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Book Title: Einstein's German World|
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Reader ratings: 5.7
The author of the book: Fritz Stern
Edition: Princeton University Press
Date of issue: April 15th 2001
ISBN 13: 9780691074580
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 484 KB
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The French political philosopher Raymond Aron once observed that the twentieth century "could have been Germany's century." In 1900, the country was Europe's preeminent power, its material strength and strident militaristic ethos apparently balanced by a vital culture and extraordinary scientific achievement. It was poised to achieve greatness. In Einstein's German World, the eminent historian Fritz Stern explores the ambiguous promise of Germany before Hitler, as well as its horrifying decline into moral nihilism under Nazi rule, and aspects of its remarkable recovery since World War II. He does so by gracefully blending history and biography in a sequence of finely drawn studies of Germany's great scientists and of German-Jewish relations before and during Hitler's regime.
Stern's central chapter traces the complex friendship of Albert Einstein and the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Fritz Haber, contrasting their responses to German life and to their Jewish heritage. Haber, a convert to Christianity and a firm German patriot until the rise of the Nazis; Einstein, a committed internationalist and pacifist, and a proud though secular Jew. Other chapters, also based on new archival sources, consider the turbulent and interrelated careers of the physicist Max Planck, an austere and powerful figure who helped to make Berlin a happy, productive place for Einstein and other legendary scientists; of Paul Ehrlich, the founder of chemotherapy; of Walther Rathenau, the German-Jewish industrialist and statesman tragically assassinated in 1922; and of Chaim Weizmann, chemist, Zionist, and first president of Israel, whose close relations with his German colleagues is here for the first time recounted. Stern examines the still controversial way that historians have dealt with World War I and Germans have dealt with their nation's defeat, and he analyzes the conflicts over the interpretations of Germany's past that persist to this day. He also writes movingly about the psychic cost of Germany's reunification in 1990, the reconciliation between Germany and Poland, and the challenges and prospects facing Germany today.
At once historical and personal, provocative and accessible, Einstein's German World illuminates the issues that made Germany's and Europe's past and present so important in a tumultuous century of creativity and violence.
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Read information about the authorFritz Richard Stern was born in Breslau, Silesia, to prominent parents: his father, Rudolf Stern, a physician and medical researcher, and his mother, Käthe Brieger Stern, a noted theorist and reformer in the education of young children. After converting from Judaism to Lutheran Protestantism in the 1890s, his family emigrated to the United States in 1938, forced to leave by the virulently anti-Jewish policies of Adolf Hitler's National Socialist government and increasing violence against all Germans of Jewish ancestry. The family settled in New York City where Stern attended Columbia University from which he received his bachelors, masters and PhD. From 1953 to 1997, he was a professor at Columbia, obtaining the eminent Seth Low Chair before attaining the rank of University Professor.
Much of Stern's work tracks the development of the rise of National Socialism in Germany, tracing that the origins of Nazism back to the 19th century völkische movement. In Stern's opinion, the virulently anti-Semitic völkische movement was the result of the "politics of cultural despair" experienced by German intellectuals who were unable to come to grips with modernity. He rejects the Sonderweg interpretation of German history which considers Germany to have followed a unique course from aristocracy into democracy distinct from other European countries. In the 1990s, Stern was a leading critic of the controversial American author Daniel Goldhagen, whose book Hitler's Willing Executioners he denounced as unscholarly and full of Germanophobia.
Another major area of research for Stern has been the history of the Jewish community in Germany and how Jewish and German cultures have influenced each other -- what Stern has often called the "Jewish-German symbiosis," the best examplar of which was Albert Einstein.
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