He declines speaking at a dinner raising funds to help refugees from Naziism, but only because he will be away applying for U.S. citizenship
In an apparently unpublished, statement, he says: “We can gain consolation in this critical time if we compare the moral standard of our friends and our enemies with each other. The result of such a comparison shows us that our way for world history can be considered the better one.”...
In an apparently unpublished, statement, he says: “We can gain consolation in this critical time if we compare the moral standard of our friends and our enemies with each other. The result of such a comparison shows us that our way for world history can be considered the better one.”
He prophesizes, however, that the road ahead for the Jews will be “arduous and very painful”
The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, was founded in 1930 by educator Abraham Flexner, with funding from department store magnate Louis Bamberger. Flexner first recruited noted mathematicians from Princeton University to join the Institute, then broadened its scope by including established scholars in economics, politics, and humanistic studies. In 1932 Flexner offered Einstein a faculty position at the Institute. Einstein’s decision was effected by historical events, as in January 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Soon after Einstein made the decision to resign from his Berlin position, give up his German citizenship, and accept the position in Princeton. The ocean liner Westmoreland, which carried Einstein, at age 54, to what would become his new home country, arrived in New York Harbor on October 17, 1933.
Einstein found the Institute, and life in the United States, congenial, so in April 1934, just six months after his arrival, Einstein announced that he was staying in Princeton indefinitely and assuming a permanent, full-time status at the Institute. He would remain in the United States the rest of his life. Meanwhile, he was very much a celebrity, and was invited to the White House to meet with the Roosevelts. He politely declined, saying he did not want to call attention to himself, a position that German Jews had become accustomed to adopting during the rise of Naziism. However, the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, intervened, writing Einstein directly, requesting his presence. So Einstein and his wife Elsa arrived at the White House on January 24, 1934, had dinner, and spent the night. President Roosevelt was able to converse with them in passable German. Among other things, they discussed Roosevelt’s marine prints and Einstein’s love for sailing. On learning that the Einsteins had decided to stay in the United States, Roosevelt suggested that the Einsteins should accept the offer of some Congressmen to have a special bill passed on their behalf, that he would sign, granting them citizenship, so that they would not have to endure the five year waiting period. The Einsteins declined the President’s generous suggestion, saying they wanted to be treated like any other applicant for American citizenship. Because the Einsteins had not been sure of their ultimate destination, and declared themselves as visitors instead of immigrants when they arrived in October 1933, this meant that they would need to leave the U.S. and return again to declare intention to seek citizenship.
The United Jewish Appeal (UJA) planned a fund-raising dinner in Einstein’s honor for May 28, 1935. This was exactly the time the Einsteins had set aside to leave the country to perfect their citizenship, so he was forced to decline the invitation. He did, however, provide them with a statement, that was received by the UJA on May 25, the very day the Einsteins stepped onboard the Queen Mary to travel to British-owned Bermuda for a few days to satisfy the formalities. The royal governor was there to greet them when they arrived in Hamilton, and he recommended the island’s two best hotels. Einstein found them stuffy and pretentious. As they walked through town, he saw a modest guest cottage, and that is where they ended up.
Typed statement signed, in German, Princeton, May 23, 1935, time stamped as received on May 25, to be read at the UJA dinner and issued to the press accordingly. It takes the moral high ground, but warns of great dangers ahead. ”Unfortunately, because of non-deferrable obligations, I can only express in writing my recognition and gratitude for the assistance provided to the many unfortunate people by the dinner on the 28th of May. We can gain consolation in this critical time if we compare the moral standard of our friends and our enemies with each other. The result of such a comparison shows us that our way for world history can be considered the better one, even if at times it is arduous and very painful.” Our research indicates that this important statement is unpublished, as the dinner was postponed and it was never released to the press.
But even this moving and forceful statement was not enough for the event organizers. Learning that Einstein could not attend, they postponed the dinner. Instead, the $50-a-plate dinner for the benefit of the UJA, arranged by that organization and the Council of Jewish Organizations, was held in New York City on June 26, with Einstein in attendance. About 1,000 people attended the banquet, at which Einstein spoke. In his speech, Einstein returned to the same theme of morality as in the above statement, saying that the “moral disintegration and intensified national egoism” of the times requires all Jews to strengthen their ranks to preserve Jewry. Of foremost importance, he said, was the upbuilding of the settlement in Palestine. On June 28, the UJA announced it was using the proceeds from the dinner to aid German refugees in New York City by allocating funds to local agencies equipped to care for the refugees.
Einstein reentered the U.S. from Bermuda on June 3, 1935. On January 15, 1936, the Einsteins submitted their declaration of intention to become citizens of the United States.
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