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Lot #239
Albert Einstein Collection of (5) Typed Letters Signed, Dating to His Arrival in Princeton After His Self-Exile from Nazi Germany

Letters from Einstein, recently emigrated from Europe and safe in America, offering words of caution regarding the rise of Nazi Germany: “We may still hope that at least a part of the world remains protected from such a downfall”

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Letters from Einstein, recently emigrated from Europe and safe in America, offering words of caution regarding the rise of Nazi Germany: “We may still hope that at least a part of the world remains protected from such a downfall”

Collection of five TLSs in German from Albert Einstein, each signed “A. Einstein,” all one page, 8 x 10 and 8.5 x 11, dated between November 1933 and January 1936, four directed to Theodore F. Menzel and another serving as a letter of recommendation for Menzel, a German national and American resident who initiated a correspondence with the theoretical physicist in late November 1933. In his first letter, he expresses to Einstein his sympathy and shame with how the new German government mistreated him, and implores him “not to blame the misled German people.” Einstein’s first reply from November 24, 1933, dates to a little over a month after he and his wife, Elsa, left Europe and emigrated to America where Einstein would assume a position at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. The letter, typed on IAS (School of Mathematics) letterhead, reads (translated): “Your noble and refined words have given me unusual pleasure. You are entirely correct that the people in Germany are not as bad as the behavior of the state and of the leading voices makes it appear. However, there is a great danger that the better elements will be destroyed, suppressed, or even corrupted. For the time being, we may still hope that at least a part of the world remains protected from such a downfall.”

The remaining four Einstein letters are accompanied by six additional letters from Menzel, one of which is addressed to Elsa Einstein on December 8, 1933, thanking her for her warm message concerning his first sent missive. Elsa’s letter is included and reads: “It truly does one good to encounter people who declare the kind of convictions that you do. God knows, such experiences are very rare. With these lines I wish only to say that I was also deeply impressed by what you indicated in your letter.”

The next Einstein letter, dated July 23, 1934, replies to Menzel’s polite request to visit the Einsteins at their summer home in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, from where Einstein sent this letter. Menzel, himself a scientist of some ilk, sought to pose to Einstein technical questions related to the former’s research in the high deserts of Death Valley. Einstein’s brief response: “It may well be quite inconvenient for you to visit me here in Watch Hill. I will be happy to also answer your questions in writing, as far as I can.” Menzel responded two days later, affirming that an in-person meeting would be ideal, as it would save Einstein “the effort of a time-consuming written exchange of views.” Einstein’s response on July 27th: “Your letter indicates that you prefer to pose your questions to me orally. This can certainly be done some morning by prior arrangement. P.S. My wife is in Europe.”

Menzel’s final two letters to Einstein regard his plans to visit him at Watch Hill on August 29th. It remains unknown if Menzel made the trip, as the last two letters from Einstein, both on his embossed personal letterhead and dated January 6, 1936, relate to Einstein’s acquiescence to write a letter of recommendation for Menzel. The first letter to Menzel: “I remember our conversation very well and am happy to recommend you. In view of my isolated situation, however, I am not in a position to identify the individuals whom you might approach. For this reason, I am sending you the enclosed recommendation written in general terms.”

Einstein’s enclosed recommendation letter, which he signs at the conclusion, reads: “I have had the opportunity on multiple occasions to converse with Mr. Theodor Menzel about certain observations that he has made in recent years. On these occasions, I have seen that he is a cultured, capable, and intelligent man. He will certainly show himself to be useful and reliable in a business career, as Mr. Menzel's references' also demonstrate. I would be greatly pleased if Mr. Menzel were to find employment matching his capabilities.” In overall very good to fine condition, with soiling, toning, and file holes, none of which affects any of Einstein's signatures. Accompanied by English translations for each letter.

A fascinating assortment of letters from Einstein and his wife that date to their new life abroad. Einstein, like so many Jewish academics of his time, was forced into exile in 1933 due to anti-Semitic persecution in Nazi Germany and the ascent of Adolf Hitler as the country’s new chancellor. After applying for release from his Prussian (German) citizenship, Einstein spent time in eastern England before immigrating to the U.S. and joining the esteemed ranks of the Institute for Advanced Study. He remained in Princeton for the rest of his life, becoming the symbol and leader of his cohort of refugee scholars.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts Featuring Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, and Civil War
  • Dates: #695 - Ended July 10, 2024