Albert Einstein Assists His Own Niece – a Refugee from the Holocaust in Germany – Find a Place in Her New Home, the United States

He successfully seeks an educational or job opportunity for her, leading to her career as a histologist

Purchase $30,000

This was acquired from the heir of the refugee agency and has never been offered for sale before.

 

“My niece, Miss Marie-Louise Gutmann of Frankfort on Main (Germany) has – like so many others – sought refuge in this country. She is a very sympathetic and assiduous person…Miss Gutmann has already...

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Albert Einstein Assists His Own Niece – a Refugee from the Holocaust in Germany – Find a Place in Her New Home, the United States

He successfully seeks an educational or job opportunity for her, leading to her career as a histologist

This was acquired from the heir of the refugee agency and has never been offered for sale before.

 

“My niece, Miss Marie-Louise Gutmann of Frankfort on Main (Germany) has – like so many others – sought refuge in this country. She is a very sympathetic and assiduous person…Miss Gutmann has already had a year’s successful work at a medical-chemical laboratory in Germany. I should be very glad if Miss Gutmann could find assistance in her endeavor.”

Einstein was already a famous physicist by the time Adolf Hitler rose to power in January 1933. Often personally threatened by the Nazis, and seeing the handwriting on the wall as the Nazis gained in influence, he had left Germany for the United States the previous month and was personally out of Hitler’s reach. Nonetheless, in absentia, his civil liberties were suspended and he was barred from resuming his professorship at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Nazis raided his property and burned his books. In February, Einstein told a friend,“I dare not enter Germany because of Hitler.”

Einstein quickly sought refuge in the United States, settling in the academic hub of Princeton, NJ. At the time, there were no programs or no aid agencies to promote or ensure the safety of fellow refugees, Einstein took matters into his own hands. He and his wife made visa applications for other German Jews and personally vouched for refugees fleeing Nazi rule. “I am privileged by fate to live here in Princeton,” he wrote to the Queen of Belgium. “In this small university town the chaotic voices of human strife barely penetrate. I am almost ashamed to be living in such peace while all the rest struggle and suffer.”

In July 1933, upon Einstein’s request, a committee of 51 American artists, intellectuals and political leaders came together to form the International Relief Association. Among them were the philosopher John Dewey, the writer John Dos Passos, and the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Other prominent citizens, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, soon joined the effort. Its mission, as The New York Times reported on July 24, 1933, was to “assist Germans suffering from the policies of the Hitler regime.” Another group of leaders formed the Emergency Rescue Committee when Paris fell to the Nazis in 1940. As the crisis deepened into World War II, the two groups merged. And so came into being the organization that would grow into the International Rescue Committee.

But Einstein did much more. He tried to persuade political leaders in the United States and Europe to take action to help the Jewish populations at risk. He worked tirelessly to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis, and to find them places of refuge and employment. Many immigrants to the United States during the mid to late 1930s were Jewish (between 1939 and 1940, more than half of all immigrants were Jews), most of them refugees fleeing persecution in Europe. However, those applying for visas – both to the U.S. and other countries – had to be sponsored by two citizens of that country, preferably relatives or employers. Einstein, with his connections in academia and personal relationships with powerful people, willingly assumed a lion’s share of the responsibility for finding jobs and sponsors. He helped so many that he should be thought of as much as a humanitarian as a scientist.

A few of the people he aided were personal friends, some were acquaintances or known to him simply by reputation, but the vast majority were people he’d never heard of until their situations were put in front of him by others. However, in a few rare instances, the refugee issue was brought home – quite literally home – to him in a personal way, when one of his relatives needed such assistance.

Einstein’s wife Elsa had a sister Hermione whose granddaughter was Marie-Louise Gutmann. Thus, Marie-Louise was the great-niece of Albert Einstein through his wife. But since Elsa was Albert’s first cousin, he was doubly related to Marie-Louise through his own mother; cousins twice, in fact.

Marie-Louise lived during her youth in Frankfurt, where her father was Director of the Frankfurt Branch of Commerce Bank. With her family, she immigrated to the United States in 1937, intending to settle in New York City. But she needed to further her education or find employment, and asked for his uncle’s help; help he willingly gave.

Typed letter signed, on his Institute of Advanced Study letterhead, Princeton, April 27, 1937, addressed “To whom it may concern”. “My niece, Miss Marie-Louise Gutmann of Frankfort on Main (Germany) has – like so many others – sought refuge in this country. She is a very sympathetic and assiduous person and would be happy if she could complete her education through studies at an American college. Miss Gutmann has already had a year’s successful work at a medical-chemical laboratory in Germany. I should be very glad if Miss Gutmann could find assistance in her endeavor. Her intellectual and personal qualities, which are known to me personally, would in my opinion fully justify such help.”

It’s not known whether Marie-Louise went to college for a short time (she was already 25 years old), or just went right to employment. We suspect the latter, as she found employment in the science field, working for many years as a histologist at Montefiore Medical Center, and then Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY. Einstein had connections at Montefiore, and this letter likely opened that door. She became a U.S. citizen, and married George A. Elbert of New Rochelle, NY in 1940, with whom she had two children. She lived for 94 years, dying in 2013.

This was acquired from the heir of the refugee agency and has never been offered for sale before.

Purchase Now $30,000

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