Fable: When Persecution Brought Retribution

There was once a genius who decided, while on a visit to the USA in 1933, not to return to his native Germany.

There were several reasons for the decision.

His house had been raided by Nazis, his sailboat had been confiscated, his books were publicly burned, a $5,000 bounty was placed on his head and a German magazine declared him an enemy of the people adding ‘not yet hanged’.

He wrote to the President of the USA warning him that the Nazis would try to develop an atomic bomb and suggesting that America should undertake that task.

America did.

Moral: Be careful who you persecute.



  1. Spot on, Stooriefit, Einstein it was. What a list of talent – and the Americans have been gratefully welcoming our most talented technologists ever since.

  2. That would be the Einstein–Szilárd letter, and the visitor in 1933 would be Albert Einstein. The Nazis also drummed out a number of other top scientists including Eugene Wigner who had a hand in prompting the letter by introducing Szilárd to Einstein.

    Looking at Wikipedia, PhD students and assistants of Max Born working in Germany (who went to Cambridge when the Nazis came to power) include Max Delbrück, Siegfried Flügge, Friedrich Hund, Pascual Jordan, Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Lothar Wolfgang Nordheim, Robert Oppenheimer, Victor Weisskopf, Enrico Fermi, Werner Heisenberg, Gerhard Herzberg, Friedrich Hund, Pascual Jordan, Wolfgang Pauli, Léon Rosenfeld, Edward Teller, and Eugene Wigner. Of these Siegfried Flügge, Friedrich Hund, Pascual Jordan, Léon Rosenfeld remained in Europe, the other fifteen were forced by fascism to emigrate or return either to America, Canada or the UK, and we know what happened next.

    Given the talent which fled fascist Europe in the 30s it is amazing that science in these countries has recovered as well as it has.

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