Ask about this item

Lot 7

Letter from Professor Einstein Expressing Exceptional Sensitivity to Another's Pain. Signed Autograph. Princeton, 26.04.1945

"We are like seafarers whose boat has sunk ..." Exceptionally sensitive and honest condolence letter from Prof. Albert Einstein to Mr. and Mrs. Held. Princeton, 26.04.1945.

Specifications: [1] ink on paper. 27.5x21.5 cm. German. 28 lines written and signed by Einstein.

Background: This letter discloses Einstein's sensitive approach as he tries to console the Helds in the face of a family tragedy, the loss of family members during the Second World War. The letter was written towards the end of the war, and the tragedy possibly relates to Holocaust or battle victims. Einstein notes in his letter, that he does not see it as a consolation that a massive amount of other people are struggling with their own personal tragedies; he feels the need to express how deeply he emphasizes with them.
Einstein compares experiencing a tragedy that abruptly cuts off one's path in life and destroys illusions of personal safety to a ship that sank at sea, with its survivors grasping desperately to planks of wood as they battle to preserve their balance and drift to an unknown destination. He finds a point of consolation in the fact that even those people living on a dismal plank eventually reach some kind of peace with their situation and suffer less from their condition.
He continues along with the comparison - of their and his lifesaving plank- as he expresses his hope to meet with them soon.
His expression indicates that Einstein identified with their pain and also found himself floating on a plank at sea. It is very possible that Einstein also felt as if he was "floating at sea" in 1933, when Nazi Germany invalidated his citizenship and plundered his assets and he was forced to escape and build a new life as a refugee in a foreign country.

Freely translated, the letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Held,
We humans generally live with an illusion of security and a feeling of domestication, in a familiar physical and human surrounding. However, when our daily predictable life is cut off, we find that we are like sea travelers whose ship has sunk and are forced to try to maintain their balance on a miserable plank of wood. People forget their point of departure and don't know to where they're drifting. When they reach this realization, they make peace with the situation, and life becomes easier, and there is no more room for real disappointment.
Hoping that the planks on which we sit will soon meet, I send my deep-felt regards, yours truly,
A. Einstein.

Condition: Fine-very fine. Fold marks, minimal aging stains.