A letter written by Albert Einstein in which he criticizes the British prime minister for appeasing the Nazis went under the hammer yesterday, along with a handful of articles written by the great physicist himself.
The letter sold on Thursday, August 24, for a colossal $31,250 at the Nate D Sanders auction house in Los Angeles. The lengthy letter, complete with an autograph from Albert Einstein, was sent to his friend Michele Besso in 1938 just after Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement, a settlement that permitted the German annexation of western Czechoslovakia.
This attitude of complacency towards Hitler set the scene for more aggressive military action by the Nazis, eventually snowballing into the horrors of World War Two. The letter shows that Einstein, like many others, had the foresight to see that Chamberlain was preparing to land himself on the wrong side of history.
The letter reads: “You have confidence in the British and even Chamberlain? O sancta simpl...! ['Oh holy innocence', i.e., naiveté in Latin] Hoping that Hitler might let off steam by attacking Russia, he sacrifices Eastern Europe. But we will come to see once more that shrewdness does not win in the long term.”
“He did all this in such a clever way that he deceived most people, even you (unfortunately)... His only fear, which spurred him on to his humiliating flights, was the worry that Hitler might lose ground. I do not have any hope left for the future of Europe.”
Einstein emigrated to the US in February 1933 after Hitler’s rise to power. In the following years, the Nazis would attempt to remove all Jewish influence from the sciences and academia that they perceived as “corrupt” and “un-German”. Most infamously, Nazi-affiliated groups burned heaps of books written by Jewish intellectuals, including the works of Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, and Walter Benjamin.
Along with this piece of history, Nate D Sanders also attempted to auction off another letter by Einstein from 1918 in which he predicts he will receive a Nobel Prize years before he won it “for his services to Theoretical Physics.” Another letter that went up for sale showed Einstein discussing his political views, noting “I am neither socialist nor communist,” although he became a self-proclaimed socialist in later life. There were no bids for either of these items.