Albert Einstein, Revealing the Personal in the Political
Theory of Relativity, E=Mc2, Nobel Prize — Albert Einstein produced the pillars and foundations of modern physics and quantum mechanics to this day — and he did so against the backdrop of a looming WWII — and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany — which Einstein, a German, reviled.
In 1933 Hitler rose to power, and Einstein, now a visiting in the U.S. scholar, refused to return to Germany and renounced his citizenship in a public display — through letters, speeches and the like. Though raised as non-observant Jewish, as the war intensified, so then did his staunch opposition to Nazism.
Describing his homeland, Einstein famously said, “I do not want to remain in a state where individuals are not conceded equal rights before the law for freedom of speech and doctrine.”
Over the years, we’ve had a chance to auction various personal letters written by Einstein, lending insight to the man, whose unquenching curiosity for science spanned his entire life — and whose passionate sentiments towards the politics affecting the world around him, he bravely defended.
In our upcoming February 28th auction, we have an incredibly scarce typed letter signed by Einstein, where he discusses physics at length, specifically quantum mechanics. Dated 10 June 1938, just a year before the decision to begin building the atomic bomb was made by President Roosevelt.
He writes in part, “…the inorganic field’s (quantum-theory) is already misleading. It is a certain double-principle which, in my view, resembles much more than a superficial explanation of the primitive and is fundamentally opposed to modern science…”
In December 2012, we had the privilege to auction typed letter signed ”A. Einstein” on his personal stationery, dated 10 June 1939 from Princeton, New Jersey, where he was a scholar in residence. It sold for an incredible $13,045. Here, Einstein defends his Jewish heritage amidst WWII, writing to a Dr. Epstein, thanking him for the work done on behalf of Jewish refugees:
“We [Jews] have no other means of self-defense than our solidarity and our knowledge that the cause for which we are suffering is a momentous and sacred cause,” Einstein wrote.
We also auctioned a group of letters by Einstein to a American-German group which campaigned against the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. In one, the father of relativity praises the “Friends of Truth,” a Cincinnati-based German-American group, for not allowing Jews to join it because it would weaken their anti-Nazi message.
“I welcome your association and their work from the bottom of my heart,” Einstein, who made his home in the United States after Hitler came to power in 1933, wrote in an August 1934 letter to group member August Hamelberg.
In this typed letter signed in German, dated 26 June 1935, Einstein encourages Hamelberg to publish an anti-Nazi article, as says, “…I believe it is in the interest of the matter to help this article to be published…” The letter sold for $1,903.20
In this 1935 typed letter signed, he offers continued praise for German-American anti-Nazi publications — “…it asks a great measure of courage and self-reliance…” It sold for $1882.80.
And lastly, we auctioned the following 1934 typed letter signed, which directly discussed Nazism. It sold for an amazing $4,440.
Dated 11 August 1934, to August Hamelberg, a member of The Friends of the Truth, the organization of Cincinnati non-Jewish German-Americans. Einstein is praising Hamelberg for his work on a pamphlet, published by the organization that same month, entitled “The Menace of Nazism.”
He writes, “…You’re absolutely right not to accept Jews in your ranks, as it would weaken your position. For similar reasons, I have so far avoided speaking out openly about this issue…”
Be sure to check out the latest Einstein letter in our upcoming auction!