Einstein in Berlin – Part IV: postwar mediator and internationalist
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When the First World War ended in November 1918 Berlin was rife with conflict.
Albert Einstein soon found himself drawn into the social cauldron as a mediator who by virtue of his reputation was trusted by many.
Taking control of the university building the Student Council of the University of Berlin at Unter den Linden 8 had jailed the university rector and his deans.
Radical students and members of the Spartacist League had not forgotten the role extremely conservative academics had played in fanning the flames of Great German nationalism and chauvinism, nor that Einstein was one of the few that had staunchly come out against this trend.
Now he was called upon by friends to try and obtain the release of some of his fellow professors.
Together with physicist friend Max Born and a third professor he went directly to the Reichstag to hear what the students had to say.
Because he was known for his pacifist and socialist leanings the students thought he would side with them in their endeavours to establish a new order, but here they were disappointed.
To their surprise he was not impressed, telling them that their proposal for new rules would mark the end of academic freedom and that this was unacceptable.
The message was repeated at higher levels and soon the new Chancellor, Friedrich Ebert, ordered the release of the university administrators.
During the next couple of months the revolutionary opposition in Berlin was brutally struck down.
When the Weimar republic stabilized Einstein symbolically expressed his loyalty to the new social liberal regime by reclaiming his German citizenship that he had given up as a youth when he moved to Switzerland – he was to renounce it again when Hitler rose to power.
Now he became involved in several international causes.
Together with the artist Käthe Kollwitz, the writer Upton Sinclair, and the playwright G.B. Shaw, and a number of other notable figures he in 1921 started the International Workers Aid.
With its office in Berlin this began as a solidarity organization to relieve parts of the Soviet Russian population that had been hit by famine due to failing harvests.
After the League of Nations was formed he joined its advisory body, the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation set up in 1922.
Among other participants were the philosopher Henri Bergson (with whom Einstein had earlier engaged in a debate about the nature of time), and fellow scientists the Polish/French Marie Curie and Dutchman Hendrik Lorentz, as well as the German author Thomas Mann.
Marie Skłodowska Curie- foto Wikipedia
Thomas Mann – foto Wikipedia
This group of world luminaries, regarded as standing above politics, worked for reconciliation between scientists and intellectuals from former warring nations and the promotion of common international goals.
The Committee’s executive arm, called the International Institute for Intellectual Cooperation, based in Paris, was the forerunner of UNESCO.
Einstein in Berlin – Part IV: Postwar Mediator and Internationalist – by ‘OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog’ contributor Aant Elzinga from OTA Berlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License. If you use this article or parts of it, please refer to http://www.ota-berlin.de.