[PW] Need source for anti-war quotation Albert Einstein

danjbye at gmail.com danjbye at gmail.com
Fri Nov 6 00:05:05 PST 2015

I've got a copy of "Ideas and Opinions" by  Albert Einstein, which is based on "Mein Weltbild" (1953), edited by Carl Seelig, and other Einstein collections. "New translations and revisions by Sonja Benjamin".  It's a 2005 reprint by Souvenir Press  of a 1973 Souvenir Press edition of a 1954 collection.  ISBN 0283647253.

On p.165-166 is a section headed "On the abolition of the threat of war", a note to which reads 

"Written September 20, 1952. Published in Japanese magazine, Kaizo (Tokyo), Autumn, 1952."

"My part in producing the atomic bomb consisted in a single act: I signed a letter to President Roosevelt, pressing the need for experiments on a large scale in order to explore the possibilities for the production of an atomic bomb.

I was fully aware of the terrible danger of mankind in case this attempt succeeded. But the likelihood that the Germans were working on the same problem with a chance of succeeding forced me to this step.   I could do nothing else although I have always been a committed pacifist. To my mind, to kill in war is not a whit better than to commit ordinary murder." (p165).

I've got an English translation of Mein Weltbild somewhere, so will check in that later to confirm earlier usage.    Maybe he used the line more than once?


Dan J Bye
Sheffield Hallam University

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

From: Fred W. Helenius
Sent: 06 November 2015 02:02
To: project-wombat at lists.project-wombat.org
Subject: Re: [PW] Need source for anti-war quotation Albert Einstein

On 11/5/2015 8:07 PM, Robin Leigh wrote:
> Please help with locating a source for this quotation, presumably by Albert Einstein.
> It is my convictionthat killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
> Here is the entirepassage:
> He who joyfully marches tomusic rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has beengiven a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord wouldsurely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done awaywith at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, howdespicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds thanbe a part of so base an action. It is myconviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an actof murder.

This entire quotation, in two variant translations, appears in Wikiquote 
on the "Albert Einstein and politics" page, 
https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein_and_politics .
There the source is given as "Mein Weltbild" ("My World-view"), 1931.

Curiously, the two translations do not quite correspond; the second is 
the one you have, but the first begins a sentence earlier and ends a 
sentence earlier, thus omitting the sentence you are most interested in, 
but making it clearer that the "disgrace" in your third sentence refers 
to militarism.

The German-language Wikiquote page for Einstein 
(https://de.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein) only contains the 
equivalent of your first two sentences, rendered as one sentence: "Wenn 
jemand Freude daran hat, bei Musik in Reih' und Glied zu marschieren, 
dann verachte ich ihn schon deswegen, weil er sein Gehirn nur wegen 
eines Irrtums bekommen hat; ein Rückenmark hätte gereicht."  Here the 
citation is more precise: "Wie ich die Welt sehe", Living Philosophies, 
Bd. 13, New York 1931, in: Carl Seelig (Hrsg.): "Albert Einstein. Mein 
Weltbild", Ullstein Verlag, Ulm 2005, ISBN 3548367283, Seite 11.

Fred W. Helenius
fredh at ix.netcom.com

Project Wombat - Project-wombat
list at project-wombat.org

More information about the Project-wombat mailing list