“Yes, but where does it have its small wheels?”

Sentence from Albert Einstein when he first saw his sister Maja, 1881

Short life history: Maria Winteler-Einstein

* November 18, 1881 Munich, † June 25, 1951 Princeton, New Jersey, USA

On November 18 in 1881 Albert Einstein’s (1879–1955) sister Maria – called Maja – was born in Munich. Her Jewish parents, Hermann Einstein and Pauline Einstein, nee Koch, had moved from Ulm to Munich in June 1880 with their two-year-old son Albert. There Hermann Einstein and his brother Jakob had founded the electrical engineering company Einstein & Cie. When little Albert saw his sister for the first time he thought she were a kind of toy and asked: “Yes, but where does it have its small wheels?” Maja and her brother Albert got along very well all their life.

After attending the elementary school in Munich from 1887 to 1894, she attended the German International School in Milan where the family had moved to due to financial reasons. To complete school, Albert had stayed in Munich. From 1899 to 1902 she attended the workshop for teachers in Aarau. After she did her final exams successfully, she studied Romance languages and literature in Berlin, Bern and Paris. In 1909 she graduated from university in Bern. The title of her dissertation was “Contribution to the tradition of the Chevalier au Cygne and the Enfances Godefroi”. In the following year the “Ms Doctor” married Paul Winteler. Their marriage produced no children. Albert Einstein had lived with the family Winteler during his almost one year long stay in Aarau (1895/96).

The young couple moved to Luzern in 1911 where Maja’s husband had found a job. In 1922 they moved to Colonnata near Florence in Italy.

Due to the political difficulties in Europe Maja, she was Jewish, emigrated, to the United States in 1939. As her husband wasn’t allowed to enter the United States due to health reasons he stayed with relatives in Geneva. He died in 1952. Maja moved to her brother into Mercer Street in Princeton, New Jersey. Albert Einstein’s second wife Elsa had died there in 1936. The siblings spent some nice years together. After a stroke in 1946 and later through a proceeding arteriosclerosis Maja was bedridden.

She died in Princeton on June 25, 1951.