ALS in German, one leaf with 31 lines on recto plus eight lines and signature on verso, signed ‘Dein Albert', Le Coq (Belgium), 19. VII. [19]33.

A fascinating, but somewhat depressing letter showing the dire financial straits in which Einsetin’s ex-wife Mileva, and their two sons, found themselves in as the Nazi’s came to power in Germany. Einstein had already moved to the United States with his new wife Else, but had returned to Europe in 1933 for a visit, during which time this letter was written. Einstein ends with his best wishes for their youngest son, Eduard (“Tetel”), who had been institutionalized in 1922 after developing schizophrenia. Sadly, Eduard’s release from the institution to which Einstein refers was only temporary.


Liebe Milena!

Herr Dukas hat mir genau Bericht erstattet und mir gezeigt, in was für einer schwierigen Lage du bist. Mach dir aber keine Sorgen. Ich werde dir trotz meiner eigenen prekären Situation über alles hinweghelfen – wenigstens diesmal noch.

Ich bin dafür, das Haus abzustossen, wenn es einigermassen geht. Denn man muss eine bescheidene Situation in Kauf nehmen, um eine gefährliche für die Zukunft zu vermeiden. Schreib mir recht bald, wie es damit geht. An Verkauf ist wohl nicht zu denken, da niemand ein passives Haus nehmen wird. Es kommt alles darauf an, mit den Banken ins Reine zu kommen. Haben wir den gar niemand, der dort mit seinem Einfluss intervenieren würde?

Du weisst doch, dass mir die Deutschen das Geld in Deutschland weggenommen haben. Die Schweizer Behörden haben zwar interveniert, aber so lahm und schwächlich, dass an einen Erfolg nicht zu denken war. Mein Einkommen in Amerika ist durch den Dollar-Sturz entwertet und die ganze Familie ist in die Lage von Bettlern gekommen. So kommt es, dass auch ich in Bedrängnis gekommen bin und aus den Sorgen und Plackereien nicht herauskomme. Aber die Summe, um die es sich in Deinem Falle handelt, kann ich doch noch herausschinden. Wenn ich aber sterbe, lasse ich lauter Elend zurück. Wenn Ihr damals sofort mein Verlangen erfüllt hättet, hätte ich Alberts und Tetels Geld sofort auf deren Namen überschrieben, und es wäre nicht genommen worden!

[Page 2]

Es freut mich sehr, dass man den Versuch wagt, Tetel für einige Zeit aus der Anstalt zu nehmen. Wenn es gelänge, wäre es ein grosser Segen. Grüsse ihn sehr herzlich von mir!

Alles Gute und Kopf hoch!

Dein Albert.


Dear Milena!

Mr Dukas gave me an exact report and showed me what a difficult situation you’re in. But don’t worry. In spite of my own precarious situation, I’ll tide you over everything – at least this time.

I opt for getting rid of the house if that’s feasible somehow. Because one must make do with a poor situation in order to avoid a dangerous one in the future. Please write soon and let me know how things go with that. Selling it is hardly imaginable because nobody will take a house burdened with debt. Everything depends on making settlements with the banks. Don’t we have anybody influential who would intervene there?

You know how the Germans took my money in Germany. The Swiss authorities did intervene, but in such a lame and weak manner that success was hardly to be expected. My revenues in America have been devaluated by the dollar crash, and the whole family are now in a position of beggars. That’s how I’ve ended in hardship, too, and cannot escape the worries and drudgery. Nevertheless, I can elicit the lump sum we’re talking about in your case. But if I die, all I’ll leave behind is misery. If you had fulfilled my request back then, I would have transferred Albert and Tetel’s money in their name immediately, and it wouldn’t have been taken away!

[Page 2]

I am very happy to hear that Tetel will be temporarily released from the institution on a trial basis. If this turns out a success, it would be great bliss. Please send my warmest regards to him!

All the best, and chin up!

Sincerely, Albert.

Please write to me as soon as things clear up, so I can make quick decisions. You never know what comes next!


Albert Einstein (1879-1955) had a turbulent private life. While studying at the ETH in Zurich, he fell in love with Mileva Mari (1875-1948), a fellow student who came from Serbia. She was one of the first women to study physics there. These first years of their relationship were warm and passionate. Mileva gave birth to their daughter, Lieserl, in 1902, yet because neither of them had a secure income at the time, they did not marry until a year later. All traces of Lieserl after the age of two seem to have been lost. There has been some speculation as to her fate – she may have been put up for adoption or she may have died at a young age. Albert and Mileva went on to have two sons, Hans Albert (1904-73) and Eduard (1910-65).

During the years in which Einstein developed his early revolutionary theories, Mileva functioned as a sounding board for his ideas. Yet, there is no evidence that she participated in his scientific work. Apparently, Mileva never got over the loss of her daughter and increasingly suffered from depression. By around 1909 their relationship began to deteriorate. They became increasingly estranged and in 1912 Albert became involved with his cousin, Elsa Loewenthal. Upon Einstein’s move to Berlin in 1914, he and Mileva separated. They were divorced in 1919, and soon afterwards he married Else, who had two daughters, Margot and Ilse, from a previous marriage. Albert’s sons remained with Mileva in Zurich, yet he continued to be in contact with them.

After the couple’s separation, Mileva suffered a nervous breakdown in spring 1916 and spent six months in recovery in a sanatorium while a housekeeper and friends cared for the boys. The following year she complained of heart problems, and at other times she suffered from back and spinal pain, headaches, glandular swelling, the flu, a neck and jaw infection, and scrofula, a form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes. She was born with a luxated hip that caused a lifelong limp. And she continued to suffer bouts of depression. Throughout her life as a mother, she also had the burden of being primary carer for Eduard, a frail and sensitive boy who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of twenty when he was a medical student. Accounts from various contemporaries paint a picture of an embittered woman, though he relationship with Einstein achieved a kind of equilibrium of mutual respect.

In 1922, Einstein gave Mileva the yield from his Nobel Prize money, in accordance with their divorce settlement, controlling but not keeping the principal. (By 1919 he had already been nominated for the Prize several times so it was assumed he would eventually receive the honour.) Mileva bought income property for herself and the boys – including a five-unit apartment house in Zurich – and Einstein also continued to pay the family’s considerable medical bills.

Einstein had not been entirely surprised when his son, “Tetel” (“little”) was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He recognized that there was a genetic disposition, on the maternal side, toward mental illness; Mileva’s sister, Zorka, also suffered from schizophrenia. “Tetel” had wanted to be a psychiatrist and was in medical school when afflicted with his first breakdown in 1930 – triggered, apparently, by an unhappy love affair with an older woman. By 1932 he was committed to “Burgholzli,” the University of Zurich psychiatric hospital, and so began the pattern of institutionalization which would constitute the sad story of his life. 

Einstein left Europe on December 14, 1932 with his secretary Helen Dukas and they arrived in Los Angeles on January 9, 1933. He remained in Pasadena until early March 1933, when he decided to return to Europe, despite warnings for his safety after Adolph Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933. In May, Albert visited Eduard at Burghölzli. Albert played his violin for his son but received no response at all. It was the last time they saw each other.

Calaprice et al, An Einstein Encyclopedia, 2015. Highfield & Carter, The Private Lives of Albert Einstein, 1993. Milentijevi , Mileva Mari Einstein: Life with Albert Einstein, 2015.

One leaf (270 x 205 mm), previously folded with slight wear at creases and small hole not affecting text, slightly soiled on verso.

Item #4238

Price: $28,500.00

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