“A Savage Logic” – Albert Einstein on Anti-Semitism

The power of resistance which has enabled the Jewish people to survive for thousands of years has been based to a large extent on traditions of mutual helpfulness. In these years of affliction our readiness to help one another is being put to an especially severe test – Albert Einstein before the outbreak of WWII

Anti-Semitism has played a brutal role in human history. It continues to play one. Its manifestations vary by country, culture, and time. Yet, it’s the flavour of bitterness on the proverbial tongue, hatred in the heart, and ignorance of the brain. A sensory echo through time.

It’s something of a majority poison, as exhibited in other ethnic hatreds. Where, with some rare few, it becomes a form of transcendent hatred of ‘the (despised) Other,’ as in that which is not understood and deemed condemned by God Almighty or the all-knowing State.

Whether secular statehood or religious injunction, anti-Semitism has shown its face for millennia. Even the great geniuses of history have been struck throughout their lives to the formulations of ethnic supremacy against them, Albert Einstein famously went through numerous tribulations due to this.

Adam Richter in “Einstein faced antisemitism in his early career” reports Einstein experienced anti-Semitism, even after the publication of his theories and the garnering of international fame. He states:

Einstein continued to face criticism that focused on his Jewish heritage, particularly in his native Germany. Nazis and their sympathizers decried his “Jewish science,” with its unusual ideas about the relativity of space and time, which they believed undermined the more credible “Aryan science.” After class, a student approached me and asked a question that surprised me: Where did all this prejudice against Jews “suddenly” come from in the 1920s and 1930s? Why would the Jews be singled out in the scientific community? I ended up explaining to the student at length that the growth of antisemitism [sic] in Europe was anything but sudden. Rather, its roots extended back as least as far as the Middle Ages, when Jews were expelled from numerous European cities and regions.

Einstein was issued criticism, not for his ideas or his political stances but, his heritage, Jewish ancestry. That which he could not change and remained stuck with as an adult, as an old man, as a legacy, and as an internationally famous genius. That’s part of the poison of anti-Semitism.

Also, it reflects the common trend for century after century of hatred towards an individual because of their ethnicity, as a Jewish man, woman, or child, rather than in things in which they would have a choice. Misogyny, hatred of Arabs, anti-Asian sentiment, derision and exclusion of personhood status of black people, remain much the same.

A deep and abiding hatred of an individual for that which Nature, Necessity, God, or their parents bestowed upon them. It can become as ridiculous, unnecessary, and cruel, as a criticism of “Jewish science” as if scientific or empirical facts and mathematical principles cared about the ethnicity of the person who discovered them or posited them.

All ethnic hatreds stem from the worst of human nature and an ignorance of human nature, simultaneously. The idea of the “Jewish science” was seen, to anti-Semites, as a corruption if not an anti-thesis of “Aryan science.”

At core, a split between German Gentiles and German Jews set forth by German Gentiles, as the dominant ethnic grouping, against the minority, German Jews, though with an internationalist tinge because of its focus on the anti-Jewish sentiment as the center of the storm.

“Jewish science” and “German science,” as such, simply or merely reflect the prejudices and the ignorance of individuals about science or about human nature; where, science, as a manifestation of a plural process grounded in human experience and sense-enhancing tools, represents a universal attempt at acquisition of the true approximations of Nature’s principles and form.

Anything less than this can be considered both an affront to one’s God, oneself, or Nature, as in honest and sincere work for truth rejects parochial labels of its proper process, science, as German science, Jewish science, even Canadian science.

Canadians, Jewish peoples, and Germans do science, practice it in other words, but they do not produce Canadian science, Jewish science, or German science, as in ethnic-based truth because of an ethnicity; only the products of reality found through science as a process of sincere searching for truth – even the fleeting.

In a matter of fact, these remain, as Einstein noted, harbingers of hatred, and death, spanning a far time into the past, even to the Middle Ages “when Jews were expelled from numerous European cities and regions.”

Some make the claim of this spanning back to the foundation of Christianity with the claim of Jewish peoples, as a whole, murdering the Son of God, so the justifications for hatred and violence continue into the present theologically too.

It was not merely the Germans. Americans, too, exhibited this formulation of hatred. In “Albert Einstein’s letter denouncing antisemitism in US academia on sale,” Rossella Tercatin quoted Einstein, who said:

The hostile attitude of universities towards Jewish teaching staff and students has been increasing perilously, even though it manifests in a hypocritical manner…

Unfortunately, the current Jewish leaders do not comprehend the seriousness of the situation, similar to the German Jews in the time before Hitler. They believe that they are able to put an end to the problem by being silent and disregarding it, and they thus miss the time for creating places of support…

This is not just true for the functions of the educational system, of course, but in economic and social terms as well…

Between World War I and World War II, there were quotas in American universities, or institutions of purported higher learning, on Jewish students.

When you read Einstein’s Pacifism and World War I By Virginia Iris Holmes, she talks about how even when offered an executive board position of the Association for Combating Antisemitism (Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus) in September 1920; his step-daughter and secretary, Ilse Einstein, wrote:

Prof. Einstein instructed me to inform you that in his opinion we Jews cannot contribute to combating antisemitism [sic] through a direct campaign. Since your view on this point differs from that of Prof. Einstein, I respectfully request in his name that you kindly refrain from your plan – of electing Mr. Einstein onto the board of your association.

Einstein expanded on the letter in Israelitisches Wochenblatt ten days after the rejection of the effort in terms of the direct combat of anti-Semitism. Einstein “expressed his support for the socially underprivileged East European Jews and showed a leaning toward cultural Zionism and the cultivation of pride in a positive Jewish identity.”

Stuart Clark in “Why Einstein never received a Nobel prize for relativity” argued for the role of anti-Semitism in the lack of an eventual Nobel Prize for Einstein based on Relativity (Special Relativity and/or General Relativity), even with a “decade’s worth of Nobel nominations behind him.”

The reasoning: “Antisemitism [sic] was on the rise in Germany; Jews were being scapegoated for the country’s defeat in the war. As both Jew and pacifist, Einstein was an obvious target. The complexity of relativity did not help either. Opponents such as Ernst Gehrcke and Philipp Lenard found it easy to cast doubt upon its labyrinthine mathematics.”

In 1921, nonetheless, Einstein was awarded a Nobel Prize. However, the threats of harm to self, whether livelihood or life, can make an individual weary. When based on ethnic grounds, or ethnic hatred roots, this becomes no different for these individuals.

Anti-Semitism is a poison in the vein; it can be drained from the public consciousness through a consistent moral effort to tune into the natural conscience of most of humanity in the form of the humane rather than the heavy-handed, resource-wastage of the inculcation of the inhumane.

Otherwise, as Clark notes on the outcomes of hatred in mind, wrote, “German foreign minister Walther Rathenau had been murdered by anti-Semites. In the subsequent investigation, the police had found Einstein’s name on a list of targets.”

Physics remains about reading the signs of Necessity, as supreme, in Nature, including human nature. Einstein had insights here too. In “A decade before the Nazis came to power, Albert Einstein warned of the rise of anti-Semitism,” Natasha Frost described a letter written by Einstein to Maja (his sister) as a warning about the “grave dangers” (Frost) coming to them.

Rathenau was a close friend of the Einstein family. Hitler was a minor political figure known for targeting of Jews in speeches. Einstein began to frame himself as a “free man.” Someone without tenure and disconnected to the universities.

As Aron Heller describes in “Einstein warned about rise of antisemitism more than a decade before Nazis seized power, letter shows,” the Nazis immediately began instituting anti-Semitic legislation as soon as they came into power in Germany.

Frost stated, “In 1933, the Nazis passed laws prohibiting Jews from holding any official positions, including teaching at universities.”

He had joined a League of Nations Commission, where he saw himself becoming a sort of itinerant preacher. Maja, meanwhile, lived in Italy Fewer than 20 years later, Benito Mussolini instituted anti-Semitic laws. Fascists are anti-Semites, historical lesson.

These sentiments born of hard-won experience reflect the statement about a “savage logic” stated in a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, in 1947, where these sentiments mark a direct discourse on the victimization of Jewish peoples “for centuries” while “bereft of all the rights and protections which even the smallest people normally has…”

“Long before the emergence of Hitler I made the cause of Zionism mine because through it I saw a means of correcting a flagrant wrong… The Jewish people alone has for centuries been in the anomalous position of being victimized and hounded as a people, though bereft of all the rights and protections which even the smallest people normally has,” Einstein stated, in full, “Zionism offered the means of ending this discrimination… The advent of Hitler underscored with a savage logic all the disastrous implications contained in the abnormal situation in which Jews found themselves. Millions of Jews perished… because there was no spot on the globe where they could find sanctuary…The Jewish survivors demand the right to dwell amid brothers, on the ancient soil of their fathers.”

To discontinue this ornery state of affairs for more than two millennia, a new way forward means a new discourse about wider humanity in the presence and form of a life lived out in a humane manner with a civilized logic, not a “savage logic,” as exhibited in even the great societies of their time, in the arts, literature, philosophy, and science; as they went from a more civilized logic to an outright savage logic, the highest, of the time, can be brought to the lowest in the darkness of the inhumane apart from the light of the humane, thus chary vigilance in perpetuity becomes a virtuous necessity – a salve to the ill of “savage logic.”

Photo by Taton Moïse on Unsplash

Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Assistant Editor, News Intervention, Human Rights Activist. Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He focuses on North America for News Intervention. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. You can contact Scott via email.

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