Why Did Albert Einstein Refuse To Become President

Andrei Tapalaga

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Albert Einstein (1952)Wikimedia Commons

Albert Einstein, a genius in the field of physics, was also a lifelong politician addressing important issues such as denouncing Nazism, criticizing racism, and supporting the State of Israel. His bright mind would come with incredible solutions to improve relations in every part of the world however, ignorant politicians would not prove to be at his support. Even if science was at his heart, the hardships he had lived before the Second World War in Germany had him implicated in different political situations and discussions.

Due to the terrible outcome of the Second World War for his people (the Jewish community) he felt the urge to stand up as a Jew himself and take control of this community as well as of the State of Israel. Einstein was an intellectual, he never wanted power as the only power he sought after was knowledge. Before immigrating to the United States in 1936, he was threatened by Hitler himself with death, therefore he knew there was no choice rather than fleeing his home country.

Politics in Israel after WWII

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Survivors of the Buchenwald concentration camp arrive in Haifa, July 1945Rare Historical Photos

Most of the Jews who were liberated from the concentration camps at the end of the Second World War immigrated to Israel as they knew they would find safety and comfort despite potential conflicts within Palestine. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, was the one who convinced the US government to recognize the new state, being elected to office on February 16, 1949.

He fulfilled this role until his death, in 1952, when David Ben Gurion, the prime minister from that time of the state, stated he was going to propose Albert Einstein for the role of president. David Ben Gurion came to his political party with the argument of Albert Einstein being the greatest Jew on Earth and perhaps the greatest man on Earth therefore he should be the President of the State of Israel.

A great candidate, but in his own field

On the 16th of November 1952, Gurion wrote a letter to the embassy of Israel in Washington. The head of this embassy at the time was Abba Ebn, an acquaintance of Gurion who had asked him to find out if Einstein would be interested to become the President of Israel. In this case, he would have to immediately immigrate to Israel in order to gain his citizenship as an Israelian before he could become a candidate.

On the 18th of November 1952, Einstein wrote a letter back directly to Gurion in which he stated different reasons why he refused this offer. In the letter, he mentioned that he was deeply profound and moved for receiving this offer but, at the same time ashamed that he wouldn’t accept it. His reason was that he dedicated all of his life to science and he had never undertaken an official function therefore he felt that his skill set is inadequate for the role of a President. Here is the actual transcript from the letter he wrote:

“I am deeply moved by the offer of our state Israel and at the same time sad and ashamed because I cannot accept it. All my life I have had to deal with objective things, so I lack both the natural ability and the experience of doing well with people and exercising official duties. Given these reasons alone, I should be inadequate to fulfill the official duties, even if my old age would not regain my power. I am even more saddened by these circumstances as my relationship with the Jewish people has become the strongest human connection I have, ever since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world. ” (Source: Jewish Virtual Library)

However, it has long been speculated that the reasons for the refusal would have been due to the physicist’s doubt regarding the secession in the region for the territorial separation of the Jews from Arabs. Einstein was a pacifist, and in that sense, his vision would be different from that of the people he should have led.

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