Albert Einstein signature on charity menu

A menu signed by Albert Einstein (1879-1955) during a charity meal at the Savoy is one of the highlights in a Somerset sale of Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photography this month.

Lawrences’ spring auction will feature the menu of the meal which was hosted to raise money for the Joint British Committee of the Societies Ort-Oze in support of the impoverished Jewish communities in Europe. It has been consigned from a private collection of autograph documents collected by the vendor’s grandfather during the 1980s.

A charity dinner menu signed by Albert Einstein

At the event, Einstein spoke broadly on ‘the plight of the Jewish communities scattered throughout the world’, while noting, “We should not have survived as a community all the centuries if we had a bed of roses. Of that I am strongly convinced.” His speech was delivered in German, with a live translation by Leon Rees.

The playwright George Bernard Shaw was tasked with presenting a toast to Einstein, saying “Within the last month or so, there has come to me, and come to many of you, our visitor’s profession of faith, his creed. And that has interested me very much because I must confess to you that there is not a single creed of an established church on earth at present I can subscribe to. But to our visitor’s creed I can subscribe to every single item.”

More than 370 people attended the dinner, with Einstein seated between H. G. Wells and Lord Rothschild. The signatures appear to correspond with the seating plan present on the reverse of the frame and it seems likely that it was passed along the table for each delegate to sign before being handed back to Mr Jung. As George Bernard Shaw later announced in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency newspaper, the dinner was a great success and raised $24,000 which was used in providing vocational activity for the impoverished Jewish communities in Europe.

The back of a charity dinner menu signed by Albert Einstein

Robert Ansell, consultant at Lawrences, commented: “This is a great rarity, and a symbol of unity from a time of increasing oppression for the Jewish people in the years approaching the Second World War. By mid-October 1930, the Nazi party had taken sufficient seats in the Reichstag to form the second largest voting bloc in the German Parliament, foreshadowing the escalating oppression of the Jewish people. Against this tide, the Joint British Committee of the Societies Ort-Oze for promoting the Economic and Physical Welfare of East-European Jewry was established. At the invitation of this cause, Albert Einstein made a trip to London as the guest of honour at a special appeal dinner at the Savoy organised by Chairman of the committee, The Rt. Hon. Lord Rothschild.”