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Lot # 1440 (of 1641)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1939 Albert Einstein Signed Letter Referencing the Confiscation of his Boat by Hitler

Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $4,444

One-page typed letter, dated January 17, 1939, signed by Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity. The letter, which is composed in German and written on Einstein's personal embossed letterhead (bearing his Princeton, New Jersey, address), is addressed to "Commander S. M. Riis/The Explorer Club/New York City." While we do not fully understand all that Einstein is writing here, he is clearly referencing the well known-confiscation of his boat in Germany when the Nazis came into power in 1933 and mentions Hitler by name in this context. Einstein was an avid sailor and he was given the boat by friends on his 50th birthday in 1929. In full:

Ich habe mit interesse von Ihren verschiedenen Mitteilung en Kenntnis genommen. Ihre Idee, dass man auf Grand der geozentrischen Beschreibung irgendwelche wesentlichen Einsichten gewinnen konne, halte ich allerdings fur ganz abwegig. Ich fuhle mich ihnen insofern verbunden, als auch mir Herr Hitler ein Boot weggenommen hat, allerdings Gott sei Dank kein so grosses wie Ihnen, sondern nur ein schmuckes Sedgelboot auf der Havel.Mit ausgezeichneter Hochachtung. Albert Einstein [signed].

Einstein's signature has been flawlessly scripted in black fountain pen, grading "10." Einstein, a Jew, left Germany and renounced his citizenship when Hitler rose to power in 1933. He then lived in Europe for a short time before emigrating to the United States and accepting the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton. He became a United States citizen in 1940. Commander S. M. Riis was a high-ranking American Navy intelligence officer, and a lifelong member of The Explorers Club. According to its website, The Explorers Club "promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences." At the time of this letter, Hitler had already begun his systematic persecution of the Jews, and his aggressive military forays into neighboring countries made war in Europe inevitable. In August 1939, Einstein sent President Roosevelt a letter warning him about the dangers of ignoring Germany's atomic-bomb research and urging the United States to begin its own atomic project. Unfortunately, the United States was slow to act on Einstein's recommendations, and it wasn't until 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, that the United States formally began its atomic research program, known as the Manhattan Project. The letter (7.5 x 10 inches) displays one horizontal and two vertical mailing folds, as well as numerous minor creases and two small areas of light discoloration along the left and right borders (near the horizontal center fold) respectively. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. Matted and framed together with a recent print of Einstein to total dimensions of 22 x 15.5 inches. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000/$1,500+. SOLD FOR $4,444

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