Acts of Kindness
Man helped Jewish boy escape WWII who would later win the Nobel Prize – and he never knew it
Barnet Yudin had no idea the boy he saved would end up changing our entire understanding of the cosmos.
Elijah Chan
06.20.22

Kindness, for some, doesn’t need to be celebrated.

But in the grand scheme of things, with every act of compassion we do, we fail to see how somebody else’s life changed for the better. But in this case, the whole world.

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Wikicommons

On the eve of the Second World War, Leo Gelbart was knocking on every person’s door in his Jewish Community in New Jersey. He was asking for help to evacuate a family.

Karl and Justine Penzias wanted to leave Germany.

They were friends of Gelbart and as much as his friend wanted to help them all the way, he just doesn’t have the means to.

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Wikicommons

He just needed two signatures. First, to prove that a family member in America is willing to take them in. And second, that a sponsor is willing to finance them until they become self-sufficient.

YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science
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YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science

Gelbart can sign the first document. He only needs another to finance the family. A paint merchant, 52 at that time, stepped up.

By 1939, the Penzias family arrived in New York.

In that family of refugees was Arno Penzias. He is unknown to some but for those who studied astrophysics and astronomy, he is one of the biggest names there is. In fact, his name is as big as the Big Bang Theory.

YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science
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YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science

After earning his Ph.D. in physics at Columbia, Arno joined Bell Laboratories. Then, with his research partner Robert Wilson, they discovered cosmic microwave background radiation – research that confirmed the Big Bang.

By 1978, a former refugee, Arno accepted the Nobel Prize in Physics with Wilson.

“I came to the United States thirty-nine years ago as a penniless refugee from Nazi Germany.” He said in a letter to President Jimmy Carter. “For my family and myself, America has meant a haven of safety as well as a land of freedom and opportunity.”

YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science
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YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science

At a time when the world was torn apart and living was almost uncertain, an act of kindness saved Arno and his family. And in turn, he made one of the biggest contributions in science.

It took almost eighty years for the story to finally come together.

After all, Karl Penzias said that they wouldn’t bother or contact the pain merchant to show their gratitude. But in 2012, David Penzias, Arno’s son, found the documents. He saw one was signed by a Barnet Yudin.

YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science
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YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science

David then contacted Robert Yudin who he thought was Barnet’s grandson. It turns out, that the entire family never knew about Barnet helping a fleeing Jewish family.

YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - Naked Science

In their discussions and stories, it was revealed that Barnet was supposed to be a doctor in Russia but was denied admission because he was Jewish. Sydney Neuwirth, Barnet’s granddaughter said that he helped the family because he knew the feeling of being turned down.

Barnet Yudin saved a family he didn’t even know.

And with his act of kindness, he gave mankind the eyes to see the Universe. Joe Yudin, Barnet’s great-grandson, provides a perspective on this providential consequence of kindness.

In his tours to the Yad Vashem’s Children’s Memorial, a monument for 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered during the Second World War, he leaves this idea:

“What did we lose in the Holocaust?” he said, quoted by National Geographic, “We lost the cure for cancer. We lost time travel and deep space travel. Think of all the geniuses who didn’t survive.”

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Wikicommons

And through this question, he tells the story of a refugee who was rescued by his ancestor who then became one of the most influential names in Science.

Watch how an act of kindness confirmed the Big Bang Theory.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Elijah Chan
hi@sbly.com
Elijah Chan is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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