Erasing National Boundaries
Einstein's passionate commitment to the cause of global peace led him to support the creation of a single, unified world government. Einstein thought that patriotic zeal often became an excuse for violence: "As a citizen of Germany," he wrote in 1947, "I saw how excessive nationalism can spread like a disease, bringing tragedy to millions." To combat this "disease," Einstein wanted to eliminate nationalistic sentiments--first by erasing the political borders between countries and then by instituting an international government with sovereignty over individual states. During World War I, Einstein supported the formation of the "United States of Europe." He later endorsed the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations. But Einstein worried that the United Nations did not have enough authority to ensure world peace.
Einstein himself seemed to have little regard for national boundaries. His true allegiance was simply to the human race: "I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever."
Einstein considered himself a citizen of the world. He lived in several European countries before moving to the United States, and he also traveled extensively, visiting countries including Palestine, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. In 1922, Einstein and his wife Elsa boarded the S.S. Kitano Maru bound for Japan. The trip also took them to other ports including Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Einstein moved to the United States in 1933, after fleeing Nazi Germany. At the time he commented, "As long as I have any choice in the matter, I will live only in a country where civil liberty, tolerance and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule." He became an American citizen seven years later.
Einstein, his step-daughter Margot (right) and his secretary Helen Dukas (left) were sworn in as American citizens on October 1, 1940, in Trenton, New Jersey.
The devastating world wars of the 20th century prompted leaders of many Western countries to agree to increased international cooperation as a way to prevent future hostilities. In 1919, right after World War I, the organization known as the League of Nations, was established. Throughout the 1920s, the League succeeded in settling minor disputes, but by the 1930s, it had lost much of its authority and it eventually dissolved.
The United Nations emerged in 1945 as a successor to the League of Nations. Today, the United Nations continues to promote international cooperation on such issues as global security, disarmament, human rights and environmental protection.
Einstein saw world government as the only way to ensure lasting world peace. But he was skeptical that an organization like the United Nations--which answered to the national governments of its member states--could prevent future wars. In Einstein's view, world peace would be guaranteed only when the leaders of individual nations answered to a single, supranational government.