Sehr geehrter Herr Professor,I have omitted much from the two pages long letter, mainly details concerning the travel arrangements. I give the gist of the letter in English: The mayor of Berlin is honored to invite me and an accompanying person to the city from August 17 to 24, 1998, at the occasion of the opening of the exhibition "Persecuted and expelled Berliner mathematicians in the time of the Nazi regime", which is scheduled to take place during the meeting of the International Congress of Mathematicians (a quadrennial affair). The invitation comprises the flight from W.L. to Berlin, as well as hotel accommodations with breakfast. They are gladly looking forward to my visit, and the letter ends "With friendly greetings"
Vom 18. bis 26. August 1998 findet ein Programm der Humboldt Universitaet in Berlin statt, anlaesslich der Ausstellungseroeff-nung "Verfolgte und vertriebene Berliner Mathematiker in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus". Der Regierende Buergermeister von Berlin beehrt sich, Sie und eine Begleitperson ... vom 17. bis 24. August 1998 ... dazu einzuladen. Die Einladung umfasst den Flug von W.Lafayette nach Berlin, sowie Hoteluebernachtungen einschliesslich Fruehstueck ... Sie werden im The Westin Grand, Friedrichstrasse 158-164 wohnen ... Wir freuen uns auf Ihren Besuch und verbleiben Mit freundlichen Gruessen Im Auftrag Ruediger Nemitz.
I was happily surprised by the letter, not only by the content, but also by its tone. I got friendly greetings from someone I have never met or even heard of, moreover in a German letter, where the customary ending is the formal "Hochachtungsvoll". Germany isn't the country anymore that I grew up in! The letter asked for a reply, whether I accept the invitation and who the accompanying person is, no later than July 1. I did not need Leonard's prodding that I must accept, there was no doubt in my mind that I must go and I felt very happy about the offered opportunity. I have not felt, as some of my Jewish friends do, that considering the atrocities that Germans perpetrated on our people, one must never set foot again on this defiled land. I had been back to Germany during the past years at least five times for short visits, including a couple of days to the two Berlins, mostly for the beautiful country side, but also for the magnificent traditional culture preserved in its cities and towns. So, as far as my acceptance of the invitation was concerned, I could have answered with a resounding yes that very same day, but what about the accompanying person? The logical choice seemed to be Dagmar, my wife. When I told her about the invitation, she immediately expressed happiness and pride that I was not forgotten in Germany and that I was being honored by the invitation. She would have loved to accompany me to Berlin, but we quickly decided that this was not possible. Dagmar is too fragile to undertake the long and arduous voyage, also she would limit my activities in Berlin, I could not always have her along, but could not leave her alone in the hotel either. This posed another big problem. Dagmar needs my continual supervision and help these days, she could not stay alone in our house during my absence. I had heard that some of my acquaintances had found a good temporary shelter for their parents in a local healthcare community for elderly and handicapped people. Fortunately, Dagmar was admitted there for the time of my visit to Berlin. My next choice for travel companion had to be one of my two daughters. The elder one, Miriam, regrettably declined, she had already arranged to spend a two weeks vacation trip to California at the time of my expected Berlin visit, and to come with me would mean to deprive her daughter of the one period in the year where mother and daughter would be close. This left Debby, the younger one, who was the ideal choice anyway: mathematics and mathematicians were not strangers to her, she had a master's degree in mathematics from MIT had worked as a proof reader for the American Mathematical Society and was the mother of two boys highly talented in mathematics. She had often traveled with us in Europe, was proficient in the German language, but she never been to Berlin, which made the opportunity to visit there even more tempting. So on June 29 I faxed the filled-in "Antwortbogen" and or the next day I received a letter again from the mayor's office, which said that they were very pleased that I accepted the invitation, that two seats for the flight were reserved for us and that they have provided two single rooms for us in the hotel. The letter ended "mit lieben(!) Gruessen von Berlin ..." A few days later I received another faxed letter, which confirmed that we would stay in Hotel The Westin Grand from the 17th to 24th August. It added that the Institut fuer Mathematik at the Humboldt Universitaet (University of Berlin) was in charge of attending to us in Berlin. (Actually, it turned out, it was not the university, but the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung that did the attending in Berlin.)
I had been aware that this year's International Congress of Mathematicians was to be in Berlin from August 18-27. Pre-registration had been available for some two years and had closed some weeks ago. I had not had the desire to attend the Congress, so I did not register for it. But, of course, being in Berlin at the time of the Congress, I wanted to be a part of it. Leonard produced with his computer a copy of the official Registration Form, I filled it out and faxed it to the Congress Organization. I listed the sections that I might attend, and signed up for some of the Social Events that were offered. I also transmitted the registration fee, a substantial sum, 600-DM. I was pleasantly surprised that, while I was in Berlin, it was refunded to me by the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung.
A few days later I received a letter from Prof. Dr. Jochem Bruening, the Director of the Institut fuer Mathematik, Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin. I quote the letter essentially in toto, because it saves me the effort to give my own report of how I was treated in Berlin. The letter is in German, I try to translate it.
Dear Mrs. Sedgwick and dear Mr. Golomb,Professor Bruening called me at my home a few days later and added a few more helpful provisions. Mr. Tjaden would expect us at the airport and drive us to our hotel. He also would see to it that I did not have to go through the often tiresome registration process, it would all be taken care of without my presence. Seats would be reserved for us in the first f rows of the huge hall, where the opening Ceremonies were take place. I asked Prof. Bruening how many mathematicians other than myself were invited to Berlin for similar reasons. I knew it could not be very many, since in 1933 I had just received my degree and was barely 24 years old, whereas the other "Berliner mathematicians" that the Exhibition aimed at, must have been more advanced and older than myself. They would at present have to be at least in their nineties, and not many of them could still be alive and able to undertake a long journey. So I was not surprised when Prof. Bruening named only three, who would come on their own, and a fourth, who would be represented by his daughter. I also asked him whether I was expected to perform any function at the Exhibition, like making a speech. He replied, of course not, we invite you here to honor you, nothing is expected of you but your presence.
In the name of the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung I want to bid you welcome very cordially in Berlin. We are very pleased that, owing to the first International Congress of Mathematicians in Berlin since 1904, you have accepted our invitation to a visit in your old home country, even though you had to leave from there under the most adverse circumstances. We want to make your stay in Berlin as pleasant as possible and we have therefore assigned to you two attendants, namely Mr. Wildenhan, a member of the DMV-Presidium and Mr. Tjaden of the Mathematics Department of the Technische Universitaet Berlin, who can be helpful to you with local problems in Berlin. In particular Mr. Tjaden will call on you in your hotel on Aug. 18 at 9:00 AM to accompany you to the Opening Ceremony, where you also will get acquainted with Mr. Wildenhain. Besides, you can always reach me, phone no. ... Moreover, we want to arrange together with you, your attendants and the DMV-Presidium a common supper. It should take place on Aug. 18 at 9:00 PM in Hotel Excelsior (Stone House Restaurant), ... , thus after the lecture of Andrew Wiles ... I wish you a pleasant and stimulating stay in Berlin and I am pleased to be able to get acquainted with you personally. With best regards, Yours ...
Dr. Bruening who identified the group of surviving members of the Exhibition, corresponded with them, provided for their transportation and comfort in Berlin, the man we turned to whenever we needed advice or help, is not just an administrator. Besides being Director of the Institut fuer Mathematik at Humboldt Universitaet and member of the DMV Presidium, he is an active teacher and researcher, the author of a large number of important publications, an internationally renowned mathematician. Also our "Betreuers" (attendants), who spent many hours with us (myself and Debby and the other guests) are busy, productive teachers and researchers. Professor Wildenhan is chairman of the Mathematics Department at the University of Rostock and has just now been elected to be the Rector of the university.
As I said before, the invitation to come to Berlin at the expense of the Mayor and Senate of the city came to me as a complete surprise, I could not possibly have expected anything like it. But the stated motive for the invitation, the forthcoming Exhibition "Verfolgte und vertriebene Berliner Mathematiker in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus" was no surprise to me. For some five years I have been in correspondence with Dr. Reinhardt Siegmund-Schultze, a mathematician-historian at the Humboldt Universitaet, who had made it his specialty to study the social history of mathematics in Nazi Germany, in particular at the University of Berlin. Early on he asked me, as one the few survivors of that period, about my personal experience of what happened in the mathematics department after the Nazi came into power. I had only very limited experience about the period. I was a student in the department from October 1929 to June 1933, when my official promotion took place, and I left Berlin shortly thereafter. So my presence in the department during the Nazi regime lasted less than six months. Also I had no personal knowledge of what went on during this period in the faculty and administration. Students in German universities at that time had very little contact with their professors, even with their thesis advisers. So my contribution to Dr. Siegmund-Schultze's inquiries was very limited, nevertheless he found it quite useful, and we kept on corresponding. Just about a year ago he wrote that he was commissioned by the Deutsche Mathematikervereinigung to arrange an exhibition of mathematical emigrees to coincide with the ICM in Berlin in August of the following year, and he asked me to provide biographical material. When I received the invitation to Berlin I guessed that it originated on his initiative, and I thanked him for it. In reply, he wrote to me a letter, as follows (in part, translated from German):
Lieber Herr Professor Golomb, I am glad that it worked out well with the invitation. You were right, the proposal came from me. But I did not have the influence to push it through, it must have been Professor Jochem Bruening, the chief of mathematics at the Humboldt Universitaet here, who has the necessary connections. Naturally, I would love to meet with you and your daughter ... Cordially,Dr. R. Siegmund-Schultze is the author of a number of articles dealing with the social history of mathematics in Germany during the Nazi regime (he always refers to it as Faschismus) and is one of the three authors of the brochure "Terror and Exile-.Persecution and Expulsion of Mathematicians from Berlin between 1933 and 1945". This brochure was distributed to the visitors of the Exhibition and is the official catalog. I will have to say much about it later on. Just about this time there appeared R. Siegmund-Schultze's book "Mathematiker auf der Flucht von Hitler. Quellen und Studien zur Emigration einer Wissenschaft" (Mathematicians on the flight from Hitler.) Sources and studies about the emigration of a science), Vieweg Verlag 1998. So far I have only copies of a few pages of the book, that the author gave to me. I intend to get the book shortly.
We are now on out way to Berlin. We left from the Purdue airport on Sunday, Aug.1, around noon, changed to the Lufthansa plane in Chicago, got off in Frankfurt the next morning, changed to another LH plane, which took us to the Tegel Airport in Berlin, where we arrived at 10 AM (3 Am Chicago time). Mr. Tjaden was waiting for us at the carrousel, where we were to pick up our luggage. He greeted us, and when I asked him how he had recognized me, he said he "bypassed the children". It is true, that in every crowd I look older than everybody else, although people tell me that I don't look my age (89). Poor Mr. Tjader had to stand by for at least half an hour, while we were waiting for our luggage to arrive, which it never did. Then he had to help us put in the claim for the missed luggage. It had gotten stuck in Frankfurt arrived on a later flight and was then delivered to our hotel room. Mr. Tjaden drove us in his car to our hotel in the very center of the city. On the way we passed by the huge Main Building of the Technische Universitaet, where the Congress was to have its sessions. Mr. Tjaden stopped there for a few minutes to point it out to us, as well as the tall modernistic style building across the street, which houses the mathematics department with the office where Mr. Tjaden works.
When we arrived at the hotel, we could not believe our eyes. The facade of the hotel is not particularly impressive, but when you step inside you find yourself in a large circular luxurious atrium, which is crowned ten stories up by a semispherical dome, from which magnificent candelabras hang down. From the light-flooded atrium a majestic broad red carpeted staircase leads up to the lounge with entrances to conference rooms, pool, dining halls etc. There are nine galleries of guestrooms and other facilities and they are bordered by beautiful latticework that harmonizes well with the dome. Our rooms were large, well equipped, with luxurious beds and bathrooms, the interiors designed in the style of late 19th century mansions. We could receive CNN and BBC news channels on the TV set with remote control all day long. Breakfast, that was served buffet style in a very cheerful "Wintergarten", was unbelievably sumptuous. The variety of food items, hot and cold, was so large that we could not have exhausted it, had we never chosen the same item day after day in a week. The hotel is one of the international Westin chain, that includes hotels on every continent, no two alike, each individually designed by a famous architect. The Berlin Westin seems to be known as the most sumptuous and beautiful one anywhere. The wonder of it is that it was built fourteen years ago in the eastern part of the city during the communist administration. It was taken over by the Westin chain some two or three years ago. No program was arranged for us on this first day after arrival. We were pretty tired after having gone for more than 24 hours without sleep and some 13 hours of air travel. But we did not want the day go to waste. So starting on our own, we went by foot and bus, along the famous Unter den Linden avenue eastward toward the old center of the city. My first aim was my old Alma Mater, the Friedrich Wilhelm universitaet, now renamed Humboldt Universitaet (HU) . It is only a block away from our hotel, so we reached it easily on foot. I had no problem locating it, the exterior of it is still the same as it was, when I spent four years there. It probably was totally destroyed like practically everything else in Berlin during WWII, but the exterior appearance of many public buildings both in Eastern and Western Berlin was restored in the years after the war.
I went through the front entrance to the university and found the aula, which is still in my memory the scene of violent clashes between Nazi and antifascist student groups during late 1932, pretty well intact. Then I went up the broad staircase that leads to the first floor, where the Mathematische Seminar, the offices of the faculty and most of the lecture halls had been located. But the present layout of offices and halls was completely unfamiliar to me and no mathematicians were to be found. I was then informed that the mathematics department, now reconstituted as the Institut fuer Mathematik was on the second floor. There I found myself at home, pictures of many famous mathematicians are displayed on the walls of the hallways. Only one of the offices seemed to be busy at this time, that of the secretary. We entered and I introduced myself and we got a very friendly reception, the secretary was informed about my visit. I talked about the time when the mathematics department of the Friedrich Wilhelm Univeritaet was my daily work place. The secretary and a present faculty member who had joined us, did not know that this had been the name of the university at that time, they also were not aware of the fact that the mathematics department had been moved. I talked about the courses that I had taken and the famous professors who had been my teachers. I mentioned that I regret very much that I could not remember the titles of all the courses I took, unfortunately the "Studienbuch", where all the courses a student takes are listed and confirmed by the signature of the instructor, did not make the passage to the USA. I said it would help me remember, if I saw the list of courses that were offered in the years 1929-33. The secretary was eager to help me out, but she had no record of courses that long ago, at that time there existed no University Bulletins in which the forthcoming courses were announced. But then she remembered that there must be records of these courses in the University Archives. She quickly made a telephone call and then assured me that I would receive the desired information before my departure from Berlin. Indeed I received the next day in my hotel by Telefax some fifty pages of Xerox copies of the lists of courses in mathematics and physics offered from 1929-1933. The cover page of the package was signed "Mit freundlichen Gruessen" by the Director of the Archives", a person I had never met and was never going to meet and who was not obliged to me, but I to him.
The facilities in the university given to the Institute fuer Mathematik seemed frugal at best and the whole interior of the building looked shabby to me, nothing like the grand building befitting the prestigious university of pre-Hitler Germany, that I remember of my student years. But the real shock came to us when we got lost on the way out of the university and found ourselves in the large dingy hallway to the Mensa (the student cafeteria). The mess and filth everywhere is just appalling. It reminded us of Berkeley during the height of student activism in the late sixties. The plaster on the walls peeling, graffiti everywhere, the bulletin board covered with layers of announcements in sundry scripts, nobody bothering to remove the stuff that he covered with his scribbling. When I try to explain to myself, why the German state (the physical facilities of the higher education institutions are the responsibility of the Bundesregierung) is so unconcerned with the appearance of the Humboldt Universitaet, while it erects and maintains the splendid buildings of the Technische Universitaet, there are two reasons that come to my mind: The poor condition of the building is an inheritance of the previous landlord, the communist government, and nothing can be done now about it; or the present government gives high priority to the technical institution in West Berlin, that it developed to the highest standard in the post-war years, and much less regard to the more humanistically oriented institution in the East with its politically tainted past.
Proceeding on foot to the end of Unter den Linden and con-tinuing on the Karl Liebknecht Strasse (yes, the street retains the name of the founder of the German communist party), we did some sightseeing on the way and reached the Alexanderplatz, the famous square I was eager to show to Debby. As I remember it, this used to be the grand city square where huge popular gatherings, parades, demonstrations etc. took place during my student years in Berlin. After reconstruction by the East Berlin administration the square had become even grander and a favorite tourist sight, as I saw it while on a tour to Central European capitals some fifteen years ago. Now it was recognizable only by the street sign, there was no square of any size, construction was going on all over the place, scaffolding, cranes and caterpillars everywhere, it was difficult to find one's way through the muddle. Only the famous Fernsehturm (TV-Tower), which because of its height is visible from practically any place in Berlin and from whose top much of Berlin and surroundings can be viewed, is preserved in its place at one corner of the square. This was the disappointing end of our first glance at East Berlin. A short bus ride took us back to our hotel.
Tuesday, August 18 was the day of the Opening Ceremonies of the Congress. Mr. Tjaden picked us up at the hotel at 9 AM to drive us to the International Congress Center (ICC), where all the events of the first day were to take place. With a personal car you can pass through the Brandenburger Tor at the western end of Unter den Linden, then you proceed straight westward on the Strasse des 17. Juni, you pass by the Ernst Reuter Platz, close to the TU, and a couple of blocks farther west is the ICC, a very impressive piece of modern architecture on a big square, with fountains and various sculptures. it was built only very recently, as the convention center for the new capital of Germany, that Berlin will become early next year. Mr. Tjaden guided me to the place where I picked up the registration ID with my name and also a handsome shoulder bag with a weighty load, containing the program and several volumes of the proceedings of the Congress. The back side of the name tag was a traffic voucher, which was good for unlimited free rides on the buses, Subways and Rapid Transport Trains of Berlin. Debby also got a nametag and could have received the traffic voucher, but she did not claim it. We proceeded to a huge hall, that seated probably all the circa 3,500 mathematicians with their companions attending the Congress. We found seats reserved for us in the third row from the stage. Soon Professor Wildenhain, who had elected to attend to us during our stay in Berlin, came to welcome us, and he stayed with us for most of the day. The ceremonies started at 10 o'clock with a by soloists of the Ensemble Oriol Berlin. The same group also played at the Intermission and once again at the end of the session. The four speakers in the morning session were David Mumford, President of the International Mathematical Union, Martin Groetschel, President of the ICM'98 Organizing Committee, Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, President of the German Mathematical Society and Friedrich Hirzebruch, Honorary President of the ICM'98 Orga-nizing Committee. Groetschel welcomed the participants from some one hundred countries,.." who had come from near and far to give account and learn about achievements in mathematics of the last few years, meet old friends, make new ones, start on collaborative efforts and get into contact with colleagues from other fields of mathematics". He acknowledged the generous support of the Federal Government of Germany and of the City of Berlin, without which the Congress could not have been held in Berlin. Several speakers, not only in today's opening ceremonies, mentioned that the last time the Congress met in Germany was in Berlin in 1904 and that the boycott of Germany by the international community for close to a century was due to the horrors committed by the Nazis while they ruled the country. Hoffmann and Hirzebruch praised the end of the boycott and spoke of the hope that German mathematics will recover the glory of its past before the Nazi barbarians came in to destroy the great mathematical centers in Goettingen, Berlin, Muenchen, etc. In negotiating with the International Union of Mathematicians to bring the 1998 Congress to Berlin, the DMV representatives indicated that the DMV wanted to honor the memory of all those who had suffered under the Nazi terror and that they would do this by arranging the Exhibition mentions above as one of the events of the Congress. Hoffmann also mentioned that the DMV had invited those members of the Exhibition group whom they could reach, and that they were honored that they had accepted the invitation and were now present in the audience. He then read the names, including my own, of the four guests. I thought it was very decent of the German mathematicians to bring up and condemn now, fifty years later, the infamous past of their country before a forum of people, many of whom did not remember or did not know or care about these things.
Right after these opening remarks and the interlude by the Oriol Ensemble came the welcoming speeches by dignitaries and politicians. The speakers were the Head of the office of the Federal President and State Secretary, the Federal Minister of Education, Science, Research and Technology, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, the President of the Berlin University of Technology (TU) and the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Finance. Although generally speeches of this kind, empty of content and full of platitudes, put me quickly to sleep, these speeches kept me awake and listening. The speakers were intelligent, eloquent and had many good points to make: the long term benefit to society of basic scientific research; does it justify the considerable expense by the state, and where is the limit?; basic research versus targeted research, how to apportion limited resources to each; can a politician who is running for reelection make the decision, which to the best of his knowledge, is the correct one, if at present it is the unpopular one?; aren't pressing social needs overriding all other considerations?
The Oriol Ensemble concluded this part of the morning session with the rendering of a movement of Mozart's Divertimento K. 287.The session had lasted longer than scheduled and delayed the most important event of the day: the presentation of the Fields Medals. These are the highest awards that mathematicians (restricted by age) can receive and they are handed out only every fourth year at the International Mathematical Congress. This year they were presented after an animated and knowledgeable introduction by Yuri Manin of the Max Planck Institut fuer Mathematik, Bonn. Four medals were given out, two of the recipients were British, one American and one Russian. An exceptional award was given to Andrew Wiles, who did not meet the age restriction of the medal, but is among the Greats of this century for proving Fermat's Last Theorem. Then the Nevanlinna Prize, of rather recent standing, given for the best work in Computing and Information Theory, was presented by David Mumford of Brown University, Providence. It went to Peter Shor of the AT&T Labs, Florham Park. The recipients of these prizes were written up the next day in all the German newspapers that I saw, mostly on the front pages. During the midday recess a buffet lunch was served in another hall of the Convention Center, to which the attendants of the Congress were invited. This had the advantage that one did not have to go out in an area unfamiliar to most to look for a lunch place. There was to be a Plenary Lecture in the later afternoon, but there was sufficient time in between to do some sightseeing. We decided on the Schloss Charlottenburg with the adjacent Schlossgarten, that no tourist would want to miss. It could easily be reached by bus from the Congress Square, and we spent a pleasant couple of hours there. Then we went back to the Congress Center, where Juergen Moser of the ETH was scheduled to give the first Plenary Lecture: Dynamical Systems, Past and Present. I had known Moser for a long time. I had heard him lecture many times, he was a dynamic speaker and always had things of great mathematical import to present. This was also true tonight, but I could not absorb it. He spoke to this huge audience, standing on a very wide stage, and as it is his wont, he would walk again and again away from the podium and the microphone, and I could hear only fragmented phrases when he was sufficiently close to me. This may not have been entirely his fault, my hearing is not very acute. Debby, who was sitting next to me, said she could hear him well. Still, there were some calls "louder" from the audience. Anyway, it made it difficult for me to comprehend what he was saying. It also spoiled my appetite for attending other talks in large lecture halls. Moser's talk was the only one scheduled in the huge hall of the ICC.
On the following day the regular program of the ICM started. The first event was the Plenary Lecture "Quantum Computing" by Peter Shor, given at 9:30 in the huge Auditorium Maximum of the Main Building of the TU. The speaker is the above mentioned recipient of the 1998 Nevanlinna Prize. His talk was about a revolutionary new type of computer, based on quantum mechanical principles. For me the most important event of the day was the Opening of the Exhibition, which was the cause of the invitation and of my coming to Berlin. The Exhibition is housed in the "Lichthof" of the TU Main Building. I quote from the announcement of the Exhibition, as it appears in the program book of the ICM:
"Terror and Exile. Berlin mathematicians under the Nazi regime 1933-1945 In 1998 the ICM returns to Germany after an intermission of 94 years. This long interval covers the darkest period in German history. Therefore the German Mathematical Society (DMV) wants to honor the memory of all those who suffered under the Nazi terror. The DMV does this in the form of an exhibition presenting the biographies of 53 mathematicians from Berlin who were victims of the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. The fate of this small group illustrates painfully well the personal sufferings and the destruction of scientific and cultural life; it also sheds light on the instruments of suppression and collaboration."The opening ceremony took place in the lecture hall adjacent to the site of the Exhbition at 12:15 so as to make it possible to participate for those who wanted to attend lectures of the regular program. The opening speakers were Karl-Heinz Hofmann, President of the DMV, and Jochem Bruening, from the Presidium of the DMV and Director of the Mathematical Institute at the Humboldt University. They elaborated on the theme stated in the above announcement. Bruening mentioned that a search of theirs could locate only five persons in the list of those exhibited and that the DMV invited them to come here for this occasion, that four of them did come and were in the audience, while the fifth, Prof. Feodor Theiheimer, could not make the trip and sent his daughter. He then named the four of us and made us stand up to the applause of the audience. The three others than myself are: Prof. Dr. Franz L. Alt, Prof. Walter Lederman and Prof. Bernhard Neumann. Each of us made a short speech, improvised at the spur of the moment, mainly how they succeeded with the help of colleagues, friends or organizations to escape Nazi Germany and to land a new position in exile.
My speech (with additional detail):
I made the point that mine was a special case. That I was not a Berliner Mathematician and I was not one who was expelled from his position. Still there is ample justification for being included in the exhibited group. I was a student in Berlin at the then called Friedrich Wilhelm Universitaet from 1929-1933 and passed my Ph.D. exam in June 1933, one month after my 24th birthday. At that time Hitler had been in power for just five months. Up to the end of 1932 I had no doubt that I would have a successful academic career in the land of my birth and education. I was recognized by my classmates and professors as a superior student. In my junior year I was invited by the Editor of the Mathematische Fortschritte (the only existing international mathematical reviewing journal) to become one of the reviewers, and I subsequently contributed dozens of reviews even before I was promoted. At the end of 1932 I received a letter from Professor Alexander Ostrowsky at the University of Basel, offering me the position of his assistant. I turned the offer down, my career was to be in Germany, one of the leading countries of mathematical research, not in Switzerland. I was half-way through my dissertation and wasl already advised that on its completion it would get published in one of the leading German mathematical journals of course, I would soon enter the academic career in Germany!
It was not that I did not foresee the imminent power grab of Hitler, but I did not believe that Fascism could last in Germany. I was prepared to join the antifascist groups in Germany and help to get rid of the pest. But a couple of months after Hitler became Reichskanzler, Bieberbach, one of the four ordinary professors in the Mathematics Department, appeared in the class room in the brown shirt uniform of the Storm Troopers, the most militant violence-prone civil combat troops of the Nazi party.
Quite a few students, too, showed up in this uniform. There appeared signs "Juda verrecke" on the campus and they were not withdrawn. Soon it became known that prominent mathematicians and other university personnel lost their position or preferred exile, for no other reason than they were non-Aryans. How could I expect now to find employment in Germany? I was worried by the foreboding that I had to emigrate and build a new life and career away from the land where I had lived up to now and where I would leave my family and friends behind. I started frantically to explore which country could offer me the best chance for a career in mathematics. I thought I had a choice, my professors in Berlin had given me superb recommendations. Ironically, the best one came from the viciously antisemitic Bieberbach. But soon I found out that my problem was not, which. country would offer me the best chance for advancing my mathematical development, but which country would admit me at all. Refugees from Germany were not welcome at that time anywhere. There was deep economic depression and high unemployment in all the developed countries, the borders were tightly closed to foreigners who might seek work. Mine was an especially difficult case. I was born in Germany and had never left the country, but I was a Polish citizen, because my parents were immigrants and could never acquire German citizenship. With a Polish passport I had no chance at all to be admitted anywhere. But I found a way out. My sister lived in Yugoslavia, she had married a Yugoslav citizen. She invited me for a visit and on the basis of this I received a visitor's visa, valid for two months. I left Germany in October 1933 for Yugoslavia with the vague hope of establishing myself there, or better, to escape from there to a country of my choice. How could I foresee that I was to be trapped in that country for five and a half-years? After my visitor's visa expired, I was being deported to the Italian border, but I escaped from my escorts in the last minute with the help of friends . For a year I lived the life of a fugitive, then received a one year's resident permit, with the intervention of influential citizens. After a year I was again threatened by deportation, and this repeated itself in ever shorter intervals, and deportation was prevented only by the intervention of various influential citizens and officials. During all this time I was not permitted to take any employment, I lived mainly on the support by friends and charity organizations. For five and a half years I lived the life of a refugee and illegal alien . When I finally got an immigration visa to the USA, I felt liberated. I arrived there in March 1939. I still was without a job for another half year. With the help of Hermann Weyl, himself an exile from Nazi Germany, I got my first employment six years after I had ended my schooling. It was not a mathematician's job, but that of a "Research Associate" (a flunkey) to an engineering professor at Cornell University. After two more years I won my first job in mathematics, that of a lowly part-time instructor in the Mathematics Department of Cornell. Eight years of the potentially most productive period of a young ambitious mathematician had been lost, which would never have happened but for the Nazis' racial policies. People like myself are also victims of the Nazi Terror!
My speech, like that of the others with me , was applauded by all those present. The audience left now the lecture room and wandered about the hall with the hangings containing portraits, short biographies and other relevant materials of the 53 Berliner mathematicians expelled and persecuted during the Nazi years. A brochure of large format and 72 pages was handed out to all the visitors of the exhibition. It is published by the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung, the authors listed are Jochemn Bruening, Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze and Dirk Ferus. I have mentioned the first two, Dirk Ferus is a professor at the TU, he is probably responsible for the technical details. The brochure describes the personalities and items of the exhibition in detail, but it also gives a good account of the whole history of German mathematicians affected by the Nazi policies. I give some extensive quotes from the brochure. The positions, moral and political, of the German mathematicians expressed therein is, after all, what brought me to Berlin and what causes me to write this report.
From the Introduction:
"When Adolf Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933, a long and prosperous era of scientific and cultural life in Germany came to an abrupt ending. Neither the first World War nor the reverberations of the Russian revolution had seriously damaged the basis which supported intellectual and artistic achievements of the highest quality, but the Nazis destroyed it in a few years. The main tools used were the laws against political and "racial" enemies, notably the "Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentumsit (Civil Service Law) of April 7, 1933 and a constant mass propaganda against all "Feinde des Reichs".
Under these circumstances even a profession of such minor political value as mathematics could not remain untouched and, indeed, German mathematics suffered enormously from the disappearance of the majority of its leading representatives. As many as 144 German speaking mathematicians can be listed who after 1933 had to leave their positions and their homes, most of them emigrated, but some of them lost their lives ...
Among these persecuted mathematicians were at least 53 from Berlin, they form the topic of this exhibition╔ Almost 90 percent among the persons figuring in the exhibition were "Jewish" by Nazi standards, which is an overwhelming majority. But there was a certain number of "Aryan" mathematicians who were rebuffed, disadvantaged, or persecuted for political resistance, which often simply took the form of solidarity with their Jewish colleagues╔we hope that this exhibition will help to inscribe our memory once more the sufferings of the victims and the failures of the community surrounding them".
The title of the next section is: Methods of Expelling: Pseudo-Legalism,Boycott,Denunciation. There is a facsimile of the above mentioned Civil Service Law of April 7,1933. The law itself was a minor basis for dismissal of university professors. They were driven into exile more by boycott of their lectures and seminars by militant Nazi students, by the hostile attitude and sometimes defamatory denunciations of colleagues or by decrees of authorities devoid of any legal basis. There is a facsimile of a letter by the Dekan (Dean) of the Technische Hochschule Berlin (now TU) of April 1934, which orders the dismissal of the mathematician Dr. Sadowski because he is married to a Jewess !
The next section of the brochure speaks of the reaction of five "leading non-Jewish Berlin mathematicians to the expulsion of their colleagues. They are: Ludwig Bieberbach, Erhardt Schmidt, Georg Hamel, Rudolf Rothe and Theodor Vahlen . The first four are justly called leading mathematicians, the fifth is insignificant as a mathematician, but had been installed by the Nazis in the Ministry for University Affairs, responsible for the hiring of professors. All five were ardent nationalists, for whom the reversal of the Versailles Treaty and the restitution of the glorious prewar Reich were their foremost political goals and they admired Hitler for achieving this, Bieberbach, Hamel and Vahlen had been or became members of the Nazi party and actively participated in the elimination of non-Aryan and nonconforming colleagues. Schmidt and Rothe did not, actively oppose these practices, but did not favor them. 0ne of the assistants of Bieberbach reported to the secret police on Schmidt in 1938: "I think that Schmidt does not at all understand the Jewish question".
Next the brochure deals with the Institute of Applied Mathematics at the University. Its founder and director was Richard von Mises, a world-renowned specialist in his field . Alexander Ostrowsky describes his influence as follows: "Only with the appointment of Richard von Mises to the University of Berlin did the first mathematically serious German school of applied mathematics with a broad sphere of influence come into existence. Von Mises was an incredibly dynamic person ..." In 1921 le founded the "Zeitschrift fuer angewandte Mathematik und Mechanik" Although Jewish (by Nazi terms), Mises could not have lost his position by the Civil Service Law, - but he could not tolerate the loss of his collaborators at the Institute, the Privatdozenten Stefan Bergman and Hilda Pollaczek-Geiringeir. Together they left Germany for Turkey, where they were invited to establish a new school of applied mathematics in Istanbul. Later Mises emigrated to the United States and became Professor of Mathematics at Harvard. Stefan Bergman, a distinguished analyst, received a professorship at Stanford University, Hilda Geiringer was the first woman to obtain a Venia Legenii (licence to lecture in Applied mathematics in Germany. The above mentioned Nazi of long standing Theodor Vahlen was appointed (appointed himself?) successor of von Mises as director of the Institute of Applied Mathematics.
Another section is devoted to John von Neumann, who is known to all mathematicians (also phycisists, economists, computer scientists and others) as one of the greatest mathematicians of the century. Von Neumann, Hungarian by birth, became Privatdozent in the Mathematics Department of the University of Berlin in 1927 at the age of 24! He taught the most advanced courses in the Department to students (including myself) older or a couple of years younger than himself. In 1930 he accepted an offer of a visiting professorship at Princeton University, and in 1933, shortly after the creation of the Institute of Advanced Studies, he was invited to become the youngest member of the permanent faculty. Between 1930 and 1933 he worked alternately in Berlin and Princeton. Although he would have liked to keep his teaching position in Berlin, and complete separation from the German mathematical culture was difficult for him, he resigned from the university in early 1933. On April 30, right after the Civil Service Law was passed, he wrote to Oswald Veblen: "I have to see Berlin and Goettingen once more - although an expedition to the North Pole would be much nicer under the present conditions."
The title of the next section of the brochure is: The School of Issai Schur. The point is made that the algebraic school of Issai Schur was the single most coherent and influential group of mathematicians in Berlin and among the most important in all of Germany. Eleven of the 44 exiled Berlin mathematicians were Schur's students. Schur himself had of all the living mathematicians in Berlin the oldest connections to the University. He had been a student there of the famous algebraist Georg Frobenius and was admitted as a Privatdozent in 1903. "Schur's emotional ties to Germany (by birth he was Russian) were so strong that, when the Nazis came to power, he declined many invitations to universities in the United States and Britain. He endured six years of persecution and humiliation under the Nazis. A sick man in body and spirit, he finally reached Palestine and died there two years later ..." Of the emigrated students of Schur I mention only those best known to mathematicians: Alfred Brauer, Kurt August Hirsch, Bernhard Neumann, Hanna Neumann, Richard Rado, Menahem Max Schiffer. They all became respected professors at universities in USA, England and Australia.
Special note is made of the algebraist and mathematical economist Robert Remak, because of his tragic fate. He was a Privatdozent at the University, but was dismissed in 1933 because he was Jewish. He stayed on in Germany, was made a prisoner in 1938 for eight weeks in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen, escaped to the Netherlands in 1939, was captured by the German occupants in 1942 and deported to Auschwitz, where he died.
I interrupt the report of the brochure at this point to note that every one of the mathematicians at the University of Berlin mentioned above was a teacher of mine, while I was a student there, some in more than one course: Erhardt Schmidt, Issai Schur, Ludwig Bieberbach, Richard von Mises, John von Neuman, Robert Remak, Stefan Bergmann, Hilde Geiringer, and some not mentioned: Heinz Hopf and Adolf Hammerstein; also the physicist: Max Planck, Max von Laue and Erwin Schroedinger; the philosopher Hans Reichenbach and the psychologist Wolfgang Koehler. remember them all very fondly. Who can claim a more illustrious group of teachers?! It makes it the more painful for me to think, that this place, Berlin, where I received the best available professional preparation, would soon become the origin of my plight that almost aborted my career.
I omit several sections of the brochure that deal with victims of the Nazi repression who were not university mathematicians. Of special interest to me is the section with the title "Repression against Non-Jewish Mathematicians". Helmut Grunsky, a well-known analyst, a doctoral student of Bieberbach (1932), had become editor of the Jahrbuch ueber die' Fortschritte der Mathematik. As such he got into conflict with Bieberbach over the question of employment of non-Aryan referees. There is a facsimile of a letter from Bieberbach, dated January 11, 1938, which says after offering New Year's Wishes "... would that you be blessed this year with getting rid of the Jews from the staff of contributors" (translated from German). The letter ends with "Heil Hitler!" The madness of it all! The "Fortschritte" was clearly meant to be an international journal. The publications reviewed in it are by authors from every country and nation, certainly by many Jews, and the reviewers (.including myself) are not chosen by their nationality or race, but by their competence. Grunsky courageously resisted the pressure exerted on him, he then was replaced by a party-liner. His Dozentur at the University of Berlin was prevented. After the war Grunsky was guest professor at various American universities, later he was appointed to regular professorships at German universities (Mainz and Wuerzburg). Helmut Wielandt, a renowned group theorist, a student of Schur and Schmidt, was prevented from Dozentur as long as he refrained from political activity and engaged in communication with fellow Jewish students and Schur. Only after in desperation he accepted membership in the NSDAP (Nazi party) did he become Privatdozent at a German university (Tuebigen).
At the end of the brochure there are three lists of victims. The List of Expelled Berlin mathematicians contains 53 names. 21 of them found refuge in US, 7 in GB. Next is the List of Emigrants among all German-Speaking Mathematicians. It contains 130 names. It is a surprise to me, and probably also to many readers, that as many as 75 German mathematicians, many of them world-renowned, emigrated to this country in the thirties. I choose from the list names that are universally recognized: Emil Artin, Reinhold Baer, Gustav Bergman, Felix Bernstein, Lipman Bers, Salomon Bochner, Alfred Brauer, Richard Brauer, Herbert Busemann, Richard Courant, Max Dehn, Willy Feller, Kurt Friedrichs, Kurt Goedel, Hans Hamburger, Ernst Hellinger, Eduard Helly, Fritz John, Theodor Karman, Hans Lewy, Karl Loewner, Kurt Mahler, Karl Menger, Richiird von Mises, Otto Neugebauer Johann von Neumann, Emmy Noether, Wilhelm Prager, Hans Rademacher, Hans Reichenbach, Arthur Rosenthal, Erich Rothe, Hans Samelson, Otto Schilling, Carl L.Siegel, Otto Szasz, Gabriel Szego, Olga Taussky, Abraham Wald, Stefan Warschawsky, Wolfgang Wasow, Hermann Weyl, Max Zorn. The great Albert Einstein, himself an emigrant from Berlin, is not included because he is classified as a Physicist, not a mathematician. By their own work and as teachers of a generation of brilliant young American mathematicians these emigrees from Nazi Germany have made the US the great center of mathematics in the world that it is today.
The last item is the List of German-Speaking Mathematicians Murdered or Driven into Suicide by the Nazis. There are 14 of them: Ludwig Berwald, Otto Blumenthal, Ludwig Eckart (suicide), Paul Epstein (suicide), Walter Froehlich, Kurt Grelling, Gerhard Haenzel (suicide), Fritz Hartogs (suicide), Felix Hausdorff (suicide), Margarete Kahn, Nelli Neumann (first wife of Courant), Georg Pick, Robert Remak, Alfred Tauber. Nobody, no organization was prepared and capable enough to save them from this terminal blow.
I resume the narrative of our visit. There were two more important events that day. At 7:30 PM the lecture by the famous Andrew Wiles: Twenty Years of Number Theory. It took place in the Auditorium Maximum of the Main Building of the TU, which seats more than a thousand people. When we arrived there fifteen minutes early, practically all the seats were taken, but I had a reserved seat in one of the front rows. I was later told two thousand more people had wished to attend the lecture, and they were seated in two other large auditoriums to which the lecture was televised. Wiles, in his modest way, reported on his work culminating in the solution of the Fermat problem, he then presented a great variety of unsolved problems, which await solution in the next century. He was rewarded by a standing ovation, which lasted several minutes. It must have been a unique event in the history of mathematics (or all of science?) that an audience of this size rewarded the speaker of a highly technical lecture with such overwhelming applause.
After the talk we were invited to a gala dinner at a locally popular restaurant, the Restaurant - Bar of the Excelsior Hotel. It was arranged and provided by the DMV for a more intimate get-together of the erstwhile Berliners and their hosts. There were the Alts, the Ledermanns, the Neumanns, Miss Teilheimer, Debby and myself, our Betreuers, several dignitaries of the DMV - I remember Bruening, Groetschel and Hirzebruch, also Siegmund-Schultze. Debby sat next to Prof. Wildenhain and across from Miss Teilheimer and seemed to get along with them very well. I sat next to Prof. Tietze and his wife, whom I had not met before. He was not one of the Berliner victims of the Nazis. As he related to me, he was as a teenager taken by the Nazis to a slave labor camp, forced to do killing labor, was an eye-witness of the murder of his parents by the Nazi guards. He could never forget what he had gone through. When years later he met an official unknown to him, he refused to shake the offered hand, saying "I will have nothing to do with you, I do not know whether you killed my mother". After Tietze was liberated from the camp by the American troops, he went to Marburg to finish gymnasium there and then to enroll in the university. He has been professor at the University of Marburg and is still in active service there.
The get-together at the restaurant was a happy ending to a day that brought back so many depressing memories. We stayed until well after midnight. Professor Bruening ordered a taxi to take us back to the hotel, the fare was at the expense of the DMV.
From the next day, Thursday, on there were no more events scheduled connected with the purpose of our visit. We spent the remaining four days at the Congress, on sightseeing, on guided tours, some private business and at the opera. My report is meant to concentrate on the circumstances that led to my being invited here and on the Exhibition in which I was featured. So I will only briefly mention what we saw and experienced in the last days of our visit. We went on a five-hour long sightseeing tour called " City Sights with Visit to the Pergamon Museum", which took us from the TU parking place to the Schlossplatz in East Berlin, with stops on the way at the common tourist attractions, and a one-hour stop at the world-famous Pergamon Museum on the way back. We took another five-hour long bus tour (not arranged by the Congress committee) to Potsdam and the idyllic Schloss Sanssouci, the charming retreat and also final resting place of Frederick the Great. On our own, without guide, we paid visits to the handsome Gendarmenplatz, flanked by the matching German and French Domes; to the old Schlossplatz with nearby Nikolai and St. Marien Kirchen and the magnificent Rotes Rathaus (I went in to see the Assistant to the mayor to offer my thanks for the generous invitation to Berlin); to the elegant underground and Street level shopping centers of the Friedrichstrasse; and to the Bertold Brecht Platz with the exquisite unpretentious sculpture of the poet, flanked by the Berliner Ensemble Theater (formerly Bertold Brecht Buehne). On Sunday afternoon, the last day of our stay in Berlin, we went to the Aegyptisches Museum and saw the unbelievably beautiful bust of Queen Nofretete and many more precious treasures from the Egypt of thousands of years B.C. Later that same day we went to the Deutsche Oper for a performance of Mozart's Die Zauberfloete. This was arranged as a Special Event specifically for the attendants of the Congress and I had ordered tickets for it at the time when I registered. The Deutsche Oper Berlin is a modern theater, built only a few years ago, and it combines classical concert music and opera with contemporary experimental music-theatre not only spatially, but in concept. The singers and orchestra in the performance were first class and when you shut your eyes you would hear a beautiful performance of the familiar masterpiece. But with your eyes open you were looking at a strange incomprehensible piece of theater. So I kept my eyes closed much of the time and was delighted by what I heard. During the intermission and also at the end of the performance we happened to meet our travel companions, the Alts, Ledermanns and Neumanns, for a last good-bye. The next day we would depart at five o'clock in the morning.
There is one event which I regret very much to have missed, it came on August 26, two days after we left. It is very much related to the program of the Exhibition, but was scheduled independently of it, by the Congress organizers, not by the DMV. The Congress program describes it as follows: Mathematics in the Third Reich and Political Persecution. A forum with lectures by Joel Lebowitz (Rutgers University, USA): "Victors, Oppressors, Activists, and Bystanders: Scientists' Response to Racial and Political Persecution" and by Herbert Mehrtens (Universitaet Braunschweig, Germany): "Mathematics and Mathematicians in Nazi Germany. History and Memory" and a discussion chaired by Jochem Bruening (HU Berlin, Germany)." I hope that I can get a transcript of this program.
Prof. Tjaden who had been chauffeuring us around in Berlin, had enjoined us to let him know when he should pick us up to take us to the airport for departure. We decided that driving through town to pick us up at 5:30 AM at our hotel is too much of an imposition on a busy man (he had to take early care of his children, it was the first working day for his wife, a school teacher), so we let him know that we appreciated his offered help, but we did not wish to burden him and we would call for a taxi. But he did not want to hear of it and insisted to go through with his offer. This was just the last act of the generous care (I call it royal treatment) of all those that had invited us to Berlin and attended to us while we were there.
I will keep a lasting memory, both depressing and heartening, of our visit to Berlin. Depressing, because what I learned during my visit brings back to me in greater detail and with solid documentation what happened to my profession during that period some sixty years ago. Heartening, because I saw that the most influential German mathematicians of today will not let the world forget the crimes that their compatriots committed on innocent fellow mathematicians, and that they destroyed one of the great mathematics centers. No doubt, mathematics education and research are reviving in Germany today and have achieved respectable levels, internationally recognized. But it is not and probably will never be again the commanding center that pre-Hitler German mathematics was. The Nazi juggernaut was not only the most destructive force of human life arid property in all of history, it was also self-destructive, it thoroughly destroyed the great cultural center that Germany had become before the advent of the Nazi barbarians.
Note: Copies of the pamphlet Terror and Exile may be obtained by mail at the cost of 15 Deutsche Mark from: Geschaeftsstelle DMV Weierstrass Institut, Mohrenstrasse 39, D-10117 Berlin, Germany. Additional information on emigration and expulsion for all Germany and Austria may be found in the following German book: Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze: Mathematiker auf der Flucht vor Hitler. Quellen und Studien zur Emigration einer Wissenschaft; Braunschweig/Wiesbaden: Vieweg 1998.