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September 28, 1973 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1973-09-28

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Chaim Weizmann's Role Drastically Denigrated in Review of His 'Letters"

Vienna "Jewish Toynbee- his policy was always Pales-
Special London
Hall" in 1900, and with his tine. He did not accept or re-
Correspondent of
arrival in Manchester.
fuse the proposal and felt
The Jewish News
On two occasions I had dis- that the continuation of ne-
Over the years, mention cussions with the late Leo- gotiations with Great Britain,
has been made in the Jewish nard Stein, who was a mem- which recognized the Zionist
press of some 15,000 letters ber of the editorial com- Organization as the repre-
written or signed by Chaim mittee and who edited sentative body of the Jewish
Weizmann (1874-1952). After Volume I, about whether it people, was of historic sig-
five years of preparation the would not be wiser to publish nificance. He suggested,
first volume was published in a few thousand selected let- therefore, that the Zionist
1968, the second in 1971 and ters of historical signifiance Congress should elect an
the third in 1972. Each vol- rather than all the letters, of East African Commission to
ume contains between 300 which quite a number are of appoint members of an ex-
and 400 letters, and one could no importance and only suc- pedition to examine the col-
count the years and the vol- ceed in destroying the image onization possibilities in East
umes until all the letters ap- of Chaim Weizmann. Were Africa. Herzl explained his
pear-20 or more volumes in Weizmann alive today, I policy with the words: "If
the next 10 to 15 years.
doubt whether he would allow I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem,
ach of the three volumes some of the letters or some may my right hand wither."
has been carefully prepared. of the sentences to be in-
Weizmann spoke at the
. Congress in favor of the pro-
The editorial board includes
experienced writers and
posal. The commission was
scholars as well as person-
elected by 295 votes to 178.
alities, some of whom were
Volume III mentions that in
included for prestige reasons
his speech Weizmann favored
or to support the publications.
the project, but did not com-
There is also an editorial
ment why he later voted
committee, as well as a num-
against it and why he agreed
ber of other editors with par-
to become a member of the
ticular names such as Gen-
East African Commission.
eral Editor, Consulting Edi-
He, unquestionably, strongly
tor, Managing Editor, Re-
opposed Chamberlain's plan,
search Editors, Coordinator,
by the end of the Zionist
etc., helped by a research
staff which has the co-opera-
At the Congress, Dr. Yec-
tion of a few hundred indi-
hiel Tschlenow was the lea-
der of the opposition. Mena-
The foreword to Volume
hem. Ussishkin and Haham
III is written by the general
Gaster were not present at
editor, Meyer Weisgal, and
the Congress, but they be-
the introduction by the edi- eluded in these publications. came the spokesmen against
torial and research director, But since they are included, Uganda with Weizmann as
Dr. Gedalia Yogev. This vol- the notes and remarks of the liaison officer between them.
ume contains 356 letters, editors of Volume III are He forwarded detailed re-
among them 127 to Vera unsatisfactory. Let me quote ports to Ussishkin of what
Khazman who later, in 1906, a few examples. In letters to Gaster had told him and in-
became the wife of Chaim Vera, Weizmann calls N. Kat- formed Gaster of what Us-
Weizmann. She died in 1966, zenelson "an idiot" — "a sishkin wrote to him. Weiz-
in London, and a year later blockhead and fool". Why?
mann addressed meetings,
her memoirs, "The Impossi- Without motivation!
collected material for Us-
ble Takes Longer," appeared.
Leopold J. Greenberg who. sishkin and conducted a letter
Letters to Sophia Getzova on behalf of Herzl, negotiated campaign.
(1874-1946), Weizmann's first with the British government
On May 17, 1904, when
fiancee, are not included in (El-Arish and Uganda), edi-
this volume. There are over tor of the Jewish Chronicle Herzl was dangerously ill in
200 letters from Weizmann to (1907-1931), and who arrang- Francesbad and still occupi-
her, and it appears that her ed a meeting between James ed with political actions for
family refused permission Malcolm and Chaim Weiz- a Jewish Palestine, Weiz-
for their publication though, mann, followed by another mann warned Ussishkin,
one day, a book of those let- historical meeting in the "Herzl is preparing a coup
ters may appear.
home of Haham Gaster at d'etat."
On July 10, 1904, a few
Vera Weizmann, like Paula which Sir Mark Sykes,
Ben-Gurion, preserved the authorized by the cabinet to days after Herzl's death,
letters. David Ben-Gurion, in contact the Zionist leaders, Weizmann arrived in Lon-
his wisdom, published them was present (February 7, don. With a letter of recom-
in a special book, called "Let- 1917), is described in a letter mendation from Haham Gas-
ters to Paula". There are to Vera and to Menahem ter, Weizmann saw Lord
similarities in both collec- Ussishkin as an "evil spirit" Percy (undersecretary of
tions. Weizmann and Ben- and sly as a devil". Why? . state for foreign affairs)
and Sir Clement Hill and in
Gurion wanted to instruct
Herbert Bentwich, a vete-
their conversations none of
the;r wives in Zionism, to ex-
ran Zionist who organized the three was in favor of
plain Zionist events and to the first pilgrimage from
.Jewish colonization in East
inform th'm about their own
England to Palestine in 1897 Africa: the Foreign Office be-
Zionist activities. Love-let-
and after the First World cause British residents in
ters are not historical docu- War settled in Jerusalem is
Uganda opposed it, as well
ments. In the first letters to
called "stupid". Why? The as number of Jews and non-
their loved ones, they tend
Zionist leaders in Germany Jews, in letters to the Eng-
to exaggerate, and between
are called — "Klee and lish press.
expressions of tenderness we
and all the dirt."
Weizmann could not know,
find Zionist reports, gossip, Friedmann,
boasting and phantasy.
of course, that in December.
Haham Gaster, whom 1903, both Herzl and England
Chaim Weizmann, the
statesman, will live on in the Weizmann considered as the had been willing to abandon
history of Zionism. When the great friend who had helped the project, but Herzl felt
Balfour Declaration of 1917 him to settle in England and that he could not release
is mentioned his name is whom he visited first when- England from her promise
usually quoted. He became ever he came to London, is unless "something else" was
president of the Zionist Or- called "an absolute rogue." offered in place of Uganda,
ganization and, in 1948, pres- Why? Why? On what a territory not far from Pal-
grounds? One could quote estine.
ident of Israel.
Ja Volume III, Weizmann many more such examples.
Weizmann longed to pub-
Philip Gillon, in a review
takes his first step as a poli-
lish a report of his interven-
tician. He wanted the Zionist published in the Jerusalem tion and he therefore wrote
movement to know about it Post, criticizes Weizmann in from Haham Gaster's add-
but, in the end, it was kept the strongest of terms for the ress enclosing a resume of
a secret. He was almost 30 insulting words, used behind the conversations for the ap-
years of age. worried about the backs of some of his
proval of Lord Percy and Sir
the- future of Zionism, anx- friends. I think the criticism Clement Hill. On July 28,
ious to s'rve the Zionist Or- should be directed mainly 1904, he went to Manchester
ganization and convinced he against the group of editors and waited with increasing
could become a Zionist dip- of the publication.
tension for a reply from the
lomat. The letters of the
Weizmann was a delegate foreign office. When Haham
third volume deal mainly at the Sixth Zionist Congress Gaster forwarded him copies
with the East African pro- (Basle, 1903) and listened to of the reply, dated Aug. 4,
posal (Uganda), with Theo- Herzl reporting that Colonial 1904, Lord Percy and Sir
dor Herzl, with arranging Secretary Joseph Chamber- Clement Hill had deleted the
lectures for vocational-cour- lain in April 1903, had pro- most important parts of the
ses similar to those of Prof. posed Jewish colonization in text of the conversation,
Leon Kellner, encouraged by East Africa (Uganda), For drafted by Weizmann. In
Herzl, had introduced in Herzl, the ultimate aim of spite of this, Weizmann still

yearned to publish it, but in
the end, on the advice of one
or two of his friends, he re-
frained from doing so.
In my essay "Chaim Weiz-
mann and Haham Gaster"
(Herzl Year Book, New
York, 1965) I published, for
the first time, the full story
of Weizmann's first political
action in London, based on
the Gaster Collection and the
Public Record Office mate-
rial. Had Weizmann made
known the text of his inter-
vention, he would have been
called to account for a
breach of Zionist discipline
— and that might have
spelled the end of his histor-
ical role in Zionist history.
While Herzl and Green-
berg were negotiating with
Chamberlain, Arthur James
Balfour was prime minister
and Lloyd George prepared
a draft charter on Jewish
colonization in East Africa
for Herzl. First came El-
Arish, then Uganda and final-
ly the Balfour Declaration.
Without El-Arish, there
would have been no offer of

Uganda; without Uganda, no
Balfour Declaration.
Fate decreed that Chaim
Weizmann should settle in
Manchester. In London he
would have been lonely and
isolated, but in Manchester,
thanks to a letter from
Haham Gaster and because
of the Manchester Hebrew
poet, Joseph Massel, Dr.
Charles Dreyfus was per-
suaded to employ him in his
Clayton Aniline Works as a


research worker. Dreyfus in-
troduced him to Balfour, and
in Manchester he found
friends: Harry Sacher, Si-.
mon Marks, Israel Sieff and
others who liberated him
from his isolation. And when,
during the First World War,
he came to London, it was
mainly Joseph Cowen, the
president of the Zionist Fed-
eration, who helped him to
become accepted by London

Friday, Sept. 28, 1973-33

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