Make Italy Yours

A blog of Italian Culture and Nature

Robert Einstein: the engineer cousin of Albert Einstein in Italy (Part 6-End)

The tragic death of Robert Einstein and the end of the war

 

Major U.S. Milton Wexler came shortly after the massacre and although he was able to inform Albert Einstein about safety of his cousin Robert, he was also forced to tell him about the massacre of the Einstein-Mazzetti family, in a letter dated 17th September 1944.

wexler-to-albert-einstein

Milton Wexler letter to Albert Einstein

 

Albert Einstein was pained by this tragedy. Later he also received a letter from a desperate Robert who was trying to discover the guilty Germans who had killed his whole family.

On 27th November 1944, the same Robert wrote a letter to his cousin informing him that the American Commission for war crimes had already started the investigation and asked for help to him to get the identification and condemnation of the killers.

 

roberts-letter-to-albert-einstein

Robert Einstein letter to Albert Einstein

 

Robert Einstein never could repair his pain and one year after the massacre, on his wedding anniversary, 13th July 1945, committed suicide. He writes to his farmer:

I regret that with my death I have to bring to you not just pain, but also so much trouble. But I also prefer to die at the Focardo, where they suffered the torture and I wish to be buried as close as is possible to them.

robert-einstein-letter-to-orando

Robert Einstein letter to his farmer Orando

 

After the end of World War II, after 6 milion of Jewesh people deaths just because Jewesh in that horrible time of Nazism and Italian Fascism when Jews were not allowed to live like everyone else, after about 55-70 million deaths on total, that made one the biggest cemetery on the world in the History, the life restarted, the bridges of Florence were rebuilt, although the criminal killers of the Einstein-Mazzetti family were never found.

Today there is a street in the centre of Rignano sull’Arno named Via Famiglia Einstein dedicated to the memory of the Einstein Family. A monument is dedicated to them in the small Cemetery of the Badiuzza, where all members of this martyred family, victims of the Germans crime, finally rest together.

In the tranquil silence of that small cemetery, with the names of these four poor, innocent people, I imagine hearing an echo saying to us:

Never forget, remember forever.

 

lapide-mazzetti-einsteinlapide-robert-einstein

monumento-cimitero-badiuzza

 

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The Fallen of World War II

 

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Special Thanks: Barbara, Stacy di Anna Pollard

 

 

 

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Robert Einstein: the engineer cousin of Albert Einstein in Italy (Part 5)

The Massacre of the Einstein’s Family

 

In the opinion of some it seems that at some point there was news, or talk in the street or even just the feeling that Hitler had ordered the hunting of Einstein’s relatives in Italy. The situation was frenzied. The Germans coming from Florence raided the countryside. Some witnesses say that people there were panicked, crying, “they will kill all of us! They will kill all of us!”, running and escaping as best they could. In this absolute chaos for the local population, it seems that friends or partisans, at some point, suggested to Robert Einstein that he must leave the Villa del Focardo. At last, he decided to escape and went into hiding in the countryside, not too far away from the villa. 

Surely, Robert must have been worried for his family, but was probably convinced that nothing would happen to his daughters and wife, since they weren’t Jewish. Witnesses say that to stay at the villa was a choice by Robert’s wife, Cesarina Mazzetti, who didn’t want to run away, saying:

“What could happen to us and why? We don’t have to run away. Nothing will happen to us”.

Then, the tragedy. Nowadays sadly known as the Eccidio della Famiglia Einstein-Mazzetti: the Massacre of the Einstein’s Family.

 

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Not finding Robert Einstein inside the villa, a division of the Wehrmacht (note 2) ordered Robert’s wife and daughters Luce and Annamaria to call out “Robert, Robert” or “papà, papà”, to see if he would come out. Some reports that the three women were taken outside into a courtyard, other reports to a room in the villa, leaving all others who were there alive. And here is what happened: a shot, then a stop for a moment, a second shot, then a stop for another moment, a third shot of the machine gun, then the infinite silence. So died Cesarina Mazzetti (Nina), wife of Robert Einstein, age 56, Luce Einstein, 27, and Annamaria Einstein (Cicì), age 18.

The Germans killed the three without mercy and then set fire to the villa. Robert knew from somebody – or saw the fire at the villa – and must have realized that his life was destroyed. The day after he was a completely desperate man. We can just imagine what he felt. He probably felt guilty having run away the day before, leaving his family at home without any protection, thinking that the risk was only for him, that the Germans were hunting just him. It was impossible for me not to imagine Robert Einstein thinking hundreds, thousands of times:

“If I was there they would have killed just me and would have left my dear daughters and my wife alive”.

It seems that the Germans left their signature of death and destruction with a horrible note, discovered on the 4th of August:

We executed the components of Einstein’s family, guilty of treason and Jews. (Abbiamo giustiziato i componenti della famiglia Einstein, rei di tradimento e giudei).

 

 

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Robert Einstein: the engineer cousin of Albert Einstein in Italy (Part 4)

The tragic story of the Einstein’s Family whitin the complex situation of chaos from 8th September 1943 to August 3rd 1944

 

Returning a little back, it was by now 1933 and Albert Einstein decided to remain in the United States. After 1940 he never came back to Europe. Following the anti-semitic laws in Italy introduced by Benito Mussolini in 1938, Albert invited his sister Maja Einstein to leave Italy and emigrate to the United States in 1939. It seems that Maja’s husband Paul Winteler at that point had health trouble and did not get permission to go to the United States. Winteler remained in Switzerland, perhaps thinking they would be together again later, but it didn’t happen, and Paul and Maja never met again.

But back to who was in Italy in 1943 and 1944. Albert Einstein was constantly searching for news about his dear cousin Robert: Major U.S. Milton Wexler had the assignment to report news of Robert Einstein to Albert. Meanwhile, seniorGermans officers of the Wehrmachtseconded from Florence troops had occupied Robert Einstein’s Villa del Focardo, making it their headquarters. According to witnesses the family seemed to coexist for a time with these officers in a civilized manner without physical violence to the family members. Were these Germans not yet aware that Robert was a cousin of Albert Einstein and a jew? Or perhaps they turned a blind eye for a while, still awaiting orders?

After the Announcement on 8th September 1943 of the Armistice in Italy, the situation worsened and it became increasingly difficult by 1944 for the local population. Italy was occuped from Allies, Germans, SS (Schutzstaffelthe) and it was civil war between Italian partisans and fascists.

Bombing Florence

Bombing Florence

Allied planes, at first concerned with preserving the extraordinary heritage of Florence and thus avoiding it, now began bombing the city. And so we come to the height of summer, 3rd August 1944.

firenze-ponti-distrutti-guerraarea-del-ponte-vecchio-dopo-lesplosione-delle-mine-tedesche-agosto-1944

 

 

The Germans who wanted – unnecessarily and just to have little time more – to delay the arrival of the Allies, blew up all the bridges of Florence except the Ponte vecchio.

 

florence-1944-guerra-distruzione

 

It was another incredible shock for the population. And it was the same date of the massacre of our story.

 

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Firenze 1944

Florence American Cemetery and Memorial

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Robert Einstein: the engineer cousin of Albert Einstein in Italy (Part 3)

The Einstein’s in Tuscany and Albert Einstein in Via degli Strozzi at Sesto Fiorentino

 

It has been quite incredible to discover Robert Einstein’s story and, through this research, learn even more about Albert Einstein. I knew that he had come to Italy several times since he was teenager. Indeed I remembered, in some remote and blurred way, about a photo of Albert Einstein with his violin, in a room of a villa or perhaps a farmhouse in Tuscany (which I was sure was a house of some relatives or close friends, in my memory of many years ago), but it has been really incredible to discover more precisely that Albert Einstein came here once, and by here I mean exactly here, where I am writing this story. Indeed,

the sister of Albert […] in the early 1920s came to live near Florence, exactly in Via degli Strozzi in Sesto Fiorentino,

next to the Villa Solaria Park. So, just like his cousin Robert, Albert’s dear sister Maja also came back to Italy and lived in Tuscany, where she, her husband Paul Winteler and Robert Einstein, met with Italian and international artists and intellectuals.

Staude (standing), Maja Einstein Winteler, Georg Staude, Paul Winteler at Sesto Fiorentino

Staude (standing), Maja Einstein, Georg Staude and Paul Winteler at Sesto Fiorentino

 

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Well, what could happen to a person like me discovering this? Of course, I imagined Albert Einstein walking here, just like now.

the road where lived Maja Einstein in Tuscany

Via degli Strozzi at Sesto Fiorentino

 

I pictured him catching up with Maja Einstein in Via degli Strozzi and then again stepping on the soil of this narrow path and others nearby, as he wandered Sesto Fiorentino.

 

albert-maja-paul

Albert came to visit Maja several times, before moving permanently to the United States, knowing of the risk of the German nuclear weapon project. He also maybe sensed that before long, Hitler and the Nazis later might find his loved ones stayed in Europe, putting all their lives at risk.

 

The Einstein–Szilárd letter (1939)

The Einstein–Szilárd letter (1939) to the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

The Franklin D. Roosevelt letter to Albert Einstein

The Franklin D. Roosevelt letter to Albert Einstein

 

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There are diverse opinions about this that I’m going to telling you of Robert Einstein’s family. Many tell us there is a strong connection with an order by Hitler, because Albert Einstein was Jewish and against the Nazis. Others it seems are suggesting that we have to read Robert’s case in the complex situation of the chaos after the Italian 8th September 1943, when the Allies were close to liberating the Italian people from the Italian Fascist regime and the Germans.

Woman in Agrigento. Photo by Robert Capa

Woman in Agrigento, photo by Robert Capa

The Germans who obviously regarded the Italians as traitors, were massacring Italian civilians. Italian military personnel, now lost, abandoned to fate and suddenly without clear orders from superiors, when captured by the Germans were killed or being sent to concentration camps. The specific event, hard to reconstruct by historical data sure, it happened in this complex context that I have represented.

As a matter of fact, this is the tragic story of Robert Einstein and his family.

 

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Robert Einstein: the engineer cousin of Albert Einstein in Italy (Part 2)

Robert Einstein between Germany and Italy, then in different places of Italy and finally at Rignano sull’Arno, Tuscany

 

Unfortunatly, there are no much news on the Internet about Robert Einstein in general (note 1), and less yet in regard the time he lived in North Italy. An article tells us that while Albert Einstein couldn’t remain in Italy to study, “his cousin” was studying in Pavia.

Albert Einstein in 1893

Albert Einstein in 1893

 

Albert also came often the years his family lived in Pavia and Milan since 1894, spending about three months a year in Italy, doing his research and debating much on it with his friend Michele Besso. After Hermann’s death (1902), Pauline and Maja Einstein went to live in Switzerland, while Jacob and Robert lived in Milan and they were always in contact by letters with the other Einsteins.

After the Jacob death, it is also quite likely just to deduce that Robert Einstein some times went back to Germany for periods and came back to Italy, before finally staying in Italy. Indeed, he married a Waldesian Italian woman, Cesarina Mazzetti (Nina) in Rome in 1913, while their first daughter Luce Einstein was born in Munich, Germany, in 1917.

At about the mid of the 1920s we meet again Robert Einstein in Rome, where also his second daughter Annamaria Einstein was born, in 1926, and in the countryside of Monte Malbe, near Perugia.

Cesarina Mazzetti and Robert Einstein

Cesarina Mazzetti and Robert Einstein

 

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Robert’s wife Cesarina Mazzetti had a brother in Rome, who was married with two daughters too. After the parents died, the two girls, Paola and Lorenza, were adopted by the Einstein-Mazzettis and went to live with them.

Villa del Focardo at Troghi, Rignano sull'Arno

Villa del Focardo at Troghi, Rignano sull’Arno

At about the mid of the 1930s the family moved to Florence, at Corso dei Tintori, and also bought in the tuscan countryside the Villa del Focardo with a farm, fields and vineyards. The villa was about 20 kilometres away from Florence, in Rignano sull’Arno area, at the village of Troghi.

 

 

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Note 1: unfortunatly the sources are scarse and often not sure, for example you could find an article telling us that Robert Einstein was living in a place a year, while an other article tells us that at the same year he was living in an other place.

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Robert Einstein: the engineer cousin of Albert Einstein in Italy (Part 1)

Robert and Albert’s Fathers in Italy

 

Robert Einstein (Munich, 1884), an engineer and Albert Einstein’s cousin, as well as some other Einstein relatives, had a long connection with Italy.

Hermann Einstein, Albert’s father, a German entrepreneur and electricity industry pioneer, with Jacob Einstein, also an engineer and Robert’s father, in 1894 moved their activities to Pavia.

hermann_einstein-wikipedia

Hermann Einstein

pauline-einstein-nee-koch

Pauline Einstein

maja-and-albert-c-1893

Maria (Maja) and Albert Einstein, c. 1893

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The same year Albert’s mother and sister, Pauline Einstein and Maria (Maja) Einstein, moved to Milan with Hermann and then to Pavia, while Albert stayed in Munich to study and would join the family later for a period.

 

via-ugo-foscolo-11-pavia

Via Ugo Foscolo 11. The house of the Einstein Family lived in Pavia

 

The Einstein’s factory in Italy, the Officine Elettrotecniche Nazionali Einstein-Garrone, closed after two years.

officine-elettromeccaniche-einstein-garrone-musei-civici

The Officine Elettromeccaniche Einstein-Garrone in Pavia

 

Hermann re-started a new activity still in Italy, but then died in Milan in 1902. He was buried in the Monumental Cemetery of Milan, at The Edicola Palanti (Civico Mausoleo Palanti) dedicated to honorable citizens of Milan.

viale-partigiani-5-in-front-of-the-officine-pavia

Viale Partigiani 5, Pavia. The location of Officine Elettrotecniche Einstein-Garrone

 

Later, Jacob also died in Milan, in 1912, but he was buried in Austria.

 

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A Home for the Italian Language — Prayers and Piazzas

On the outskirts of Florence sits Villa di Castello, country home of Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574), Grand Duke of Tuscany. Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Primavera once adorned the walls of the villa, and Castello’s elaborate garden — renowned throughout Europe — influenced other famous gardens including Florence’s Boboli Gardens. Villa di Castello has seen […]

via A Home for the Italian Language — Prayers and Piazzas

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