- BERLIN (Reuters) - Suffering
from an acute lack of heroes after losing two world wars, Germany has reclaimed
Albert Einstein as one of its greatest national figures even though the
Jewish physicist fled the Nazis hating his native country.
- A century after the German-born scientist formulated
his famous theory of relativity in Switzerland, and 50 years after his
death on April 18, 1955, Einstein is being reclaimed by the country he
- Celebrations of the so-called "Einstein Year"
of 2005 are taking place around the world, but nowhere are the tributes
to the man with the droopy eyes and bushy gray hair so laden with historical
baggage as in Germany.
- The German government has gone all out to latch onto
Einstein, who became one of the world's first pop icons after his theories
about space, time and relativity revolutionized science in the early 20th
- "It is a bit strange," said Juergen Neffe,
author of a German biography on Einstein that has been near the top of
best-seller lists here since it was published in January.
- "Einstein hated the Nazis and extended his hatred
to all Germans for letting it happen. It's certainly true that he hated
Germany, but he would nevertheless be pleased about Germany's development
in the last 30 years."
- Germany's rediscovery of Einstein began in 2003 when
he was picked by millions of television viewers in a survey as one of the
"best Germans" of all time -- a surprising 10th on a list topped
by the first post-war chancellor Konrad Adenauer.
- Born in the Bavarian city of Ulm in 1879, Einstein moved
to Switzerland at 17 to evade military service. After graduating from the
Polytechnic School in Zurich he wrote scientific papers in his spare time
while working as a Swiss patent officer.
- In 1905, Einstein's "miracle year," he formulated
his theory of relativity, an explanation of the relationship between time
and space that challenged a view of the universe that had stood since the
days of Sir Isaac Newton 200 years before.
- Einstein's fame soared in 1919 after his theory was proven.
He won a Nobel Prize in 1921, after which Germany and Switzerland both
claimed him as theirs.
- But Einstein didn't stop. His special theory also provided
the basis for his most famous discovery, E=mc2, an equation that opened
the door to the atomic age. The formula is known around the world even
if few understand it.
- Einstein returned to Germany in 1914 and lived in Berlin
for 19 years before fleeing Hitler's Nazis in 1933. He took a post at Princeton
University and spent the rest of his life there.
- His house in Berlin was ransacked by the Nazis. Einstein,
who also held a Swiss passport, gave up his German citizenship in 1932
and became a naturalized American citizen in 1940.
- EMBRACING EINSTEIN
- But all that history hasn't stopped the government in
Berlin from embracing him like a long-lost son. It's trumpeting the "Einstein
Year" by splashing his famous quotations in giant red letters on walls
of the chancellery and other public buildings.
- "Einstein's words can still inspire us today,"
said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder after unveiling a 1932 quotation from
Einstein on his office building.
- The government has also pledged 500 million euros ($645
million) seed money to a science and innovation research fund in Einstein's
- "They are using Einstein the icon to promote education
and research," said Neffe, whose book "Einstein: Eine Biografie"
is part of a huge tide of published and broadcast material on Einstein
swamping Germany this year.
- "He was the first global pop star of science at
a time when world stars were first emerging," Neffe added. "He
was a political man who used the media as they used him. He was always
fun to be with, always joking. Sometimes when he was supposed to give a
speech he would just play his violin instead."
- The "Einstein Year" is also being marked in
Berlin with tours, a scientific conference and a major exhibition.
- One seminar called "Relatively Jewish: Albert Einstein
-- Jewish, zionist, non-conformist" examined his ties to Berlin's
Jewish community and recalled a 1930 violin concert he gave.
- Countless television programs have delved into Einstein's
private life, including rumors of extra-marital affairs, speculation about
illegitimate children and his affinity for the vibrant nightlife of Berlin's
- EINSTEIN SCHOOLS
- There are 40 new walking tours of the parts of Berlin
where Einstein lived and worked. Even though the apartment buildings were
destroyed in World War II, his summer house in Caputh near Potsdam has
survived to become a popular attraction this year.
- The Albert-Einstein secondary school in the Berlin district
of Neukoelln is also getting into the celebrations. It was the first of
about 30 schools in Germany to be named after Einstein and the only one
to ask his permission -- in October 1954.
- The school's headmaster Klaus Lehnert sees a certain
irony about the Einstein fever in view of his disdain for Germany.
- "It was surprising that Einstein even let the school
use his name back then because he had cut all ties to Germany and rejected
other attempts from Germany to honor him," he said.
- © Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.