March 8, 2011

Einstein and the Holocaust

Albert Einstein, 1947
Albert Einstein. The very name reminds us of greatness, of intelligence, of genius. A man who undoubtedly possessed one of the greatest minds of our century, Einstein is arguably one of the greatest scientists ever. But what does he have to do with the Holocaust? Is Albert Einstein relevant to our understanding of those terrible events?

The most brilliant man of the century was born in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879. Einstein’s early life was fairly active; he moved from Ulm to Milan in Italy and then to Zurich, Switzerland where he attended the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School, from which he graduated in 1900.

Albert Einstein’s achievements are numerous and often perplexing. The breakout point of Einstein’s scientific career came in 1905, when after struggling with with professors in college and parents at home, Einstein published four articles in a German magazine, Annalen der Physic. Einstein began to gain recognition in the science community. In 1919, Einstein tested and confirmed several of his theories on relativity and photo-electricity. The results of his studies gained Albert Einstein the Nobel Physics Prize in 1921. Still rising in international fame, he seemed headed for a stellar life as the leading physicist of Germany and the world.

Einstein at his home in New Jersey
The key factor in Einstein’s relevance to the Holocaust is that he left Germany. Einstein’s prominence as an intellectual Jew and international celebrity placed a heavy price on his head. In 1932, German antisemitism was close to the boiling point. When Nazis posted Einstein’s picture in a magazine with the subscript “Not yet hanged,” Einstein realized his safety was compromised. He left Germany for America, where he settled in Princeton, New Jersey.

Okay, so what does this have to do with the Holocaust? Albert Einstein was driven from his homeland by hateful, ignorant, calloused people. His incredible genius and God-given abilities were ignored and ridiculed in foolish attempts to perfect the perfect Aryan race.

What would have happened if Albert Einstein would have remained in Germany? What would have had to happen for him to want to stay? Would the result have been different if Hitler promoted a philosophy of living peaceably with all men, as Romans 12:18 says? If Biblical principles of love, compassion, mercy, and humility were applied to international public thought, undoubtedly the horrors of the Holocaust would have been avoided altogether.