Peter Bergmann

“[We] think that we are following the policy that will help most toward promoting understanding and equality between Jews and Gentiles.”

– Theodore Dreier, par. 3, in his letter employing Bergmann at Black Mountain College. August 30, 1941.[1]

A letter from Theodore Dreier, the Treasurer of BMC, to Peter Bergmann about employment at BMC. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives.Fig. 1

Peter Bergmann was a Jewish man who had received his letter of employment on August 30, 1941 to teach Physics. His wife, Margot, would later be appointed as the Visiting Instructor of Chemistry on November 26, 1941. [2]

A reference letter from Philipp Frank addressed to Theodore Dreier, on the behalf of Peter Bergmann. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives.Fig. 2

In his recommendation letter, Harvard professor Philipp Frank explained Bergmann’s background and character. Bergmann’s father had been a famous professor of Chemistry in Germany until he was dismissed by the Nazi regime. In response, Bergmann and his family would relocate to Prague, Czechoslovakia as Jewish refugees. In his letter, Philipp Frank continued in his description of Bergmann to note that his ideologies were radically liberal but also specifying that he was not a Communist. [3] Bergmann taught at Black Mountain College until 1944, when he began his career at Syracuse University where he went on to teach general relativity and continue to create a center for the study.[4]

A reference letter to Theodore Dreier from Albert Einstein, on behalf of Peter Bergmann. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives.Fig. 3

Bergmann had also received recommendation letters from Albert Einstein, who he had studied under and worked as an assistant to. Before traveling to the United States, he had worked alongside Einstein to formulate the theory of General Relativity. Einstein would later appear at Black Mountain College as a guest speaker.[5]

 


[1]  Theodore Dreier, letter to Peter Bergmann, August 30, 1941, Peter Bergmann Dossier, Black Mountain College 1933-1956 Faculty Files, Box 1, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
[2] Theodore Dreier, letter to The District Director of Immigration and Naturalization, January 29, 1942, Peter Bergmann Dossier, Black Mountain College 1933-1956 Faculty Files, Box 1, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
[3] Philipp Frank, letter to Theodore Dreier, September 6, 1941, Peter Bergmann Dossier, Black Mountain College 1933-1956 Faculty Files, Box 1, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
[4] Dennis Overbye,  “Peter G. Bergmann, 87; Worked With Einstein.” New York Times, October 23, 2002, Accessed April 13, 2017.
[5] Albert Einstein, letter to Theodore Dreier, September 5, 1941, Peter Bergmann Dossier, Black Mountain College 1933-1956 Faculty Files, Box 1, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
Fig. 1 Theodore Dreier, letter to Peter Bergmann, August 30, 1941, Peter Bergmann Dossier, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
Fig. 2 Philipp Frank, letter to Theodore Dreier, September 9, 1941, Peter Bergmann Dossier, Black Mountain College 1933-1956 Faculty Files, Box 1, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
Fig. 3 Albert Einstein, letter to Theodore Dreier, September 5, 1941, Peter Bergmann Dossier, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

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