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September 17: Einstein’s Letter to Ataturk

September 17, 2014
Albert Einstein wrote a letter to Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, through his prime minister, on this date in 1933, urging Turkey to give sanctuary and research facilities to forty German Jewish scientists and doctors who had been removed from their work by the rise of Nazism. Einstein’s letter was urged by Sami M. Günzberg, a Jewish Turkish dentist who met the physicist at an International Conference in Paris of the Union for the Protection of the Well-Being of the Jewish Population (OSE), of which Einstein was the honorary president. Günzberg was Ataturk’s dentist and knew much about the Turkish leader’s desire to modernize his country. According to Bulent Atalay at the National Geographic website, “Not just the forty that Einstein requested, but many scores of German and Austrian Jewish scientists, their families, and their assistants, moved to Turkey. For the next ten to fifteen years the medical schools, and science and technology departments, especially in Istanbul flourished. By the 1950s many of these scientists immigrated to the newly created State of Israel, and to the United States.” “These scientists are willing to work for a year without any remuneration in any of your institutions, according to the orders of your Government.... In supporting this application, I take the liberty to express my hope, that in granting this request your Government will not only perform an act of high humanity, but will also bring profit to your own country” —Albert Einstein