Einstein letter written the day he renounced German citizenship up for auction

Missive penned together with wife Elsa in 1933 shows couple’s concerns over Nazis’ rise; another note, also for sale, details his efforts to help Jewish refugees

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A letter written by Albert and Elsa Einstein to his sister Maja Winteler-Einstein on March 28, 1933. (Nate D. Sanders Auctions)
A letter written by Albert and Elsa Einstein to his sister Maja Winteler-Einstein on March 28, 1933. (Nate D. Sanders Auctions)

Two handwritten letters penned by the legendary physicist Albert Einstein have been put up for auction with bids starting at $25,000 for each document.

One of the letters was written on March 28, 1933, the very day the Nobel Prize winner renounced his German citizenship and returned his passport at a German consulate after realizing he could no longer return to his homeland due to the rise of the Nazis under Adolf Hitler.

The second letter, from 1938, gives details of Einstein’s efforts to help Jewish refugees escape from Nazi Germany.

The letters, written in German, are to be auctioned as separate lots by Nate D. Sanders Auctions on Thursday in Los Angeles, the auctioneers said in a statement.

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.

A letter written by Albert and Elsa Einstein to his sister Maja Winteler-Einstein on March 28, 1933. (Nate D. Sanders Auctions)

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.”

Later that day Einstein handed in his passport at the German consulate in Antwerp.

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.

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