Documentary fans, Netflix are bringing us a new historical docudrama that explores the life of the most famous scientist in the world, Albert Einstein.


Einstein and the Bomb lands on the streamer today (Friday 16th February) and will be a fitting addition to the watchlist for anyone who loved 2023 smash hit film Oppenheimer.

The documentary comes from BBC Studios and uses "Einstein’s words only – his speeches, letters and interviews – to script his dialogue". Using dramatised recreated sequences along with archival footage of Einstein’s life, viewers will get a look at how Einstein's legacy unfolded across both world wars, chronicling the rise and fall of fascism and the advent of the atomic age.

Taking us from 1933 right through to World War II, we see how the scientist had to navigate Nazi Germany and sought refuge in the US after already previously having to forsake his German citizenship once before as a subject of the Kingdom of Württemberg.

But what happened to Einstein after he fled Nazi Germany on the outset of World War II? Read on to find out more about the true story behind Netflix's Einstein and the Bomb.

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Einstein and the Bomb true story: What happened after Einstein fled Nazi Germany?

An actor portraying Albert Einstein. He is sat at a desk with papers and books and a chalkboard behind him
Einstein and the Bomb. Netflix

After surviving the events of World War I, Einstein then decided to make the major decision to leave Germany forever, ultimately leading to the scientist to never return to the country.

Due to his increase in fame at the time and his continued success, his theories were subject to backlash. One Hundred Authors Against Einstein was published in 1931, marking a major movement of scientists shifting away from Einstein's thinking.

Einstein also became a major target of the rising Nazi movement, who branded Einstein's theories as "Jewish physics" and incited hatred over his theories and arranged public book burnings.

It was in December 1932 that Einstein made the decision to leave Germany and his home in Berlin, where he had lived since 1914. During this time, Adolf Hitler had come to power in Germany and Einstein had publicly criticised his policies, resigned from the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin and applied for release from his Prussian (now German) citizenship. As a result, Einstein was ruthlessly lambasted by the German press and his Berlin home became the subject of Nazi raids.

The new government confiscated his and his wife’s bank accounts and his personal sailboat, with Einstein eventually learning that the Nazis had sold his boat and turned his cottage into a camp for the Hitler Youth.

A photo of Albert Einstein being interviewed.
Albert Einstein. Netflix

Without a permanent place to live, Einstein was able to flee Germany with the help of the Academic Assistance Council, founded by British Liberal politician William Beveridge in 1933 to aid academics in escaping rising Nazi persecution at the time. He lived in Belgium for a brief period of time, where the Belgian royal family provided the scientist with police protection after it was clear Einstein was becoming a main enemy and target for the Nazis.

A photo was found of Einstein in a German magazine at the time with the caption "not yet hanged", coming after the deaths of his peers and friends. Einstein later told a Paris-based correspondent: “I really had no idea my head was worth all that.”

Einstein quietly made his journey out of Belgium and to the UK after being invited to visit by British MP and friend Oliver Locker-Lampson. Locker-Lampson offered Einstein a place to stay – an isolated cabin on Roughton Heath near Cromer, Norfolk.

For months, he remained in relative hiding there and Locker-Lampson employed two armed guards to protect Einstein and watch over him. Eventually, Einstein made his first public display in months to speak at the Royal Albert Hall in London to raise funds for academic refugees like himself who were still stuck in Germany.

He told a newspaper reporter at the time: "I could not believe that it was possible that such spontaneous affection could be extended to one who is a wanderer on the face of the earth. The kindness of your people has touched my heart so deeply that I cannot find words to express in English what I feel. I shall leave England for America at the end of the week, but no matter how long I live I shall never forget the kindness which I have received from the people of England."

Despite his affection for the UK, Einstein was never to return again to Europe and left England for America in 1933. Einstein accepted the offer to become a resident scholar at the newly formed Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. The institute soon became a haven for physicists from across the world.

It was during the late 1930s that physicists began to consider whether Einstein's E=MC2 equation could make an atomic bomb possible, and Einstein was eventually convinced by physicist Leo Szilard to send a letter to US President Franklin D Roosevelt to urge him to develop an atomic bomb. Although Einstein was a pacifist, Einstein informed the US President that German scientists and Hitler had a possibility of winning the atomic bomb race before the US.

The letter, which came to be known as the Einstein-Szilard letter, was written by Szilard in consultation with physicists Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner, but was signed by Einstein. It was influential and prompted Roosevelt to take action and get into the 'race' to make the atomic bomb. And so, the Manhattan Project was developed – which J Robert Oppenheimer was at the helm of.

Aidan McArdle as Albert Einstein in Einstein and the Bomb
Einstein and the Bomb. Netflix

Also during that time, Einstein was granted permanent residency in the US in 1935 and became an American citizen in 1940, also retaining his Swiss citizenship.

Throughout the second world war, many of Einstein's colleagues were asked to go to Los Alamos to develop the first atomic bomb for the Manhattan Project, but Einstein was never asked to participate. It was subsequently revealed that "the US government feared Einstein’s lifelong association with peace and socialist organisations".

During the war, Einstein was instead enlisted to help with US Navy weapons systems designs and auctioned off his personal manuscripts to raise money for the war effort. On the news of the atomic bomb being dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein became involved in a movement to try to control the usage of the bomb, eventually forming the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists.

In 1955, Einstein signed a manifesto – along with other scientists and intellectuals – to highlight the dangers of nuclear weapons. However, despite his long career and infamous theories, Einstein became increasingly isolated from the physics community.

Einstein never travelled far in his later years and regularly just took to venturing around Princeton campus. He continued his work until the very end, though, and died aged 76 of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, with his work on the unified field theory unfinished.

Einstein and the Bomb will be available to stream on Netflix on Friday 16th February. Looking for something else to watch? Check out more of our Documentaries coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


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