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

by Stefania Bufano

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.




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.




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



Firenze 1944

Florence American Cemetery and Memorial