Einstein’s Pacifism and World War I
Virginia Iris Holmes
A close look at Albert Einstein’s evolving pacifism in response to World War I.
"The book does an excellent job of bringing the reader through Einstein’s experience
of the war and his visceral response to it."—Daniel Kennefick, coauthor of An Einstein Encyclopedia
"A well-researched, well-written book that will be a well-received addition to the
Einstein studies community. Dr. Holmes’s work is unique in the care it takes to
judiciously connect the events of pre-War, mid-War, and post-War with the sentiments
expressed by Einstein and the evolution of themes in those comments."—Steve Gimbel, author of Einstein’s Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics
Virginia Iris Holmes served as senior research editor for the Einstein Papers Project at
the California Institute of Technology from 2002 to 2008. She has taught courses on the
Holocaust and world history at Western New England University and the State University
of New York at Cortland.
Book Description »[Close »]
To understand how Albert Einstein’s pacifist and internationalist thought matured
from a youthful inclination to pragmatic initiatives and savvy insights,
Holmes gives readers access to Einstein in his own words. Through his private
writings, she shows how Einstein’s thoughts and feelings in response to the war
evolved from horrified disbelief, to ironic alienation from both the war’s violence
and patriotic support for it by the German people, to a kind of bleak endurance.
Meanwhile, his outward responses progressed, from supporting initiatives of
other pacifists, to developing his own philosophy of a postwar order, to being
the impetus behind initiatives.
In the beginning of the postwar period, Einstein’s writing reflected an optimism
about Germany’s new Weimar Republic and trust in the laudatory effects
of military defeat and economic hardship on the German people. He clearly
supported the principles in US President Woodrow Wilson’s "Fourteen Points"
speech. Yet Einstein’s enthusiasm diminished as he became disappointed in the
early Weimar Republic’s leaders and as his aversion to the culture of violence
developing in Germany grew. He also felt offended at the betrayal of Wilson’s
principles in the Treaty of Versailles. Drawing upon personal correspondence and
public proclamations, Holmes offers an intimate and nuanced exploration of the
pacifist thought of one of our greatest intellectuals.
View other series books on Modern Jewish History.
6 x 9, 344 pages, appendix, notes, bibliography, index