With annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany a precarious situation
arose for Wolfgang Pauli. A first application for naturalisation in Zurich was
rejected at the end of April 1938 for formal reasons. Pauli had to resign
himself to this and obtained a German passport in November. At the same time,
the situation for his father in Vienna became intolerable. Thanks to the
efforts of professor friends and School Council President Arthur Rohn, Wolfgang
Pauli sen. was able to flee to Switzerland and found a possibility of work at
the University of Zurich.
Main building of the ETH Zürich
Answer from Heinrich Rothmund to W. Pauli's application for naturalisation
© Archive of the ETHZ
|After the outbreak of the Second World War, Wolfgang Pauli made a
second application for naturalisation in Berne. The response was devastating
for him. The head of the Police Department, Heinrich Rothmund, gave as the
reason for rejecting the application that Pauli "did not satisfy the
requirement of assimilation".
Germany's lightning victories increased the
threatening situation additionally. Pauli wrote to the Director of the
Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Frank Aydelotte on the 29th May
1940: "Actually I suppose I am under German law 75 per cent Jewish. This would
mean that in the case of a German occupation of Switzerland I would be really
menaced and treated as Jew. For this reason I would try at any rate (as far as
I shall not be preventively arrested by the Swiss authorities as a German) to
flee to France and try to get arrested by the French. And from France I hope to
get on further to the States with the help of French colleagues".
|For this reason Pauli accepted a guest professorship in Princeton.
In June 1940, the ETH granted him leave of absence for six months. At the end
of July Pauli together with his wife travelled via Geneva to Lisbon thence by
ship to New York where they arrived on the 24th August. As a member of a
belligerent nation, it was not possible for Pauli to return to Switzerland
during the war. At the ETH there were mutterings of displeasure as his
colleagues and students had to make do with a permanent provisional arrangement
for his lectures: The students from the ETH were able to attend the lectures in
theoretical physics by Pauli's colleague from the university, Prof. Gregor
Wentzel. But the "house theorist" was missed, especially as with the cyclotron
planned at the Physics Institute of the ETH new theoretical questions arose.
On the ETH side an attempt was made to persuade Pauli to return,
threatening him with the termination of his contract of employment. Pauli,
however, insisted on his standpoint, he would, of course, like to fulfil his
obligations, but he was being hampered in this by aggravating circumstances.
Federal Councillor (Government Minister) Philipp Etter, who was against
suspending the elected professor for reasons of principle, also endorsed this
Wolfgang Pauli during a lecture in Copenhagen
© CERN, Geneva