Albert Einstein railed against racism. Now, his travel diaries reveal he had a racist streak

Albert Einstein wrote travel diaries while on a trip in the early 1920s to East Asia, Palestine and Spain.

(CNN)A series of travel diaries written by famed physicist and anti-racism campaigner Albert Einstein -- and now published in English for the first time -- reveal that the scientist held racist and xenophobic views of his own.

Einstein, who died in 1955, describes the Chinese as "industrious, filthy, obtuse people," remarking how they "don't sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods."
They are "a peculiar herd-like nation," he writes, "often more like automatons than people."
"It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races," he later adds. "For the likes of us the mere thought is unspeakably dreary."
    Einstein, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who frequently denounced the racism he saw in the United States and once famously described racial segregation as "a disease of white people," made the remarks in a personal diary kept in 1922 and 1923 during a six-month trip to East Asia, Palestine and Spain.
    He wrote daily, documenting his personal impressions of the people and places he encountered and musing on art, philosophy and science.
    The journals have now been edited and translated into English by archivist and historian Ze'ev Rosenkranz. They were published by Princeton University Press.
    "The language is extreme," Rosenkranz told CNN. "It's disturbing and shocking for the modern era."
    The shock is even greater, given Einstein's image as a "humanitarian icon," he said.
    "If you're a true humanist, you think all life has the same value. But he didn't subscribe to that in those years," Rosenkranz said, adding: "Maybe he did later on."

    'As if spewed from hell'

    Einstein does not reserve his racist remarks solely for the Chinese. After a journey up the Suez Canal, he reaches Port Said, Egypt, where he encounters what he describes as "screaming and gesticulating Levantines of every shade, who lunge at our ship. As if spewed from hell."
    Visiting the port for a second time on his return trip, he comments on the "riff-raff," translated from a German word that, as Rosenkranz points out in the book's introduction, has a connotation of "vermin" and can be interpreted as xenophobic.
    On a visit to Colombo in Sri Lanka, Einstein complains about the "rickshaw coolies" and describes the "natives" as "intrusive" and "primitive."
    His impressions of the Japanese are much more positive. Einstein describes them as "unostentatious, decent, altogether very appealing" and praises their "cute little houses."
    Yet even as he writes admiringly, he continues to reduce whole nations to a flat bundle of superficial characteristics.
    The people he meets remain mostly as caricatures, dehumanized and stereotyped representatives of their nations with little room for individuality, nuance or complexity.
    Daniel Kennefick, astrophysicist at the