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.