Einstein on the run: The scientist hid from the Nazis in a cabin in England

The famous German-Jewish physicist's brief stay in Norfolk came at a turning point in his life - and changed the course of history

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Einstein receives a certificate of American citizenship in 1940, Photo: Wikipedia.org
Einstein receives a certificate of American citizenship in 1940, Photo: Wikipedia.org
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

In September 1933, a modest log cabin in a remote Norfolk pasture was one of the most important hideouts in history.

Almost a century later, the rarely told story of the three weeks Albert Einstein spent hiding in that cabin, fleeing Nazi assassins, has been turned into an unusual type of docudrama.

It is explained how the famous German-Jewish scientist's short stay at Routon Heath came at a turning point in his life - and changed the course of history.

"It wasn't until we looked more closely that we realized how important a moment it was in his life," said screenwriter Philip Ralph, who relied exclusively on Einstein's documented speeches, letters and interviews for the theoretical physicist's dialogue in the drama.

"What came out of my research is that it was, in many ways, the most important turning point in Einstein's life."

Until then, Einstein was the biggest enemy of the state in Germany. In May 1933, in a pamphlet titled "The Jews are Watching You," Einstein was accused of "spreading false propaganda about crimes against Adolf Hitler." Underneath his picture was written: "Not yet hanged."

In September, after German secret agents murdered the Jewish philosopher Theodor Lessing in Czechoslovakia, the Nazis - who had already stolen Einstein's savings, raided his summer home, ransacked his Berlin flat and taken his violin - offered a reward of at least £1000 for his murder.

Albert and Elsa Einstein in 1930
Albert and Elsa Einstein in 1930photo: REUTERS

The next day, Einstein heeded his wife Elsa's pleas to leave the resort in Belgium and escape by sea to England. He never set foot in continental Europe again.

"Before that, Einstein was a public, passionate advocate of non-violence and pacifism. But at the end of those three weeks, he gave a speech to 10.000 people at the Royal Albert Hall where he said there was an existential threat to European civilization that we had to fight against," he said. Ralph.

In 1939, fearing that the Nazis would threaten them, he asked President Franklin Roosevelt to speed up the development of the nuclear bomb in the US, a decision recently depicted in Christopher Nolan's hit film "Oppenheimer."

While in a remote pasture, protected by armed guards, Einstein realized for the first time that he had to publicly use his influence in society to stand up to the Nazis and call on world leaders to act, Ralph said. "We chose the title 'Einstein and the Bomb' because the change in his thinking that occurred during that three-day period in Norfolk directly led to him putting his name to the letter he addressed to Roosevelt."

The small cottage in the Norfolk pasture belonged to a trusted acquaintance, the anti-fascist Conservative MP and First World War naval commander Oliver Locker Lampson, who offered it to Einstein as a refuge.

Earlier that year, Locker Lampson pointed out Einstein's situation in Parliament and introduced a bill that was ultimately rejected, which was supposed to "extend the possibility of citizenship to Jews living outside the British Empire".

Perhaps to draw attention to Einstein's situation, Locker Lampson invited journalists to a secret location and allowed an interview and photo shoot with the famous Nobel laureate.

That call to journalists, given the very real threat to Einstein's life, shocked the "Observer" journalist. "England is not a very good place to hide," the newspaper reported on September 17, 1933. "Dr. Einstein, who has come here to escape Nazi persecution, looks at a picture of his cottage in the newspaper, with full indications of the locality, and Cromer Town Council is considering publishing the address. I guess Germany is looking the other way."

When Einstein decided to give a speech at an event at the Royal Albert Hall to raise money for Jewish academic refugees from Germany, his decision was criticized by the Daily Mail. In an editorial claiming to regret and "fully sympathize with the German Jews," they called on Einstein to "discontinue the groundless agitation in this country against the Nazi regime."

Two days after the historic speech, in which he called on all countries to "resist the forces that threaten the intellectual and individual liberties ... won by our forefathers through struggle," Einstein left for the US and the newly founded Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.

Elsa later joined him and he spent the rest of his life in exile, writing recommendations for American visas for Jews fleeing Nazi persecution and helping to found the world's first refugee aid agency, the International Rescue Committee.

Translation: NB

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