Three Einstein letters on antisemitism to be auctioned

"The power of resistance which has enabled the Jewish people to survive for thousands of years has been based to a large extent on traditions of mutual helpfulness."

March 27, 2019 06:24
2 minute read.
A letter from Albert Einstein to his first wife, Mileva Maric

A letter from Albert Einstein to his first wife, Mileva Maric. (photo credit: NATE D. SANDERS AUCTIONS)


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Three letters written by Albert Einstein about antisemitism and his Jewish heritage are set to be auctioned off in Los Angeles this week.

The letters, dating to the 1920s and ‘30s – two handwritten and one from a typewriter – will be auctioned off by the Nate D. Sanders Auction House on Thursday.

The oldest letter, dated September 6, 1921, was written by hand and sent by Einstein to his sister, Maja Winteler-Einstein. The scientist wrote to her that, “I am supposed to go to Munich, but I will not do that, because this would endanger my life right now.” At the time, Munich, the city where Einstein grew up, was undergoing a wave of unrest and antisemitism, and in 1920 an order expelling the Jews from the city was issued.

Nevertheless, Einstein kept an upbeat tone, telling her that his two sons “are developing splendidly, they are intelligent, naturally unpretentious, and interested in many things.” Bid-ding on that letter is set to start at $12,000.

The second letter, handwritten on April 17, 1934, was sent by Einstein to his former wife and the mother of his two sons, Mileva Maric. The physicist said he was sending a check to aid with the care of his son, Eduard, who was schizophrenic. But Einstein said that his assistance was limited: “I am strained so severely by the various acts of assistance, that I have to restrict my-self all around in the most extreme way. All this is the result of the Hitler-insanity, which has completely ruined the lives of all those around me,” he wrote. Bidding on the letter to Maric begins at $25,000.

The third letter was composed on a typewriter, signed by Einstein on June 10, 1939 and sent to cancer specialist Dr. Maurice Lenz in New York. Einstein congratulated him on “the splendid work you have undertaken on behalf of the refugees during Dedication Week.” He continued: “The power of resistance which has enabled the Jewish people to survive for thousands of years has been based to a large extent on traditions of mutual helpfulness. In these years of affliction our readiness to help one another is being put to an especially severe test,” Einstein wrote, right before the outbreak of World War II.

“May we stand this test as well as did our fathers before us. We have no other means of self-defense than our solidarity and our knowledge that the cause for which we are suffering is a momentous and sacred cause,” he continued. “It must be a source of deep gratification to you to be making so important a contribution toward rescuing our persecuted fellow-Jews from their calamitous peril and leading them toward a better future.” Bidding on the letter will start at $12,000.

Several other letters from Einstein concerning his scientific work are also set to be sold by the auction house this week. The auction also includes a blouse previously owned by Audrey Hep-burn, a postcard signed by Wilbur Wright, Sylvia Plath’s driver’s license, a signed sketch by Pablo Picasso and a towel used by John F. Kennedy.

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