A rare handwritten, signed letter by Albert Einstein, one of the most influential physicists of all time, is up for auction at the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem.
The letter addressed to the Danish journalist Karen Stampe Bendix in 1936 was written against the backdrop of the threat posed by Nazi Germany’s rapid mobilization in conjunction with its escalating political extremism, and the increasing likelihood of another war.
Einstein’s call resonates with recent events in Europe, in which Western countries, having failed in trying to stop Russian aggression through diplomacy, are forced to send military assistance to Ukraine to contain the advance of the Russian army, while voices are heard in Moscow calling to invade other European countries such as Poland and Moldova.
Despite his decidedly pacifistic worldview, Albert Einstein insists that under the prevailing circumstances, there is no choice but to confront Germany and even take the initiative in doing so. In this regard, he takes issue with 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. It would have been best to intervene already three years ago. There are diseases that cannot be overcome without surgery. I cannot deny this even though I abhor the knife.”
Einstein implores Stampe to take comfort in her own situation, as much as Denmark, her native country, “is unthreatened by the impending turbulence, ” and promises her that “even if it is economically difficult, there is yet strange consolation in that no place on earth is in a better situation.” (This assertion turned out to be untrue in hindsight, seeing as notwithstanding the nonaggression pact it signed with Germany, Denmark was attacked and occupied by Nazi German forces in 1940.) The letter ends with a description of the prevailing sentiment in the United States: “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.”
“For his entire life, Albert Einstein regarded himself as a passionate pacifist. With every fiber of his being, he opposed military conflict in all its forms,” said Meron Eren, Kedem Auction House CEO and co-founder. “Despite his longstanding commitment to pacifism, Nazi militarism and Adolf Hitler’s aggressive territorial ambitions convinced Einstein that Nazi ideology posed a clear and present danger to both European Jewry and European civilization, and that Hitler must be stopped at all costs, sooner rather than later.”