Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tesla Versus Hitler

Tesla could be imperious and condescending. In his later years he spoke favorably of eugenics. Although he regularly spoke favorably of all mankind, he made occasional anti-Semitic remarks.  He was, however, consistently anti-Nazi, supporting the anti-Nazi leaders of his homeland.

Tesla was born in what was then a part of Austrian-Hungarian empire. Like many Serbians, he did not have a fondness for the emperor. When he was drafted, he skipped out, hiding in the hills. He would later state his father had taught him a hatred toward war.

The Austrian-Hungarian empire dissolved during World War I. After the war, in 1918, the treaty of Versailles created the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In 1929, King Alexander I assumed power and renamed the country, Yugoslavia. Alexander opposed the actions of the rising powers of Italy, Germany and the Soviet Union. He was killed by Croatian fascists in 1934. At the time of this assassination, Tesla wrote to the New York Times describing King Alexander as “both the Washington and Lincoln of the Yugoslavs." His son, King Peter II, was the official heir to the throne but only eleven years old so in the interim Prince Paul, head of the regency council, held sway. This continued until March 25, 1941 when Prince Paul signed a treaty supporting Hitler and offering his countrymen as soldiers for military service. Two days later, Prince Paul was thrown out in a coup and replaced by the then 17-year-old, King Peter II.

Tesla's homeland paid dearly for standing up to the fascists. Beginning April 6th, the Luftwaffe attacked Belgrade killing 25,000 civilians. After eleven days, Yugoslavia fell and 300,000 soldiers were taken prisoner. In attacking Yugoslavia, Hitler postponed Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. This delay may have helped prevent Germany from achieving victory before the onset of the Russian winter. Yugoslavia acted as a sacrificial lamb.

In July 1942, a sickly Tesla met with King Peter II, the latter in exile.

King Peter, of Jugoslavia, 19 [sic, 18], and Nikola Tesla, 86 [sic, 84, turning 85], a fellow-countryman and world-famous scientist credited with 700 inventions, wept over the fate of their country when they met yesterday. (King, Scientist Weep Over Jugoslavia. July 9, 1942, Richmond Times Dispatch, p. 2)

The Down-Side of Tesla

Tesla's anti-Semitic remarks.

One quote attributed to Tesla is: "Never trust a Jew." This comes from Margaret Cheney's Man Out of Time. It is said to have been whispered to a secretary. Cheney comments, "Tesla's anti-Semitism appears sporadic and was unusual among gentiles of his time," perhaps meaning, unusual in only being sporadic. (Man Out of Time, Margaret Cheney, Touchstone, 2001, p. 165)

George Sylvester Viereck

In 1915, one year after the beginning of World War I, a newspaper interviewed fourteen individuals including military experts, experts in international affairs, editors, and inventors as to when they believed the war would end. (Salt Lake Telegram, July 29, 1915, p. 10) Among these, Nikola Tesla made the closest estimation, saying four years. The war would last another three years and three months.

Among the others interviewed was George S. Viereck, described as "Editor of 'The Fatherland' and ardent promoter of the German-American point of view." At this time, America was not at war, so his propaganda was not illegal. He predicted three more months for the conflict.

George Sylvester Viereck has been described as a playboy, gadabout, poet, journalist, and editor. He was the author of a popular vampire novel. He was most famous, however, for two things: German propaganda and latching on to the famous.

From the 1920s on through the 1930s Viereck interviewed a number of the best-known individuals of the time, including Hitler, Mussolini, Ford, Freud and Einstein. If that seems like an incongruous group, it is even more remarkable that Viereck promoted these individuals with equal enthusiasm.

Viereck's interactions went beyond journalism. So, while he did interview Einstein both for a book (Glimpses of the Great, Macauley, April 1930) and a newspaper story (Einstein Explains the Fourth Dimension, Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 21, 1930, p. 30), he also accompanied Einstein to the opera during Einstein's 1930 visit to New York (Einstein Praised from Half Dozen New York Pulpits, Tampa Tribune, December 15, 1930. p. 7). Viereck stated that he had an ongoing correspondence with Einstein. While it is most likely that Einstein did not know of Viereck's history or predilections, Viereck clearly did.

Was Viereck a shape-shifting groupie? He certainly seemed to be the ultimate name-dropper. In an interview with Arthur Conan Doyle, he mentions his conversations with Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, (Nobel Prize-winning poet) Gerhart Hauptmann, and Henry Ford. In the interview with Hitler:

Hitler: "Moral and physical health are synonymous."
"Mussolini," I [Viereck] interjected, "said the same to me." Hitler beamed.

As to where Viereck's sympathies lay, a story from 1934 removed any doubt:

"George Sylvester Viereck noted journalist and friend of former German Kaiser, is sworn in as witness at congressional committee hearing in New York into Nazi activities in U.S. Viereck admitted payments for propaganda advice and expressed great admiration for Chancellor Hitler." (Admires Hitler. The Evening Tribune, San Diego, July 18, 1934, p. 10).

In his late seventies Nikola Tesla gave an interview with Viereck. In it, Tesla expressed support for eugenics. He recommended that the "unfit" not be allowed to marry or breed, but did not detail who the unfit were. "Certainly no one who is not a desirable parent should be permitted to produce progeny." (February 9, 1935, Liberty Magazine)

The anti-Semitic remarks and the eugenic remarks sadden me. Tesla through his life in 99% of opportunities made declarations expressing a love for humanity, indeed, of dedicating his life's work to humankind. In the Liberty Magazine interview, I would like to think he was an old man manipulated by Viereck, a master manipulator, but maybe I'm bending too far in wishful esteem for Tesla.

During World War II, Viereck was tried and convicted for his ongoing efforts at Nazi propaganda. In one of his schemes, he used $250,000 in Congressional franking privileges (free mailing allowed to members of Congress) to send out German propaganda. The Congressmen, including the isolationist Hamilton Fish, said that they did not know of his efforts and he had put words into their mouths, placing Senator Lundeen's (MN) name on Viereck's writing. (Viereck, Nazi Agent, Guilty, March 6, 1942, Boston Herald)

George S. Viereck

And, Of Course, a Dig at Edison.

It does not excuse Tesla, but as part of the great Edison-Tesla debate, Edison spoke favorably and at much greater length about eugenics and, in his later years, expressed an admiration for Mussolini.

 "I [Edison] understand that a chair of eugenics has been established in one of the Eastern schools, and I think this is a wise move. The people should know more on that subject. Society must certainly protect itself. Science is doing much to this end." (The American to Be the Perfect World Type September 8, 1911 Seattle Daily Times, p. 19)

"There are three means which lie ready at hand; three sciences which lend themselves to our task; three tools with which we shape the Super Race. They are: 1. Eugenics -- the science of race culture. 2. Social adjustment -- the science of molding institutions. 3. Education -- the science of human development." (Americans of the Future to be the "Super Race," March 31, 1912. Portland Oregonian, p. 3)

And, from 1931, in the midst of the Depression, "Mr. Edison declared Prohibition was succeeding and asserted that the administration of President Hoover was a success. . . . "Mussolini is a man of great executive ability and probably a great man for the Italians." (Edison Sees Better Times. Boston Herald, February 12, 1931, p. 17)


Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Henry H. Holmes are all characters in my thriller, A Predator's Game.

A Predator's Game is available in soft-cover and ebook through Amazon and other online retailers.

A Predator's Game, now available, Rook's Page Publishing.


Back page blurb.

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on an "evil Holmes." Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the metropolis. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger and invention, Conan Doyle and Tesla engage the madman in a deadly game of wits.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. Its sequel, set in 1890s Manhattan and titled A Predator's Game, features Nikola Tesla as detective.


  1. The Margaret Chenney quote has no earlier provenance and is unsourced. You do not give any other quotes. So why believe this unsubstantiated allegation of antisemitism?

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