Anti-Semitism Drives Einstein From Berlin to America
Berlin to America: On January 30, 1933, Von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as chancellor. In response to the burning of the Reichstag on February 27, Hitler blamed the Communists and declared martial law. On March 14, 1933, his 54th birthday, Einstein learned that troopers had searched his Berlin apartment during the first of five raids in two days. On March 20 soldiers raided his country home in Caputh, ostensibly looking for weapons hidden by "Communists." In Belgium in late March, Einstein renounced his German citizenship for the second time and sent off his resignation from the Prussian Academy of Science. On April 2nd his Berlin bank account and apartment were seized. The next six months Einstein spent in Belgium, Switzerland, and England, weighing his many options and rethinking his commitment to pacifism. Together with Sigmund Freud he published Why War? and, in a major speech at Royal Albert Hall, he called on Europeans to fight fascism in order to save civilization. His commitment to pacifism in theory undiminished, he had come to believe that the other European powers should use force to resist Germany's buildup of military power.
On October 17th, 1933, Einstein arrived in New York and traveled to Princeton directly with his wife Elsa to take up his appointment within the Institute for Advanced Study. Though he considered many alternatives in the early years, he left America only once, in 1935, to travel to Bermuda in order to apply for permanent residency, and he became an American citizen on October 1, 1940.
Meanwhile, back in Germany: With his life literally in danger in 1933, Einstein had left Germany just in time. From 1934 on, anti-Semitic nationalists took over the academy, dominated public and popular discourse, and resorted at times to assassination. Ideological extremism led to ever more murderous actions. Nationalist intellectuals, for their part, reached ever more ridiculous conclusions. In 1941, with the Final Solution on the horizon, second-rate German scientist and nationalist Bruno Thüring exclaimed in a book entitled Einstein's Attempt to Overthrow Physics that the Jewish plot to relativize all concepts and values must lead to chaos!"