Buyer of Einstein letter came late to bidding


LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The "anonymous" buyer of a historic letter written by Albert Einstein — E. Randol “Randy” Schoenberg, president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust — entered the bidding a day before it closed.

Schoenberg paid $13,936 for the one-page letter, which was signed by Einstein on his personal stationery and written on June 10, 1939 to New York businessman Hyman Zinn. Before Schoenberg entered the bidding, the highest bid had been $3,058.

The letter had been put up for sale by the Nate D. Sanders auction house in Los Angeles. Sanders had estimated that the letter might go for $5,000 to $7,000.

Schoenberg, a Los Angeles-born lawyer and grandson of the famed composer Arnold Schoenberg, is donating the letter to the museum, which opened its new building a year ago in the city’s Pan Pacific Park.

He gained wide attention, and considerable wealth, by pursuing a seven-year legal battle forcing the Austrian government to return five paintings by the Viennese artist Gustav Klimt, valued at more than $325 million, to a descendant of the original Jewish owners.

Besides his policy and administrative duties at the museum, Schoenberg has been deeply involved in its financial support, the design of the building and in curating its contents.

In the letter, Einstein congratulated Zinn for aiding Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, adding that “We [Jews] have no other means of self-defense than our solidarity and our knowledge that the cause for which we are suffering is a momentous and sacred cause.”           

Recommended from JTA