Autograph Letter Signed by Albert Einstein – Dealing with the Rising Power of Nazi Germany – "There are diseases ...
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Autograph Letter Signed by Albert Einstein – Dealing with the Rising Power of Nazi Germany – "There are diseases that cannot be overcome without surgery. I cannot deny this even though I abhor the knife"
Letter handwritten and signed by Albert Einstein (with the initials "AE"), addressed to the Danish journalist Karen Stampe Bendix. No indication of place or date [United States, ca. 1936]. German.
A fascinating letter 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. Thus, notwithstanding his decidedly pacifistic worldview, Albert Einstein insists that under the prevailing circumstances, there is no choice but to confront Germany, the sooner the better, and perhaps 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, inasmuch 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."
Einstein makes parenthetic reference to his wife's poor state of health, as well as the couple's general living conditions: "We live in an old, pretty house in picturesque surroundings… but I am still plagued by an unimaginable flood of letters."
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), among the most influential 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. In addition to his distinguished scientific accomplishments, Einstein was deeply involved in social and political activism; when the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Einstein chose to renounce his German citizenship and settle in the United States with his second wife, Elsa Einstein (1876-1936), where he was offered a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey. Einstein remained at Princeton until his death on April 18, 1955.
Albert Einstein was an avowed pacifist all his life, and remained steadfast in his opposition to war in almost any form. As such, he campaigned for the establishment of international institutions promoting conflict resolution between the nations of the world. Notwithstanding this worldview, considering the threat posed to humanity by Nazi Germany – "an enemy who pursues the destruction of life as an end in itself" – Einstein vociferously called for the free world to prepare for war. So great was the danger in his view, that he implored United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt to order the accelerated development of an atomic bomb to ensure America would be in possession of this lethal weapon before Nazi Germany. With the conclusion of the Second World War, Einstein returned to his previous positions in opposition to virtually all use of military force, and campaigned forcefully for nuclear disarmament. For more on this subject, see below.
Karen Stampe Bendix (1881-1963), Danish educator, screenwriter, and author. Daughter of Danish-Jewish composer Victor Bendix and of the Danish noblewoman and activist author Rigmor Stampe Bendix (godchild of Hans Christian Andersen). In the 1930s, Stampe Bendix developed a close relationship with Albert Einstein and his wife, and published a lengthy article on Einstein in the Danish newspaper "Politiken."
 f., folded (roughly two-and-a-half written pages), 17.5 cm. Good condition. Fold lines and creases. Stains. Small tears along fold lines, repaired.
Albert Einstein's Pacifistic Worldview
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. He sought to completely abolish the concept of the nation-state, whose very existence, in his view, rendered warfare unavoidable. In this vein, in the early days of the First World War, he signed the pacifistic manifesto entitled "Aufruf an die Europäer" ("Call to the Europeans, " 1914) as a direct response to "Manifest der 93" (the "Manifesto of the 93") – a rallying cry for war signed by 93 notable German academics. In the interwar period, through various frameworks, he actively and persistently strove to further his pacifistic and humanistic agenda, and to advance the goal of establishing powerful international institutions that could promise stability in Europe and enable the creation of multilateral international cooperative ventures, that would advance the cause of peace and eventually bring an end to war. In several instances, he went as far as intervening personally on behalf of conscientious objectors and pacifists who had been persecuted and prosecuted by legal governmental authorities in a number of different European countries (see "Einstein on Peace" [below], chapters 4 and 5).
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. In a letter dated 1936, Einstein wrote the following: "A strange breed of pacifist, you will probably say of me! But I cannot shut my eyes to realities. It is no exaggeration to say that the British, and, to some extent, the French pacifists are largely responsible for the desperate situation today because they prevented energetic measures from being taken at a time when it would have been relatively easy to adopt them. In vain, I advocated appropriate policies in 1933. But the 'Great Men' at the time almost ridiculed the danger of war" (see "Einstein on Peace" [below], p. 273).
Einstein regarded the possibility of Nazi Germany possessing an atomic bomb as a threat to all humanity, and believed it was essential the Allied Powers beat Germany in the race to the bomb. This view brought him and physicist Leo Szilard to send, in 1939, the so-called "Einstein-Szilard Letter" to United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to call the attention of the US administration to the latest developments in the field of nuclear fission, to clarify the potential military uses of this new technology, and to voice their fears that Nazi Germany might be pursuing an atomic weapon. In essence, the Einstein-Szilard Letter ultimately gave rise to the Manhattan Project which would eventually lead to the production of the world's first atomic bomb. Einstein later expressed his regrets of having signed this letter. In 1946, he and Szilard established the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists (ECAS) with the aim of warning the public of all the potential dangers of the atomic bomb. In 1955, shortly before his death, Einstein signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto which similarly dealt with the threat of nuclear weaponry and beseeched the governments of the world to pursue the resolution of international conflicts by peaceful means.
In yet another letter, addressed to Japanese pacifist Seiei Shinoara and dated June 23, 1953, Einstein clarified his positions regarding Nazism and the American use of the atomic bomb with the following words: "I am a dedicated [‘entschiedener'] but not an absolute pacifist; this means that I am opposed to the use of force under any circumstances, except when confronted by an enemy who pursues the destruction of life as an end in itself […]" (English; excerpted from "Einstein on Politics" [see below], p. 491).
1. Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden, eds., "Einstein on Peace, " Schocken Books, New York, 1960.
2. Robert Schulmann and David E. Rowe, eds., "Einstein on Politics, " Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ and Oxford UK, 2007, p. 491.