Make Italy Yours

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Tag: Paul Winteler

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.




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





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



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 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



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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