3 0 4 D O C . 3 7 A C O N F E S S I O N
Published in Israelitisches Wochenblatt für die Schweiz, 24 September 1920, p. 10. Two typescripts
are preserved [43 443 and 35 060], both dated 5 April 1920, differing only slightly from each other,
and on the basis of which significant variations from this text are noted. “Abschrift!” appears at the
head of the second version. An extract of this document was published the same day in Jüdische
Pressezentrale Zürich, 24 September 1920, p. 5.
“14th of the month” refers to April, not September (see Einstein to Central-Verein, 5 April 1920).
The invitation from the Central-Verein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (CV) was extended
in late March 1920 to a number of prominent Jewish professors in Berlin to attend a meeting of its
working committee. On the agenda was the question of how to enlighten an anti-Semitic German pro-
fessoriate, which was “completely ignorant of Jewish ways and of the Jewish nature” (“in völliger
Unkenntnis über jüdische Art und jüdisches Wesen”; Central-Verein to Einstein, 29 March 1920).
Soon after its publication in September, the authenticity of Einstein’s response was questioned in
some quarters, but a Jewish news agency concluded in mid-December that “[n]ow, however when the
letter has been reproduced in full by a journal which is closely allied with the Zentralverein . . . it
would seem that there is no longer room for any doubt as to its genuineness.“ Jewish Correspondence
Bureau (London), 19 December 1920, p. 4.
For a similar reference to the sense of belonging to a nation rather than to a religious community
as the touchstone of Jewish experience, see Doc. 34. Gaining self-respect in order to gain it from
others is a common theme in Zionist literature. See, e.g., a broadside from the turn of the century
which states that “[o]nly when we proudly and openly confess, ‘We are the sons of the Jewish people,
but we have participated, as much as you, in all the achievements of culture . . .’ only then will the
honorable anti-Semite—and there are such—have respect for us.” Cited in Poppel 1977, p. 88.
In the first typescript version, “Phänomens” is interlineated after deletion of “Moments.” In Doc.
34, Einstein had pointed out the inescapable reality of anti-Semitism, psychologically rooted as it was
in the very fact of a separate Jewish presence.
While Einstein had initially found the characterization of CV members in general to be comic,
even tragicomic, he stressed its comic character for Gentiles in the later version (cf. Docs. 34 and 35).
In both typescripts, “jüdischen” is omitted and “ostjüdischen” is not in parentheses. Einstein had
devoted an extensive passage in Doc. 34 to condemning the tendency of West European Jews to treat
their East European brethren as scapegoats.
In place of “nicht,” Einstein wrote “weder” in both typescripts, and in place of ellipsis the fol-
lowing appears: “noch ist irgend etwas in mir, was man als ‘jüdischen Glauben’ bezeichnen kann.”
Einstein was a Swiss citizen (see Vol. 1, the editorial note, “Swiss Citizenship,” pp. 239–241). In
spite of having declared his lack of religious affiliation at the beginning of the century (see Question-
naire for Municipal Citizenship Applicants, 11–26 October 1900 [Vol. 1, Doc. 82]), in 1910, he had
registered as Jewish (see Doc. 34, note 3).
In place of “Arier,” Einstein has written “Goi” in both typescripts.
In spite of Einstein’s protestation, the CV did take umbrage. After a conversation that probably
took place in February 1921, its representative asked that Einstein give his approval for a notice to be
placed in the next issue of that organization’s monthly, disclaiming any intention on Einstein’s part to
have the letter published in the first place or to diminish the effectiveness of the CV in combating
“hatred of Jews” (“Judenhass”; Syndic of the CV to Einstein, 26 February 1921). Einstein apparently
acceded, as readers of the next issue of the journal “can be assured on good authority” (“mit gutem
Grund versichert werden kann”) that Einstein had come to appreciate the work of the CV since his
letter was published (see Im deutschen Reich, 27 [March 1921]: 91–92).
Interest in the letter was rekindled ten years later after a purported interview with Einstein surfaced
in the Sunday Express (London). Stating that an interview had never taken place, Einstein claimed that
the paper’s use of the letter represented “a malicious distortion” (“eine böswillige Entstellung”), that
the letter had not been published, and that the article must have been prompted by Jews with close
ties to the CV (see Einstein to Michael Traub, 22 August 1931). The syndic of the CV protested that
the letter had been published, that the interview was damaging the interests of the CV and heightening
inner-Jewish tensions, as well as providing fodder for anti-Semites, and that Zionist-friendly circles
and not groups allied to the CV had spread the distortion. He further urged that Einstein publicly de-
nounce the interview as “a blatant forgery” (“eine glatte Fälschung”; Alfred Wiener to Michael Traub,
27 August 1931). Einstein agreed (see Einstein to Alfred Wiener, 3 September 1931), and the denial
was published in the “Wir Hören” section of the CV-Zeitung of 11 October 1931.