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Home > Nations & Nationalism  > On Zionism - Albert Einstein

NATIONS & NATIONALISM

A Letter to Dr.Hellpach, Minister of State
Albert Einstein

Written in response to an article by Professor Hellpach ,
which appeared in the Vossische Zeitung in 1929.
Published in Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934.

Einstein on Nationalism"...The Jews are a community bound together by ties of blood and tradition, and not of religion only: the attitude of the rest of the world toward them is sufficient proof of this. When I , came to Germany fifteen years ago I discovered for the first time that I was a Jew, and I owe this discovery more to Gentiles than Jews... ..a communal purpose without which we can neither live nor die in this hostile world can always be called by that ugly word (nationalism). In any case it is a nationalism whose aim is not power but dignity and health. If we did not have to live among intolerant, narrow-minded, and violent people, I should  be the first to throw over all nationalism in favor of universal humanity. The objection that we Jews cannot be proper citizens of the German state, for example, if we want to be a 'nation' is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the state which springs from the intolerance of national majorities. Against that intolerance we shall never be safe, whether we call ourselves a people (or nation) or not..."


Dear Dr.Mr.Hellpach,

I have read your article on Zionism and the Zurich Congress and feel, as a strong devotee of the Zionist idea, that I must answer you, even if only shortly.

The Jews are a community bound together by ties of blood and tradition, and not of religion only: the attitude of the rest of the world toward them is sufficient proof of this. When I , came to Germany fifteen years ago I discovered for the first time that I was a Jew, and I owe this discovery more to Gentiles than Jews.

The tragedy of the Jews is that they are people of a definite historical type, who lack the support of a community to keep them together. The result is a want of solid foundations in the individual which amounts in its extremer forms to moral instability. I realized that salvation was only possible for the race if every Jew in the world should become attached to a living society to which he as an individual might rejoice to belong and which might enable him to bear the hatred and the humiliations that he has to put up with from the rest of the world.

I saw worthy Jews basely caricatured, and the sight made my heart bleed. I saw how schools, comic papers, and innumerable other forces of the Gentile majority undermined the confidence even of the best of my fellow-Jews, and felt that this could not be allowed to continue.

Then I realized that only a common enterprise dear to the heart of Jews all over the world could restore this people to health. It was a great achievement of Herzl's to have realized and proclaimed at the top of his voice that, the traditional attitude of the Jews being what it was, the establishment of a national home or, more accurately, a center in Palestine, was a suitable object on which to concentrate our efforts.

All this you call nationalism, and there is something in the accusation. But a communal purpose without which we can neither live nor die in this hostile world can always be called by that ugly name. In any case it is a nationalism whose aim is not power but dignity and health. If we did not have to live among intolerant, narrow-minded, and violent people, I should  be the first to throw over all nationalism in favor of universal humanity.

The objection that we Jews cannot be proper citizens of the German state, for example, if we want to be a "nation," is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the state which springs from the intolerance of national majorities. Against that intolerance we shall never be safe, whether we call ourselves a people (or nation) or not.

I have put all this with brutal frankness for the sake of brevity, but I know from your writings that you are a man who stands to the sense, not the form.

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