July 07, 1930

Einstein on the Proposal to Create a Jewish Homeland in Peru

Autograph Letter Signed
1 page
SMC 793
It seemed like a good idea at the time, a Jewish refuge in Peru – and why not? 20,000 Eastern European Jews, who had fled to Berlin to work as laborers during the First World War, now languished there, stranded. Poor, uneducated, and excluded, and the objects of ever-increasing German resentment and suspicion, there was talk of concentration camps, of expulsion. German Jews worried too, presciently, that the venom aimed at the immigrant Jews could, at a moment’s notice, be turned against themselves. A natural solution to the problem might have been emigration to Palestine, were not the Arabs then rioting and killing Jews – as British soldiers stood idly, watching. What, then, to do? The Eastern Jews, their German brethren thought, had to go somewhere… It seemed like a good idea, then, a Jewish refuge in Peru: Einstein writes here, he’s for it – and notes, modestly, that this is no small thing. “My name,” he says, “has certain advertising powers when it comes to Jews.”
Mr. v. Maltzahn told me that you were interested in the Peru colonization project for Jews from the East. Even, that you are willing to somehow actively participate in this matter. Since I know that my name has certain advertising powers when it comes to Jews, and because I do find this project noteworthy, I would like to let you know that I am prepared to do anything that you need to promote this issue (or any clarification you may need first), and tell you anything you want to know. Maybe there truly is a possibility here to help a great part of the Jewish people find a healthy existence. Professor Oppenheimer informed me in the meantime that the land and climate are quite suitable.
But as Nazi terror was poised to spread across Germany, the world began to divide, as Chaim Weizmann famously remarked, into two factions: one formed by the countries that expelled Jews, and the other formed by those who refused to admit them. Neither Germany’s immigrant Jews, first; nor Germany’s own Jews, second; nor finally, all the Jews in Europe, could find safety anywhere.
Autograph Letter Signed (“A. Einstein”), in German, 1 page, quarto, on his personal letterhead, Haberlandstr. 5, Berlin, July 7, 1930. To Max M. Warburg.
View Holocaust Manuscripts.
Read transcript Bookmark