulous politicians, but also to the indifference and
slackness of the public in all countries. Unless this is changed we shall
destroy all the really valuable achievements of our predecessors.
I believe that the American nation is only imperfectly aware of the
responsibility which rests with it in this matter. People in America no
doubt think as follows: "Let Europe go to the dogs, if it is destroyed by
the quarrelsomeness and wickedness of its inhabitants. The good seed of our
Wilson has produced a mighty poor crop in the stony ground of Europe. We are
strong and safe and in no hurry to mix ourselves up in other people's
Such an attitude is at once base and shortsighted. America is partly to
blame for the difficulties of Europe. By ruthlessly pressing her claims she
is hastening the economic and therewith the moral collapse of Europe; she
has helped to Balkanize Europe, and therefore shares the responsibility for
the breakdown of political morality and the growth of that spirit of revenge
which feeds on despair. This spirit will not stop short of the gates of
America--I had almost said, has not stopped short. Look around, and look
The truth can be briefly stated: The Disarmament Conference comes as a
final chance, to you no less than to us, of preserving the best that
civilized humanity has produced. And it is on you, as the strongest and
comparatively soundest among us, that the eyes and hopes of all are focused.
I consider myself lucky in witnessing the great peace demonstration
organized by the Flemish people. To all concerned in it I feel impelled to
call out in the name of men of good will with a care for the future: "In
this hour of opened eyes and awakening conscience we feel ourselves united
with you by the deepest ties."
We must not conceal from ourselves that an improvement in the present
depressing situation is impossible without a severe struggle; for the
handful of those who are really determined to do something is minute in
comparison with the mass of the lukewarm and the misguided. And those who
have an interest in keeping the machinery of war going are a very powerful
body; they will stop at nothing to make public opinion subservient to their
It looks as if the ruling statesmen of to-day were really trying to
secure permanent peace. But the ceaseless piling-up of armaments shows only
too clearly that they are unequal to coping with the hostile forces which
are preparing for war. In my opinion, deliverance can only come from the
peoples themselves. If they wish to avoid the degrading slavery of
war-service, they must declare with no uncertain voice for complete
disarmament. As long as armies exist, any serious quarrel will lead to war.
A pacifism which does not actually try to prevent the nations from arming is
and must remain impotent.
May the conscience and the common sense of the peoples be awakened, so
that we may reach a new stage in the life of nations, where people will look
back on war as an incomprehensible aberration of their forefathers!
Letter to a Friend of Peace
It has come to my ears that in your greatheartedness you are quietly
accomplishing a splendid work, impelled by solicitude for humanity and its
fate. Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with
their own hearts. But it is their strength that will decide whether the
human race must relapse into that hopeless condition which a blind multitude
appears to-day to regard as the ideal.
O that the nations might see, before it is too late, how much of their
self-determination they have got to sacrifice in order to avoid the struggle
of all against all! The power of conscience and the international spirit has
proved itself inadequate. At present it is being so weak as to tolerate
parleying with the worst enemies of civilization. There is a kind of
conciliation which is a crime against humanity, and it passes for political
We cannot despair of humanity, since we are ourselves human beings. And
it is a comfort that there still exist individuals like yourself, whom one
knows to be alive and undismayed.
Dear friend and spiritual brother,
To be quite frank, a declaration like the one before me in a
country which submits to conscription in peace-time seems to
me valueless. What you must fight for is liberation from universal
military service. Verily the French nation has had to pay heavily
for the victory of 1918; for that victory has been largely
responsible for holding it down in the most degrading of all forms
of slavery. Let your efforts in this struggle be unceasing. You
have a mighty ally in the German reactionaries and militarists. If
France clings to universal military service, it will be impossible in
the long run to prevent its introduction into Germany. For the
demand of the Germans for equal rights will succeed in the end;
and then there will be two German military slaves to every
French one, which would certainly not be in the interests of
Only if we succeed in abolishing compulsory service altogether
will it be possible to educate the youth in the spirit of
reconciliation, joy in life, and love towards all living creatures.
I believe that a refusal on conscientious grounds to serve in the
army when called up, if carried out by 50,000 men at the same
moment, would be irresistible. The individual can accomplish
little here, nor can one wish to see the best among us devoted to
destruction through the machinery behind which stand the three
great powers of stupidity, fear, and greed.
A third ditto
The point with which you deal in your letter is one of prime
importance. The armament industry is, as you say, one of the
greatest dangers that beset mankind. It is the hidden evil power
behind the nationalism which is rampant everywhere.…
Possibly something might be gained by nationalization. But it is
extremely hard to determine exactly what industries should be
included. Should the aircraft industry? And how much of the
metal industry and the chemical industry?
As regards the munitions industry and the export of war material,
the League of Nations has busied itself for years with efforts to
get this horrible traffic controlled--with what little success, we all
know. Last year I asked a well-known American diplomat why
Japan was not forced by a commercial boycott to desist from
her policy of force. "Our commercial interests are too strong,"
was the answer. How can one help people who rest satisfied
with a statement like that?
You believe that a word from me would suffice to get something
done in this sphere? What an illusion! People flatter me as long
as I do not get in their way. But if I direct my efforts towards
objects which do not suit them, they immediately turn to abuse
and calumny in defence of their interests. And the onlookers
mostly keep out of the light, the cowards! Have you ever tested
the civil courage of your countrymen? The silently accepted
motto is "Leave it alone and don't speak of it." You may be sure
that I shall do everything in my power along the lines you
indicate, but nothing can be achieved as directly as you think.
Women and War
In my opinion, the patriotic women ought to be sent to the front in the
next war instead of the men. It would at least be a novelty in this dreary
sphere of infinite confusion, and besides--why should not such heroic
feelings on the part of the fair sex find a more picturesque outlet than in
attacks on a defenceless civilian?
Thoughts on the World Economic Crisis
If there is one thing that can give a layman in the sphere of economics
the courage to express an opinion on the nature of the alarming economic
difficulties of the present day, it is the hopeless confusion of opinions
among the experts. What I have to say is nothing new and does not pretend to
be anything more than the opinion of an independent and honest man who,
unburdened by class or national prejudices, desires nothing but the good of
humanity and the most harmonious possible scheme of human existence. If in
what follows I write as if I were clear about certain things and sure of the
truth of what I am saying, this is done merely for the sake of an easier
mode of expression; it does not proceed from unwarranted self-confidence or
a belief in the infallibility of my somewhat simple intellectual conception
of problems which are in reality uncommonly complex.
As I see it, this crisis differs in character from past crises in that
it is based on an entirely new set of conditions, due to rapid progress in
methods of production. Only a fraction of the available human labour in the
world is needed for the production of the total amount of consumption-goods
necessary to life. Under a completely free economic system this fact is
bound to lead to unemployment. For reasons which I do not propose to analyse
here, the majority of people are compelled to work for the minimum wage on
which life can be supported. If two factories produce the same sort of
goods, other things being equal, that one will be able to produce them more
cheaply which employs less workmen--i.e., makes the individual worker work
as long and as hard as human nature permits. From this it follows inevitably
that, with methods of production what they are to-day, only a portion of the
available labour can be used. While unreasonable demands are made on this
portion, the remainder is automatically excluded from the process of
production. This leads to a fall in sales and profits. Businesses go smash,
which further increases unemployment and diminishes confidence in industrial
concerns and therewith public participation in these mediating banks;
finally the banks become insolvent through the sudden withdrawal of deposits
and the wheels of industry therewith come to a complete standstill.
The crisis has also been attributed to other causes which we will now
(1) Over-production. We have to distinguish between two things
here--real over-production and apparent over-production. By real
overproduction I mean a production so great that it exceeds the demand. This
m4y perhaps apply to motor-cars and wheat in the United States at the
present moment, although even that is doubtful. By "over-production" people
usually mean a condition of things in which more of one particular article
is produced than can, in existing circumstances, be sold, in spite of a
shortage of consumption-goods among consumers. This condition of things I
call apparent over-production. In this case it is not the demand that is
lacking but the consumers' purchasing-power. Such apparent over-production
is only another word for a crisis, and therefore cannot serve as an
explanation of the latter; hence people who try to make over-production
responsible for the crisis are merely juggling with words.
(2) Reparations. The obligation to pay reparations lies heavy on the
debtor nations and their industries, compels them to go in for dumping, and
so harms the creditor nations too This is beyond dispute. But the appearance
of the crisis in the United States, in spite of the high tariff-wall
protecting them, proves that this cannot be the principal cause of the world
crisis. The shortage of gold in the debtor countries due to reparations can
at most serve as an argument for putting an end to these payments; it cannot
be dragged in as an explanation of the world crisis.
(3) Erection of near tariff-walls. Increase in the unproductive burden
of armaments. Political in security owing to latent danger of war. All these
things add considerably to the troubles of Europe, but do not materially
affect America. The appearance of the crisis in America shows that they
cannot be its principal causes.
(4) The dropping-out of the two Powers, China and Russia. This blow to
world trade also does not touch America very nearly, and therefore cannot be
a principal cause of the crisis.
(5) The economic rise of the lower classes since the War. This,
supposing it to be a reality, could only produce a scarcity of goods, not an
I will not weary the reader by enumerating further contentions which do
not seem to me to get to the heart of the matter. Of one thing I feel
certain: this same technical progress which, in itself, might relieve
mankind of a great part of the labour necessary to its subsistence, is the
main cause of our present troubles. Hence there are those who would in all
seriousness forbid the introduction of technical improvements. This is
obviously absurd. But how can we find a more rational way out of our
If we could somehow manage to prevent the purchasing-power of the
masses, measured in terms of goods, from sinking below a certain minimum,
stoppages in the industrial cycle such as we are experiencing to-day would
be rendered impossible.
The logically simplest but also most daring method of achieving this is
a completely planned economy, in which consumption-goods are produced and
distributed by the community. That, in essentials, is what is being
attempted in Russia to-day. Much will depend on what results this mighty
experiment produces. To hazard a prophecy here would be presumption. Can
goods be produced as economically under such a system as under one which
leaves more freedom to individual enterprise? Can this system maintain
itself at all without the terror that has so far accompanied it, which none
of us "westerners" would care to let himself in for? Does not such a rigid,
centralized system tend towards protection and hostility to advantageous
innovations? We must take care, however, not to allow these suspicions to
become prejudices which prevent us from forming an objective judgment.
My personal opinion is that those methods are preferable which respect
existing traditions and habits so far as that is in any way compatible with
the end in view. Nor do I believe that a sudden transference of the control
of industry to the hands of the public would be beneficial from the point of
view of production; private enterprise should be left its sphere of
activity, in so far as it has not already been eliminated by industry itself
in the form of cartelization.
There are, however, two respects in which this economic freedom ought
to be limited. In each branch of industry the number of working hours per
week ought so to be reduced by law that unemployment is systematically
abolished. At the same time minimum wages must be fixed in such a way that
the purchasing power of the workers keeps pace with production.
Further, in those industries which have become monopolistic in
character through organization on the part of the producers, prices must be
controlled by the State in order to keep the creation of new capital within
reasonable bounds and prevent the artificial strangling of production and
In this way it might perhaps be possible to establish a proper balance
between production and consumption without too great a limitation of free
enterprise, and at the same time to stop the intolerable tyranny of the
owners of the means of production (land, machinery) over the wage-earners,
in the widest sense of the term.
Culture and Prosperity
If one would estimate the damage done by the great political
catastrophe to the development of human civilization, one must remember that
culture in its higher forms is a delicate plant which depends on a
complicated set of conditions and is wont to flourish only in a few places
at any given time. For it to blossom there is needed, first of all, a
certain degree of prosperity, which enables a fraction of the population to
work at things not directly necessary to the maintenance of life; secondly,
a moral tradition of respect for cultural values and achievements, in virtue
of which this class is provided with the means of living by the other
classes, those who provide the immediate necessities of life.
During the past century Germany has been one of the countries in which
both conditions were fulfilled. The prosperity was, taken as a whole, modest
but sufficient; the tradition of respect for culture vigorous. On this basis
the German nation has brought forth fruits of culture which form an integral
part of the development of the modern world. The tradition, in the main,
still stands; the prosperity is gone. The industries of the country have
been cut off almost completely from the sources of raw materials on which
the existence of the industrial part of the population was based. The
surplus necessary to support the intellectual worker has suddenly ceased to
exist. With it the tradition which depends on it will inevitably collapse
also, and a fruitful nursery of culture turn to wilderness.
The human race, in so far as it sets a value on culture, has an
interest in preventing such impoverishment. It will give what help it can in
the immediate crisis and reawaken that higher community of feeling, now
thrust into the background by national egotism, for which human values have
a validity independent of politics and frontiers. It will then procure for
every nation conditions of work under which it can exist and under which it
can bring forth fruits of culture.
Production and Purchasing Power
I do not believe that the remedy for our present difficulties lies in a
knowledge of productive capacity and consumption, because this knowledge is
likely, in the main, to come too late. Moreover the trouble in Germany seems
to me to be not hypertrophy of the machinery of production but deficient
purchasing power in a large section of the population, which has been cast
out of the productive process through rationalization.
The gold standard has, in my opinion, the serious disadvantage that a
shortage in the supply of gold automatically leads to a contraction of
credit and also of the amount of currency in circulation, to which
contraction prices and wages cannot adjust themselves sufficiently quickly.
The natural remedies for our troubles are, in my opinion, as follows:--
(1) A statutory reduction of working hours, graduated for each
department of industry, in order to get rid of unemployment, combined with
the fixing of minimum wages for the purpose of adjusting the
purchasing-power of the masses to the amount of goods available.
(2) Control of the amount of money in circulation and of the volume of
credit in such a way as to keep the price-level steady, all special
protection being abolished.
(3) Statutory limitation of prices for such articles as have been
practically withdrawn from free competition by monopolies or the formation
Production and Work
An answer to Cederström
Dear Herr Cederström,
Thank you for sending me your proposals, which interest me
very much. Having myself given so much thought to this subject I
feel that it is right that I should give you my perfectly frank
opinion on them.
The fundamental trouble seems to me to be the almost unlimited
freedom of the labour market combined with extraordinary
progress in the methods of production. To satisfy the needs of
the world to-day nothing like all the available labour is wanted.
The result is unemployment and excessive competition among
the workers, both of which reduce purchasing power and put
the whole economic system intolerably out of gear.
I know Liberal economists maintain that every economy in
labour is counterbalanced by an increase in demand. But, to
begin with, I don't believe it, and even if it were true, the
above-mentioned factors would always operate to force the
standard of living of a large portion of the human race doom to
an unnaturally low level.
I also share your conviction that steps absolutely must be taken
to make it possible and necessary for the younger people to take
part in the productive process. Further, that the older people
ought to be excluded from certain sorts of work (which I call
"unqualified" work), receiving instead a certain income, as having
by that time done enough work of a kind accepted by society as
I too am in favour of abolishing large cities, but not of settling
people of a particular type--e.g., old people--in particular
towns. Frankly, the idea strikes me as horrible. I am also of
opinion that fluctuations in the value of money must be avoided,
by substituting for the gold standard a standard based on certain
classes of goods selected according to the conditions of
consumption--as Keynes, if I am not mistaken, long ago
proposed. With the introduction of this system one might
consent to a certain amount of "inflation," as compared with the
present monetary situation, if one could believe that the State
would really make a rational use of the windfall thus accruing to
The weaknesses of your plan lie, so it seems to me, in the sphere
of psychology, or rather, in your neglect of it. It is no accident
that capitalism has brought with it progress not merely in
production but also in knowledge. Egoism and competition are,
alas, stronger forces than public spirit and sense of duty. In
Russia, they say, it is impossible to get a decent piece of
bread.…Perhaps I am over-pessimistic concerning State
and other forms of communal enterprise, but I expect little good
from them. Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work. I have
seen and experienced too many dreadful warnings, even in
comparatively model Switzerland.
I am inclined to the view that the State can only be of real use to
industry as a limiting and regulative force. It must see to it that
competition among the workers is kept within healthy limits, that
all children are given a chance to develop soundly, and that
wages are high enough for the goods produced to be consumed.
But it can exert a decisive influence through its regulative function
if--and there again you are right--its measures are framed in an
objective spirit by independent experts.
I would like to write to you at greater length, but cannot find the
It seems to be a universal fact that minorities--especially when the
individuals composing them are distinguished by physical peculiarities--are
treated by the majorities among whom they live as an inferior order of
beings. The tragedy of such a fate lies not merely in the unfair treatment
to which these minorities are automatically subjected in social and economic
matters, but also in the fact that under the suggestive influence of the
majority most of the victims themselves succumb to the same prejudice and
regard their brethren as inferior beings. This second and greater part of
the evil can be overcome by closer combination and by deliberate education
of the minority, whose spiritual liberation can thus be accomplished.
The efforts of the American negroes in this direction are deserving of
all commendation and assistance.
Observations on the Present Situation in Europe
The distinguishing feature of the present political situation of the
world, and in particular of Europe, seems to me to be this, that political.
development has failed, both materially and intellectually, to keep pace
with economic necessity, which has changed its character in a comparatively
short time. The interests of each country must be subordinated to the
interests of the wider community. The struggle for this new orientation of
political thought and feeling is a severe one, because it has the tradition
of centuries against it. But the survival of Europe depends on its
successful issue. It is my firm conviction that once the psychological
impediments are overcome the solution of the real problems will not be such
a terribly difficult matter. In order to create the right atmosphere, the
most essential thing is personal co-operation between men of like mind. May
our united efforts succeed in building a bridge of mutual trust between the
The Heirs of the Ages
Previous generations were able to look upon intellectual and cultural
progress as simply the inherited fruits of their forebears' labours, which
made life easier and more beautiful for them. But the calamities of our
times show us that this was a fatal illusion.
We see now that the greatest efforts are needed if this legacy of
humanity's is to prove a blessing and not a curse. For whereas formerly it
was enough for a man to have freed himself to some extent from personal
egotism to make him a valuable member of society, to-day he must also be
required to overcome national and class egotism. Only if he reaches those
heights can he contribute towards improving the lot of humanity.
As regards this most important need of the age the inhabitants of a
small State are better placed than those of a great Power, since the latter
are exposed, both in politics and economics, to the temptation to gain their
ends by brute force. The agreement between Holland and Belgium, which is the
only bright spot in European affairs during the last few years, encourages
one to hope that the small nations will play a leading part in the attempt
to liberate the world from the degrading yoke of militarism through the
renunciation of the individual country's unlimited right of
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
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
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 I, 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 alwa58 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
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
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
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 atrocitymongering, 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,
Berlin, April 7, 1933
The Prussian Academy of Sciences.
Professor Albert Einstein, Leyden,
c/o Prof. Ehrenfest, Witte Rosenstr.
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.
(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
Munich, Aril 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
Acadeiny of Sciences is bound to affect your relations with our
We must therefore ask you how you envisage your relations with
our Academy after what has passed between yourself and the
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
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.
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 Pew This cannot be said of a man like me, a few 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.
The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of
justice, and the desire for personal independence--these are the features of
the Jewish tradition which make me thank my stars that I belong to it.
Those who are raging to-day against the ideals of reason and individual
liberty and are trying to establish a spiritless State-slavery by brute
force rightly see in us their irreconcilable foes. History has given us a
difficult row to hoe; but so long as we remain devoted servants of truth,
justice, and liberty, we shall continue not merely to survive as the oldest
of living peoples, but by creative work to bring forth fruits which
contribute to the ennoblement of the human race, as heretofore.
Is there a Jewish Point of View?
In the philosophical sense there is, in my opinion, no specifically
Jewish outlook. Judaism seems to me to be concerned almost exclusively with
the moral attitude in life and to life. I look upon it as the essence of an
attitude to life which is incarnate in the Jewish people rather than the
essence of the laws laid down in the Thora and interpreted in the Talmud. To
me, the Thora and the Talmud are merely the most important evidence for the
manner in which the Jewish conception of life held sway in earlier times.
The essence of that conception seems to me to lie in an affirmative
attitude to the life of all creation. The life of the individual has meaning
only in so far as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler
and more beautiful. Life is sacred--that is to say, it is the supreme value,
to which all other values are subordinate. The hallowing of the
supra-individual life brings in its train a reverence for everything
spiritual--a particularly characteristic feature of the Jewish tradition.
Judaism is not a creed: the Jewish God is simply a negation of
superstition, an imaginary result of its elimination. It is also an attempt
to base the moral law on fear, a regrettable and discreditable attempt. Yet
it seems to me that the strong moral tradition of the Jewish nation has to a
large extent shaken itself free from this fear. It is clear also that
"serving God" was equated with "serving the living." The best of the Jewish
people, especially the Prophets and Jesus, contended tirelessly for this.
Judaism is thus no transcendental religion; it is concerned with life
as we live it and can up to a point grasp it, and nothing else. It seems to
me, therefore, doubtful whether it can be called a religion in the accepted
sense of the word, particularly as no "faith" but the sanctification of life
in a supra-personal sense is demanded of the Jew.
But the Jewish tradition also contains something else, something which
finds splendid expression in many of the Psalms--namely, a sort of
intoxicated joy and amazement at the beauty and grandeur of this world, of
which, man can just form a faint notion. It is the feeling from which true
scientific research draws its spiritual sustenance, but which also seems to
find expression in the song of birds. To tack this on to the idea of God
seems mere childish absurdity.
Is what I have described a distinguishing mark of Judaism? Is it to be
found anywhere else under another name? In its pure form, nowhere, not even
in Judaism, where the pure doctrine is obscured by much worship of the
letter. Yet Judaism seems to me one of its purest and most vigorous
manifestations. This applies particularly to the fundamental principle of
the sanctification of life.
It is characteristic that the animals were expressly included in the
command to keep holy the Sabbath day, so strong was the feeling that the
ideal demands the solidarity of all living things. The insistence on the
solidarity of all human beings finds still stronger expression, apd it is no
mere chance that the demands of Socialism were for the most part first
raised by Jews.
How strongly developed this sense of the sanctity of life is in the
Jewish people is admirably illustrated by a little remark which Walter
Rathenau once made to me in conversation: "When a Jew says that he's going
hunting to amuse himself, he lies." The Jewish sense of the sanctity of life
could not be more simply expressed.
An Answer to a Questionnaire
It is important that the young should be induced to take an interest in
Jewish questions and difficulties, and you deserve gratitude for devoting
yourself to this task in your paper. This is of moment not merely for the
destiny of the Jews, whose welfare depends on their sticking together and
helping each other, but, over and above that, for the cultivation of the
international spirit, which is in danger everywhere to-day from a
narrow-minded nationalism. Here, since the days of the Prophets, one of the
fairest fields of activity has lain open to our nation, scattered as it is
over the earth and united only by a common tradition.
Addresses on Reconstruction in Palestine
Ten years ago, when I first had the pleasure of addressing you on
behalf of the Zionist cause, almost all our hopes were still fixed on the
future. To-day we can look back on these ten years with joy; for in that
time the united energies of the Jewish people have accomplished a splendid
piece of successful constructive work in Palestine, which certainly exceeds
anything that we dared to hope then.
We have also successfully stood the severe test to which the events of
the last few years have subjected us. Ceaseless work, supported by a noble
purpose, is leading slowly but surely to success. The latest pronouncements
of the British Government indicate a return to a juster judgment of our
case; this we recognize with gratitude.
But we must never forget what this crisis has taught us--namely, that
the establishment of satisfactory relations between the Jews and the Arabs
is not England's affair but ours. We--that is to say, the Arabs and
ourselves--have got to agree on the main outlines of an advantageous
partnership which shall satisfy the needs of both nations. A just solution
of this problem and one worthy of both nations is an end no less important
and no less worthy of our efforts than the promotion of the work of
construction itself. Remember that Switzerland represents a higher stage of
political development than any national state, precisely because of the
greater political problems which had to be solved before a stable community
could be built up out of groups of different nationality.
Much remains to be done, but one at least of Herzl's aims has already
been realized: its task in Palestine has given the Jewish people an
astonishing degree of solidarity and the optimism without which no organism
can lead a healthy life.
Anything we may do for the common purpose is done not merely for our
brothers in Palestine, but for the well-being and honour of the whole Jewish
We are assembled to-day for the purpose of calling to mind our age-old
community, its destiny, and its problems. It is a community of moral
tradition, which has always shown its strength and vitality in times of
stress. In all ages it has produced men who embodied the conscience of the
Western world, defenders of human dignity and justice.
So long as we ourselves care about this community it will continue to
exist to the benefit of mankind, in spite of the fact that it possesses no
self-contained organization. A decade or two ago a group of far-sighted men,
among whom Herzl of immortal memory stood out above the rest, came to the
conclusion that we needed a spiritual centre in crder to preserve our sense
of solidarity in difficult times. Thus arose the idea of Zionism and the
work of settlement in Palestine, the successful realization of which we have
been permitted to witness, at least in its highly promising beginnings.
I have had the privilege of seeing, to my great joy and satisfaction,
how much this achievement has contributed to the recovery of the Jewish
people, which is exposed, as a minority among the nations, not merely to
external dangers, but also to internal ones of a psychological nature.
The crisis which the work of construction has had to face in the last
few years has lain heavy upon us and is not yet completely surmounted. But
the most recent reports show that the world, and especially the British
Government, is disposed to recognize the great things which lie behind our
struggle for the Zionist ideal. Let us at this moment remember with
gratitude our leader Weizmann, whose zeal and circumspection have helped the
good cause to success.
The difficulties we have been through have also brought some good in
their train. They have shown us once more how strong the bond is which
unites the Jews of all countries in a common destiny. The crisis has also
purified our attitude to the question of Palestine, purged it of the dross
of nationalism. It has been clearly proclaimed that we are not seeking to
create a political society, but that our aim is, in accordance with the old
tradition of Jewry, a cultural one in the widest sense of the word. That
being so, it is for us to solve the problem of living side by side with our
brother the Arab in an open, generous, and worthy manner. We have here an
opportunity of showing what we have learnt in the thousands of years of our
martyrdom. If we choose the right path we shall succeed and give the rest of
the world a fine example.
Whatever we do for Palestine we do it for the honour and well-being of
the whole Jewish people.
I am delighted to have the opportunity of addressing a few words to the
youth of this country which is faithful to the common aims of Jewry. Do not
be discouraged by the difficulties which confront us in Palestine. Such
things serve to test the will to live of our community.
Certain proceedings and pronouncements of the English administration
have been justly criticized. We must not, however, leave it at that but
learn by experience.
We need to pay great attention to our relations with the Arabs. By
cultivating these carefully we shall be able in future to prevent things
from becoming so dangerously strained that people can take advantage of them
to provoke acts of hostility. This goal is perfectly within our reach,
because our work of construction has been, and must continue to be, carried
out in such a manner as to serve the real interests of the Arab population
In this way we shall be able to avoid getting ourselves quite so often
into the position, disagreeable for Jews and Arabs alike, of having to call
in the mandatory Power as arbitrator. We shall thereby be following not
merely the dictates of Providence but also our traditions, which alone give
the Jewish community meaning and stability.
For that community is not, and must never become, a political one; this
is the only permanent source whence it can draw new strength and the only
ground on which its existence can be justified.
For the last two thousand years the common property of the Jewish
people has consisted entirely of its past. Scattered over the wide world,
our nation possessed nothing in common except its carefully guarded
tradition. Individual Jews no doubt produced great work, but it seemed as if
the Jewish people as a whole had not the strength left for great collective
Now all that is changed. History has set us a great and noble task in
the shape of active cooperation in the building up of Palestine. Eminent
members of our race are already at work with all their might on the
realization of this aim. The opportunity is presented to us of setting up
centres of civilization which the whole Jewish people can regard as its
work. We nurse the hope of erecting in Palestine a home of our own national
culture which shall help to awaken the near East to new economic and
The object which the leaders of Zionism have in view is not a political
but a social and cultural one. The community in Palestine must approach the
social ideal of our forefathers as it is laid down in the Bible, and at the
same time become a seat of modern intellectual life, a spiritual centre for
the Jews of the whole world. In accordance with this notion, the
establishment of a Jewish university in Jerusalem constitutes one of the
most important aims of the Zionist organization.
During the last few months I have been to America in order to help to
raise the material basis for this university there. The success of this
enterprise was quite natural. Thanks to the untiring energy and splendid
self-sacrificing spirit of the Jewish doctors in America, we have succeeded
in collecting enough money for the creation of a medical faculty, and the
preliminary work isbeing started at once. After this success I have no doubt
that the material basis for the other faculties will soon be forthcoming.
The medical faculty is first of all to be developed as a research institute
and to concentrate on making the country healthy, a most important item in
the work of development. Teaching on a large scale will only become
important later on. As a number of highly competent scientific workers have
already signified their readiness to take up appointments at the university,
the establishment of a medical faculty seems to be placed beyond all doubt.
I may add that a special fund for the university, entirely distinct from the
general fund for the development of the country, has been opened. For the
latter considerable sums have been collected during these months in America,
thanks to the indefatigable labours of Professor Weizmann and other Zionist
leaders, chiefly through the self-sacrificing spirit of the middle classes.
I conclude with a warm appeal to the Jews in Germany to contribute all they
can, in spite of the present economic difficulties, for the building up of
the Jewish home in Palestine. This is not a matter of charity, but an
enterprise which concerns all Jews and the success of which promises to be a
source of the highest satisfaction to all.
For us Jews Palestine is not just a charitable or colonial enterprise,
but a problem of central importance for the Jewish people. Palestine is not
primarily a place of refuge for the Jews of Eastern Europe, but the
embodiment of the re-awakening corporate spirit of the whole Jewish nation.
Is it the right moment for this corporate sense to be awakened and
strengthened? This is a question to which I feel compelled, not merely by my
spontaneous feelings but on rational grounds, to return an unqualified
Let us just cast our eyes over the history of the Jews in Germany
during the past hundred years. A century ago our forefathers, with few
exceptions, lived in the ghetto. They were poor, without political rights,
separated from the Gentiles by a barrier of religious traditions, habits of
life, and legal restrictions; their intellectual development was restricted
to their own literature, and they had remained almost unaffected by the
mighty advance of the European intellect which dates from the Renaissance.
And yet these obscure, humble people had one great advantage over us each of
them belonged in every fibre of his being to a community m which he was
completely absorbed, in which he felt himself a fully pnvileged member, and
which demanded nothing of him that was contrary to his natural habits of
thought. Our forefathers in those days were pretty poor specimens
intellectually and physically, but socially speaking they enjoyed an
enviable spiritual equilibrium.
Then came emancipation, which suddenly opened up undreamed-of
possibilities to the individual. Some few rapidly made a position for
themselves in the higher walks of business and social life. They greedily
lapped up the splendid triumphs which the art and science of the Western
world had achieved. They joined in the process with burning enthusiasm,
themselves making contributions of lasting value. At the same time they
imitated the external forms of Gentile life, departed more and more from
their religious and social traditions, and adopted Gentile customs, manners,
and habits of thought. It seemed as though they were completely losing their
identity in the superior numbers and more highly organized culture of the
nations among whom they lived, so that in a few generations there would be
no trace of them left. A complete disappearance of Jewish nationality in
Central and Western Europe seemed inevitable.
But events turned out otherwise. Nationalities of different race seem
to have an instinct which prevents them from fusing. However much the Jews
adapted themselves, in language, manners, and to a great extent even in the
forms of religion, to the European peoples among whom they lived, the
feeling of strangeness between the Jews and their hosts never disappeared.
This spontaneous feeling is the ultimate cause of anti-Semitism, which is
therefore not to be got rid of by well-meaning propaganda. Nationalities
want to pursue their own path, not to blend. A satisfactory state of affairs
can be brought about only by mutual toleration and respect.
The first step in that direction is that we Jews should once more
become conscious of our existence as a nationality and regain the
self-respect that is necessary to a healthy existence. We must learn once
more to glory in our ancestors and our history and once again take upon
ourselves, as a nation, cultural tasks of a sort calculated to strengthen
our sense of the community. It is not enough for us to play a part as
individuals in the cultural development of the human race, we must also
tackle tasks which only nations as a whole can perform. Only so can the Jews
regain social health.
It is from this point of view that I would have you look at the Zionist
movement. To-day history has assigned to us the task of taking an active
part in the economic and cultural reconstruction of our native land.
Enthusiasts, men of brilliant gifts, have cleared the way, and many
excellent members of our race are prepared to devote themselves heart and
soul to the cause. May every one of them fully realize the importance of
this work and contribute, according to his powers, to its success!
The Jewish Community
A speech in London
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is no easy matter for me to overcome my natural inclination to a
life of quiet contemplation. But I could not remain deaf to the appeal of
the O.R.T. and O.Z.E. societies*; for in responding to it I am responding,
as it were, to the appeal of our sorely oppressed Jewish nation.
The position of our scattered Jewish community is a moral barometer for
the political world. For what surer index of political morality and respect
for justice can there be than the attitude of the nations towards a
defenceless minority, whose peculiarity lies in their preservation of an
ancient cultural tradition?
*Jewish charitable associations.
This barometer is low at the present moment, as we are painfully aware
from the way we are treated. But it is this very lowness that confirms me in
the conviction that it is our duty to preserve and consolidate our
community. Embedded in the tradition of the Jewish people there is a love of
justice and reason which must continue to work for the good of all nations
now and in the future. In modern times this tradition has produced Spinoza
and Karl Marx.
Those who would preserve the spirit must also look after the body to
which it is attached. The O.Z.E. society literally looks after the bodies of
our people. In Eastern Europe it is working day and night to help our people
there, on whom the economic depression has fallen particularly heavily, to
keep body and soul together; while the O.R.T. society is trying to get rid
of a severe social and economic handicap under which the Jews have laboured
since the Middle Ages. Because we were then excluded from all directly
productive occupations, we were forced into the purely commercial ones. The
only way of really helping the Jew in Eastern countries is to give him
access to new fields of activity, for which he is struggling all over the
world. This is the grave problem which the O.R.T. society is successfully
It is to you English fellow-Jews that we now appeal to help us in this
great enterprise which splendid men have set on foot. The last few years,
nay, the last few days, have brought us a disappointment which must have
touched you in particular nearly. Do not gird at fate, but rather look on
these events as a reason for remaining true to the cause of the Jewish
commonwealth. I am convinced that in doing that we shall also indirectly be
promoting those general human ends which we must always recognize as the
Remember that difficulties and obstacles are a valuable source of
health and strength to any society. We should not have survived for
thousands of years as a community if our bed had been of roses; of that I am
But we have a still fairer consolation. Our friends are not exactly
numerous, but among them are men of noble spirit and strong sense of
justice, who have devoted their lives to uplifting human society and
liberating the individual from degrading oppression.
We are happy and fortunate to have such men from the Gentile world
among us to-night; their presence lends an added solemnity to this memorable
evening. It gives me great pleasure to see before me Bernard Shaw and H. G.
Wells, to whose view of life I am particularly attracted.
You, Mr. Shaw, have succeeded in winning the affection and joyous
admiration of the world while pursuing a path that has led many others to a
martyr's crown. You have not merely preached moral sermons to your fellows;
you have actually mocked at things which many of them held sacred. You have
done what only the born artist can do. From your magic box you have produced
innumerable little figures which, while resembling human beings, are compact
not of flesh and blood, but of brains, wit, and charm. And yet in a way they
are more human than we are ourselves, and one almost forgets that they are
creations not of Nature, but of Bernard Shaw. You make these charming little
figures dance in a miniature world in front of which the Graces stand
sentinel and permit no bitterness to enter. He who has looked into this
little world sees our actual world in a new light; its puppets insinuate
themselves into real people, making them suddenly look quite different. By
thus holding the mirror up to us all you have had a liberating effect on us
such as hardly any other of our contemporaries has done and have relieved
life of something of its earth-bound heaviness. For this we are all devoutly
grateful to you, and also to fate, which along with grievous plagues has
also given us the physician and liberator of our souls. I personally am also
grateful to you for the unforgettable words which you have addressed to my
mythical namesake who makes life so difficult for me, although he is really,
for all his clumsy, formidable size, quite a harmless fellow.
To you all I say that the existence and destiny of our people depend
less on external factors than on ourselves remaining faithful to the moral
traditions which have enabled us to survive for thousands of years despite
the heavy storms that have broken over our heads. In the service of life
sacrifice becomes grace.
Among Zionist organizations "Working Palestine" is the one whose work
is of most direct benefit to the most valuable class of people living
there--namely, those who are transforming deserts into flourishing
settlements by the labour of their hands. These workers are a selection,
made on a voluntary basis, from the whole Jewish nation, an élite composed
of strong, confident, and unselfish people. They are not ignorant labourers
who sell the labour of their hands to the highest bidder, but educated,
intellectually vigorous, free men, from whose peaceful struggle with a
neglected soil the whole Jewish nation are the gainers, directly and
indirectly. By lightening their heavy lot as far as we can we shall be
saving the most valuable sort of human life; for the first settlers'
struggle on ground not yet made habitable is a difficult and dangerous
business involving a heavy personal sacrifice. How true this is, only they
can judge who have seen it with their own eyes. Anyone who helps to improve
the equipment of these men is helping on the good work at a crucial point.
It is, moreover, this working class alone that has it in its power to
establish healthy relations with the Arabs, which is the most important
political task of Zionism. Administrations come and go; but it is human
relations that finally turn the scale in the lives of nations. Therefore to
support "Working Palestine" is at the same time to promote a humane and
worthy policy in Palestine, and to oppose an effective resistance to those
undercurrents of narrow nationalism from which the whole political world,
and in a less degree the small political world of Palestine affairs, is
I gladly accede to your paper's request that I should address an appeal
to the Jews of Hungary on behalf of Keren Hajessod.
The greatest enemies of the national consciousness and honour of the
Jews are fatty degeneration--by which I mean the unconscionableness which
comes from wealth and ease--and a kind of inner dependence on the
surrounding Gentile world which comes from the loosening of the fabric of
Jewish society. The best in man can flourish only when he loses himself in a
community. Hence the moral danger of the Jew who has lost touch with his own
people and is regarded as a foreigner by the people of his adoption. Only
too often a contemptible and joyless egoism has resulted from such
circumstances. The weight of outward oppression on the Jewish people is
particularly heavy at the moment. But this very bitterness has done us good.
A revival of Jewish national life, such as the last generation could never
have dreamed of, has begun. Through the operation of a newly awakened sense
of solidarity among the Jews, the scheme of colonizing Palestine launched by
a handful of devoted and judicious leaders in the face of apparently
insuperable difficulties, has already prospered so far that I feel no doubt
about its permanent success. The value of this achievement for the Jews
everywhere is very great. Palestine will be a centre of culture for all
Jews, a refuge for the most grievously oppressed, a field of action for the
best among us, a unifying ideal, and a means of attaining inward health for
the Jews of the whole world.
Anti-Semitism and Academic Youth
So long as we lived in the ghetto our Jewish nationality involved for
us material difficulties and sometimes physical danger, but no social or
psychological problems. With emancipation the position changed, particularly
for those Jews who turned to the intellectual professions. In school and at
the university the young Jew is exposed to the influence of a society with a
definite national tinge, which he respects and admires, from which he
receives his mental sustenance, to which he feels himself to belong, while
it, on the other hand, treats him, as one of an alien race, with a certain
contempt and hostility. Driven by the suggestive influence of this
psychological superiority rather than by utilitarian considerations, he
turns his back on his people and his traditions, and considers himself as
belonging entirely to the others while he tries in vain to conceal from
himself and them the fact that the relation is not reciprocal. Hence that
pathetic creature, the baptized Jewish Geheimrat of yesterday and to-day. In
most cases it is not pushfulness and lack of character that have made him
what he is, but, as I have said, the suggestive power of an environment
superior in numbers and influence. He knows, of course, that many admirable
sons of the Jewish people have made important contributions to the glory of
European civilization; but have they not all, with a few exceptions, done
much the same as he?
In this case, as in many mental disorders, the cure lies in a clear
knowledge of one's condition and its causes. We must be conscious of our
alien race and draw the logical conclusions from it. It is no use trying to
convince the others of our spiritual and intellectual equality by arguments
addressed to the reason, when their attitude does not originate in their
intellects at all. Rather must we emancipate ourselves socially and supply
our social needs, in the main, ourselves. We must have our own students'
societies and adopt an attitude of courteous but consistent reserve to the
Gentiles. And let us live after our own fashion there and not ape duelling
and drinking customs which are foreign to our nature. It is possible to be a
civilized European and a good citizen and at the same time a faithful Jew
who loves his race and honours his fathers. If we remember this and act
accordingly, the problem of anti-Semitism, in so far as it is of a social
nature, is solved for us.
A Letter to Professor Dr. Hellpach, Minister of State
Dear Herr Hellpach,
I have read your article on Zionism and the Zurich Congress and
feel, as a strong devotee of the Zionist idea, that I must answer
you, even if it is only shortly.
The Jews are a community bound together by ties of blood and
tradition, and not of religion only: the attitude of the rest of the
world towards them is sufficient proof of this. When I came to
Germany fifteen years ago I discovered for the first time that I
was a Jew, and I owe this discovery more to Gentiles than Jews.
The tragedy of the Jews is that they are people of a definite
historical type, who lack the support of a community to keep
them together. The result is a want of solid foundations in the
individual which amounts in its extremer forms to moral
instability. I realized that the only possible salvation for the race
was that every Jew in the world should become attached to a
living society to which the individual rejoiced to belong and
which enabled him to bear the hatred and the humiliations that he
has to put up with from the rest of the world.
I saw worthy Jews basely caricatured, and the sight made my
heart bleed. I saw how schools, comic papers, and innumerable
other forces of the Gentile majority undermined the confidence
even of the best of my fellow-Jews, and felt that this could not
be allowed to continue.
Then I realized that only a common enterprise dear to the hearts
of Jews all over the world could restore this people to health. It
was a great achievement of Herzl's to have realized and
proclaimed at the top of his voice that, the traditional attitude of
the Jews being what it was, the establishment of a national home
or, more accurately, a centre in Palestine, was a suitable object
on which to concentrate our efforts.
All this you call nationalism, and there is something in the
accusation. But a communal purpose, without which we can
neither live nor die in this hostile world, can always be called by
that ugly name. In any case it is a nationalism whose aim is not
power but dignity and health. If we did not have to live among
intolerant, narrow-minded, and violent people, I should be the
first to throw over all nationalism in favour of universal humanity.
The objection that we Jews cannot be proper citizens of the
German State, for example, if we want to be a "nation," is based
on a misunderstanding of the nature of the State which springs
from the intolerance of national majorities. Against that
intolerance we shall never be safe, whether we call ourselves a
"people" (or "nation") or not.
I have put all this with brutal frankness for the sake of brevity,
but I know from your writings that you are a man who attends to
the sense, not the form.
Letter to an Arab
March 15, 1930
Your letter has given me great pleasure. It shows me that there is good
will available on your side too for solving the present difficulties in a
manner worthy of both our nations. I believe that these difficulties are
more psychological than real, and that they can be got over if both sides
bring honesty and good will to the task.
What makes the present position so bad is the fact that Jews and Arabs
confront each other as opponents before the mandatory power. This state of
affairs is unworthy of both nations and can only be altered by our finding a
via media on which both sides agree.
I will now tell you how I think that the present difficulties might be
remedied; at the same time I must add that this is only my personal opinion,
which I have discussed with nobody. I am writing this letter in German
because I am not capable of writing it in English myself and because I want
myself to bear the entire responsibility for it. You will, I am sure, be
able to get some Jewish friend of conciliation to translate it.
A Privy Council is to be formed to which the Jews and Arabs shall each
send four representatives, who must be independent of all political parties.
Each group to be composed as follows:--
A doctor, elected by the Medical Association;
A lawyer, elected by the lawyers;
A working men's representative, elected by the trade unions;
An ecclesiastic, elected by the ecclesiastics.
These eight people are to meet once a week. They undertake not to
espouse the sectional interests of their profession or nation but
conscientiously and to the best of their power to aim at the welfare of the
whole population of the country. Their deliberations shall be secret and
they are strictly forbidden to give any information about them, even in
private. When a decision has been reached on any subject in which not less
than three members on each side concur, it may be published, but only in the
name of the whole Council. If a member dissents he may retire from the
Council, but he is not thereby released from the obligation to secrecy. If
one of the elective bodies above specified is dissatisfied with a resolution
of the Council, it may repiace its representative by another.
Even if this "Privy Council" has no definite powers it may nevertheless
bring about the gradual composition of differences, and secure as united
representation of the common interests of the country before the mandatory
power, clear of the dust of ephemeral politics.
Christianity and Judaism
If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus
Christ taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the
priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curing all the
social ills of humanity.
It is the duty of every man of good will to strive steadfastly in his
own little world to make this teaching of pure humanity a living force, so
far as he can. If he makes an honest attempt in this direction without being
crushed and trampled under foot by his contemporaries, he may consider
himself and the community to which he belongs lucky.
PREFACE TO ORIGINAL EDITION
Last-modified: Sat, 10 Aug 2002 20:08:14 GMT