Haim Arlosoroff Killed
Haim Arlosoroff (Center bottom) at a meeting with Yishuv and Transjordanian Arab leaders at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, 1933. Photo: Public Domain

June 16, 1933

Haim Arlosoroff, the head of the Jewish Agency’s political department, is fatally shot while walking on a Tel Aviv beach at night with his wife, Sima, who has noticed and expressed concerns about two men who seem to be following them. One of the men eventually shines a light in Arlosoroff’s face and asks him for the time, and the other man shoots him. He dies at a hospital three hours later, just before 1 a.m. June 17.

Arlosoroff, a socialist member of David Ben-Gurion’s Mapai party, has made political enemies, especially among Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionists, with his calls for working with the British and with his outreach to and recognition of the national aspirations of Arabs in Mandatory Palestine. At least as controversially, he advocates working with the Nazi government in Germany to help as many Jews as possible escape to Palestine before it is too late.

Two days before his shooting, Arlosoroff returns from a trip to Germany during which he has completed the Ha’avara Agreement, which allows Jews to make aliyah as long as they convert their assets to cash that can be used only to buy German goods exported to Palestine. The agreement undermines efforts to boycott Germany because of Nazi oppression of Jews, but it also enables more than 60,000 Jews to escape before the Nazis and transfers $100 million in wealth to Palestine.

Arlosoroff’s cooperation in the 1930s with, successively, the British, the Arabs and the Nazis makes the Revisionists primary suspects in his murder, and three of them are arrested and charged: Abba Ahimeir, the head of the far-right Brit HaBirionim, accused of plotting the assassination; and Avraham Stavsky and Ze’ev Rosenblatt, charged with being the two killers on the beach. Sima Arlosoroff identifies Stavsky and Rosenblatt at trial. Only Stavsky is convicted, but he is cleared on appeal for lack of corroborating evidence. A special commission convened more than 50 years later by Menachem Begin, the first Revisionist prime minister, clears Stavsky and Rosenblatt but does not suggest a different killer.

No one else is ever charged.

Revisionist Zionists push the theory that two young Arab men planning a sexual assault on Arlosoroff’s wife are the culprits. Another theory points to the killers being hired by Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, whose wife, Magda, was a former lover of Arlosoroff’s during his time before making aliyah in 1924 and, perhaps, during his visits to Germany in the late 1920s during her marriage to a German industrialist, which ended in divorce in 1929.

Arlosoroff, who was born in Ukraine in 1899 and lived most of his life in Germany and East Prussia before making aliyah, earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Berlin, served at the Yishuv’s representative to the League of Nations in 1926 and played a vital part in the political merger that formed Mapai.