(JTA) – A letter written by Albert Einstein on the day he renounced his German citizenship, after realizing he could not return due to the rise of the Nazis, was sold at auction for $30,250. The letter written on board the S.S. Belgenland and dated March 28, 1933, sold at the Nate D. Sanders Auction House in Los Angeles. Bidding started at $25,000. A second letter from Einstein written in 1938 in which he discusses helping Jewish refugees escape Nazi Germany sold for $31,250. The 1933 letter was written with his wife, Elsa, to his sister Maja Winteler-Einstein about the dire situation in Germany, just minutes before they docked in Antwerp, Belgium, where Einstein renounced his German citizenship. Later that day, Einstein handed in his passport at the German consulate in Antwerp.
After the Nazis seized power in January 1933, they raided Einstein’s home when he and his wife were traveling to the United States. They also reportedly put a bounty on his head. The day the letter was written, the Einsteins were traveling back to Germany, intending to live at their summer home in Caputh, before discovering that the home also had been raided. This led Einstein to decide to renounce his citizenship.
In the 1938 letter, also to his sister, Albert Einstein discusses helping Jews and other persecuted people flee German-held countries in Europe, including using his own funds to do so.