Ein­stein feared for fu­ture

Pre­vi­ously un­known let­ter by sci­en­tist set to go on auc­tion in Jerusalem

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NATIONAL NEWS - Aron Heller

JERUSALEM — more than a decade be­fore the Nazis seized power in Ger­many, al­bert ein­stein was on the run and al­ready fear­ful for his coun­try’s fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to a newly re­vealed hand­writ­ten let­ter.

his long­time friend and fel­low Jew, Ger­man For­eign min­is­ter Walther ra­thenau, had just been as­sas­si­nated by right-wing ex­trem­ists and po­lice had warned the noted physi­cist that his life could be in dan­ger too.

So ein­stein fled ber­lin and went into hid­ing in north­ern Ger­many. it was dur­ing this hia­tus that he penned a hand­writ­ten let­ter to his beloved younger sis­ter, maja, warn­ing of the dan­gers of grow­ing na­tion­al­ism and anti- Semitism years be­fore the Nazis ul­ti­mately rose to power, forc­ing ein­stein to flee his na­tive Ger­many for good.

“out here, no­body knows where i am, and i’m be­lieved to be away on a trip,” he wrote in au­gust 1922. “here are brew­ing eco­nom­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally dark times, so i’m happy to be able to get away from ev­ery­thing.”

the pre­vi­ously un­known let­ter, brought for­ward by an anony­mous col­lec­tor, is set to go on auc­tion next week in Jerusalem with an open­ing ask­ing price of $12,000.

as the most in­flu­en­tial sci­en­tist of the 20th cen­tury, ein­stein’s life and writ­ings have been thor­oughly re­searched. the he­brew univer­sity in Jerusalem, of which ein­stein was a founder, houses the world’s largest col­lec­tion of ein­stein ma­te­rial. to­gether with the Cal­i­for­nia in­sti­tute of tech­nol­ogy, it runs the ein­stein Pa­pers Project. in­di­vid­ual auc­tions of his per­sonal let­ters have brought in sub­stan­tial sums in re­cent years.

the 1922 let­ter shows he was con­cerned about Ger­many’s fu­ture a full year be­fore the Nazis even at­tempted their first coup — the failed mu­nich beer hall Putsch to seize power in bavaria.

“this let­ter re­veals to us the thoughts that were run­ning through ein­stein’s mind and heart at a very pre­lim­i­nary stage of Nazi ter­ror,” said meron eren, co-owner of the Ke­dem auc­tion house in Jerusalem, which ob­tained the let­ter and of­fered the as­so­ci­ated Press a glimpse be­fore the pub­lic sale. “the re­la­tion­ship be­tween al­bert and maja was very spe­cial and close, which adds an­other di­men­sion to ein­stein the man and greater au­then­tic­ity to his writ­ings.”

the let­ter, which bears no re­turn ad­dress, is pre­sumed to have been writ­ten while he was stay­ing in the port city of Kiel be­fore em­bark­ing on a lengthy speak­ing tour across asia.

“i’m do­ing pretty well, de­spite all the anti-Semites among the Ger­man col­leagues. i’m very reclu­sive here, with­out noise and with­out un­pleas­ant feel­ings, and am earn­ing my money mainly in­de­pen­dent of the state, so that i’m re­ally a free man,” he wrote. “you see, i am about to be­come some kind of itin­er­ant preacher. that is, firstly, pleas­ant and, se­condly, nec­es­sary.”

ad­dress­ing his sis­ter’s con­cerns, ein­stein writes: “don’t worry about me, i my­self don’t worry ei­ther, even if it’s not quite kosher, peo­ple are very up­set. in italy, it seems to be at least as bad.”

later in 1922, ein­stein was awarded the No­bel Prize in physics.

Ze’ev rosenkranz, the as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the ein­stein Pa­pers Project at Cal­tech, said the let­ter wasn’t the first time ein­stein warned about Ger­man an­tiSemitism, but it cap­tured his state of mind at this im­por­tant junc­tion af­ter ra­thenau’s killing and the “in­ter­nal ex­ile” he im­posed on him­self shortly af­ter it.

“ein­stein’s ini­tial re­ac­tion was one of panic and a de­sire to leave Ger­many for good. Within a week, he had changed his mind,” he said. “the let­ter re­veals a mind­set rather typ­i­cal of ein­stein in which he claims to be im­per­vi­ous to ex­ter­nal pres­sures. one rea­son may be to as­suage his sis­ter’s con­cerns. an­other is that he didn’t like to ad­mit that he was stressed about ex­ter­nal fac­tors.”

When the Nazis came to power and be­gan en­act­ing leg­is­la­tion against Jews, they also aimed to purge Jewish sci­en­tists. the Nazis dis­missed ein­stein’s ground­break­ing work, in­clud­ing his law of rel­a­tiv­ity, as “Jewish Physics.”

ein­stein re­nounced his Ger­man cit­i­zen­ship in 1933 af­ter hitler be­came chan­cel­lor. the physi­cist set­tled in the u.S., where he would re­main un­til his death in 1955.

ein­stein de­clined an in­vi­ta­tion to serve as the first pres­i­dent of the newly es­tab­lished state of is­rael but left be­hind his lit­er­ary es­tate and per­sonal pa­pers to the he­brew univer­sity.

The as­so­ci­ated press pho­tos

Above: A copy of a 1922 let­ter Al­bert Ein­stein, right, wrote to his beloved younger sis­ter, Maja. The pre­vi­ously un­known let­ter, brought for­ward by an anony­mous col­lec­tor, is set to go on auc­tion next week in Jerusalem with an open­ing ask­ing price of $12,000. In the hand­writ­ten let­ter, Ein­stein ex­pressed fears of anti-Semitism long be­fore the Nazis’ rise.

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