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Einstein, Relative to Ulm
"Einstein said: Straight or crooked - it's all relative."
Thus the great physicist's work has been translated to the
vernacular. Maybe not quite comprehensive but easy to
comprehend for everyone. Ulm citizens are naturally proud
that this world-famous genius was born within the walls of
their city. To be precise: in Bahnhofstr. 20, a house reduced
to dust by bombs later. However, Einstein was only relatively a
relative to Ulm: He was born in Ulm on March 14th 1879, but
on June 21 st 1880 his father registered the family in Munich
where they had relocated in the meantime. In other words:
Einstein, who died on April 18th 1955 in Princeton (USA),
has spent about 15 months of his 76 years of life in Ulm - a
relatively short period of time. However: "The city of birth will
be part of your life as well as your descent from your mother.
We owe part of our being to our city of birth. Therefore I have
grateful memories of Ulm as it represents a liaison of refined
artistic tradition and simple, healthy character."
Einstein had become famous enough to catch Ulum's attention: When the press reported about his achievements In 1920 Ulm s Lord Mayor Dr. Emil Schwamberger enquired at the philosophy faculty of the Tuebingen University" if the scientific work of Albert Einstein actually has the significance ascribed to it by the press. "This was the wrong faculty to ask, however the science faculty finally gave the right answer: Einstein was considered "a second Newton".
Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922. These news caused the Ulm city council to name one of the new streets "Einsteinstrasse in order to honour the Ulm-born creator of the theory of relativity". When the Lord Mayor told him this in a congratulating letter for his 50th birthday Einstein responded: "I have already heard about this street named after myself. My one consoling thought is that at least I'm not responsible for what is happening and will happen in it."
Four years later, the National Socialists seized power in Germany. Einstein, who had been holding lectures in Princeton (USA) for 3 months each year did not return from a lecture tour. Instead he sent the following declaration in March 1933:
"As long as I have the opportunity I will reside in a country ruled by political freedom, tolerance and equality of all citizens before the law. Political freedom consists of the freedom to articulate one's political opinion, in speech as well as writing. Tolerance means respect towards all forms of opinion of the individual. At present these conditions are not met in Germany. Persecution endangers those who have contributed much to the prospering international relations, some of them leading artists. Like every individual the social organism can suffer from psychological illness, especially in times of aggravated existence. Nations tend to survive such an illness. I hope that Germany will experience healthy conditions soon and that great men such as Kant and Goethe are not only celebrated occasionally but that the principles they taught will find their way into public life and public conscience."
Persecution of the Jews became more pronounced in Ulm as well. The coming disaster announced itself with a boycott of Jewish shops as early as the spring of 1933. Many of the Ulm Jews believed in a passing nightmare. Alfred Moos, Einstein's 2nd degree nephew, had however realized what was to follow. He turned to his famous relative for assistance, who did help immediately. He delivered so many immigration sponsorships for the USA to other relatives that they were no longer accepted later on.
Shortly after the liberation from National Socialism the streets in Ulm were liberated from their nazi-reminiscences as well. In that context the" Fichtestrasse" was renamed back to "Einsteinstrasse". When Einstein heard about it a year later, he is said to have remarked: "This quaint business with the street- name has come to my attention back then and it has quite amused me. It is not known to me if anything has changed in the meantime and I am even less aware when the next change will be happening but I do know how to curb my curiosity. (...) I believe that a neutral name, for example 'Turnabout street' would be more appropriate to the German character and would not necessitate a renaming with the course of time."
When the Ulm city council proposed to award Einstein the Honour-Citizenship in March 1949 to commemorate his 70th birthday, Einstein declined. He was unable to accept such an award in view of the crimes committed against his fellow Jews under Nazi-Rule in Germany. However he didn't want this rejection made public. He remained consistently polite in his correspondences with Ulm. When Ulm's Lord Mayor Theodor Pfizer sent him a brochure depicting the celebration of his 50th birthday he expressed his gratitude: "We live in a time of tragic and confusing events. Therefore it makes one twice as happy to see a sign of human kindness."
Right next to it you will find a memorial plaque with Einstein's head in the form of a slightly crooked bronze relief and the engraving: 'a gift from the people of India through Calcutta Art Society'. And finally Einstein sticks his tongue out at us in front of the public administration building on the Zeughaus-area. There he is part of a bronze fountain sculpture (only the eyes are synthetic) created by Sinsheim's sculptor Juergen Gortz in 1984. In addition the city of Ulm awards the annual" City of Ulm Science Award", endowed with several thousand marks since 1971.
In general, his spirit hovers above the city. Not all who try to engage him however benefit from the experience. Some short time ago in the Einstein-Haus, a public speaker enhanced his speech by slipping in Einstein's discovery of the relation between mass and speed. This caused a second speaker to add eagerly that Einstein had discovered even more, namely the formula E= mc2.
The text was copied with permission from the brochure edited by the City of Ulm, Central Services/Public Relations and Representation. Text written by Henning Petershagen, translated into English by Sylvia Carr. Photos were taken by Y.S. Kim on June 8 (2004).
- First Photo: Memorial plaque at his birthplace. A gift from the people of India through the Calcutta Art Society.
- Second Photo: Einstein Structure with E = mc2 at the city center square.
- Third Photo: Einstein Memorial in Bahnhofstrasse.
- Fourth Photo: Einstein Fountain near the Zeughaus.
Here are more photos from Einstein's birth place.
- Einstein's birth house was completely burnt down during World War II,
and is now a flat square of 20m-by-20m
surround by two stores and two fast-food places.
- McDonald's at the Einstein Square.
- One of the Stores at the Einstein Square.
- Einstein was born here!
Someone is standing next to this monument telling Einstein was born here.
- Indeed, Einstein's parents owned a flat in a building looking like like this. This photo of a small replica of this building is from the Einstein Museum in Bern (Switzerland).
- McDonald's at the Einstein Square.
- Ulm is a beautiful city built around the
Cathedral of Muenster.
- Entrance to the Cathedral.
- Inside the Cathedral.
- View from a train from Frankfurt.
- Back of the Cathedral.
A beautiful street,
- Old German House in traditional style.
Click here for Kim's Einstein page.
- Click here for Kim's Princeton page.
- Entrance to the Cathedral.
- Speaking of Einstein's citizenship, he became formally a citizen of the
United States at the federal courthouse in Trenton (near Princeton) in
1940. In the same courthouse room was a young man named
Bill Holcombe who
still lives in Trenton. His wife Helen was a student
Westminster Choir College in Princeton from 1944 to 1948. As a member
of the student choir, she used to sing for Einstein in the morning of the
Christmas day in front of
Einstein's house in Princeton. The photo of myself with these two beautiful
Americans was taken in February of 2004 at a Marriott restaurant on the south
side of the Delaware Memorial Bridge
about 60 km south of Princeton.
Here is another Westminster lady who used to sing for Einstein. Her husband's name is Richard Underwood. His grandfather was the first American Presbyterian missionary to Korea. How do I know him? His grandfather and my grandfather used to be close friends in Korea. This photo was taken in Urbana, Illinois (October 2003).
- Click here for Einstein in U.S.A.