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Albert Einstein


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Animated film E = Albert² by Alexej Tchernyi, Paul Milmeister and Leonid Soybelma
© Jüdisches Museum Berlin; A. Tchernyi / P. Milmeister / L. Soybelman

Many myths and legends have developed around Albert Einstein. He was one of the most important scientists of the twentieth century, an international media star and an idiosyncratic celebrity.

Albert Einstein reading a booklet, and his secretary Helen Dukas

Albert Einstein in the New Synagogue, Berlin, 1930. The photo was taken at a charity concert in aid of the welfare and youth welfare offices of the Jewish community at which Einstein played the violin.
© Prussian Cultural Heritage Picture Archive

Albert Einstein's fame spread when his theory of relativity was experimentally proven during a solar eclipse. This challenged what had up to then passed as physical certitudes. Einstein's theory created a new world view that fascinated some and unsettled others.

In his private life, he had many facets: He was a charming lover and a witty poet, but he could be alarmingly inconsiderate and cold-hearted. 

Albert Einstein

Class at the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich, 1889. Albert Einstein is the child smiling in the 1st row (3rd from right).
© Stadtarchiv Ulm

We tell of his experience of the German school system, of his two marriages, and his relationship with his sons. Less-known facts are revealed such as his love of animals, his passion for technological inventions (he registered approximately 50 patents!), and his efforts to make his theory of relativity a graspable concept for laypeople. "Einstein's Theory of Relativity: The Basics," an animated film by H.W. Kornblum, supported by Einstein and conceived for a broad public, can be viewed.

Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue

Einstein stuck his tongue out at intrusive reporters – one such occasion became a well-known portrait featured on t-shirts, mugs, and posters.
© Bettmann/CORBIS

Einstein was a pacifist, even though he – out of fear that the Germans might do it – advised US President Roosevelt to build the atom bomb. He fought for nuclear disarmament after the war.

And Einstein was a self-assured, secular Jew who felt connected to Judaism, primarily through a common language and history. After the Nazis came to power, Einstein went into exile in the USA and tried to help persecuted Jews in Germany from there. He used his popularity to support the Zionist movement and the setup of the State of Israel. However, he turned down the offer to become Israel’s president in 1952.

Einstein's message to posterity

Einstein's message to posterity, written in 1936. The original message was placed in the cornerstone of the library building of the publisher M.J. Schuster. Translation: "Dear posterity! If you do not become more just, more peaceful and more sensible than we are or were, may the devil take you. Having respectfully expressed this pious wish, I remain your (alumnus) Albert Einstein."
© Courtesy of: The Albert Einstein Archives, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

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