Max Planck letter to Hitler discovered

A remarkable letter, written in October 1944 to Hitler by Max Planck, has recently come to light and been passed to Graham. In the note, the discoverer of the energy quantum pleads for the life of his son Erwin, who was involved in the attempted to kill Hitler three months before. Max Planck had already lost his eldest son, who was killed in the Battle of Verdun, during World War I.

Planck writes in his letter that he is ‘confident’ that the Führer will lend his ear to ‘an imploring 87-year-old’. This plea, apparently written from the Planck family’s bombed-out home in a suburb of Berlin, was ignored by the authorities. Planck’s plea failed—Erwin was executed on 23 January 1945, and his death certificate recorded: ‘parents unknown’.

The letter, discovered among the papers of the U-boat captain Jürgen Oesten, has been released into the public domain by his grandson, Paul Oesten-Creasey, who showed it to Professor Michael Berry, who in turn drew it the attention of Graham.


Planck letter
Planck letter to Hitler October 1944

Click on image to view the letter in full resolution (Note: full resolution image is 1MB)

Here is a translation of the letter:

“My Führer!

I am most deeply shaken by the message that my son Erwin has been sentenced to death by the People’s Court.

The acknowledgement for my achievements in service of our fatherland, which you, my Führer, have expressed towards me in repeated and most honouring way, makes me confident that you will lend your ear to an imploring 87-year old.

As the gratitude of the German people for my life’s work, which has become an everlasting intellectual wealth of Germany, I am pleading for my son’s life.

Max Planck”

Graham says: ‘This harrowing letter sheds another shard of light on the Planck-Hitler relationship, which features in John Heilbron’s brilliant The Dilemmas of an Upright Man‘.