With 5km worth of physical items and terabytes of digital records, it is unsurprising that sometimes the archivists feel like they haven’t even scratched the surface of the collection! In this Choice we focus on the recent discovery of a telegram in the Archive which links two leading scientists through philanthropy: Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990).
“NA8 26 DL PRINCETON NJ 958A MAR 6 1939
LORD VICTOR ROTHCSHILD
HOTEL WALDOLF ASTORIA PARK AVE
NOT BEING ABLE TO PARTICIPATE PERSONALLY IN MEETING YOU WITH ORT DELEGATION I WISH TO EXPRESS TO YOU MY GRATITUDE FOR PRECIOUS HELP TO ORT OSE
Nine days after this telegram was sent Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, where approximately 350,000 Jews lived. Victor’s Hungarian aunt Aranka (om his mother's side) was one of the millions who perished under the Nazi regime.
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist, one of the greatest and most influential scientists of all time. Victor Rothschild (1910-1990) “lived the lives of a dozen men” according to his biographer, but he primarily saw himself as a scientist. In March 1939 when the telegram was sent, Victor was visiting America where he was received at the White House by President Roosevelt and escorted by J. Edgar Hoover, Head of the FBI, on a two-hour tour of his department. Interestingly Victor’s biographer suggests that these busy men gave their time freely to a mere research scientist due to the role he had assumed in the relief of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Albert Einstein, who had himself left Germany in 1932 due to Nazi persecution, was also involved in this cause. The two men were connected by an organisation called ORT OSE, a delegation from which Victor met with on 6 March 1939 in New York. Victor’s uncle Walter, 2nd Lord Rothschild, from whom Victor had inherited the baronetcy, had also been involved with ORT and was famously filmed sitting beside Einstein at the ORT Appeal Dinner held at the Savoy hotel in London in 1930. View a film of the event here »
ORT: Organisation for Rehabilitation through Training or The Society of Trades and Agricultural Labour
ORT and later OSE (Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants or the Society for the Protection of the Health of Jews) had both been founded in Russia, as a reaction to Jewish persecution. Their aim was to be a global education network driven by Jewish values. Originally this came in the form of training people to become artisans such as glassblowers, furniture makers and tailors, and by later opening agricultural schools. During the rise of Hitler in Germany, the organisation helped students leave Berlin to attend an ORT school in Leeds, England. Victor Rothschild was President of the Joint British Committee of ORT and OSE during this time.
After the Second World War ORT established rehabilitation programmes for survivors of the Holocaust, usually within the Displaced Persons camps. It gave survivors the opportunity to acquire professions and the tools they needed to rebuild their lives. It also expanded to run international programmes which supported non-sectarian development. Today, alongside their education programme, ORT also delivers clothing, basic nutrition, books, and counselling services. Its schools specialise in science, technology, engineering and maths, all things both Albert Einstein and Victor Rothschild would be proud to support today, just as they had during those turbulent years of their Presidency.