Make Italy Yours

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Tag: World War II italy

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.


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.



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 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.







The Fallen of World War II




Special Thanks: Barbara, Stacy di Anna Pollard




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.




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).






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.





April 25, Resistance and Bella Ciao. A Musical Journey


Australians and New Zealanders will be celebrating ANZAC Day today, a national holiday which commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in wars and conflicts, with a particular focus on the landing of the ANZACs at Gallipoli, Turkey on April 25 1915. Coincidentally, April 25 is also significant in the Italian calendar as it marks the Festa Della Liberazione (Liberation Day), also known as Anniversario della Resistenza (Anniversary of the Resistance), an Italian national holiday. Italian Liberation Day commemorates the end of the Italian Civil War, the partisans who fought in the Resistance, and the end of Nazi occupation of the country during WW2. In most Italian cities, the day will include marches and parades. Most of the Partisans and Italian veterans of WW2 are now deceased: very few Italians would have first hand memories of that era.

One of the more accessible documents from the partigiani era of the 1940s…

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