The Scientific War Work of Linus C. Pauling Narrative  
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Getting Involved
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As early as 1932, Pauling was aware of growing unrest in Europe. In a letter to Ava Helen, he wrote, "[F. E. Simon's] family is in Berlin now. He is worried about anti-Semitism. He is a Jew, and so is his wife (and the children). We talked about Jews a while. He said [Arnold] Euken was brought to Gottingen instead of [Otto] Stern because there are so many Jews there already ([James] Frank, [Max] Born, [Richard] Conant, [Victor] Goldschmidt) and they thought it better not to have another."

The growing climate of religious and ethnic intolerance in Germany was concerning but not altogether unusual; the Jewish community had experienced violence at the hands of several anti-Semitic governments since its appearance in Europe during the rule of the Roman Empire. Pauling was concerned for his friends and colleagues, but his devotion to scientific pursuits left him with little time for politics and he paid only minimal attention to foreign affairs.

Pauling's indifference was a result of limited perspective rather than callousness, however, and the eruption of violence in Europe quickly changed his outlook. With the onset of war, Pauling began receiving worried correspondence from scientists he had befriended during a trip through Europe in the 1920s. The first letters arrived from Albert Schoenflies, a German Jew, in 1938 with others following close behind. Jewish scientists were being forced out of institutions of higher learning and their non-Jewish supporters were being persecuted and even imprisoned. Pauling did his best to find homes for Schoenflies and other scientists, but it proved very difficult. Red tape kept Schoenflies from fleeing the country with his family, and Pauling's requests seemed to go unnoticed. Ultimately, Pauling's attempts to help his fellow academics escape danger were unsuccessful. The complexity of wartime bureaucracies and the pressure placed on the U.S. Bureau of Immigrations were simply too immense for a few families to receive official attention.

Pauling was frustrated but not defeated by his inability to help the Schoenflies. He was determined to do what he could for the war effort, but he needed help - a channel through which to work. In 1940 the United States Committee for the Care of European Children was founded by Clarence Pickett. The mission of the organization was to evacuate British children from areas targeted by the German luftwaffe and to temporarily relocate them in the United States. In the summer of 1940, shortly after the committee's founding, a Pasadena branch of USCOM was created. The Paulings quickly became active members and Ava Helen Pauling took a seat on the Executive Board.

With the chaos overseas, the Paulings and their fellow volunteers found it difficult to come in contact with appropriate individuals in Britain. Frustrated, Pauling eventually contacted Arthur Hill, a British chemist at Yale University, who was able to put Pauling in contact with the necessary English officials and assist with the complicated evacuation process. By the spring of 1941, the Battle of Britain was over and the German bombings had ceased, thus lessening the need for evacuation. In March the Pasadena branch of USCOM quietly disbanded. In just one year, the Paulings had found homes in Pasadena for more than forty children. The national organization, which remained active throughout the war and wasn't retired until 1953, ultimately relocated approximately 800 British children and 300 German-Jewish children.

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Audio Clip  Audio: The Story of Laszlo Zechmeister. February 14, 1992. (4:40) Transcript and More Information

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Audio Clip  Audio: Working for English Refugee Children. February 14, 1992. (0:36) Transcript and More Information

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See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to Mrs. John Van N. Dorr. September 15, 1938. 
See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to Richard C. Tolman. December 20, 1940. 

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Linus Pauling in Germany. 1926.


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Letter from Linus Pauling to A.V. Hill and Mrs. Hill. August 26, 1940.

"Although [USCOM is] officially dissolved as a Committee, let us remain united as individuals in the thought that if and when we are called upon again for further service in this worthwhile project, we too shall be found 'standing by.'"

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