March 14th marked the birthday of Albert Einstein, the greatest physicists of the 20th century, who also took an active and outspoken stance in favor of world peace, and on the significant political and social issues of his time. As a committed Jew, he advocated a distinctive moral role for the Jewish people.
The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles has a handwritten letter by Einstein to Lionel Ettlinger – a Jewish activist who devoted his life to the cause of Jewish and German refugees from Nazi Germany starting in July of 1933.
Einstein left his home in Berlin in December 1932, to spend a few months at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. While he was in the US, the Nazis seized power in Germany, which led to Einstein announcing that he would not return to Germany.
The Nazis then had his property confiscated and storm troopers raided his Berlin apartment five times in two days. They came up empty-handed, outwitted by his stepdaughter Margot, who had smuggled his most important papers to the French Embassy in Berlin.
Einstein returned from America to Antwerp and Holland. On March 29, 1933, the day after his boat docked, Einstein resigned from the Prussian Academy. The Nazi minister representing the Prussian Academy demanded that all members denounce Einstein as a traitor. Einstein was declared an enemy of the state in Nazi Germany.
Einstein wrote a letter in support of freedom and tolerance which said in part: "Without an atmosphere of intellectual freedom and tolerance, none of us can imagine a life which would be worth living."
He later expanded his philosophy by saying: "What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in asking it? I answer, people who regard their own life and that of their fellow-creatures as meaningless are not merely unfortunate, but almost disqualified for life."