Short life history: Pauline Einstein

"Dear mother! Today a joyful notice. H. A. Lorentz has telegraphed me that the English
expeditions have really proven the deflection of light at the sun."

Albert Einstein in a post card to his mother, 1919

Short life history: Pauline Einstein 

* February 8, 1858 Cannstatt, Wuerttemberg, February 20, 1920 Berlin

Pauline Einstein, nee Koch, the mother of the great physicist Albert Einstein, was born in Cannstatt, Wuerttemberg, on February 8, 1858. She was Jewish and had an older sister, Fanny, and two older brothers, Jacob and Caesar. Her parents were Julius Derzbacher (1816–1895), who had accepted the family name Koch in 1842 and Jette Bernheimer (1825–1886). They had married in 1847. Pauline’s father was from Jebernhausen and came from simple circumstances. Later he lived in Cannstatt and he succeeded together with his brother Heinrich to make a considerable fortune with corn trade. They even became “Royal Wuerttemberg Purveyor to the Court”. Their mother was from Cannstatt and was a quiet and caring person.

The only 18-year-old Pauline married the merchant Hermann Einstein (1847–1902) who lived in Ulm, in Cannstatt on August 8, 1876. After the marriage the young couple lived in Ulm, where Hermann Einstein became joint partner in a bed feathers company. Their son Albert (1879–1955) was born on March 14, 1879. On the initiative of Hermann’s brother Jakob the family moved to Munich in the summer of 1880, where the two brothers together founded an electrical engineering company. The second child of Hermann and Pauline, their daughter Maria – called Maja – (1881–1951) was born in Munich on November 18, 1881.

Pauline Einstein was a very well educated and quiet woman who had an inclination towards the arts. When her duties in the household allowed it she was an assiduous and good piano player. She made her son Albert begin with violin lessons at the age of five. Her patience was characteristically for Pauline.

The factory of Hermann and Jakob was moved to Pavia, Italy in 1894. Hermann, Pauline and Maja moved first to Milan in the same year and one year later also to Pavia. Albert stayed with relatives in Munich to complete his education there. The separation from her son was certainly difficult for Pauline.

Due to the bad business situation the brothers had to abandon their factory in 1896. Though the Hermann family had lost most of their money, he founded, without his brother, again an electrical engineering company in Milan. This time business was better. But Hermann’s health had suffered a lot in the last years and he died on October 10, 1902 in Milan on heart failure.

From 1903 on Pauline lived with her sister Fanny and her husband Rudolf Einstein in Hechingen, Wuerttemberg. Her daughter Elsa became the second wife of Albert Einstein in 1919.

Albert had married in the meantime against the will of the parents and lived in Switzerland. Maja, still unmarried, was studying Romance languages and literature.

In 1910 Pauline moved with her sister Fanny and her family to Berlin. She took on a job as housekeeper in Heilbronn, Wuerttemberg in 1911. She had lived with her brother Jacob Koch and his family in Zurich since 1914. During World War I Pauline fell ill with cancer.

In 1918, when visiting her daughter Maja and her husband Paul Winteler in Luzern, Pauline was taken to the sanatorium Rosenau there due to her illness. At the end of 1919 Albert got his terminally ill mother out of the sanatorium in Luzern and took her to himself and his second wife Elsa to Berlin into Haberlandstrasse 5 where she died a few month later on February 20, 1920.


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