Newly revealed letter shows a fearful Einstein long before Nazis’ rise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Newly revealed letter shows a fearful Einstein long before Nazis’ rise

Following assassination of Jewish friend and German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, celebrated physicist warned of ‘dark times brewing’

This June, 1954, file photo shows renowned physicist Albert Einstein in Princeton, N.J. More than a decade before the Nazis seized power in Germany, Albert Einstein was on the run and already fearful for his country’s future, according to a newly revealed handwritten letter. (AP Photo, File)

This June, 1954, file photo shows renowned physicist Albert Einstein in Princeton, N.J. More than a decade before the Nazis seized power in Germany, Albert Einstein was on the run and already fearful for his country’s future, according to a newly revealed handwritten letter. (AP Photo, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — More than a decade before the Nazis seized power in Germany, Albert Einstein was on the run and already fearful for his country’s future, according to a newly revealed handwritten letter.

His longtime friend and fellow Jew, German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, had just been assassinated by right-wing extremists and police had warned the noted physicist that his life could be in danger too.

So Einstein fled Berlin and went into hiding in northern Germany. It was during this hiatus that he penned a handwritten letter to his beloved younger sister, Maja, warning of the dangers of growing nationalism and anti-Semitism years before the Nazis ultimately rose to power, forcing Einstein to flee his native Germany for good.

“Out here, nobody knows where I am, and I’m believed to be missing,” he wrote in August 1922. “Here are brewing economically and politically dark times, so I’m happy to be able to get away from everything.”

The previously unknown letter, brought forward by an anonymous collector, is set to go on auction next week in Jerusalem with an opening asking price of $12,000.

As the most influential scientist of the 20th century, Einstein’s life and writings have been thoroughly researched. The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, of which Einstein was a founder, houses the world’s largest collection of Einstein material. Together with the California Institute of Technology it runs the Einstein Papers Project. Individual auctions of his personal letters have brought in substantial sums in recent years.

This undated photo released by the Kedem Auction House, shows a copy of a 1922 letter Albert Einstein wrote to his beloved younger sister, Maja. The previously unknown letter, brought forward by an anonymous collector, is set to go on auction next week in Jerusalem with an opening asking price of $12,000. In the handwritten letter, Einstein expressed fears of anti-Semitism long before Nazis’ rise. (Kedem Auction House via AP)

The 1922 letter shows he was concerned about Germany’s future a full year before the Nazis even attempted their first coup — the failed Munich Beer Hall Putsch to seize power in Bavaria.

“This letter reveals to us the thoughts that were running through Einstein’s mind and heart at a very preliminary stage of Nazi terror,” said Meron Eren, co-owner of the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem, which obtained the letter and offered The Associated Press a glimpse before the public sale. “The relationship between Albert and Maja was very special and close, which adds another dimension to Einstein the man and greater authenticity to his writings.”

The letter, which bears no return address, is presumed to have been written while he was staying in the port city of Kiel before embarking on a lengthy speaking tour across Asia.

“I’m doing pretty well, despite all the anti-Semites among the German colleagues. I’m very reclusive here, without noise and without unpleasant feelings, and am earning my money mainly independent of the state, so that I’m really a free man,” he wrote. “You see, I am about to become some kind of itinerant preacher. That is, firstly, pleasant and, secondly, necessary.”

Addressing his sister’s concerns, Einstein writes: “Don’t worry about me, I myself don’t worry either, even if it’s not quite kosher, people are very upset. In Italy, it seems to be at least as bad.”

Later in 1922, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics.

This undated file photo shows famed physicist Albert Einstein (AP Photo, File)

Ze’ev Rosenkrantz, the assistant director of the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech, said the letter wasn’t the first time Einstein warned about German anti-Semitism, but it captured his state of mind at this important junction after Rathenau’s killing and the “internal exile” he imposed on himself shortly after it.

“Einstein’s initial reaction was one of panic and a desire to leave Germany for good. Within a week, he had changed his mind,” he said. “The letter reveals a mindset rather typical of Einstein in which he claims to be impervious to external pressures. One reason may be to assuage his sister’s concerns. Another is that he didn’t like to admit that he was stressed about external factors.”

When the Nazis came to power and began enacting legislation against Jews, they also aimed to purge Jewish scientists. The Nazis dismissed Einstein’s groundbreaking work, including his Law of Relativity, as “Jewish Physics.”

Einstein renounced his German citizenship in 1933 after Hitler became chancellor. The physicist settled in the United States, where he would remain until his death in 1955.

Einstein declined an invitation to serve as the first president of the newly established state of Israel but left behind his literary estate and personal papers to the Hebrew University.

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In Latvia, hundreds march in honor of German SS veterans

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

In Latvia, hundreds march in honor of SS veterans

Man arrested for displaying a poster of soldiers killing Jews during world’s sole event for former Nazi fighters

A view of the annual march on the Remembrance Day of the Latvian Legionnaires in Riga, Latvia, on March 16, 2018. (LTA Zinu dienests/Twitter via JTA)

A view of the annual march on the Remembrance Day of the Latvian Legionnaires in Riga, Latvia, on March 16, 2018. (LTA Zinu dienests/Twitter via JTA)

Several protesters from the Latvia Without Fascism group demonstrated against the event by carrying signs reading “They fought for Hitler” and “If they looked Nazis, and acted like Nazis – they were Nazi.” None of those protesters was arrested.

Police did not allow a counter protest by Latvia Without Fascism, Joseph Koren, a leader of that group, told JTA. Hundreds of police cordoned off the Freedom Monument, as veterans, some of them wearing uniform, sang patriotic songs and laid wreaths for their fallen comrades. Organizers of the event from several nationalist groups then drove the veterans to a cemetery where many of their comrades are buried.

“It’s a disgrace that this is happening in Europe,” Aleksejs Saripovs of the Latvia Without Fascism group told JTA. “The European Union needs to pressure Latvia into abandoning this shameful event, but so far there is total silence.”

The Latvian SS Volunteer Legion on parade in 1943 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J16133 / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Many locals offered flowers to the veterans as they marched from the area around Riga’s St. Peter’s Church to the Freedom Monument.

Advocates of the veterans and their supporters claim that Latvian Legion soldiers were not involved in atrocities against Jews, despite evidence to the contrary. According to the Latvian government, the Latvian Legion was not really an SS unit and that the legionnaires who weren’t forcefully conscripted merely sought independence for Latvia when they joined Hitler’s army.

German Nazis and collaborators led to the near annihilation of 70,000 Jews who had lived in Latvia before the Holocaust.

On Wednesday, a bill proposing to make March 16 a national Latvian Legion Day was defeated in Latvia’s parliament.

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Five members of Jewish community among 17 killed in Florida massacre

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Five members of Jewish community among 17 killed in Florida massacre

Deaths of Jamie Guttenberg, Alyssa Alhadeff, Meadow Pollock, Alex Schachter, Scott Beigel announced by families, local community

Students grieve outside Pines Trail Center where counselors are present, after Wednesday's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Thursday, February 15, 2018. (AP/Joel Auerbach)

Students grieve outside Pines Trail Center where counselors are present, after Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Thursday, February 15, 2018. (AP/Joel Auerbach)

Four Jewish students and a teacher were confirmed Thursday to be among the 17 victims killed during a massacre at their Florida high school the day before.

The dead included four students — Jamie Guttenberg, Alyssa Alhadeff, Alex Schachter, Meadow Pollack — and teacher Scott Beigel, heralded for putting himself in the line of fire to save others.

The five deaths were reported by family members, friends, and community members. Rabbi Mendy Gutnick of Chabad of Parkland, who has been in touch with many of the families of those killed and injured, confirmed the five deaths to The Times of Israel.

This video screen grab image shows shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, at Broward County Jail in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on February 15, 2018.(Miguel GUTTIEREZ/AFP TV)

A former student, identified as Nikolas Cruz, armed with an AR-15 rifle, opened fire at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people, officials said, in a harrowing shooting spree that saw terrified students hiding in closets and under desks as they texted for help.

Broward County officials said they would release a full list of victims later Thursday.

The Jewish community in Parkland was reeling over the massacre at the large school, with many members of the community belonging to the student body.

Rabbi Melissa Stollman, a rabbi at Congregation Kol Tikvah, a reform temple in Parkland, spent Thursday meeting with students and their families. “One student expressed how she heard something and she ran. She got out really fast and she ran far away. But other students were locked in closets for two and a half hours, not knowing what was going on,” she told The Times of Israel.

Rabbi Bradd Boxmann, also a rabbi at Kol Tivkah, said a “huge number” of congregants attended the school.

Guttenberg’s mother, Jennifer Guttenberg, was a specialist teacher in the synagogue’s pre-school, working with children to develop handwriting skills. Stollman’s two twins are in her class.

Guttenberg’s father announced her death in post to his Facebook page in which he wrote “My heart is broken. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school.”

Jamie’s own Facebook page was changed to “Remembering.”

The death of Alhadeff, 15, was announced by her mother Lori, in a post to her Facebook page. “My daughter Alyssa was killed today by a horrific act of violence,” Lori Alhadeff wrote.

Just two weeks ago, the Alhadeff family celebrated Alyssa’s brother’s bar mitzvah, which Gutnick officiated. The rabbi said that Alyssa had attended the local Chabad’s Hebrew School and teen programs. She flew to Israel in 2015 to have her bat mitzvah at the Masada desert fortress.

“It’s absolutely shocking,” Gutnick said. “I’ve been with that family most of the day today. No words really to say to them. There are no mechanisms we have to process this.”

On Thursday night, the families of children who were missing were told to wait at a local Marriott while more information came to light. Gutnick was there with some of the Jewish families who had not gotten in touch with their kids.

“Families obviously began to fear the worst as no news was coming about their children. Twenty families and their friends were gathered in one big room for seven hours while they waited to hear confirmation,” he said. “Finally, one by one, they were all told the worst news. You can imagine just the absolutely gut-wrenching feeling and emotional numbness that was taking place. It was devastating.”

On Wednesday night, Rabbi Jonathan Kaplan of nearby Temple Beth Chai described the scene at the hotel as “chaos and devastation.”

“Everyone is just waiting and praying. No words can describe what happened here,” he told JTA.

Medical personnel tend to a victim following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Flordia, on February 14, 2018. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

The parents of Pollack, 18, said Thursday morning that their daughter too was a victim, the Palm Beach Post reported. The night before, her father Andrew had spoken to the press of his harrowing search for his daughter.

Congregation Beth Am, in Longwood, Florida, in a post to its Facebook page, wrote that Alex Schachter was also killed in the shooting.

Beigel, a geography teacher, was also confirmed killed in media reports. Camp Starlight, a camp where he had worked, called him a “beloved friend and a hero.”

Students said Beigel tried to lock the door to the classroom where students were hiding to prevent the shooter from entering, but was gunned down.

Rabbi Shuey Biston of Chabad of Parkland said rabbis have coordinated with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to ensure that the bodies of any Jewish victims be released for burial as soon as possible, in keeping with Jewish tradition.

According to the rabbis, several teens who were in the school and survived the shooting came to the Thursday morning prayers to recite a traditional blessing giving thanks for salvation from a life-threatening event.

“This is a very close-knit community,” Gutnick said. “It’s a very high-density Jewish community, as well. Demographically, it’s one that always felt very pristine and sort of protected from any bad news or any crime or anything like that. It’s one of the safest cities in America. And this has changed the whole city. We’ve lost our innocence.”

He went on, “There is just a feeling of absolute numbness. Kids don’t know what to do, they don’t know what to think. Every single kid is traumatized. The emotional scarring on this city is absolutely devastating and people are hoping that we can come together and we can show solidarity and somehow manage to move on. But the truth is this city will never be the same.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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