2 9 2 D O C . 3 4 A S S I M I L AT I O N A N D A N T I - S E M I T I S M
Dated by the enclosing letter, Einstein to Unknown, 3 April 1920.
Einstein approved of the title as chosen by the unknown recipient of the enclosing letter, presum-
ably an editor, to whom Einstein was returning the article (see Einstein to Unknown, 3 April 1920).
An allusion to members of the leading self-defense organization of assimilated German Jews,
the Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith (Central-Verein deutscher Staats-
bürger jüdischen Glaubens, or CV). In using the word “Mosaic” (“mosaisch”) instead of “Jewish”
(“jüdisch”), Einstein was poking fun at CV members by conflating their organization’s name with the
religious designation assigned to Jews by the state, as in the case of Einstein’s registration with the
authorities in Prague ten years earlier (see Count Karl von Stürgkh to Einstein, 15 December 1910
[Vol. 5, Doc. 238], note 1). His play on words suggests that Einstein thought that the CV was com-
plicitous with the state in denying to Jews the right to define themselves as they wished.
Won over to the Zionist cause soon after the end of the war, and increasingly skeptical about the
CV’s policies, Einstein may nevertheless have initially intended to publish this document in a news-
paper or periodical that was sympathetic to the views of the CV. See the following document, note 4,
for evidence of this intent. For Einstein’s more direct attack on the positions of the CV, see Einstein
1920h (Doc. 37); for a general discussion of his attraction to Zionism and disenchantment with the
CV, see the editorial note, “Einstein and the Jewish Question,” pp. 226–228.
Einstein has changed the ending of “diesem” to “dieser,” deleted “kleinen Geständnis,” and
The emphasis on Jewish identification by nationality rather than faith was emblematic of Ein-
stein’s sympathy for the Zionist cause and of his indifference to religion, a sentiment that he made
explicit in the typescripts for Einstein 1920h (Doc. 37); see note 6 thereto.
Even before the end of the war, Einstein had defined a nationality as the “totality of individuals,
who constitute a more or less cohesive community of interest by virtue of a common language and
possibly religion, race” (“Gesamtheit von Menschen, die durch Gemeinschaft von Sprache und event.
Religion, Rasse eine mehr oder weniger enge Interessengemeinschaft bilden”; Vol. 6, Doc. 45a, in
There is an interesting similarity between this passage and a Zionist parable from the turn of the
century in which a stranger is puzzled on meeting that curious entity, the German citizen of the
Mosaic persuasion (cited in Poppel 1977, p. 86). Robert Weltsch argued that cultivation of German
sentiments by a Jew only aroused suspicion in his non-Jewish neighbors: “A decent non-Jew cannot
understand why the Jew . . . wants to compensate with such loud assertions of his German national-
ity.” Niewyk 2001, pp. 128–129.
This phrase is reiterated in the enclosing letter: anti-Semitism among schoolchildren is based on
“racial characteristics, of which children are strangely conscious” (“den Kindern merkwürdig
bewussten Rassenmerkmale”; Einstein to Unknown, 3 April 1920). His sister, Maja Winteler-Ein-
stein, suggested that Einstein’s sense of obligation to other Jews had first arisen in response to the dis-
crimination to which he and others were subject during his school years (see Vol. 1, “Albert Ein-
stein—Beitrag für sein Lebensbild,” p. lx).
The deletion is reinforced by Einstein’s statement in the enclosing letter that “I have abandoned
the idea of introducing my own experiences from my Munich schooldays” (“Auf ein Anführen eige-
ner Erfahrungen aus meiner Münchener Schulzeit habe ich verzichtet.” Einstein to Unknown, 3 April
Einstein’s contempt for such accommodation was apparent more than a decade earlier, although
on that occasion he placed the blame more squarely on the shoulders of the individual. Responding
to a Polish-Jewish physicist, who had complained about the careerism of rich German Jews, Einstein
wondered rhetorically why they were so desperate to obtain civil-service positions, and why they
found it necessary “to wag their tails so submissively before the state?” (“schweifwedeln sie so
demütig vor dem Staate?”; Einstein to Jakob Laub, 19 May 1909 [Vol. 5, Doc. 161]).
In belittling the assimilationist method of confronting anti-Semitism through the legal system,
Einstein was directing a thinly veiled attack from a Zionist perspective on the CV, for whom the
defense of Jewish civil rights in the courts was a key strategy (see Niewyk 2001, pp. 87–88 and 146).
The very use of the term “defense” in a negative context also serves as an indirect reference to
the CV, which had been “established to provide a forum for the common work of Abwehr” (Volkov