Auction 83 Part 1 Rare and Important Items
Nov 23, 2021
8 Ramban St, Jerusalem., Israel

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8 Ramban St. Jerusalem

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LOT 96:

Letter Handwritten and Signed by Albert Einstein – Princeton, New Jersey, USA, 1936 – "There exists here extreme ...

Sold for: $55,000
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$ 10,000
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Letter Handwritten and Signed by Albert Einstein – Princeton, New Jersey, USA, 1936 – "There exists here extreme anti-Semitism... It is, so to speak, an omnipresent enemy, one that's impossible to see, that you only perceive"
Letter handwritten and signed by Albert Einstein, addressed to the pianist Bruno Eisner. Princeton, New Jersey, USA, September 26, 1936. German.
The present letter was written in 1936, when Albert Einstein was already residing in the United States, in Princeton, New Jersey, a scant few years following the Nazi rise to power and Einstein's decision to refrain from returning to Germany. In his letter, Einstein offers advice to his friend – the Austrian Jewish pianist Bruno Eisner – with regard to settling in the United States and the difficulties a Jewish immigrant with no connections should expect. (In fact, Eisner had already arrived at the US shortly beforehand, and was staying in New York with another of Einstein's friends, the ophthalmologist Max Talmey.)
Einstein writes: "You are unfortunately relying on a false assumption. I am very lonely here, and I am not in touch with anyone, least of all with any musicians. The assignment of positions is completely disorganized, so you find out about vacancies in any given place only through personal connections... There exists here a tremendous [degree of] anti-Semitism, especially in academia (though also in industry and banking). Mind you, this [anti-Semitism] never takes the form of brutal speech or action, but rather, it brews, all the more intensely, under the surface. It is, so to speak, an omnipresent enemy, one that's impossible to see, [whose presence] you only perceive." As an example, Einstein cites the case of his own assistant, who, as a last resort, was forced to leave the United States and accept a job position in Russia.
Further on in the letter, Einstein qualifies the above warnings, and points out that in fact it is not entirely impossible to find a job in the United States, "though not necessarily in one of the larger cities, where everyone seems to end up." He encourages Eisner to establish personal connections in musical circles and make an effort to gain admittance to an appropriate professional association. He also advises Eisner to contact and request assistance from another one of his musician-friends, the renowned pianist and composer Leopold Godowsky.
Toward the end of the letter, Einstein states that "I am happy that you are staying with such fine, good-hearted people; I've known Mr. Talmey since childhood (he was a student back then)." In his days as a student of ophthalmology, Max Talmey (originally Max Talmud; 1869-1941) would regularly come to visit the Einstein home in Munich for lunch. As a token of gratitude, he tutored the 10-year-old Albert in algebra and supplied him with science texts, including books belonging to the popular series "Naturwissenschaftliche Volksbücher" ("Popular Books on Natural Science") by Aaron Bernstein – an author who had a profound impact on the young Einstein's intellectual development.
At the very end, Einstein sends regards from his wife, Elsa Einstein, who was seriously (and terminally) ill at the time. "She suffers greatly, bedridden, trouble breathing, diabetes..." (Elsa passed away roughly three months later.)
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), among the most influential of physicists of the 20th century, gave rise to the theory of relativity and helped lay the foundations for the theory of quantum mechanics. Nobel Laureate in Physics. Born in Ulm in southern Germany, studied in Switzerland, and served as professor at a number of different universities, including Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (today Humboldt University) in Berlin.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, there was a gradual move to isolate Jews and remove them from positions of influence in German society. Among the earliest anti-Semitic edicts were laws preventing Jews from holding public office, and this included university posts. The persecutions targeted Jewish physicists in particular; among other things, Einstein's theory of relativity was dismissed as "Jewish Physics." At the time of Adolf Hitler's rise to power, Einstein coincidentally happened to be on a lecture tour outside Germany. In light of the situation in his native land, Einstein decided to renounce his German citizenship, and after a brief period of wandering, ended up settling in the United States, where he was offered a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in New Jersey. Einstein remained at Princeton until his death on April 18, 1955.
Bruno Eisner (1884-1978), Jewish pianist, native of Vienna. Studied music in Vienna, appeared throughout Europe as a concert pianist, and served as an instructor at various musical academies in Germany. Held concerts in Palestine in 1929 and 1936. Following the Nazi takeover in Germany, immigrated to the United States with the support of Albert Einstein, whom he first met in 1928. Einstein provided Eisner with an affidavit that assisted him in acquiring an entry visa. He also helped him find an available room at the home of Max Talmey in New York, and even paid his rent for the first month. The present letter's recipient address was apparently this residence. In spite of the rising tide of anti-Semitism that characterized those years – influenced by the spread of Nazism throughout Europe, anti-Jewish demagoguery, and conspiracy theories associated with the New Deal, all in the shadow of the Great Depression – Eisner managed to quickly find a niche in the American classical music scene. He nurtured a career as a concert pianist and professor of music at universities and music academies across the land, and passed away at a ripe old age in New York.
[1] f. (written on both sides), approx. 28 cm. Good condition. Minor stains. Fold lines and minor creases. Few small tears to edges, and punch holes (not affecting text).
Provenance: Christie's, Auction No. 9364, Printed Books and Manuscripts including Americana (New York, May 19, 2000), Item No. 204.