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Letter in which Einstein urged world to attack Nazis up for auction

‘There are diseases that cannot be overcome without surgery. I cannot deny this even though I abhor the knife,’ the physicist wrote in 1936

A photo of a letter handwritten and signed by Albert Einstein and addressed to  Danish journalist Karen Stampe Bendix in 1936, in which the renowned physicist urges the free world to attack Nazi Germany. (Kedem Auction House)
A photo of a letter handwritten and signed by Albert Einstein and addressed to Danish journalist Karen Stampe Bendix in 1936, in which the renowned physicist urges the free world to attack Nazi Germany. (Kedem Auction House)

A rare letter handwritten and signed by renowned Jewish physicist Albert Einstein that urges world powers to take a harder line against Nazi Germany is up for auction at the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem.

The letter, addressed to Danish journalist Karen Stampe Bendix and dated 1936, was written as the threat posed to European Jews by Nazi Germany was becoming more evident and in conjunction with Adolf Hitler’s escalating political extremism.

Despite his pacifist worldview, Einstein insisted in the letter that under the prevailing circumstances, there is no choice but to confront Germany and even take the initiative in doing so.

“It would have been best to intervene already three years ago,” he wrote.

“There are diseases that cannot be overcome without surgery. I cannot deny this even though I abhor the knife,” he added, in a strikingly voiced opposition to the conciliatory stance of the powers of the free world.

“Most regrettable is the feeble stance of England, insofar as it indeed postpones the start of war, but certainly cannot prevent it,” Einstein said.

Albert Einstein, center left, and Chaim Weizmann, center right, were both targets of the Nazi hit list. Also pictured in this 1921 photo aboard the SS Rotterdam are Benzion Mossinson, left, and Menachem Ussishkin, right. (Public domain)

The Jewish physicist implored the Danish journalist to take comfort in her own situation, arguing that Denmark “is unthreatened by the impending turbulence, ” and promising her that “even if it is economically difficult, there is yet strange consolation in that no place on earth is in a better situation.”

That assertion, however, turned out to be false, as Denmark was attacked and occupied by Nazi forces in 1940.

Einstein ended his letter with a description of the prevailing sentiment in the United States at the time, writing: “There is heavy unemployment here as well, and unlike the situation in the past, [there is] a mood of pessimistic resignation with the state of affairs. On the other hand, the difficult circumstances here have not led to the heated political passions so familiar to us from Europe.”

Previous letters and notes written by Einstein and sold at auction in recent months include a letter handwritten by him to a friend, in which he warned of the antisemitism he said was prevalent in US academia, and Einstein’s private notes for the theory of relativity that sold last year for a record 11.6 million euros ($13 million) at an auction in Paris.

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