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You are in: Norfolk » Features

10 February 2003 1649 GMT
Albert Einstein seeks sanctuary in Norfolk
Pictuer: Einstein at Roughton.
Einstein at Roughton Heath, c1934. Locker-Lampson is on the horse. Courtesy of Philip Colman

In 1933 the world's most famous scientist was taken into hiding on an isolated heath in Cromer.

Hitler's rise to power in Germany meant it was a worrying time for Jews across the world, including Albert Einstein.


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When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the full force of the Nazi terror was unleashed.

Anti-German books were burnt, Jews were persecuted and for scientists like Albert Einstein, who was also Jewish, life became unbearable.

Picture: Professor Neil Turok.
Professor Neil Turok, Cambridge Centre for Mathematical Studies

"It's hard to imagine the circumstances under which Einstein was working, under this terrible threat to his life and to his friends' lives in Germany," says Professor Neil Turok, a leading mathematician from Cambridge University.

"Every scientific equation we use today has its origin with Einstein."

Einstein the Pacifist

Einstein was strongly opposed to war. He said he would rather be ‘hacked to pieces than fight’. But events in his homeland were having a profound effect on his conscience.

So something had to be done to rescue the world’s cleverest man. Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson, an eccentric MP with business interests in Cromer, offered Einstein refuge in the Norfolk countryside.

Picture: Writer, Stuart McClaren.
Writer, Stuart McClaren

According to the writer Stuart McClaren, Locker-Lampson was the kind of man who couldn't stand anti-Semitism.

"It seems some sort of scheme was concocted between the King of Belgium and Locker-Lampson and possibly Winston Churchill to get Einstein to safety," said Stuart McClaren.

"They sent a man over to Ostend. He went and brought Einstein back."

He was brought to live in a small hut on Roughton Heath in Cromer.

Price on Einstein's head

There was a bounty of a thousand guineas on Einstein’s head. Security was tight at the camp, much to the bemusement of some of the locals.

Even though Einstein was in exile, he still used the time to gain a deeper understanding of what made the universe tick.

The work he was doing in a hut, isolated in Norfolk, was to become the cornerstone of science today.

While Einstein was preoccupied with his theories, the situation beyond Cromer was worsening.

The world waited for the great man to make a move against fascism.

Nuclear decision

Eventually, prompted by an artist who came to Roughton to make a bust of Einstein's head, the great thinker spoke out against Hitler and urged the world to take up arms against the dictator.

This decision was to alter the course of history: Einstein left Norfolk and sailed to America never to return to Europe.

The science he was working on in a hut near Cromer, would be put to use on the world’s first nuclear bomb.

"This was a tremendously difficult thing for Einstein to do as a pacifist, but he knew that if the Americans did not get a nuclear bomb the Nazis may very well get it first, and that would be the end of the world,"
said Stuart McClaren.

"So really the few weeks that he spent on a heath in Norfolk had tremendous repercussions for the future of the world," he added.


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