A letter written by Albert Einstein on the day he renounced his German citizenship, after realizing he could not return due to the rise of the Nazis, has been sold at auction.
The letter written on board the S.S. Belgenland and dated March 28, 1933, sold for $30,250 at the Nate D. Sanders Auction House in Los Angeles. Bidding for Thursday night’s auction started at $25,000.
A second letter from Einstein written in 1938 in which he discusses helping Jewish refugees escape Nazi Germany sold for $31,250.
The 1933 letter was written with his wife, Elsa, to his sister Maja Winteler-Einstein about the dire situation in Germany, just minutes before they docked in Antwerp, Belgium, where Einstein renounced his German citizenship. Later that day, Einstein handed in his passport at the German consulate in Antwerp.
Hitler’s rise to power as chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, caught the Einsteins while they were on an extended visit to the United States. They decided to return to Germany — despite two Nazi raids on their Berlin apartment and warnings from friends to stay away — with the intention of staying at their villa in Caputh.
But by the time their ship, the S.S. Belgenland, had docked in Belgium, they were told that the Nazis had ransacked that home too. It was on the day of their arrival that the Einsteins wrote the letter, addressed to Albert’s sister Maja Winteler-Einstein.
In the letter, penned on the ship’s letterhead, Elsa wrote of her concern for Einstein’s son from his first marriage, Tetel, and her fears regarding the political developments in Germany.
“Oh my God, all of our friends either have fled or they are in jail,” she wrote.
Albert Einstein finished the letter, writing also of his worries over Tetel but with dry optimism adding at the end, “All the best! We will now look for a hiding place for the summer.”
The December 14, 1938, letter was also addressed to his sister Winteler-Einstein, who was in Switzerland at the time.
In it Einstein urged her to move to the United States and also spoke of his efforts to help Germany’s Jews.
“As a sideline, I am now working as some sort of itinerant relief committee and buckets of letters are coming in, whole stacks full of persecuted and desperate victims of the current situation. I sent some money to Marie Dr., and I am helping the Ulm [city in Germany] relatives with emigrating. It is easy for the young ones, but difficult for the old ones,” he wrote.
“Only when you are dead will you be safe. The most difficult thing will be finding a country that will accept the old people, even if one provides a modest livelihood for them. That is how things have turned out by now!” Einstein wrote.
In March, a letter penned by Einstein discussing one of his groundbreaking theories sold in Jerusalem for $103,700 (83,600 euros) as part of trove of documents that went under the hammer. The handwritten missive was sent in 1928 by Einstein from Berlin to a mathematician about the formalization of the “Third Stage of the Theory of Relativity.”
The sum — while large — pales in comparison to the $1.56 million that one purchaser paid for a letter from Einstein on the secret of happiness at a Jerusalem auction in October, after it was initially valued at some $8,000.
AFP contributed to this report.