The German publishing firm of Rutten & Loening contacted Allen & Unwin in 1938 (the publishers of The Hobbit) and wanted to negotiate with them for a German translation of the book. But first and foremost, they wanted to know if Tolkien was of “arisch” origin. (Aryan) Tolkien wrote a brief note to Stanley Unwin, saying that he wanted to refuse to give them an answer – He didn’t want to add to “the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine” by comfirming or denying. However – he didn’t want to ruin his chances of The Hobbit being read in Germany. He submitted to Mr. Unwin two drafts of letters to the German publishers, and left it up to Unwin to decide.
Here is one of the drafts:
25 July 1938
To Rutten & Loening Verlag
Thank you for your letter … I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject – which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.
Your enquiry is doubtless made in order to comply with the laws of your own country, but that this should be held to apply to the subjects of another state would be improper, even if it had (as it has not) any bearing whatsoever on the merits of my work or its sustainability for publication, of which you appear to have satisfied yourselves without reference to my Abstammung.
I trust you will find this reply satisfactory, and remain yours faithfully