Lost and Found: Einstein's UK Immigration Papers

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It was an unlikely find at one of the world’s busiest airports: Albert Einstein’s immigration papers dated 26 May, 1933.

During a visit to London’s Heathrow Airport, representatives of the Merseyside Maritime Museum‘s Border and Customs gallery were collecting any documents relating to immigration to be used in their collection. But they were in for a surprise.

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Assistant curator Lucy Gardner told the BBC they “were stunned to find paperwork relating to such a prominent historical figure as Albert Einstein.”

The chance discovery has surely made this particular memento of UK immigration history the centerpiece of an exhibition at Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool. The exhibition began on Tuesday.

Apart from being a wonderful snippet of physics history, having been handled by the legendary physicist who transformed the way in which we view the Universe with his general and special theories of relativity, the landing card is a stark reminder about the harrowing pre-war history of Nazi Germany.

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Having traveled from Ostende, Belgium, Einstein landed in Dover, UK (where the landing card was stamped). Written on the back of the card, the Nobel laureate indicated that he was traveling onward to Oxford — where he would give a short series of lectures on physics and publicly criticize Adolf Hitler’s oppressive regime.

Interestingly, Einstein’s landing card has his signature, his profession as “professor” and lists his nationality as “Swiss.”

“This shows how Einstein had renounced his German citizenship only weeks earlier in angry reaction to Nazi policies,” said Gardner.

For more information about Einstein’s journey through England and then onto the U.S. (where he eventually settled down and gained citizenship), browse the Merseyside Maritime Museum’s exhibit website.

Image: Einstein’s landing card. Credit: Liverpool Museums

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