EINSTEIN, ALBERT | Autograph letter signed ("A. Einstein") to Jacob Billikopf, [Princeton?], 30 September 1936
Autograph letter signed ("A. Einstein") to Jacob Billikopf
1 page (8 x 5 in.; 204 x 127 mm), in German, [Princeton?], 30 September 1936; marked "file" in pencil at top margin, mounting remnants on verso.
Einstein here reveals his naiveté about the prospects of Jewish refugees emigrating from Germany to Austria. His correspondent was Jacob Billikopf, an activist in social work, Jewish philanthropies, and labor relations, who, beginning the following year, would devote himself to bringing Jewish refugees from Europe to the United States. The two refugees—one from Germany, the other from Lithuania—were well acquainted, even boating together on Lake Saranac. Einstein is evidently replying to information that Billikopf had provided him about the stance of the Austrian government to its Jewish citizens.
Einstein returns the information to Billikopf and expresses the conviction that the Austrian government is planning to protect the Jewish people from what he terms an angry populace. News he has gleaned from sources at American universities and also from the press make him confident that the situation is not as dire as Billikopf believes. Einstein also adds a somewhat cryptic remark about the revival of Madariaga—evidently a reference to the Spanish diplomat and pacifist Salvador de Madariaga, who had moved in exile to London in July 1936 in order to escape the Spanish Civil War.
Billikopf, of course, was correct. Austria—despite banning the Nazi party in 1933 and adopting the following year a constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens—had already begun restricting Jews in the workplace and in the educational system. And just eighteen months later German troops marched into Austria and annexed the country to the Third Reich, shattering Einstein’s seemingly innocent world view. By then, Chaim Weizmann’s testimony to the Peel Commission, Jerusalem, 1936, was threatening to become reality: “There are now two sorts of countries in the world, those that want to expel the Jews and those that don’t want to admit them.” But many people, including Einstein and Billikopf, worked to ensure that at least some Jews and other displaced persons did find refuge from the Nazis.
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