Einstein Scolded for Not Weeding his Allotment – 1922
Bezirksamt Spandau to “Herr Professor Einstein”:
You are presently leasing allotment 2 at the Burgunderweg in Boxfelde. Said allotment has not been managed since a long time, weeds have spread all over the whole parcel and have soared. The fence is not in order, and the whole allotment makes an unesthetic impression. We have to assume that you are no longer interested in leasing the parcel, and we will give it away to someone else, unless you object prior to the 25th of this month, and the allotment is put in order until that date. Please take care of the removal of this nuisance, and give us further notice.
Einstein allotment was in the “Kolonie Boxfelde” in Berlin-Spandau.
Einstein had for some years toyed with the idea of buying a sailing boat and a weekend cottage somewhere on the water near Berlin. Sailing and the Brandenburg lakes were to him the best things about Prussia. His money would probably never be sufficient for a country house, so he pursued his dream in a more modest way. He rented a small shack in the garden settlement of Boxfelde.
To Berliners, Boxfelde was “out in the country,” though it was actually in the town of Spandau, which had just been incorporated into greater Berlin. Einstein’s plot was on a picturesque bay formed by the Havel River, called Scharfe Lanke, where he could moor his sailboat. The plot was smaller than his drawing room in Haberlandstrasse, and the whole shack was barely the size of his study. Einstein was fond of retiring to his “Spansau castle,” where no one could disturb him. The fact that his wife could bear it for no more than two days at a time suited him fine.
Here he put up his sons in the summer of 1922. “The boys are here and reside in my Spandau castle.” he reported to Anschutz, who would have much preferred to have him as his guest in Kiel. “I oscillate between my apartment in town and my castle, which has proved more watertight than my yacht.” His neighbours in the settlement remembered him as a popular and peaceable weekend visitor, though not as a model gardener. He allowed the weeds to take over and the property to become so untidy that in September 1922 the district administration warned him that the plot wold be relet unless it was put in order at once. Einstein promised to do better and protested “that we too continue to have the greatest interest in renting the plot.”
Update: January 6, 2009, from the Albert Einstein Archives, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
To the best of our knowledge, Einstein did not “garden”, and he certainly did not garden in 1922/3, when he was occupying a hut in Boxfelde (Spandau).
On the contrary, the Boxfelde community of ‘Schrebergaertner’ (owners of that kind of garden) complained about the lack of care given to Einstein’s plot of land and threatened him with not renewing the tenancy agreement.
Einstein’s only interest in renting this lot was to use it for fleeing the town and its obligations and having a sailing boat just in front of the door.
There is a rather apocryphal story about Einstein “gardening” several years later in his Caputh garden, but not one single other visitor ever saw Einstein weeding or harvesting.
Einstein enjoyed his garden in Caputh as well as the one in Princeton, and never lost his love for nature – even the more-or-less “artificial nature” of a garden.