A Jewish Refuge in… Peru?

“Einstein is, you know, not a Zionist,” Kurt Blumenfeld wrote to Chaim Weizmann…

In 1919, just after the end of the war, anti-Semitism in Germany was worsening, the necessity of a Jewish homeland was becoming terrifyingly clear, and Prof. Albert Einstein was becoming world famous. What better time for the German Zionist Federation to approach Einstein for his support?

The group’s secretary, Kurt Blumenfeld, tailored his description of Zionist projects to fit Einstein’s interests—as did Chaim Weizmann, himself an accomplished scientist and the future first president of Israel. When Einstein joined Weizmann on a major fundraising trip to the U.S. in 1921, he said little about his own views to American audiences, instead urging them to follow Weizmann. As described in Ze’ev Rosenkranz’s fascinating book Einstein Before Israel (Princeton University Press), Einstein’s relationship with the Zionist movement, and with Jewry in general, was complex.

Yet there is ample evidence that Einstein was quite concerned with the fate of Jews in danger; here we can see first-hand evidence of his efforts to help relocate some 20,000 Eastern European Jews – Jews who had fled to Berlin during the First World War, and who were now stranded there. What nation would give them refuge? The gates to Palestine were tragically closed…

It seemed like a good idea (he wrote) – a Jewish refuge in… Peru. And he added, somewhat cheekily, “My name has certain advertising powers when it comes to Jews.”

 

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