The World As I See It Part 8

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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 circ.u.mstances 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 different reason.

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.

A Reply

The following lines are Einstein's answer to an invitation to a.s.sociate 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 inst.i.tutions 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 a.n.a.logous 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 a.s.sociated 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 n.o.blest features of the French tradition.


The Jews

Jewish Ideals

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 enn.o.blement 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 att.i.tude in life and to life. I look upon it as the essence of an att.i.tude 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 att.i.tude 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 n.o.bler 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 G.o.d is simply a negation of superst.i.tion, 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 G.o.d" 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 G.o.d 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 sanct.i.ty of life is in the Jewish people is admirably ill.u.s.trated 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 sanct.i.ty of life could not be more simply expressed.

Jewish Youth

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 grat.i.tude 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 n.o.ble purpose, is leading slowly but surely to success. The latest p.r.o.nouncements of the British Government indicate a return to a juster judgment of our case; this we recognize with grat.i.tude.

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 people.


We are a.s.sembled 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 grat.i.tude our leader Weizmann, whose zeal and circ.u.mspection 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 att.i.tude 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 p.r.o.nouncements 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 also.

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.


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The World As I See It Part 8 summary

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