D O C U M E N T 6 3 F E B R U A R Y 1 9 2 2 8 1
63. To Paul Langevin
27 February 1922
Dear friend Langevin,
When I received your kind letter of
invitation,[1]
I felt great and pure joy; and
now, one week later, I hesitantly and sadly take up my pen because I cannot accept
the invitation now, as much as I would personally have liked to—even aside from
the cordial feelings of friendship I have for you. You know that I am of the view
that relations between scholars should not suffer from political causes and that con-
cern for the scientific professional community should go above all other consider-
ations. You also know that I am totally internationally minded and the fact that I am
employed by the Prussian Academy of Sciences has had no influence on this
mentality.[2]
After conscientious reflection, however, I came to the conclusion that
at this moment of political tension my visit to Paris would have more adverse than
favorable
consequences.[3]
My colleagues here are still being excluded from all
international scientific activities and they are of the opinion that our fellow French
professionals are primarily to blame for
this.[4]
I fully appreciate the deeper causes
that led to this attitude. But on the other hand you, too, can imagine that these peo-
ple here, whose sensitivities have been stirred up almost to pathological heights by
the events and experiences of the last few years, would perceive a trip by me to
Paris at this moment as an act of betrayal and would take such offense that very
unpleasant consequences could arise. Even in Paris, unforeseeable complications
threaten. I cannot imagine anything finer than being able to chat comfortably with
you, Perrin, and Madame Curie again in private and to depict the theory of relativity
to your students with a subjective
brush.[5]
Yet the greater public and—politics—
have long since taken possession of my theory and my person and have tried to
make both somehow suit their purposes. There would be a considerable number of
people watching out for every candid word I utter, to toss it back at newspaper read-
ers, conveniently
repackaged.[6]
My experiences in this regard in recent times make
this danger appear to me to be very great; the end effect is always hatred and ani-
mosity instead of reason and
goodwill.[7]
I would certainly also be interrogated
about my political opinions regarding Franco-German relations; as I cannot speak
any other way than honestly, my reply would not earn me sympathy either on this
side of the Rhine or on the other.
It is true that I did not hesitate to visit North America, England, and Italy in the
past few years. However, my American voyage concerned the University of
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