A letter written by Albert Einstein on the day he renounced his German citizenship, after realising he could not return due to the rise of the Nazis, is being sold at auction.
Bidding on the letter co-written with his wife, and another written by the famed scientist, also to his sister, closes Thursday at the Nate D. Sanders Auction House in Los Angeles. The bidding for each starts at £19,000 ($25,000).
Four other Einstein letters, one from 1921 dealing with anti-Semitism in Germany and a second about his General Theory of Relativity, also are up for auction, with bids starting at £11,000 ($15,000).
The letter written with his wife, Elsa, was dated March 28, 1933, aboard the S.S. Belgenland ship. The Einsteins wrote 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.
After the Nazis seized power in January 1933, they raided Einstein’s home when he and his wife were travelling to the United States. They also reportedly put a bounty on his head. The day the letter was written, the Einsteins were travelling back to Germany, intending to live at their summer home in Caputh, before discovering that the home also had been raided. This led Einstein to decide to renounce his citizenship.
“Oh my God, all of our friends either have fled or they are in jail,” Elsa Einstein first wrote in the letter after expressing concern that her husband’s children in Germany were in danger following an anti-Nazi interview he gave while they were visiting the United States.
“We will now look for a hiding place for the summer,” Albert Einstein wrote in concluding the letter.
In the second letter to his sister, from December 1938, Albert Einstein discusses helping Jews and other persecuted people flee German-held countries in Europe, including using his own funds to do so. He asks his sister to leave Switzerland and visit him in the United States.
Listen to this week’s episode of the Jewish Views Podcast: