3 1 0 D O C U M E N T 3 1 7 N O V E M B E R 1 9 2 8 The history of the whole affair, the disagreement over the conference in Bolo- gna, is known to me only through observations from a distance. However, I do know that Hilbert felt that attending that conference was a difficult duty for him, given that his illness made it into a very strenuous effort.[9] Hilbert is not at all po- litically on the left on the contrary, to my taste and most especially to your taste, he is rather reactionary.— But he has a very clear view of what is necessary in the relationships of scientists from various countries for the good of science as a whole. Brouwer’s behavior in this matter, his acting in a more nationalistic manner than the Germans themselves, appeared to Hilbert, as to all of us, to be foolishness but the worst was simply that the Berlin mathematicians fell for Brouwer’s nonsense. I should like to add that the Bologna problems were not of decisive importance to Hilbert’s decision to remove Brouwer they only provided an occasion for doing so. In Erhard Schmidt’s case, I can understand his attitude he was always politically on the right, indeed from his deepest inclinations.[10] With Bieberbach and Mises, however, it is a rather lamentable symptom. I spoke to Mises[11] about the matter in August during our trip to Russia, and he declared right at the beginning that the Göttingen people were always running after Hilbert, and that he is no longer of sound mind. So that assertion about Hilbert’s weakened mental powers had already surfaced back then. I immediately ended the discussion with Mises, since I don’t consider him to be significant enough to allow him to pronounce judgments on Hilbert. I am enclosing a paper that Mr. Ferdinand Springer sent to Bohr and Courant. From it, one learns that Brouwer and Bieberbach threatened Springer to denounce him as not sufficiently nationalistic and to cause him trouble if he sup- ports Hilbert.[12] I need not add what I think of such behavior. Forgive me for bothering you with such a long letter. My only wish is to contrib- ute to carrying out Hilbert’s serious intentions without causing him unnecessary stress. If you feel that it would be appropriate to show this letter or parts of it to Schmidt, I would be in complete agreement. I believe from my old friendship with Schmidt that one can always negotiate very well with him when he has a differing opinion. I hope that your own health has improved. I get news of you only occasionally, when Margot writes to my wife. The two of them are close friends and suit each other very well.[13] I myself am busy with finishing off a book on quantum mechan- ics that I have been working on for a year.[14] Unfortunately, I have become over- worked in the process and will certainly have to take some vacation in January. It is really no simple thing, alongside all my lectures—and other professional duties, to find the time and energy for such a project. With my warmest wishes, also from my wife to yours, sincerely, Max Born
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