D O C U M E N T 1 2 0 A U G U S T 1 9 2 0 2 4 9
Philharmonic Hall in order to take a stand against you on the common ground of
ignorance and
to you this entente of mediocrity cannot appear to
counterbalance the shared respect that all serious scientists have for you. Since
no one in Germany has been ascribed by all those able to judge such
a degree of leadership as you have been, and the annoyance by stupid fellows can
cause an irascible neurotic like me to act ab irato, but not you, whose olympic
equanimity could not be upset even by Wilamovitz’s
That is why
I believe that, if you are fed up with Berlin and want to go abroad, I presume to Hol-
land, you will be expecting to find life richer in positive qualities elsewhere than
Berlin. I think the world cannot offer you more than people and resources. That you
find the people abroad more according to your requirements than in Berlin—that I
can understand. It is not the pressure of fools that can drive you away, but the lack
of stimulation. Everyone uses people for their own intellectual food and I
understand that Berlin has become a platter eaten clean. If, however, it is not the
people but finances that are the cause of your wanting to leave—if that is what you
want—then I entreat you warmly not to decide anything before we have spoken
with each other: the fact that your position has been completely neglected, econom-
ically speaking, while all other positions have been adjusted for the currency
was the subject of a detailed conversation I had with the government
before my departure, and a change in this scandalous state of affairs will be sure to
follow after the holidays.
The thought has often preoccupied me, these past months, whether I ought to
stay in Berlin. What held me here, besides the institute I organized, was the intel-
lectual environment, whose pinnacle is you. Your departure tears a hole that noth-
ing else can fill, and a group of researchers whose numbers and motivation cannot
easily be found elsewhere loses its direction and its focal point. I am egoistic in try-
ing to stop you. Your needs and your family’s feelings must take precedence. But
in order to retain you I surely must say the little I can lay out before you, about how
much we need you and how desolate it will be once you are no longer here.
Cordial greetings to your esteemed wife and daughters from your very unsettled
Fritz Haber
120. From Walther Meißner[1]
In the
train, 30 August 1920
Highly esteemed Professor,
I just read in the newspaper that you were thinking of leaving
ing these vexing days, the most important German scientists have pled your
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