DescriptionAlbert Einstein Typed Letter Signed, with an Original Advertising Bill for the book The Myth of Blood and Race. The letter is one page, 8" x 10", Princeton, New Jersey, April 20, 1937, in German on "The Institute for Advanced Study, School of Mathematics, Fine Hall" letterhead to Dr. Hugo Iltis at Masaryk People's University in Brünn, Czechoslovakia. Einstein thanks Dr. Iltis for a second copy of Iltis' "excellent little book." In full:
"Dear Mr. Iltis:
"I thank you kindly for sending a second copy of your excellent little book. I shall forward it at once to the publisher Norton who already had published a book of yours.
Kindly greeting you,
[signed] A. Einstein."
The other book Einstein refers to is Dr. Iltis' biography of Gregor Mendel, Life of Mendel, Iltis' definitive biography of the early geneticist that was published in German in 1924 and later in English in 1932. This letter exhibits smoothed folds. The original advertising handbill is one page (6" x 9.25", June 20, 1936) printed in German on toned paper. It was distributed to bookstores in 1936.
Dr. Hugo Iltis (1882-1952) was a Czechoslovakian-born Jewish professor of botany, genetics, and biology, who had lived most of his life in Brünn. In 1921, he founded the Masaryk People's University in Brünn and remained as its director until he fled the country in 1938. He was a respected geneticist and had published an important biography on Gregor Mendel, Gregor Johann Mendel, Life, Work and Influence, in Germany in 1924 (it was published in English as Life of Mendel in 1932 by George Allen & Unwin LTD, London, and re-published by Hafner Publishing Company, New York in 1966).
Dr. Iltis was also an outspoken opponent of the German Nazi Party and their use of science to bolster their eugenics. Throughout the 1930s he lectured against Nazi race theories, eventually publishing three books which denounced Nazi genetics. The most controversial of the three, The Myth of Blood and Race (1936), brought Iltis under the scrutiny of the Nazi Party. But the book also caught the attention of Albert Einstein. After reading it, Einstein developed a respect for Dr. Iltis' courage in writing such a controversial work in the face of the rising Nazi regime. In 1937, Einstein even sent a copy to the W. W. Norton publishing house in hopes that they would publish the work in English.
Meanwhile, the situation in Czechoslovakia worsened. By September 1938, a Nazi invasion of the country loomed, endangering the life of Dr. Iltis. Believing that his non-Jewish wife and their two sons would be safer without him, he secretly checked-in at a Brünn hotel near his People's University on September 27, with plans to commit suicide. His wife, sensing trouble, notified the Brünn Police Department. After an heroic search, they found the professor and convinced him to abandon his suicidal plans.
Earlier in April, Dr. Iltis had received a letter from Einstein advising him to emigrate to the U.S., establish connections, and then use those connections to bring his family. With that letter in hand, Dr. Iltis flew alone to England in December 1938, where he gave several lectures. One month later, after a harrowing train ride across Germany, his wife and two sons met him in Cherbourg, France, where they began their trip to America onboard the Cunard Ocean Liner Aquitania. From their safe vantage point in America, they watched as Hitler and the Nazis arrived in Prague on March 15, 1939, and announced by radio that they were in control of Czechoslovakia. That same day, the Gestapo fanned throughout the cities of Prague and Brünn with lists of people to round up. On their list was Hugo Iltis, who was safely far away.
With the help of Albert Einstein, Dr. Iltis secured a temporary position at the International School in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and soon after attained a permanent faculty position at Mary Washington College in Virginia. His wife, Anni, helped him establish the Mendel Museum there.
We are honored with the privilege of offering the following letters on behalf of Dr. Hugh Iltis, the son of Dr. Hugo Iltis. A veteran of WWII, Hugh Iltis was one of the earliest soldiers to unearth the horrors committed by the Nazi regime.
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