Einstein’s Little Princess

I have just finished Walter Isaacson’s hefty book Einstein: His Life and Universe. It was a real page turner. Isaacson has taken the general relativity, and the man behind it, to tell a compelling story. Surprisingly, not even the calculations Einstein wrote down on his death bed leave you as baffled as does his personal life, particularly his relationship with his first wife and children. I am incapable of enjoying even a biography without a compulsion to interpret everything I read.

Lack of evidence appears to have made Isaacson cautious to openly support any theory on what happened to Albert Einstein’s and Mileva Maric’s illegitimate daughter Lieserl. On the surface it looks like he dutifully lists the different theories, the most popular one being that Lieserl died of scarlet fever as a toddler. Another theory favored by Robert Schulmann of the Einstein Papers Project, according to Isaacson, is that Mileva’s close friend Helene Savic adopted Lieserl. Also according to Isaacson, Helene Savic brought up a girl named Zorka, who was blind, never married, was shielded by her nephew from interviews and died in the nineties. Isaacson is careful to state that Zorka’s nephew, Milan Popović, favors the theory that Einstein’s daughter died of scarlet fever, but then goes as far as to state that Zorka’s relatives have not provided any proof, such as a birth certificate, to prove Zorka was not Lieserl.

Conveniently, most of the correspondence between the women from this time period has been destroyed by Mileva herself and Zorka’s protective family. Only few letters between Einstein and Mileva remain that reveal Lieserl even existed. In one of them it was discussed that their daughter might have suffered some lasting effect due to scarlet fever, which Isaacson speculates could be blindness. Several chapters later Isaacson mentions in passing Mileva’s sister by name – Zorka. There is nothing like a princess that inspires people to name their daughter (I’ve done it myself twice) so Zorka was by no means uncommon name in Serbia at the time. Still something in me gravitates toward the tragic and poetic theory, which Isaacson appears to support in between the lines.

The adopted by a family friend theory would certainly explain several peculiarities in Mileva’s and Einstein’s life. While Mileva was pregnant, and immediately after giving birth, Einstein was thrilled, and nothing suggested that they would give up the baby. Almost nothing: two months before giving birth, Mileva wrote to Einstein about telling her friend: “I don’t think we should say anything about Lieserl yet.” and “We must now treat her very nicely. She’ll have to help us in something important, after all.” Isaacson speculates this could be a cryptic hint that Mileva and Einstein hoped their friend would take custody of their child.

After Lieserl was born something clearly changed. It could have been Einstein’s new position at the patent office, like Isaacson suggests, or that Lieserl was born with a birth defect, or something else that made Einstein and Mileva decide not to raise Lieserl themselves. At this point, I was no longer able to help myself; I let my imagination take over.

Suppose Mileva didn’t want to give her baby up for adoption, even under the circumstances, but didn’t want her family to raise her child either, as later on Lieserl would learn who her parents were, so she turned to her friend Helene Savic for help. The condition of the unofficial adoption would be that Mileva would be able to stay in contact with her daughter through Helene, but Lieserl, and no one else for that matter, would never learn who her true parents were. Hence their letters were deliberately destroyed. Suppose Helen renamed Lieserl, Zorka, possibly upon Mileva’s request. After all it was her sister’s name, the sister whom she confided in about the pregnancy. One thing is certain though, Lieserl was a family secret, and I have little doubt it consumed Mileva until the day she died.

Why would Mileva keep the letters written by Einstein that revealed they had a daughter? To remind herself that their daughter was loved once, however briefly, a romantic would say. As an insurance, something she could use to blackmail Einstein into marriage, and later for financial support, a cynic would say. All of the above, and to protect Zorka in the event it would come to light that Einstein and Mileva had a daughter they had given up for adoption. Nothing is as convincing as admitting to a secret in order to hide another one.

And nothing is more lucrative than to cherry-pick evidence to support your own theory. All is well except there was no blind girl named Zorka, unless Helene Savic had three daughters. She did, however, have a daughter named Zora who was born the same year Lieserl is supposed to have died. Zora eventually married and had children. If someone was blind, it is unlikely it was Zora, as in the family picture she is the one looking into the camera, but her sister, who was born the same year as Lieserl, stares slightly off camera. I could be mistaken that there was in fact Zorka at the Savic household, but she wasn’t listed in the family tree, and therefore Milan Popović, the author of In Albert’s shadow, is not her protective nephew.

Walter Isaacson’s latest biography, on Steve Jobs, will be released today. I hope this time around Isaacson won’t let the apple fall too far of the tree.

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3 Responses to Einstein’s Little Princess

  1. Tim Symonds says:
    ‘A Vital Detail In The Story Of Albert Einstein’ What Happened to Lieserl: the Fourth Theory By Tim Symonds tim.symonds@shevolution.com Foreword In September 1903 a letter was sent from the Swiss city of Bern to a woman in the Serbian town of Novi Sad. The letter contained the last known reference to an infant girl born out of wedlock 21 months earlier. After that, with extreme diligence, any record of her existence is expunged. This might be of minor interest to the outside world but for one reason: the father of this small child was Albert Einstein. So far there are three theories trying to explain why the infant girl vanished. The first says Albert Einstein and the infant’s mother Mileva Marić must have asked a friend in Belgrade to adopt her. The second theory suggests she was left at a home for severely physically or mentally-handicapped children. The third theory holds she died of Scarlet Fever in the epidemic which killed 400 out of 1000 children in the Novi Sad area at the time. In the following pages I offer my solution to the extraordinary mystery of the girl known as ‘Lieserl’. I call it the Fourth Theory. Some people reading the Fourth Theory will find the speculative verve deeply shocking, particularly those who resolutely wish to think of Einstein as a secular saint. Why is the life or death of this infant girl a mystery in the first place? It is for one reason only. A ruthless effort was made by Albert Einstein and Mileva Marić, their friends, admirers and relatives, to destroy every document with Lieserl’s name on it. The mystery is – why? It is possible someone one day will discover what happened to this half-Serbian half-German girl born in late January or early February 1902 but the difficulties are immense. They would challenge even Einstein’s fictional contemporary, the great Sherlock Holmes. For a start there is a problem with the name ‘Lieserl’. No birth certificate has ever been discovered, a search made more difficult because her real name cannot be surmised from this affectionate appellation. It is a diminutive equivalent to ‘Betty’ for ‘Elizabeth’, but it may have been used simply as a nickname for ‘girl’. Searching records for Erzsebeth or the Hungarian Erzsike (Serbia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time) could mean going down the wrong track. After that last-known reference to her in a letter from Albert Einstein to Mileva Marić, the infant simply disappears. She left behind the greatest remaining mystery surrounding the greatest Physicist of the 20th Century. Frederic Golden wrote in Time Magazine in September 1999, ‘Lieserl’s fate shadows the Einstein legend like some unsolved equation’. Was the assault on every trace of her existence simply because the parents were not married at the time of Lieserl’s birth? At the start, perhaps, but why the obsessive secrecy across the next 50 years? In ‘Einstein, His Life And Universe’, biographer Walter Isaacson makes much of Einstein’s lifelong willingness to challenge authority, commenting, ‘Einstein’s impudence and contempt for convention, traits that were abetted by Mileva Marić, were evident in his science as well as his personal life in 1901’. I have put together an explanation which addresses this extraordinary matter without fear or favour. A man of powerful if subterranean emotions, Albert Einstein had gargantuan redeeming features but not the way he reacted with such deep revulsion to the ‘genetically inferior’, to anyone unlucky enough to be born with a mental or physical handicap. Tim Symonds January 2010 tim.symonds@shevolution.com —– When the great Physicist Albert Einstein died in 1955 he thought the world would never know about Lieserl, the daughter his Serbian mistress Mileva Marić bore him in the second year of the 20th Century. Lieserl was conceived in the early Summer of 1901 during a three-day tryst at a beautiful lake in northern Italy. A few days before the tryst, Albert Einstein sent Mileva a lover’s summons: ‘You absolutely must come see me in Como, you little witch.’ The little witch accepted. She wrote, ‘Dann wollen wir einen Teil des Sees zu Fuss ablaufen…’, ‘We’ll walk around part of the Lake on foot, practicing our botany, chatting and enjoying each other’s company’. Einstein wrote back at once. He called her ‘My dear little dumpling’. He asked her to pop by his lodgings in Zurich and bring his blue dressing-gown (‘into which we can wrap’). Einstein expressed extremes of affection. In an earlier letter in September 1900 he wrote ‘Du mein Kleiner Gassenbub, meine kleine Veranda, mein Alles!’ – ‘My little street urchin, my little veranda, my everything!’ Ahead of the visit to Italy, Mileva prayed hard to St Peter, the saint-protector of her Serbian Orthodox family. She begged St Peter to make the tryst at Lake Como the most exciting experience of her life. Her wish was granted. But there would be a twist of shattering consequence. At 5 o’clock on a Sunday morning at the start of May 1901, they met at the Como train station, Einstein with open arms and ‘a pounding heart’. Together they sailed on a white steamer across the Lake to Cadenábbia on the western shore of Lake Como on the border of Italy and Switzerland, the most magnificent of the Italian Alpine lakes. They visited the Villa Carlotta at its most beautiful, with its statue of Cupid and Psyche, the gardens ablaze with azaleas. They crossed the Italian-Swiss border by the snow-covered Splügen Pass on a small horse-drawn sleigh. Mileva wrote to her friend Helene Savić: “I shuddered at this cold white infinity and firmly kept my arm round my sweetheart under the coats and blankets which covered us…I was so happy…” It is conceivable they had made love before, in Zurich. Certainly this time the walk went a lot further than ‘practicing our botany’. A week or so after they left Lake Como, Albert wrote to Mileva, now back in Serbia, to express ‘how delightful it was when I was allowed to press your dear little person to me in the way nature created it…’. It was the highest point in an extraordinarily intense affair. Engagingly, Mileva signs her letters ‘Dein geplagtes Toxerline’ – ‘Your suffering Toxerline’ – at other times Doxerl or Dockerl. The diminutives probably derive from the South German ‘Docke’ meaning ‘doll’. In the Autumn, lyrically in love with Einstein, Mileva wrote to her friend Helene Savić, ‘Oh, Helene, pray to St Peter for me that I might have him completely, that I do not have to be parted from him all the time – I love him so frightfully’. Towards the end of January or early February 1902, a daughter was born somewhere in Serbia, her mother’s country. Clinics in Swiss cities such as Geneva and Zurich readily offered terminations and abortifacients were available by mail. Although Mileva and Albert were not to marry for another year, there is no evidence either of them contemplated these options. Quite the opposite. At 22 years of age, out of work and with no immediate prospects, Einstein at once took on his share of responsibility, writing to Mileva, ‘I will look for a position immediately, no matter how humble it is’. Within a week or so after she told Einstein she was pregnant he wrote to her in the most matter of fact way, asking about the child (he anticipated a boy) and Mileva’s studies in one sentence: ‘How are our little son and your doctoral thesis?’ During Mileva’s pregnancy this was a much-wanted child. Nevertheless, the couple were well aware of the likely effect on family and the public at large. In late July when she was 3 months pregnant she asked Einstein, ‘Write to my Papa just briefly, I shall then gradually break the necessary news,’ including the ‘disagreeable’ news. In Novi Sad, on being told this disagreeable news, Mileva’s mother Marija promised to thrash the man who had done this to her daughter. Disapproval of ‘pre-marital’ children and the mothers who bore them – and the parents of those mothers – was widespread and deeply imbedded. To hide what she referred to as her ‘funny figure’ – the illegitimate pregnancy – from the world’s inquisitive eye Mileva may have left her parents’ house in Novi Sad, a town on the Danube, for Sombor in the North West of Vojvodina Province where a family close to the Marić family lived. A letter Einstein addressed to her in late November 1902 when she would have been about seven months pregnant expresses his surprise she doesn’t seem to have received three previous letters from him. Her discreet withdrawal to Sombor could explain this. So commenced the greatest mystery surrounding one of the greatest scientific couples of the 20th Century. Albert stayed away from the birth, choosing to remain at his flat in Switzerland. When the daughter was born it was not Mileva but her father Miloš who informed Einstein by letter. The birth had been extremely difficult, possibly from the life-long hip deformity Mileva suffered. She was left exhausted. The father’s handwriting on the envelope gave Einstein a great shock. He immediately feared the worst, that Mileva must have died in child-birth. To this day no-one knows anything substantive about that daughter except that she lived, like a firefly, briefly. The entry on Wikipedia is headed ‘Cause of death, Unknown. Resting place, Unknown. Residence, Novi Sad (1902-?) …’ In 1982, 27 years after Einstein’s death, the Oxford University Press published Abraham Pais’ long and detailed biography ‘Subtle Is The Lord…The Science And The Life Of Albert Einstein’. A wide variety of Einstein’s relatives get a mention, including cousins Lina Einstein and Bertha Dreyfus. Not a word about Lieserl. When exactly was she born? When exactly did she die? Especially, what caused her death? For over 80 years her very existence was unknown to the public. Then, in 1985 a cache of family letters was examined. Lieserl’s name sprang to world attention. Since then, biographers of Albert Einstein have stretched far to explain the mystery. There are three principal theories for his first child’s disappearance from the record after she reaches 21 months of age. One holds she must have been sent off to friends in Belgrade for adoption. Most mentioned in this scenario is Helene Savić. Another theory suggests she was sent off to a home for physically or mentally handicapped children, despite the terrible reputation of such institutions in Serbia. However, in ‘Einstein’s Daughter,’ Michele Zackheim is unequivocal: ‘Serbian custom prevented Mileva from placing the child for adoption or sending her to an orphanage. In Vojvodina, there was no greater disgrace than giving up a child to strangers.’ A further theory is one most Einstein biographers seem to prefer, that she died of Scarlet Fever in the major epidemic of late-Summer 1903. This is not an unreasonable theory. Regular epidemics swept the region. Einstein himself was well aware of the prevalence of the disease in Hungary. Mileva sent him a letter four years earlier, in August or September 1899, telling how the Marić family had fled from Novi Sad to their retreat – Mileva uses the word ‘hermitage’ – in Kać: ‘All this time I have not gotten further than our garden, we now don’t go into town at all, there have been many cases of scarlet fever and diphtheria, so that we prefer staying in our fresh and healthy air. Neusatz (Novi Sad) is a rather unhealthy hole…’ In addition to Scarlet Fever and diphtheria, the region was regularly visited with typhus, haemorrhagic smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, smallpox, cholera, and recurrent fever. Any of these were life-threatening at the time, especially to infants. In medical parlance, Scarlet Fever is a disease caused by an erythrogenic exotoxin usually in the context of acute pharyngitis. It is characterised by a distinctive blanching rash composed of fine papules which cause the skin to feel like sandpaper. Around 40% of children contracting the fever died in the Serbian epidemic. However, Einstein’s last-known letter mentioning Lieserl was written in September 1903 when the epidemic may have run its course. In the letter he pointedly asks if Lieserl has been ‘registered’, with the authorities, adding ‘We must take great care, lest difficulties arise for the child in the future’. This gives the strongest impression she survived the epidemic. Objectively, neither death from scarlet fever nor the two other theories hold water. They are deeply flawed from the outset simply because of one remarkable fact, the complete dearth of evidence which would normally abound if any of them were true – they are, after all, quite commonplace explanations. Rather – and especially odd – is the fact the normal human behaviour of a wide number of actors in the piece undergoes a sea change. In a region where rumour-mongering is as much a way of life as any other part of the world, every single voice becomes muzzled. Every document disappears. Nowhere is there mention of monetary payments, nor mention of travel with the infant, no legal documentation, no family papers such as a baptismal certificate, particularly no death certificate nor any other customary civic record. As biographer Albrecht Fölsing put it in his well-researched book ‘Albert Einstein’: ‘Evidence of the first two years of Lieserl’s life is scant enough; beyond that, the fate of Albert Einstein’s first child is totally unknown. The daughter was never again mentioned in a letter, and despite intensive searches no entries have been found in parish registers, registry office documents, or anywhere else.’ There are remarkable echoes of the Conan Doyle tale ‘Silver Blaze’ with its famous exchange between Sherlock Holmes and the Scotland Yard detective Gregory. On the eve of an important horse-race ‘Silver Blaze’ disappears without trace from its stables on Dartmoor. This is the more inexplicable because the farm dog spent its nights right by the horse. Holmes and Watson arrive to find the Scotland Yard detective already there. When Holmes has had a chance to look around and question staff, Gregory approaches him. Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” Holmes: “That was the curious incident.” After spending more than two years looking into the mystery I have come to a Fourth Theory. The Fourth Theory responds to the facts and suppositions surrounding Lieserl’s short shadowy life. The Fourth Theory contends that while Lieserl was still an infant – less than two years old – she was put to death. It was a mercy-killing, made the more expedient because of extraordinarily challenging circumstances Einstein found himself in at the time, only two years before he explodes on to the world of Physics in the Annus Mirabilis of 1905. The man who nearly a hundred years later would be dubbed Time Magazine’s Person Of The Century simply came to the conclusion it would be best for all concerned if the tiny infant was put out of her misery. I point to Mileva’s father Miloš Marić as the person who oversaw or even carried out the sentence of death. Lieserl’s death would have come as a particular relief to this proud, social-climbing former Military officer and Civil Servant. But to return to the beginning: when Albert Einstein heard Mileva was pregnant, with wishful thinking he anticipated a son. He would call him ‘Hanserl’, the diminutive of ‘Hans’ in the dialect of Southern Germany where Einstein was raised. It turned out to be a girl. On hearing the news Einstein quickly adapted. A few days after Lieserl’s birth in early February 1902, Einstein wrote from Switzerland to Mileva at her parents’ winter home in Novi Sad. He asked, ‘Is she healthy and does she cry properly?’ adding, ‘I love her so much and don’t even know her yet!’ It all began five years earlier, in 1896, when the 17 year old German-born Albert Einstein met Serbian fellow student Mileva Marić at the Zurich Polytechnic. It was a meeting which would change our view of the Universe. It was completely to alter humanity’s understanding of space-time itself. Each was at the Zurich Poly studying for a teaching diploma in Mathematics. Letters show how their first formal exchanges – Fräulein Marić, Herr Einstein – gradually but surely turned to fervent love. Mileva was four years older than Albert. Like many or most Slavs she had a thorough distaste for all things German, or at least northern German. Once she met Einstein she seems quickly to have taken a great interest in his country of origin. In 1897 she enrolled as a guest student in a physics course at a university in Heidelberg where, she informed Einstein, she walked ‘under German oaks in the charming Neckar Valley’. In return she wanted Einstein to take an interest in Serbia. From Heidelberg, she wrote, ‘Papa has given me some tobacco and I am to give it to you myself, he wanted to make your mouth water for our little bandit country’. All too soon the couple ran into difficulties. The clandestine visit to Lake Como in May 1901 was arranged to avoid the eye of Einstein’s mother Pauline. Right from the start she despised, even hated Mileva. Germans as a whole looked down on Slavs and Pauline was no exception. By contrast, the Marić family had no antipathy towards the Jews. The family’s Patron Saint was St Stefan the Martyr. St Stefan had been born Jewish. And there was a kind of solidarity. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire everyone looked down on Serbs and Jews equally. Einstein’s mother Pauline was a truly serious obstacle. In February 1902 she wrote to her friend Professor Pauline Winteler, crying ‘This Miss Marić is causing me the bitterest hours of my life, if it were in my power I would make every possible effort to banish her from my horizon. I have a veritable antipathy toward her’. When she penned those words, Pauline Einstein had just become a grandmother through the very woman she had a ‘veritable antipathy’ towards. It is not certain she ever learnt of this new status. There is no convincing evidence Einstein’s mother, sister or any of their friends in Germany, Austria, Italy or Switzerland ever knew about Lieserl. The visit to Lake Como and the consequent birth of Einstein’s first child began one of the most mysterious passages in the life of one of the greatest theoretical physicists in all human history, inventor of Relativity, inventor of the most famous equation in science, E=MC², the equation which presaged the development of the Atomic Bomb. Einstein stands the equal of the giants of the past – Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus. He was on Time Magazine’s cover in April 1938, July 1946, and posthumously in February 1979. In December 1938 Einstein was shortlisted for Time Magazine’s ‘Man Of The Year’ but he was beaten out by Adolph Hitler. Time’s ultimate imprimatur eventually came 45 years after his death when on January 3 2000 he was declared the magazine’s ‘Person Of The Century’, ‘the pre-eminent scientist in a century dominated by science’. Time’s list of ‘Thinkers and Tinkerers’ singled out 24 men and women. Right up with Einstein were the Wright Brothers. These three men were in remarkable company. The runners-up were Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Mohandas Gandhi. The facts about Lieserl are few and stark. Few further clues would be made available from the vast store of papers Einstein left behind when he died. In ‘The Private Lives of Albert Einstein’ authors Roger Highfield and Paul Carter state, ‘Biographers and researchers who attempted to investigate Einstein’s life, or to make use of his writings, found their efforts constantly thwarted. Crucial sources of information were either suppressed or censored’. The timing of Mileva’s pregnancy could not have been worse. She and Albert were not married and this was 1901. Albert was desperately seeking a position in the Physics Department of the conservative-minded Zurich Polytechnic. Although Zurich was considered one of the more liberal, even revolutionary Swiss cities, having a child out of wedlock was no commendation. At some point in the Summer, Mileva took the lengthy train journey to her parents’ home in Novi Sad, leaving Albert in Bern. In November, desperate to see him again, Mileva took the train back to Switzerland. By now she was 7 months pregnant. Einstein had taken a job as tutor at a private academy in Schaffhausen, 30 kilometres north of Zurich. To avoid any chance of her ‘funny figure’ being observed, she spent most of November at a small hotel in an adjacent village. Two months later, when Mileva was back in Serbia, Lieserl was born. Over the next known period of Lieserl’s short life her mother Mileva travelled back and forth from Serbia several times to visit Albert in Switzerland but nothing shows she ever took Lieserl with her. And Albert never visited Novi Sad while Lieserl was alive. One of many possible occasions Einstein could have visited Lieserl in Serbia was in July 1903 when she would have been about a year and a half. His Summer holiday was due. Tentative plans were made to visit their old friend and former fellow student Helene Savić in Belgrade. The plan fell though when Helene decided to visit her parents in Vienna. Einstein resolutely chose not to take the opportunity to pay a visit to Lieserl instead. Two months later his baby daughter disappears from the face of the Earth. Whether Mileva ever told her friend Helene Savić about Lieserl is unclear even though Mileva was pregnant (but as yet unmarried) at almost the same as Helene was bearing a child, also a daughter. The two first met in the Spring of 1899 when both were students at the Zurich Polytechnic living in the boarding-house Engelbrecht. Correspondence between them began in the Summer of the same year when Mileva returned to her family’s Summer home in Kać, near Novi Sad. When Mileva was heavily pregnant with Lieserl in the late Winter of 1901, she wrote to Helene saying, ‘Milana sent us a card for the New Year. How advanced is her pregnancy? And how is it with you, my dear, in that respect: is it really nothing yet, or, with the dignity of a married woman, do you feel superior over me, poor girl…?’ Not a word about her own pregnancy. Instead, she seems to be trying to give, deliberately, the impression she, ‘poor girl’, was still waiting to get pregnant. This contrasts extraordinarily with Mileva’s openness about the birth of her first boy, Hans Albert (‘Adu’), only 3 years later, in the summer of 1904. In a letter to Helene she stresses how healthy he is – and how much she wants to show him to her old college friend: ‘Hop over to Bern so I can see you again and show you my dear little sweetheart, who is also named Albert. I cannot tell you how much joy he gives me when he laughs so cheerfully on waking up or when he kicks his legs while taking a bath… His father is very proud of him and is already accustomed to behaving with fatherly dignity’. The earlier obfuscation surrounding Lieserl’s existence – in the known letters at least – may have lasted throughout the long Mileva/Helene friendship. In one later letter, posted in Zurich, Mileva writes, ‘Dearest Helene! My hearty greetings to your two children! … I have such a pleasant memory of this bunch of girls that I would be extremely happy if I could get to know one of them better…You know about my unfulfilled desire for a daughter, etc. I would like such a one.’ The rest of the letter, after that sentence, has disappeared. When would you suppose this letter was written – before Lieserl’s birth in 1902? No. Mileva wrote it more than 20 years later, in 1924. Within days, perhaps hours, of Lieserl’s birth, the cover up seems to have gone into high gear. A plausible explanation for the sheer intensity of the cover-up may lie in rumours of a tragic discovery when the midwife delivered the baby. In the 1990s Michele Zackheim spent five years researching material for her book ‘Einstein’s Daughter’. She concludes from many conversations on the spot in Serbia that Lieserl was born severely mentally-handicapped. Lieserl’s life and death are the black hole at the centre of a story as intriguing as Einstein’s description of the workings of the Universe. It is a story of a hard-up young man’s desperate search for work after leaving the Zurich Polytechnic. The diploma in his pocket was suitable only for teaching at secondary school level. The ‘wife-in-waiting’ was despised by Einstein’s mother as ‘deformed’ and ‘unhealthy’ because of a hip problem, possibly brought on by childhood tuberculosis, perhaps by heredity. She wore an orthopaedic shoe on one foot all her life. In 1903, at such a precarious stage, Einstein must have felt the prospects of a career in Physics let alone the chance to become a great professor were threatened beyond measure by the very existence of this daughter, not only illegitimate but possibly seriously brain-damaged. An insight into the young (and Earthlier) Einstein’s situation can be found in ‘The Young Einstein: the advent of relativity’ by Dr Lewis Pyenson, former research professor and historian at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and later dean of the Western Michigan University Graduate College. Dr Pyenson writes: ‘He failed to complete the Gymnasium in Munich; he failed in his first attempt to enter the Zurich Polytechnic and he failed to land an assistantship upon finally graduating from the school; at least once he failed to obtain a doctorate from the University of Zurich. He could not manage to find a regular teaching post in the Swiss schools.’ I began to wonder exactly what happened to Albert Einstein’s daughter when in 2008 I started sketching out a film script about her mother, Mileva Marić. Mileva inherited the same high intelligence as her brother Miloš who became a professor of histology in the Russian cities of Saratov and Dnepropetrovsk. Fellow academics and students admired his exceptional erudition and powers of memory, and an outstanding ability to explain complex matters clearly. Even now, more than a Century later, the world of Physics is acrimoniously divided over the role Mileva played in Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity published in 1905, two years after their marriage, when Albert was a Clerk at the Swiss Patents Office in Bern. My search for detail on this Serbian woman scientist and the role she played in the history of Physics soon turned into an even deeper search into unexplained facts surrounding the child known as ‘Lieserl’. So what definitely do we know about the players in this Marlowe-esque drama? We know Lieserl’s mother was born Mileva Marić in Titel, a village then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Albert Einstein was born in the ancient German city of Ulm, on the Danube, into a ‘Meadow’ (as against ‘Shtetl’) Jewish family. Within a year Albert Einstein’s family moved 150 kilometres to Munich. Though predominantly covering the gripping story of Einstein’s progress as a Physicist, one of the best evocations of Central European Jewry at the interface of tradition and innovation as the 19th Century progressed can be found in Lewis Pyenson’s ‘The Young Einstein’. All through his life Einstein spoke German with a soft Swabian accent. Described as melodic, flowing slowly like a rippling, murmuring brook, Swabian speech makes great use of diminutives, usually by adding ‘le’ to nouns. Even as an adult he was always ‘der Albertle’ to his family. He and Mileva met physically and culturally almost midway, at the Polytechnic in Zurich, because both wanted to become famous scientists and the Polytechnic had gained Europe-wide fame for Physics and Mathematics – and permitted women to get degrees. The two students began to fall desperately, and fatally, in love. Albert Einstein has been called a Jewish saint, with sarcasm by the Nazis, with reverence by many others. He deserves the appellation for his stance against militarism, his fight for Peace, his hatred of racism and oppression, for his praiseworthy modesty in the face of a world determined to dub him the greatest scientist who ever lived, endlessly referred to by an adulatory Press and public as the new Kepler, the new Newton. But was there a dark side lurking behind the smiling iconic face of the famous scientist, the ‘poster-boy’ whose photo for 50 years was so prevalent on T-shirts and covers of Time Magazine – a side as cold and dark as the planets of outer space? Surely not! Not the impish scientist who stuck his tongue out at photographers! The man who in 1931 was given a peace pipe at the Hopi Indian Reservation near the Grand Canyon and, with an unconscious pun (we assume), called by them ‘Great Relative’? Who at the age of 70, famous beyond measure, happily accepted honorary membership in the Chicago Plumbers And Sanitary Engineers Union? I am certain there was. After months of research I conclude Albert Einstein, less than two years after Lieserl’s birth, consented to, even instigated her murder. Such a killing, however merciful in intent, would be utterly against the tenets of the Jewish religion. However, Albert Einstein, though culturally a Jew, was not religious in the Orthodox meaning of the word. He did not believe in traditional notions of a personal God. When a New York Rabbi sent him a telegram in 1929 asking him ‘Do you believe in God? Stop. Answer paid. 50 words’, Einstein’s reply took nowhere near the 50 words: ‘I believe in Spinoza’s God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind’. It was a view generally in accord with America’s Founders, especially Franklin and Jefferson. As a young boy Einstein planned to become a ‘bar mitzvah’ on the Sabbath following his 13th birthday. When the moment approached he himself decided against it but a boy becomes Bar Mitzvah, i.e. obliged to keep the mitzvot, automatically at the age of 13 so not marking this event would not have affected his Jewish status in any way. In Berlin, under Nazi oppression, and increasingly at the international level, he willingly took on responsibilities as the most famous Jew in the world. To return to Lieserl. The years passed. One by one the principal players died. Her mother Mileva Marić died in 1948. In 1955 her father Albert Einstein died. As though covered by a mantle of driven snow, the human landscape surrounding Lieserl’s life became more and more indistinct. Eventually nothing of her would have remained to history if it had not been for a dutiful act carried out by the Einsteins’ daughter-in-law Frieda, first wife of their eldest son Hans Albert. On Mileva Marić’s death, Frieda went to Zurich to clear out the apartment, accompanied by Heinrich Meili representing Zurich City. She returned to the marital home in California taking with her a large pile of papers and documents. Among them was a treasure trove, a small bundle of letters exchanged between the young Einstein and Marić between 1897 when they were students at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic and 1903, the year they married, the year Lieserl disappears. In California, two years after his father’s death, Hans Albert looked through the pile and found a number of these yellowed, wrinkled letters. Reading his parents’ long-lost words, he was astounded to come across guarded references to an unknown sister. Lieserl had been rediscovered. Immediately Hans Albert wrote to a Serbian cousin Sofija Galić Golubović. ‘We have recently read some old letters of my parents and found there to our astonishment that my mother had a daughter before me and that this girl was in Novi Sad or somewhere nearby. Do you know who that is and if she still lives?’ Brusquely and mendaciously, the female cousin replied. ‘In regard to the sister that you mentioned, take that completely out of your mind because you never had one. You have been misinformed.’ The denial was a complete lie, proffered to hide the family shame. The letters remained with the other papers in Hans Albert’s house in Berkeley until after his death. All the papers were then moved to a Bank of America safe deposit. No attempt was made to archive the material. Among the documents lay a grey shoebox tied with a faded ribbon containing the 54 previously unknown love letters. Two decades went by. In 1986, Hans Albert’s and Frieda’s adopted daughter Evelyn Einstein found photocopies of the letters ‘folded and scrunched-up’ in a file belonging to Frieda. John Stachel, a researcher at the Einstein Papers Project, took a good look. It was from that moment the mystery of Lieserl began to grip the world’s imagination. The letters were published for the first time the following year in ‘The Collected Papers Of Albert Einstein’. Only 11 of the letters were from Mileva, the rest from Albert. Although by the end of the 1890s he was writing more and more in Latin script, some letters were written in his small tight handwriting in Gothic script known as ‘deutsche Schrift’ (a possible good reason why no-one in California except Hans Albert had looked at them). In one letter the ambitious Einstein is promising to ‘get ahead’ so they ‘don’t have to starve’. Among the bundle were the two or three letters containing a few jolting references to a previously unknown child, their pre-marital daughter Lieserl. The world only knows about their daughter’s existence through these long-lost letters. From the moment of her birth to the day she died, Lieserl seems to have stayed in Serbia. We know from letters exchanged between Albert and Mileva quite late in 1903 Lieserl contracted Scarlet Fever during an epidemic which swept through Vojvodina Province where Novi Sad is situated. In those days Scarlet Fever returned regularly to the region and was life-threatening. Records indicate more than 400 of the 1000 or so young children in and around Novi Sad died in the 1903 epidemic. When the illness struck, Mileva was living far away, in Bern, with Albert, by now her husband. We know she returned to Serbia: at the train stop in Salzburg she purchased a postcard of Schloss Leopoldskron and posted it to Albert when the train reached Budapest. Her stay in Serbia meant a return to correspondence. One letter from Einstein written in late September asks about ‘registering’ Lieserl which appears to show Lieserl survived the Scarlet Fever. So what do we know about Lieserl? Mainly rumours. There’s a saying ‘Even paranoids have real enemies’. In human discourse rumours cannot be dismissed out of hand. The persistent rumour reported by Michele Zackheim following her many conversations with surviving Marić family members and former friends in Serbia holds that Lieserl was born mentally-retarded. Could the anguish this would have struck in Mileva’s heart be the reason no photos were taken right from the start? Was this why, except for the few references in three contemporary letters, neither parent ever mentioned her name again? Maintaining silence over the arrival of an illegitimate child would be expected but the silence was maintained over decades, long after the infant disappears from the record, a silence which reached out and covered more and more ground, like ripples spreading across a pond. Was there a consequent event everyone wanted to hide, something that arose as a result of the mental retardation? Not to do with the fact of her birth but with the manner of her death? What of the theory she died from the attack of Scarlet Fever? If Lieserl died in an epidemic, why would this have been so utterly shameful it could never be revealed? One thing is definite: at about the age of 21 months, Lieserl disappears from history. Imaginatively, author Michele Zackheim even suggests a date for her death, September 15 1903, when, ominous to the superstitious, Vojvodina Province where Novi Sad is situated was darkened by a solar eclipse. Despite Einstein’s cautionary ‘We must take great care’ to have the daughter registered, no records referring to Lieserl have ever been discovered. If any details ever were registered, someone quite soon went about cleansing all references from officialdom’s files. Who had the necessary authority or influence to do that? Why, for the rest of the Einsteins’ lives, did none of their friends, even the very closest ones, know a daughter had existed? Why, over the following hundred years has prolonged effort at finding further clues about her short life failed? In ‘Einstein, His Life And Universe’, published in 2007, author Walter Isaacson writes ‘All evidence about Einstein’s daughter was carefully erased. Almost every one of the letters between Einstein and Marić in the summer and fall of 1902, many of which presumably dealt with Lieserl, were destroyed. Those between Marić and her friend Helene Savić during that period were intentionally burned by Savić’s family. For the rest of their lives, even after they divorced, Einstein and his wife did all they could, with surprising success, to cover up not only the fate of their first child but her very existence.’ Although Helene was born in Vienna, her husband’s family were Serbs. Serbia was extremely proud of the fact its daughter Mileva had married the most famous man in the world. Nothing would be permitted to sully her reputation, certainly not a revelation about an illegitimate daughter. Once the Savić family burnt intimate letters between Mileva and Helene, the conspiracy of silence was complete, the Pandora’s jar sealed. The jar would not be unsealed for another 83 years, long after all the players in the piece were themselves dead. Throughout his life Einstein proved how capable he and his more perfervid friends were of weaving a very tangled web of deceit and obfuscation. This was shown in 1912 when he started on a bigamous journey with his cousin Elsa, an affair which would lead to their marriage seven years later. In ‘The Private Lives Of Albert Einstein’ the authors write, ‘The secrecy that has surrounded Einstein’s liaison with his cousin is a tribute both to his skill at covering his tracks and to the devotion he inspired in the people around him. Those who knew the truth ensured that it stayed hidden for decades.’ Why has no birth-certificate for Lieserl ever been found? How can the lack of a death-certificate be explained? Especially, why are there no authenticated photos? When the couple’s son Hans Albert was born in May 1904, less than a year after Lieserl’s disappearance from the record, the customary studio photos of him being dandled on Mileva’s lap with the proud father at their side soon followed. Photos on a park bench or in a perambulator materialised within weeks. In a letter Mileva wrote in March 1903 to congratulate Helene Savić on the birth of a daughter, she asked, ‘Have you taken a photograph with her? I would very much like to see you as a mother, even in a photograph only’. In this letter Mileva enclosed a photo of herself and Albert taken a few days before their wedding in January 1903. But of Lieserl, photos or sketches recording her at birth or at any time in her known 21 months of life? None, even though Einstein’s first reaction in early February 1902 was to write from Switzerland begging for a photo of her (‘Könnt man es denn nicht photografieren…?’) or at the very least, knowing Mileva’s considerable artistic talent, ‘When you feel a little better, you must make a drawing of her’. Was there something about the tiny infant’s appearance – a very serious physical handicap perhaps, or outward sign of some chromosomal defect which alarmed Mileva and her family and blocked the father’s request? The next letter from Einstein came about 4 days later, probably after receipt of a second letter from the Marić family. This time, by contrast with his excited letter a few days before where right from the start he solicits information about his daughter, Einstein does not ask after her at all, or at least not in the first paragraphs which still exist. Nor does he ask about her in the first paragraphs of a following letter posted from Bern about 9 days later. Only these first paragraphs of each of these letters still exist. In both cases the last page with Einstein’s customary cheerful salutation such as ‘Tender kisses from your Johonzel’ has disappeared. It is anyone’s guess why. A complete letter does exist from 4 months later. He looks forward with anticipation to seeing Mileva in Switzerland in a week or so. She is not to stay with him in his flat but somewhere nearby because he writes ‘Farewell my little sweetheart; we’ll meet Monday at 6:00 at the little tower’. There is no mention at all of Lieserl. What caused Albert Einstein to shy away from going to Novi Sad to see his daughter during her known life-time? He was far from famous at this period, indeed he seemed to be heading in the fast lane to professional failure. No-one would have noted it if he got on or off a train to visit Mileva and the child in Serbia. His refusal to visit Mileva and Lieserl in Novi Sad contrasts vividly with the almost triumphal tour with their next child Albert and Mileva took less than two years after Lieserl’s disappearance. In the late Summer of 1905, Einstein submitted a thesis for his Doctorate. He and Mileva then set off for Belgrade and Novi Sad taking Hans Albert, now around 15 months of age, to introduce him to his maternal grandparents. Clearly the cost of getting to Novi Sad from Bern was not insuperable though money difficulties continued to press hard on the couple. 1905 was the year which saw Einstein’s invention of the mass-energy equation in its original form L=mV² (Einstein rewrote it as E=MC² in 1907). 1905 was to become known in Physics as the Annus Mirabilis, like Isaac Newton’s Annus Mirabilis of 1666. But launching Special Relativity on a startled world did not bring the 26-year-old Einstein instant fame and certainly not wealth – almost the opposite. With two or three exceptions such as Max Planck and H.A. Lorentz the remarkable papers Einstein rolled out during the year, especially the two concerning Special Theory, roused equally remarkable and long-lived opposition, even hostility, among many of the Elders of the European scientific Establishment, not just among paid-up members of the ‘Anti-Relativity Company’ such as the German anti-Semites Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark who loathed ‘Jewish Physics’. Einstein’s Special Theory, becoming known as Special Relativity, would not be confirmed until well into the 1930s. The final known reference to Lieserl came in the letter Albert wrote to Mileva in September 1903. He uses a favourite nickname for Mileva – ‘Dollie’. After a first paragraph where he expressed his happiness Mileva is again pregnant (with first son Hans Albert) he writes, ‘I’m very sorry about what has befallen Lieserl. It is so easy to suffer lasting effects from scarlet fever.’ He added, ‘If only this will pass.’ These words seem to me premonitory – was Einstein was being crushed under the weight of his anxieties? Does Mileva show her father Milos the letters she receives from Einstein? On Einstein’s family side, it was not only his mother Pauline who had had near-insuperable reservations about Albert’s plans to marry Mileva. Pauline made sure her husband Hermann did not go for the idea of a marriage either. When she wrote a despicable letter to Mileva’s parents, Hermann was a co-signatory with her. Writing to Mileva from Melchtal in August 1900, Einstein reports, ‘Papa has now also written me a sermonizing letter for the time being, but he promised me the main thing will follow orally,’ adding wryly, ‘to which I am most dutifully looking forward to.’ In 1902 Albert received the disturbing news from his parents’ home in Milan that Hermann was dying from a heart condition probably brought on by decades of financial stress (when he died he still owed his chief creditor, his cousin Rudolf Einstein – dubbed by Albert ‘Rudolf The Rich’ – the considerable sum of 12,000 Italian Lire). Einstein rushed to Milan to get to his father’s side, begging his consent to a marriage to Mileva. It would be the very first time anyone in the Einstein family had married outside the Jewish faith. Terminally ill, under such heavy-handed pressure, Hermann Einstein gave way. A few days later, on October 10, aged only 55, he died. His widow Pauline was 44. Three months after Hermann Einstein’s death, Mileva and Albert were married in a Swiss Registry Office. No-one from either the Einstein or Marić families came to the wedding. The newly-weds moved into a small attic apartment on Tillierstrasse in Bern with a wonderful view of the Bernese Alps. They registered at their new home as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Albert Einstein, no children’. Lieserl, by now about a year old, was left in Serbia. It has been suggested keeping their daughter well away from Bern could simply have been playing it safe – Albert was only provisionally ‘elected’ at the Patents Office. In 1962 Peter Michelmore published ‘Einstein: Profile of the Man’, a book partly based on conversations he held with the Einsteins’ first son Hans Albert in California. In ‘Profile’ he reported the substance of Hans Albert’s musings over his parents’ relationship. Indirectly Michelmore provides evidence for the Fourth Theory, that Einstein sanctioned the killing of his daughter. Referring to 1903, the year Mileva and Albert married – the year Lieserl disappears in the September – Michelmore reports from his conversations with Hans Albert that ‘Something had happened between the two, but Mileva would say only that it was ‘intensely personal’. Whatever it was, she brooded about it, and Albert seemed to be in some way responsible. Friends encouraged Mileva to talk about her problem and get it out in the open. (Because) she insisted it was too personal and kept it a secret all her life.’ Peter Michelmore calls it ‘a vital detail in the story of Albert Einstein (which) has been shrouded in mystery’. Other biographers are intrigued and baffled in equal quantities. In ‘Albert Einstein, A Biography’, authors Alice Calaprice and Trevor Lipscombe write, ‘One thing is certain: Einstein, at least at first, had wanted and intended to keep Lieserl with them… Later, however, it seems he made no effort to convince Mileva to bring the child home to them…In any case, around this time, according to her friends, Mileva became visibly distraught and moody, and they sensed something of major consequence must have taken place between her and Albert’. In similar cogitation, in their biography ‘The Private Lives Of Albert Einstein’, Roger Highfield and Paul Carter speculate, ‘The implication seems to be that Mileva had opposed the decision to give away their daughter, and blamed Einstein for pushing her to acquiesce in it. Another possibility is that she agreed to the decision more readily, but then was overwhelmed by feelings of guilt.’ Or Hans Albert’s recollections could indicate Einstein had given a go-ahead to someone in Serbia to put Lieserl to death without getting Mileva’s consent and she quickly fingered her husband as the prime mover, holding it against him and possibly, in some convoluted way, herself for the rest of her life. A remarkable find by Michele Zackheim could indicate Mileva herself consented to the infanticide, or at least later justified it to herself. On one of Zackheim’s several visits to Serbia in the 1990s, a Mrs Mira Gajin handed her a book once owned by Mileva titled ‘The Sexual Question’. It was first published in 1906 by August Forel, Director of the Insane Asylum in Zurich. Earlier Mileva dismissed Forel as a quack when in a letter to her from Einstein he mentioned ‘interesting cases of pathological swindlers in Forel’. She wrote back saying Forel fooled the ‘stupid herd’ but he didn’t fool her. Despite this, around 1909 Mileva purchased ‘The Sexual Question’ while still in Bern. She took it with her to Serbia on a visit in 1913 and it remained there. ‘The Sexual Question’ was published in German. The copy was extensively underlined and annotated by Mileva in her own language, Serbo-Croat, for example Forel’s admission that ‘in an asylum which I superintend, I have castrated a veritable monster afflicted with constitutional mental disorders…. with the chief object of preventing the production of unfortunate children tainted with his hereditary complaint.’ In a chapter titled ‘The Right to Live of Monsters, Idiots, or the Deformed’, Forel wrote, ‘Large asylums are built for idiots…’, followed by two sentences which Mileva also underlined: ‘Honestly spoken, the self-sacrificing caretakers and teachers of these idiots would do better by letting them die. They would do more good for themselves by giving birth to their own healthy and capable children’. Stuck in the pages of Forel’s heavyweight tome Zackheim found a pamphlet on alcoholism. Mileva had heavily underlined a sentence twice, in black ink: ‘It will not take very much education until people will understand that giving birth to a sick and handicapped child will be the worst crime that human beings are capable of doing’. Could Mileva’s underlining mean she was trying to justify a fait accompli by the two most important men in her world, her husband Albert and her father Miloš, the two men who 6 years earlier may well have arranged the infanticide of her daughter? It is certain Lieserl was born somewhere in Serbia but there is no record in any of Serbia’s Municipal Family Registers. Given the Marić family’s close association with the Serbian Orthodox Church, why is there no record of a baptism? Was she baptised in Kać whose church records were later stolen by the Nazis, or in Novi Sad? If no baptism took place, it is curious because some years later, on a brief visit to Novi Sad with Albert, Mileva made sure their surviving children, Hans Albert and Eduard, were taken to the baroque Nikolajevska Church and baptised (Albert seems to have wandered off for a walk or for a coffee at a favourite spot in Novi Sad, the Queen Elizabeth café). The patriarch was Father Teodor Milić, political radical, singer, and a great friend of Mileva’s father Miloš. Strands of the boys’ hair were placed in a ball of wax and given to Mileva’s parents. On September 22, 1913, an announcement was placed in the Novi Sad newspaper Zastava: ‘Yesterday in the local Serbian Orthodox Church were baptized two little Swiss, sons of Albert Einstein, grandsons of our esteemed friend and fellow citizen, Miloš Marić’. One Marić family member told Michele Zackheim that Lieserl had been christened in the 18th Century Kovilj Monastery between Novi Sad and Titel. Despite spending hours with a monk at the Monastery searching through every record in the archives, she found nothing. But quite apart from a christening, why the lack of a birth certificate? Lieserl’s mother was a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the most bureaucratic empires in history. Given Mileva’s deformed hip and the danger it imposed in childbirth it is certain a midwife would have been present. Every midwife had the legal obligation to report all births to the record office. What were Lieserl’s other given names? After all, no-one in either family had just the one given name. Was Lieserl’s birth and even more mysteriously her death deliberately concealed from local administrators’ eyes, including the family priest and the town hall? Or subsequently comprehensively destroyed? If so, by whom – her grandfather Miloš Marić? It is particularly perplexing there is no record of a burial. Or the fact, amazing for a child of a Serbian Orthodox mother, no grave-site has ever been found. In his biography ‘Einstein, His Life And Universe’, Walter Isaacson writes, ‘Various researchers, Serbian and American, including Robert Schulmann of the Einstein Papers Project and Michele Zackheim, who wrote a book about searching for Lieserl, have fruitlessly scoured Serbian churches, registries, synagogues, and cemeteries’. One or two puzzled researchers propose the theory an adoption must have been arranged after Mileva left Lieserl behind in Serbia to return to Einstein’s side in Bern. Even very early on it’s quite possible this may have been in both parents’ thoughts. In November 1901 when she would have been nearly seven months pregnant, Mileva wrote to Einstein from her hiding place at Stein Am Rhein and referred to their friend, the former fellow Zurich Polytechnic student Helene Kaufler, now married with the surname Savić and living in Belgrade. She wrote, ‘I don’t think we should say anything about Lieserl yet; but you too should write her a few words now and then, we must now treat her very nicely, she’ll have to help us in something important, after all…’. What Mileva meant by ‘something important’ is not easy to interpret but it certainly could mean they intended to ask Helene Savić to take on responsibility for Lieserl. Helene herself gave birth to a daughter of her own just before this letter, in late October 1901. However, there are no records relating to an adoption, nor any record of financial transfers to a third party to take on the young child. Not even the slightest coded reference in any correspondence between Mileva and Helene for the remainder of their lives. To the contrary, there is insider evidence no adoption by the Savić family ever took place. It came in a work published in 2003 titled ‘In Albert’s Shadow: The Life and Letters of Mileva Marić, Einstein’s First Wife’ by Helene Savić’s grandson, Professor Milan Popović. Professor Popović rejected outright the possibility Lieserl was adopted and raised in his family by his grandmother. He favoured the theory Lieserl died in Novi Sad around September 1903. Ironically, there was a point in 1909 when Helene, troubled by an ectopic pregnancy, asked Mileva to take on her own two girls if she should die. Mileva said it would give her the greatest pleasure. ‘In Albert’s Shadow’ has a quiet, even gentle tone when the author – a Serbian psychoanalyst – discusses the letters exchanged between his grandmother and Mileva Marić. His tone changes abruptly when he writes about Albert Einstein’s attitude towards Mileva in the period leading up to and beyond the divorce. Popović is volcanic over a letter Einstein wrote to Helene Savić from Berlin in September 1916. Einstein expressed his view of Mileva, ‘…she is and will remain always for me a severed limb… I shall finish my days far away from her…’ Popović points out, gulping at the narcissism, that Einstein seems to expect Helene’s sympathy because further down Einstein continued, ‘Do not feel sorry for me… I resemble a farsighted man who is charmed by the vast horizon and whom the foreground bothers only when an opaque object prevents him from seeing’. The woman he now intends to abandon with growing acrimony and open contempt, the mother of his two sons and a daughter, has become an annoying ‘opaque object’ obscuring his vision. With British-style understatement, Popović writes, ‘The letter’s revelations about Einstein’s attitudes towards his wife and children and about his sense of himself will be troubling for those who see Einstein only as a saint.’ Biographers Highfield and Carter also express serious reservations about Einstein’s character. In ‘The Private Lives’ they write ‘the father that Hans Albert knew…was a man whose combination of intellectual vision and emotional myopia left behind him a series of damaged lives… The private Einstein was a man of fierce passions, whose efforts to deny them never succeeded.’ But whatever happened to Lieserl, one thing is certain. By the end of 1903 anything to do with her brief life was deliberately – systematically – buried. I am as certain as I can be Lieserl was ‘put out of her misery’ – probably suffocated – by someone in Novi Sad in late 1903, and her small body laid surreptitiously to rest somewhere in Serbia, perhaps by the Danube, or possibly near the old Marić home in Kać, 15 kilometres from Novi Sad. I believe Albert Einstein instigated the moves which led to Lieserl’s killing, invoking her mental-retardation as the justification. And I think I know who carried out this act. That person was a retired Serbian military officer and civil servant with close relations to both Town Hall and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Down the line he would have the knowledge and authority to interfere with – or destroy – any baptismal records and archives linked directly to Lieserl. And he would have had a very personal reason for agreeing to the killing. For the prevailing context it is useful to examine the grip Eugenics had on Europe as the 19th turned into the 20th Century. Discussion was widespread and largely reputable on mercy-killing the mentally-retarded, especially in Germany. In many countries of Central and South-East Europe the murder of a baby or small child with a congenital or chromosomal defect would often lead to nothing more than a suspended sentence. In 1903, if this young child was killed deliberately, Einstein would have seen it as mercy-killing, a practice he was to get very close to advocating thirty years later in advice he gave to his great friend Paul Ehrenfest (recounted below). From early on, the bookish Einstein was well-acquainted with the writings of the principal philosophers – when at the age of 15 he was pressed by his money-troubled father to name a career for himself, to his father’s anguish he said he might become a philosopher. Very early the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer became a favourite and stayed so to the very end of Einstein’s life. Although biographer Philipp Frank said Einstein liked to read Schopenhauer ‘without in any way taking his views seriously’, during Einstein’s last years at Princeton a picture of the philosopher hung in one of his rooms. As early as 1901, in a letter to a friend, Marcel Grossman, Einstein refers to ‘Parerga & Paralipomena’. Later the same year, when writing to Mileva, he extols solitude ‘ganz im Sinne Schopenhauers’. So it is certain Einstein would have known about Schopenhauer’s attitude to ‘improving’ the human race by ‘generation’. Schopenhauer wrote ‘With our knowledge of the complete unalterability both of character and of mental faculties, we are led to the view that a real and thorough improvement of the human race might be reached not so much from outside as from within, not so much by theory and instruction as rather by the path of generation,’ adding, ‘Plato had something of the kind in mind when, in the fifth book of his Republic, he explained his plan for increasing and improving his warrior caste. If we could castrate all scoundrels and stick all stupid geese in a convent, and give men of noble character a whole harem, and procure men, and indeed thorough men, for all girls of intellect and understanding, then a generation would soon arise which would produce a better age than that of Pericles.’ Eugenics – a pseudo-scientific branch of genetics – has now largely been discredited, particularly with memories of the Nazis who used the term ‘racial hygiene’ to murder millions of Jews, Slavs, Roma, homosexuals and the mentally and physically handicapped. This was not so when Albert Einstein grew up. Even twenty years after Lieserl’s death, the German legal expert Karl Binding and the psychiatrist Alfred Hoche published a tract titled ‘The Permission to Destroy Life that is Not Worth Living’. Their stated motive was to rid society of the ‘human ballast and enormous economic burden’ of care for the mentally ill, the handicapped, the incurably ill – specifically referring to retarded and deformed children. To the 21st Century eye the reason the two authors invoke to justify the killing of human beings who fell into these categories is chilling. They stated the lives of such human beings were ‘not worth living’. They were ‘devoid of value’. That phrase ‘devoid of value’ abruptly caught my eye in Albert Einstein’s context, for reasons I shall soon explain. Euthanasia is a word denoting ‘the action of inducing gentle and easy death’ first used by the British moral historian W.E.H. Lecky in 1869. Euthanasia was not some philosophy advocated solely by eugenicists in Britain or Central Europe. In the United States, while euthanasia never became official medical policy, it was openly advocated and practiced. Martin Pernick’s book ‘The Black Stork’ describes the Baby Bollinger case of 1915 and subsequently the making of a feature film of the same name, released in the United States in 1917. In the movie a young man and woman are considering marriage. They are warned against it by Eugenicist Harry J Haiselden. He tells them they are ill-matched and will produce defective offspring. He is proved right; the baby is born defective, dies quickly and floats up to heaven. Advocates of euthanasia in the United States were not members of some lunatic fringe movement. Euthanasia as mercy-killing was well-publicized in newspapers and media, and strongly promoted by medical professionals. The eugenics movement also attracted many prominent non-scientists on both sides of the Atlantic. Steve Jones’ book, ‘The language of the Genes’, first published by Harper Collins in 1991, quotes Winston Churchill, then Britain’s Home Secretary. This was in 1910 when the Mental Deficiency Act became Law. Churchill said, “The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the feebleminded classes, coupled with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks constitutes a race danger. I feel that the source from which the stream of madness is fed should be cut off and sealed up before another year has passed.” Nevertheless it is extremely unlikely that Lieserl died at the hands of her father Albert Einstein. An intense interest in her wellbeing at the time of her birth ceased abruptly. From then on he kept himself entirely distant from her. There is no evidence he ever saw her or held her in his arms, or that his request to Mileva for a photograph or sketch of their daughter was met. To my mind the clue to which person could have performed this act can be found in a letter Einstein wrote to Mileva in December 1901. To Einstein’s great relief, his friend Marcelius had just informed him a job at the Patents Office in Bern would soon be offered to Einstein. Einstein was overjoyed. His future which seemed bleak only days before now looked more secure. His hopes of becoming a great Physicist were back on track. He wrote at once to Mileva, telling her the job was coming up and then added, ‘The only problem that would remain to be solved would be how to have our Lieserl with us; I wouldn’t like for us to have to part with her. Ask your father, he is an experienced man (‘ein erfahrener Mann’) and knows the world better than your impractical bookworm Johonzel.’ ‘Johonzel’ is one of the terms of affection for Einstein used by Mileva. I consider this letter distinctly disingenuous. I am suspicious about that sentence ‘I wouldn’t like for us to have to part with her’. Einstein may have wanted to look concerned about Lieserl but in nearly two years of her existence he never once asked Mileva to bring her up from Novi Sad to Bern, even for a short visit where Mileva could have boarded nearby anonymously. Nor, after the wedding in January 1903, was the infant united with its parents despite the fact under Swiss Law, a premarital child, perhaps a
    • suvilampila says:

      A very interesting fourth theory. Tim, could you post the rest of the article as a comment?

      • Tim Symonds says:

        In his later years Albert Einstein came to be considered a secular saint. His younger years were different.

        Three years ago I published a research paper on the real-life mystery of Einstein’s illegitimate daughter titled ‘A Vital Detail In The Story of Albert Einstein’ (http://alberteinsteinmystery.wordpress.com/). Now my ‘Fourth Theory’ on her fate forms the basis of the new Sherlock Holmes novel –

        Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter

        In late 1903 Albert Einstein’s illegitimate daughter ‘Lieserl’ disappears without trace in Serbia aged around 21 months. As Holmes exclaims in ‘the Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter’, ‘the most ruthless effort has been made by public officials, priests, monks, friends, relatives and relatives by marriage to seek out and destroy every document with Lieserl’s name on it. The question is – why?’

        ‘Lieserl’s fate shadows the Einstein legend like some unsolved equation’ Frederic Golden Time Magazine

        Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter is available at http://www.mxpublishing.co.uk/engine/shop/product/9781780925721 (re. review copies contact Steve Emecz at mxpublishing@btinternet.com) or http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sherlock-Holmes-Mystery-Einsteins-Daughter/dp/1780925727

        Tim Symonds was born in London. He grew up in Somerset, Dorset and Guernsey. After several years working in the Kenya Highlands and along the Zambezi River he emigrated to the United States. He studied in Germany at Göttingen and at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in Political Science. Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery Of Einstein’s Daughter was written in a converted oast house near Rudyard Kipling’s old home Bateman’s in Sussex and in the forests and hidden valleys of the Sussex High Weald.
        The author’s other detective novels include Sherlock Holmes and The Dead Boer at Scotney Castle and Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Bulgarian Codex.
        He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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