The Einstein family in Ulm – respected members of civil society
The far-flung Einstein family originally came from Kappel and Buchau, where the grandparents of the famous physicist lived. Married couple Abraham and Helene Einstein had six children in Buchau between 1841 and 1855: August Ignaz, Jette, Heinrich, Hermann, Jakob and Friederike. After her wedding to Kosman Dreyfuss, Jette was the first member of the Einstein family to move to Ulm in 1864. She was soon followed by her parents and most of her siblings, including Hermann Einstein. At least from the time of his marriage to Pauline Koch, a native of Cannstatt, he worked as a trader in the Israel und Levi bedspring business at Weinhof 19. The individual family members quickly established contacts in their new home town and involved themselves in its society. When the Jewish community donated the figure of Jeremiah for the Protestant church on the 500th anniversary of the laying of the Minster's foundation stone in 1877, Hermann Einstein, August Einstein and his brother-in-law Kosman Dreyfuss were all involved in the fund-raising campaign. Kosman Dreyfuss was even on the committee specially appointed for the purpose. The Einstein family in Ulm was connected by marriage to the families of Dreyfuss, Hofheimer, Wessel, Steiner, Hirsch and Moos.
Albert Einstein, the first child of Hermann and Pauline Einstein, was born at Bahnhofstraße 20 on 14th March 1879. The young family left Ulm in 1880 for Munich, where their daughter Maja was born the following year. Albert Einstein’s Ulm chapter came to an end at this point except for visits to relatives and his correspondence with the city. Not so for the numerous relatives of the subsequent Nobel Prize winner, as at least four of his aunts and uncles lived here and 18 of his cousins were born in Ulm. The vast majority of them grew up in Ulm and spent their adult lives in the city. Kosman Dreyfuss, the husband of Albert Einstein's aunt Jette, was appointed the president of the Israelite Board of Elders (Israelitisches Vorsteheramt) just a few years after his arrival in Ulm. He was also given the honour of accepting the keys to the Synagogue from the builders. The family of Adolph and Friederike Moos were also respected citizens of the city. Lina Einstein, one of the three daughters of the couple August and Bertha Einstein, had a difficult lot. Her parents and her two sisters passed away in the space of just a few years. Lina Einstein remained unmarried and was in receipt of welfare from the Jewish community from 1933 onwards. Following a failed attempt to emigrate, she was deported to Theresienstadt on 22nd August 1942 and then to Treblinka, where she was murdered in a gas chamber immediately after her arrival. Albert Einstein personally tried to help his relatives during this period of persecution and wrote numerous letters of recommendation. Many family members managed to leave Germany thanks to such “Affidavits of Support” or by other means. For Lina Einstein, Bertha Hofheimer, Marie Wessel, Hugo Moos and Julius Moos – all cousins of Albert Einstein – there was no salvation, however. Albert Einstein had left Germany in 1933 and remained in the United States following a lecture tour. By 20th March 1933, the street in Ulm named after him had already been renamed Fichtestraße. He was stripped of his German citizenship shortly after this.
Alfred Moos extends the hand of reconciliation
Just one Jew returned voluntarily to Ulm after the Second World War ended: Alfred Moos, the great-nephew of Albert Einstein. Moos had been politically active in his youth, initially joining the SPD as a law student. He later moved to the communist "Red Student Group". Moos had already left Germany by 1933 with Albert Einstein’s assistance. He moved to London at first, before emigrating to Palestine.
Why did he return to Ulm in 1953? In describing his motives he said: "I have never lost my belief in a better and fairer world of peace. A desire for atonement and reconciliation has brought me back to Ulm". The city honoured his lifelong work for peace and freedom by granting him the Citizen’s Medal in 1988. And in 2007, ten years after his death, a street was named after Moos. Alfred-Moos-Weg runs through the Alter Friedhof cemetery, past the old Jewish cemetery and leads to Friedensstraße ("peace street"). It is hard to imagine a more fitting memorial to his life’s work.