Reception in Berlin


Albert Einstein engaging in animated conversation with British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, surrounded by a group of luminaries including the Nobel Prize-winner Max Planck, far right, and other German political and business leaders, smoking cigars and sipping cognac. The reception was given by Reich Chancellor Brüning in honour of the visiting British Prime Minister in August 1931. [A few days after his return from Germany, on 24 August, MacDonald resigned as the Premier over the budget cuts]. From left to right Planck, MacDonald, Einstein, Finance Minister Hermann Dietrich, Privy Counsellor Schmitz (of IG Farben) and Foreign Minister Julius Curtius.

“You have no idea with what affection I am surrounded here, they are not all out to catch the drops of oil my brain sweats out,” Einstein noted.

Photo by Erich Salomon

Albert Einstein


Dr. Einstein was not fond of photographers; he called them Lichtaffen, or light monkeys. Yet, he had a soft spot for Phillippe Halsman. Einstein had personally included the photographer on a list of German artists and scientists getting emergency U.S. visas to evade Nazi capture. 

While he was not taking the jumping pictures of the celebrities for his hobby, Halsman was making his name as a photographer who took introspective and dissecting photos. Halsman recalled that Einstein ruminated painfully in his study on the legacy of E=mc2 during their photo session and talked about an atomic war, an arms race. Einstein spoke to Halsman of his despair over how his special theory of relativity and letter to Roosevelt led to the creation of the atomic bomb. “So you don’t believe that there will ever be peace?” Halsman asked as he released the shutter. Einstein’s eyes, Halsman said, “had a look of immense sadness…a question and a reproach in them.” He answered, “No. As long as there will be man, there will be war.”

TIME magazine used the picture on the cover when they chose Einstein as ‘the Person of the Century’.