Note: [Left out in the book "Liebe Eltern"]


Copenhagen, 3-27-24


Dear parents!

Actually, it is barely worth writing a letter anymore, because in a few days I will be in Mu. (Munich). But I will try anyway; the talks with Bohr are progressing beautifully, and we are in agreement on just about every point already. I also already have almost made friends with all the other people here, and am getting along with them very well. The day after tomorrow I will now definitely go to the country with Bohr early in the morning for three days. Then we come back Monday night or Tuesday morning and on Tuesday at 10:15 in the morning I leave from here to go back to Hamburg. This way I will be, if one doesn’t count train dalays, in Gött. (Göttingen)on Wednesday morning.

[There I am unfortunately laid over. But maybe there is an express train at noon going to Würzburg (there used to be one at 12:21 from Gö.) then I would be in Wü. at 5 pm. And on the 3rd in the morning in Munich. In Wü. I would like to stay at least for a couple of hours. Should I arrive a bit under the weather, you should not be too surprised, naturally, since the trip is rather long]. Otherwise there is little else new to report. The talks with Bohr are, of course, only taking up a few hours of the day, usually while on a walk to the free harbor or in the park. Very often too I will be sitting at night with Bohr, and over a glass (or several) of port wine physics gets richer in new discoveries. Sometimes the content of our talk is actually still true the next morning.- But this kind of description puts Bohr in a false light, his way of doing physics is in reality very "crafted", while he initially just looks for progress in the details.

During the free times I am sitting in the institute and studying all kinds of books, to "elevate" my general knowledge of physics receptively. For the pursuit of my own thoughts I am right now totally incapacitated, unfortunately. At semester's end I am rather depleted, naturally, and also after the talks with Bohr I am often quite bushed. To go to the country makes excellent sense therefore.- Tonight I will play with a young physicist some Beethoven sonatas for cello and piano. This promises to be fun. Without music you really can not live. But when you listen to music you sometimes arrive at the absurd idea that life has meaning. All in all, I am feeling great here, and I am so looking forward to Munich (early on 4-1).

Your Werner




Easter Sunday, Boston, 3-31-1929


Dear parents!

As usual around the weekends, I will again tell you today in a little more detail what is happening. This past week I have not heard anything from you yet (last word from the 11th), the mail is just slow. But you must have gotten at least my arrival telegram; I plan to write you at least once a week, if at all possible, from here on in. Time here is passing rapidly, lectures, car rides, dinners, etc. Originally I had wanted to visit Otto (an uncle)over Easter, but since I had an invitation last night, it seemed useless. (12 hours travel for 12 hours of visiting!). So I had half given up any hopes of celebrating Easter even a little bit, but as luck would have it, more came of it than I had thought.

For one, it turned out that the professor whose guest I was last night, took us to a concert featuring Beethoven's 1st symphony and Beethoven's 9th symph. You can imagine how much I savored this, after weeks of not even being able to play myself. All day today the melodies from it have been whirling around in my head. Today the weather was perfect, the air warm and the sky without a cloud. So I said to my host that today I wanted to go on a walk in the woods where no smell of gasoline and no car horn would intrude. Such a request is considered rather crazy here, but they do not hold it against someone German. Because the train connections were rather poor, this host, Prof. Vallerte, took me in his car, and went to visit friends in a neighboring suburb. In the middle of a large wooded area, I declared I now wanted to get out, which he obliged, baffeled. I would find my way home on my own. Just 50 yards off the road these woods of pines, birches, firs, and so on, become a rather impenetrable tangle. No sign here of any forest management practices. The old tree trunks become rotten, break down, and are lying criss-cross among the new trees; whoever needs wood, may come and cut it, but nobody bothers. The terrain is hilly, and from time to time there are actually real rock formations beckoning you to climb them. In this thicket I was working my way through slowly, then followed a footpath, but had to turn back because the woods changed into a bog, but was generally able to progress along the intuitively chosen direction. (…)

Once I also saw a farm in a clearing in the woods, had to contend with two bothersome large dogs, but nevertheless kept going steadfastly, without knowing quite why, in a certain direction. People were nowhere to be seen in these woods. All at once in the middle. I came upon a glorious blue lake, which reflected pine trees and large cypress like trees. No sound any more except the wind and exuberant little birds, and the air was saturated with the smell of firs; there I stayed for a while, then I discovered, a little beyond, hidden in the thicket a block house of heavy logs, just like our hay huts in the mountains; since there was no smoke rising from the chimney, nobody seemed home and I decided on a more thorough investigation: On the solidly locked door there were symbols from scout troops, and “totems”, one could see at once that rather recently a troop of American scouts had been staying here; one of them must have even had a horse along, judging from the tracks. So, for the rest of the afternoon I entertained myself with my invisible American friends, combed the woods and was happy when I could find any other signs of them and I was feeling somewhat at home doing this; all in all, I found four huts which belonged to this troop, scattered on roughly one square kilometer. On a bluff among the rocks, about one kilometer from the camp I even found a note under a rock, signed by a leader of the troop which was evidently part of a war game; it was from 3-17-28 and had obviously been forgotten; - possibly the leader in question had confused the 28 and the 29.

In all of this, the sun began to set, and I had to hurry to get out of the thicket before dark. And I found a few foot paths in the desired direction and arrived at the wood’s edge with the first stars. On the road I hitchhiked as is customary here, taking the first ride offered, and reached with some detours the house at about half past eight. This was my Easter Sunday celebration.

On Wednesday night I will leave here, Thursday I will visit the Niagara Falls, Friday I get to Chicago and will give my first lecture there.


Many warm greetings, also to Aunt Muckl, your Werner



Leipzig, 12-15-1930

(Three weeks after his father's death from typhoid fever)


Dear Mama!


Unfortunately it is so late now that the letter will only reach you the day after tomorrow. But even if you do not get a letter from me every day you must know that I am thinking around the clock of you and dear Papa and of the place under the fir trees of the Waldfriedhof cemetery. Sometimes I also imagine the days long ago, before the war, when we would trek through the Forstenried park to Starnberg, had to climb fences and to flee the wild boars; or the bicycle trips to Dachau.- When it comes right down to it, Papa did have a wonderful life; I remember telling him so once in Fieberbrunn; then he replied "Oh well, Werner, that may be true- especially when I think of some other people- but this or the other thing could have been even better yet." I laughed at him then, and he let it be, contented. And another time Papa said to me verbatim "You know, Werner, getting old, that is the very worst thing." Or another time he said, jokingly, "If I were to catch on one day that you are letting me win in chess, then life no longer will be fun for me". Therefore maybe his life was overall the best for him this way.- Is there a life after death? I really believe that human language and our thoughts are not suited to ask such a question nor to answer it; whatever is beyond our world is also beyond our capacity to think; to fathom that, we were not endowed. We also do not understand where the world is coming from and where it is going; why should we understand where people are coming from and where they are going. But we still can sense Papa's love in everything he has left us, the words he spoke to us, all that is yet alive and lingers on; a saying comes to mind which ends this way- "but if it went down glowingly, it will continue to glow back a long time." What I mean is that as long as we are on this earth we will have to be satisfied sensing this glowing-back. What will be later on- well, we just do not know.- But the dear Lord did not create people to let them die, but so that they are happy on earth and reflect this happiness to others - which is what came to pass so perfectly well with Papa.- I can remember the time when I myself was most alive, you know, about ten years ago; then too the best thing in my life was that my own happiness was transferred to others; I was so keenly aware of it being that way, and you will remember how I was received in Munich. From your many letters you too have a sense how much more even this was true for Papa and that is why it must have been very nice for Papa as well.

[But I want to write about some practical issues too now. I will have the money for Aunt Muckl transferred as of 1-1-31.]At Christmas you will probably come here on the 23rd . I would like to ask you about that: What will you let me give you for Christmas? Once Papa told me in secret we should get together and give you a large carpet for the parlor. But I have a sense that would now not please you anymore; or perhaps yes, knowing that Papa intended this for you? I just wanted to ask you first. Maybe you know of something better something you need more now. I am already looking forward to your arrival on the 23rd. Many warm greetings from your Werner






Leipzig, 2-6-1937

Dear Mama!

Unfortunately, I don't much manage to write letters, I forgot also the birthday of Aunt Nelly. I am immersed in many things that occupy me a lot, partly work, partly politics, and much more, so the thoughts are quite reluctant to gather themselves for a letter. On top of it, my body is sometimes on strike now, in the afternoons I am so tired that I have trouble not falling asleep at my desk. Even though I am not staying up late at night.- To report on the pleasurable things: I had dinner with Edwin Fisher on Thursday. It is always special to encounter people who are masterfully in command of something. His way of talking about music or about people is not just spontaneous, but sometimes almost as diligent and humble as Bohr's is. He knows exactly how incredibly difficult all true mastery is, and therefore talks with the greatest respect even of those who are only half as accomplished as he is. At night then I heard him play in the Gewandhaus, the c-minor concerto by Beethoven; I knew it well, because I had once practiced it and learned it by heart. Every note was deliberately conceived and the whole thing was played with the greatest respect for Beethoven, it was a great pleasure.

On Monday night, by the way, we had chamber music here at the house, and Erwin (his brother)was here too as a listener.-

My vacation plans are as follows: I want to come to Munich on about 2-24, and then spend a week at the mountain hut. At this time it looks like only Euler will come along. Afterwards, following a few days in Munich, I will return here. [Your questions about the new house, the radio, etc will best be addressed at that time too.] Now many greetings, your Werner



Berlin, 1-23-1944


Dear Mama!


Many thanks for your letter. I very much hope that the visit in Munich will mean a pleasant interruption to the monotony of your days. Elisabeth has told me that you wanted to go one of these days, and you probably have also written it. Gradually the days are becoming longer too, and spring is usually earlier in the mountains than in the plains, at least I have often had some wonderful and sunny days in the ski hut, particularly in February and March. I myself am hoping to get to Urfeld around Feb. 16 and stay for a couple of days. Perhaps you can come for a weekend then too. Unfortunately, Elisabeth is facing a few tough weeks again: our Russian woman is sick and Waltraut is going on vacation because her brother is home on furlough from the front. Luckily Mrs. Linder is helping out, but she is quite a complicated being. But somehow it will all have to work out.

Tomorrow morning I have to travel to Copenhagen for a few days. I do not like this trip, because Bohr has fled to Sweden and the institute has been occupied by us militarily. But especially the latter is the reason and makes it necessary that I should look after things and, if possible, smooth things over. I suppose I owe Bohr this gesture of my friendship; let us hope that my visit is not in vain.

[A few days ago we again had an air raid here. In Dahlem only little damage was done. By the way, if you ever get worried after reading this kind of thing in the paper, why not simply call Elisabeth ( from the post office, if it is difficult from home). In many instances I can manage passing news on to her.]

So, dear Mama, do not let loneliness get to you too much. It may distance you from the temporary everyday calamity, and pull you up close to that which endures from the past and the present. And we hope for a reunion soon in Urfeld! Your Werner


Hechingen, 12-2-1944


My dear Mama!


Already today I have received a letter from you which, in a way, is in regard to the 5th of December (his birthday), and in order for you to also have a greeting from me for the 5th, I want to write you at once. You are right in thinking that it was a happy day for you and me, back then; for even if I include all the calamity that surrounds us today and which in other ways too has been part of my life, as it is in every life, then I still have been incredibly happy overall and I am grateful for having been allowed to be on this remarkable and often so lovely earth for so long. I would be glad if I were allowed to see my children grow up, if I once more can experience a time of harmony and then work in it; but even if that should not be ordained, I will be grateful for what fate has granted me. Today's time teaches us to forgo the non-essentials, anyway. But that which remains in our memory so luminously from the past, all these decades, that is not non-essential.

I think often of my beautiful childhood in Würzburg, how I was allowed to come along when you went shopping, at Seisser's or Severin's or whatever the stores were called, and how I had to crane my neck to be able to see your face. Or the excursions to the Gutenberg Forest; first the ride on the streetcar that flew a little red flag in good weather, then the path below the high beech trees and, finally, the inn in Reichenberg ( I don't know if it is still called that) in which we had lemonade and once in a while coffee cake. Other Sundays, when we were at the Frankenwarte, Papa would take us occasionally by the hand on the way down, and run so fast with us that we became all dizzy with speed, and that was especially fun. Then there was also an inn at Steinberg, I believe that was its name, where one could look through blue and yellow panes and where the world would then change so completely.

Then the double Christmases, in Würzburg and in Munich, with the railroad and the large landscape set-up, and with as many cookies and cakes as we desired. Finally, when we were a little older, the long summer vacations in Osnabrück (paternal grandparents) which were actually one uninterrupted feast. You have really made our childhood so beautiful that hardly anybody else could have one like it, and even from the time of the first World War the good memories by far outweigh the bad ones. I can only wish that my care of my own children will come close to the care you have given us.

In the time after the first war the meaning of life became largely determined by the entry into the circle of other people, just as it should be, when one becomes an adult, and those years too were very beautiful; and, lastly, I do have every reason to be thankful for the task fate has assigned me in my adult years. I have the sense that many a task is still outstanding here, but none of us know how they will fare in the final and strongest roar of the hurricane ahead of us. At any rate, I am surrendering, trustingly, my life once again into the hands of the higher power which has guided it here to fore.

One now has to do just the next thing and focus on it, so as to not be gripped by dread. Thus, we want to look forward to Christmas; we want to celebrate it with the children just like in the olden days; I think it is good that you will be with us, and when you see our little ones playing with the train set and delighted with the tree, you too will have to find your way back into the old times, so much quieter than today, and therefore so much more audibly speaking to the the heart. So, for Christmas we will be together, it will have to come about somehow. But for now, take my most heartfelt thanks for everything, and stay healthy and do not worry too much about the present. Your Werner






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