Einstein's secret plan to rescue academic targeted by Nazis revealed in new letter

A letter written by the physicist is up for auction with the proceeds going to Oxfam


German born American physicist Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), 1946. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Albert Einstein attempted to rescue a prominent academic from Nazi Germany, a letter written by the famed Jewish scientist has revealed. 

In the letter from October 1933, Einstein appealed to Scottish philosopher, translator and war veteran Sir William David Ross to bring Professor Julius Stenzel, a German philosopher, to the UK.

Professor Stenzel, who initially worked at the Christian Albrechts University of Kiel, was a member of a disciplinary committee that had expelled some Nazi students from the university in 1930.

However, Stenzel was denounced by a student and given a temporary leave of absence. He lost his job under the Professional Civil Service Act - a law the Nazis brought in to remove Jews from public service and transferred to the University of Halle.

During the Nazis' time in power, many scholars were transferred to Halle as punishment for political reasons.

At the time of the letter, Einstein was in Norfolk after fleeing Germany when Hitler came to power.

Einstein urged Ross to help him bring Stenzel to the UK as a guest lecturer. 

Concerned for the well-being of Stenzel, he wrote: “Professor Zangger at the University of Zurich asked me to make you aware of Professor Stenzel in Kiel, who lost his position. 

“He researches the history of science in ancient Greece.

“The question is if there is a possibility to invite this gentleman to England or America as a guest lecturer.”

Despite the plea, Stenzel never made it to the UK and died in 1935 in Halle. His Jewish wife emigrated to the USA in 1939 and lived in California with their son Joachim.

The letter is set to go under the hammer as part of a collection of letters sent to Ross by prominent figures including Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Charles De Gaulle.

Einstein’s letter, written in German, is expected to sell for £6,000 at auction. 

The collection was donated to Oxfam by the family of Sir William’s daughter, Katherine Ross.

Oxfam Valuer Shelley Hitch said: “We are so grateful for the support of Katharine Ross throughout her life and for her family gifting us such treasured and important letters. 

“The money raised will help Oxfam and our partners continue to fight the injustice of poverty around the world. We always ensure Oxfam gets the best possible price for every donation.” 

In a previous letter from April 1950, Einstein says that as a scientist, he cannot believe the Torah’s creation story because science “replaces and supersedes” religion.

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