D O C . 3 2 I N S U P P O R T O F N I C O L A I 2 8 3
organized campaign, to which Einstein refers, was spearheaded by retired Captain Hermann von
Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, son of a prominent ultranationalist professor at the University of Berlin.
Two days earlier, he had written a letter to the editor, arguing that Nicolai was a traitor and a common
thief who had not only seized two aircraft but stolen “numerous articles of clothing” (“allerhand
Kleidungsstücke”; Deutsche Tageszeitung, 24 January 1920, p. . A typescript copy was enclosed
in Einstein to Hans Delbrück, 26 January 1920).
Because of the urgency, Einstein wrote that he was sending the statement only to “a few Berlin
colleagues” (“einige Berliner Kollegen”; Einstein to Hans Delbrück, 26 January 1920). Some profes-
sors to whom Einstein appealed kept their silence on the argument that otherwise students in their own
lectures would stage demonstrations. Nicolai dismissed this rationalization contemptuously. Students
may be excused for their youthful excesses, but professors bear the major responsibility for cultivating
and instilling chauvinism in their students (see Nicolai 1920, p. 8).
Thirteen faculty members of the university senate met on 23 January to evaluate student charges
against Nicolai of unfitness to teach. Under the leadership of Rector Eduard Meyer (1855–1930), the
senate committee’s deliberations soon shifted from the issue of academic freedom of speech to the
politically charged question whether Nicolai had aided or hurt Germany’s cause during the war.
On 5 March the committee found Nicolai guilty of treason and in a resolution of the same date
unanimously barred him from teaching. Though Einstein still professed faith in the cultural policy of
the new republic—contrasting it favorably to the imperial government’s treatment of Leo Arons (see
Einstein to Konrad Haenisch, after 10 March 1920, GyBP, V Abt., Rep. 13 Einstein, no. 103, and
Einstein 1919e [Doc. 24])—the responsible minister’s resolve to defend Nicolai crumbled in the wake
of the Kapp Putsch, which broke out in mid-March (see Zuelzer 1981, pp. 283–287).
Nicolai fought on in vain. He brought suit against committee members in late 1920, but it was dis-
missed in February 1921. The decision was upheld on appeal three weeks later (see Prozess Nicolai
gegen U. Berlin, GyMIZ, ED 184/26), and Nicolai emigrated to Argentina in March 1922.