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About Lieserl Einstein
Lieserl (born January, 1902 – last mentioned in 1903; date of death unknown) was the first child of Mileva Marić and Albert Einstein.
According to the correspondence between her parents, "Lieserl" was born in January, 1902, a year before her parents married, in Novi Sad, Vojvodina, present day Republic of Serbia, and was cared for by her mother for a short time while Einstein worked in Switzerland before Marić joined him there without the child.
"Lieserl's" existence was unknown to biographers until 1986, when a batch of letters between Albert and Mileva was discovered by Hans Albert Einstein's daughter Evelyn.
Marić had hoped for a girl, while Einstein would have preferred a boy. In their letters, they called the unborn child "Lieserl", when referring to a girl, or "Hanserl", if a boy. Both "Lieserl" and "Hanserl" are diminutives of the very common German names Liese (Elisabeth) and Hans (Johannes).
The first reference to Marić's pregnancy is found in a letter Einstein wrote to her from Winterthur, probably on May 28, 1901 (letter 36), asking twice about "the boy" and "our little son", whereas Marić's first reference is found in her letter of November 13, 1901 (letter 43) from Stein am Rhein, in which she refers to the unborn child as "Lieserl". Einstein goes along with Marić's wish for a daughter, and refers to the unborn child as "Lieserl" as well, but with a sense of humour as in letter 45 of December 12, 1901 "... and be happy about our Lieserl, whom I secretly (so Dollie doesn't notice) prefer to imagine a Hanserl."
The child must have been born shortly before February 4, 1902, when Einstein wrote: "... now you see that it really is a Lieserl, just as you'd wished. Is she healthy and does she cry properly? [...] I love her so much and don't even know her yet!"
The last time "Lieserl" is mentioned in their extant correspondence is in Einstein's letter of September 19, 1903 (letter 54), in which he shows concern for her suffering from scarlet fever. His asking "as what is the child registered? [Adding] we must take precautions that problems don't arise for her later" may indicate the intention to give the child up for adoption.
As neither the full name, nor the fate of the child are known so far several theories about her life and death have been put forward:
- Michele Zackheim, in her book on "Lieserl", Einstein's Daughter, states that "Lieserl" was mentally challenged at birth, and that she lived with her mother's family and probably died of scarlet fever in September 1903.
- Another possibility, favoured by Robert Schulmann of the Einstein Papers Project, is that "Lieserl" was adopted by Marić's close friend, Helene Savić, and was raised by her and lived under the name "Zorka Savić" until the 1990s. Savić did in fact raise a child by the name of Zorka, who was blind from childhood and died in the 1990s. Her grandson Milan Popović rejects the possibility that it was "Lieserl", and also favors the theory, that the child died in September 1903.