Listen as Albert Einstein Calls for Peace and Social Justice in 1945

einstein justice

Here is a rare record­ing of Albert Ein­stein read­ing his speech on the imme­di­ate after­math of World War II, “The War is Won, But the Peace is Not”:

The speech was deliv­ered on Decem­ber 10, 1945, at the Fifth Nobel Anniver­sary Din­ner at the Hotel Astor in New York. Only four months ear­li­er, the Unit­ed States had dropped atom­ic bombs on civil­ian pop­u­la­tions in the Japan­ese cities of Hiroshi­ma and Nagasa­ki. Ein­stein did­n’t work on the atom­ic bomb, but in 1939 he had signed a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt urg­ing him to pro­cure ura­ni­um and accel­er­ate nuclear research. In his speech, Ein­stein draws a com­par­i­son between con­tem­po­rary physi­cists and the founder of the Nobel Prize, who invent­ed dyna­mite.

Physi­cists find them­selves in a posi­tion not unlike that of Alfred Nobel him­self. Alfred Nobel invent­ed the most pow­er­ful explo­sive ever known up to his time, a means of destruc­tion par excel­lence. In order to atone for this, in order to relieve his human con­science, he insti­tut­ed his awards for the pro­mo­tion of peace and for achieve­ments of peace. Today, the physi­cists who par­tic­i­pat­ed in forg­ing the most for­mi­da­ble and dan­ger­ous weapon of all times are harassed by an equal feel­ing of respon­si­bil­i­ty, not to say guilt. And we can­not desist from warn­ing, and warn­ing again, we can­not and should not slack­en in our efforts to make the nations of the world, and espe­cial­ly their gov­ern­ments, aware of the unspeak­able dis­as­ter they are cer­tain to pro­voke unless they change their atti­tude toward each oth­er and toward the task of shap­ing the future.

But Ein­stein says he is trou­bled by what he sees in the months fol­low­ing World War II.

The war is won, but the peace is not. The great pow­ers, unit­ed in fight­ing, are now divid­ed over the peace set­tle­ments. The world was promised free­dom from fear, but in fact fear has increased tremen­dous­ly since the ter­mi­na­tion of the war. The world was promised free­dom from want, but large parts of the world are faced with star­va­tion while oth­ers are liv­ing in abun­dance. The nations were promised lib­er­a­tion and jus­tice. But we have wit­nessed, and are wit­ness­ing even now, the sad spec­ta­cle of “lib­er­at­ing” armies fir­ing into pop­u­la­tions who want their inde­pen­dence and social equal­i­ty, and sup­port­ing in those coun­tries, by force of arms, such par­ties and per­son­al­i­ties as appear to be most suit­ed to serve vest­ed inter­ests. Ter­ri­to­r­i­al ques­tions and argu­ments of pow­er, obso­lete though they are, still pre­vail over the essen­tial demands of com­mon wel­fare and jus­tice.

Ein­stein then goes on to talk about a spe­cif­ic case: the plight of his own peo­ple, the Euro­pean Jews.

While in Europe ter­ri­to­ries are being dis­trib­uted with­out any qualms about the wish­es of the peo­ple con­cerned, the remain­ders of Euro­pean Jew­ry, one-fifth of its pre­war pop­u­la­tion, are again denied access to their haven in Pales­tine and left to hunger and cold and per­sist­ing hos­til­i­ty. There is no coun­try, even today, that would be will­ing or able to offer them a place where they could live in peace and secu­ri­ty. And the fact that many of them are still kept in the degrad­ing con­di­tions of con­cen­tra­tion camps by the Allies gives suf­fi­cient evi­dence of the shame­ful­ness and hope­less­ness of the sit­u­a­tion.

Ein­stein con­cludes by call­ing for “a rad­i­cal change in our whole atti­tude, in the entire polit­i­cal con­cept.” With­out doing so, he says, “human civ­i­liza­tion will be doomed.”

Note: The full text of “The War is Won, But the Peace is Not” is avail­able in the Ein­stein antholo­gies Out of My Lat­er Years and Ideas and Opin­ions.

by | Permalink | Comments (9) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (9)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Hanoch says:

    Evil exists and always has. No “rad­i­cal change” will erad­i­cate it. The best that can be hoped for is that there are enough peo­ple in each gen­er­a­tion to stand up to it.

  • Pongodhall says:

    The talk should have remained that of the atom­ic bomb and not be used as a vehi­cle for oth­er sit­u­a­tions that, still today, need sort­ing out.
    The real hor­ror of what they cre­at­ed has not been explained by any means suf­fi­cient­ly. A Nobel prize is not even a begin­ning of rec­om­pense for what they did and what we live with today as a con­stant threat from var­i­ous sources and prey to the whim of those in pow­er of some sort or oth­er.
    The world itself is at risk, the destruc­tion of this plan­et is in the bal­ance and sin­gle issues are not the top­ic but the all encom­pass­ing destruc­tive force that real­ly seems rather inevitable as the world pop­u­la­tions war amongst them­selves con­tin­u­al­ly and seem unable to live lives and pro­tect them­selves, oth­ers and this plan­et.

  • Jesse Lee McNeil says:

    Peace is for the wicked, those who rule over oth­ers with cloaks adorned. Sim­ple men who attempt to gain peace in the world we live in find them­selves tire­less­ly grind­ing the stone into a wee lit­tle peb­ble of truth to toss into the pond of heartache in the end. A sim­ple man must find clo­sure and under­stand­ing in the fact that peace is for the wicked. In times when the mind won­ders the vast expans­es of the human con­di­tion we must accept our cur­rent state, our less than equal val­ue. The sim­ple man has the pow­er to find peace with­in him­self, but peace in the world; only for the wicked.

  • zena says:

    gayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy jew­www

  • James Day says:

    “In times when the mind won­ders the vast expans­es of the human con­di­tion we must accept our cur­rent state, our less than equal val­ue. The sim­ple man has the pow­er to find peace with­in him­self, but peace in the world; only for the wicked.”

    We must accept no such thing. I and I are one. There can be noth­ing but equal­i­ty.

    “Sim­ple men who attempt to gain peace in the world we live in find them­selves…”

    Ein­stein sim­ple?

    You’re sim­ple. You’re wicked. They’re both just words but this is 2016 and YOU’RE THE ONE! #YOU’RETHEONE2016

  • Tom says:

    If I have to decide between your grim fatal­ism, and Ein­stein’s mes­sage of, how­ev­er thin, hope, I have to choose the lat­ter. It seems more and more clear that the sur­vival of the race is at stake, and, as a father, espe­cial­ly, I have to believe there is hope that it will sur­vive. There is noth­ing wicked about that.

  • Jordan says:


  • Samuel Teasdale says:

    If you read the whole speech then you will see that the rad­i­cal change he is talk­ing about is broth­er­hood among the peo­ple pow­er­ful enough to con­trol the des­tiny of mankind. Which is basi­cal­ly an encour­age­ment of the Unit­ed Nations to be good to each oth­er first and fore­most, because if things get bad between the lead­ers of nuclear coun­tries, then good and evil peo­ple might be killed togeth­er by nuclear war.

    Peo­ple can stand up to evil, but mil­i­taries are not so much about good and evil, they are (defen­sive­ly speak­ing) about pro­tect­ing their nation whether or not that nation is most­ly good or most­ly evil.

    A bomb does­n’t care if you are good or evil when it explodes.

  • s.rebh says:

    Thank you very much

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.