The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann
March 1913 – July 1914
Volume VI, Series A
Introduction: Barnet Litvinoff
General Editor Meyer W. Weisgal, Volume Editors Gedalia Yogev, Shifra Kolatt, Evyatar Friesel, English Edition: Barnet Litvinoff, Oxford University Press, London and Israel Universities Press, Jerusalem, 1974[Reprinted with express permission from the Weizmann Archives, Rehovot, Israel,
by the Center for Israel Education www.israeled.org]
With the present volume the movement in which Chaim Weizmann has found personal fulfillment truly arrives on the stage of international politics. The Jewish need for self-determination has found in Zionism a mature instrument that can now pursue its objectives with enhanced authority. Its approaches to the Turkish rulers of Palestine reflect a remarkable change in the Jewish situation since the summoning of the First Congress in 1897. Zionism is at last a factor to attract the serious attention of governments. The ailing Ottoman Empire has, by contrast, become still further weakened. The letters reproduced here commence in March, 1913, when a Balkan settlement is about to be achieved that will mark the total disappearance of Turkey as a European Power, and they proceed uninterruptedly until the outbreak of the First World War. We are thus able to follow the writer’s thoughts almost day by day, a particularly fascinating exercise as an era ebbed to its close, in the famous phrase of Sir Edward Grey, with ‘the lamps going out all over Europe.’
Turkey, having been compelled by force of arms to retreat before a variety of awakened national movements, has begun to realize that the Jews too have claims to a place among them. The reader will discern how the Zionist representative in Constantinople, Victor Jacobson, has won substantial acceptance in official circles for Jewish rights to land-purchase, immigration and settlement in Palestine. It is indicative of Weizmann’s own standing in Zionism that when Jacobson contemplated resignation from his Constantinople post, the Manchester scientist was himself spoken of as his possible successor, with a seat on the executive body of the movement, the Smaller Actions Committee.
Weizmann’s residence in England attains its first decade in the period under review. Naturally, we encounter a far larger number of letters written in English, and it is worth noting in parenthesis that, as the translator’s skill is not called upon in these cases, we are able to restrict editorial intervention to the minimum. The reader will find such letters as written, altered only when required for reasons of obscurity or ambiguity. They are faithful to the `foreigner’s’ English, complete with his idiosyncrasies of style and inconsistencies of spelling. For the first time in the series we are able to enjoy the full flavor of Weizmann’s highly individualistic style.
Having attended a meeting of the Greater Actions Committee in Berlin, he confidently notifies his wife Vera that ‘ the movement has begun to smack of gunpowder.’ However, this did not give Zionism all the freedom of maneuver it desired. The Great Powers were now more concerned with developments in Turkey than ever before, and even those Zionist activities concentrated on matters purely educational or social were observed with close interest in the chancelleries of Europe.
There was much discussion during the period of what became known as the ‘language struggle.’ Though basically a dispute between protagonists of German as against the suitability of tuition in Hebrew at the future Haifa Institute of Technology (then described as the Technicum), this also had implications remote from Jewish national sentiment. Supporters of Hebrew arose, particularly in France, simply in resistance against increasing German penetration of Palestine. The letters speak of charges that the Zionist Organization, directed as it was from headquarters in Berlin, had a pro-German orientation, and this even when it fought the Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden on the language issue. Weizmann himself was anxious to steer the project for a Hebrew University, which is the major theme of the volume, on a central course, with the committee empowered to lay the foundations of a University predominantly English Zionist, or perhaps Anglo-American. In this regard he would not go as far as some of his friends, among them his younger comrades Leon Simon and Harry Sacher who, as we saw in Volume V, represented an outright preference for the development of Jewish Palestine under Britain’s aegis.
It will be recalled from the earliest three volumes of this series how Weizmann had made a Jewish University scheme the special province of the Democratic Fraction, which he had played a leading part in organizing in 1901. Even after the Fraction disintegrated and ceased its activities he persisted with the proposal, mainly with the assistance of Berthold Feiwel and Martin Buber. He sought to convert the Zionist movement to the idea that such a University was urgent, both as an educational institution to benefit Jews excluded from University entrance through antisemitic regulations, and as a bulwark against assimilation. Given the circumstances of those times, the project, bravely undertaken with all the dedication of youthful enthusiasm, was predestined to failure. It was premature, over-ambitious, and out of key with the mood of the movement as then constituted, despite Weizmann’s strength of purpose and organizing abilities that the campaign revealed.
Now, however, conditions were totally different. The Smaller Actions Committee was composed of men warmly disposed to practical work in Palestine, and with it a cultural revival on a national basis. There had been a striking increase in immigration,
a Hebrew secondary school had been successfully established, and young people who had grown up in Palestine were now reaching University age but had to seek higher education elsewhere. Weizmann was no longer an opposition voice. He had achieved the stature of an equal with the leadership in active Zionism, and was furthermore a man well-known in academic circles and a chemist of reputation. Also, he had learnt from the mistakes of that earlier campaign. The wasteful controversy of whether to construct the University in Palestine or Europe had resolved itself—there could be no choice but Jerusalem; and Zionism, from being an insignificant force, had grown, in Weizmann’s own words, to become ‘the largest apparatus functioning in Jewry, working better than all the other organizations.’ Now that it was listened to by the Turks it could not be ignored by the Jews, even those influential ones who were opponents of its doctrine.
In this regard we have reached an engrossing episode in the Weizmann story. The entrance of Baron Edmond de Rothschild into the compass of his activities, with the confrontation between Zionist and philanthropist, each in his own way dedicated to the renaissance of Jewish life, offers an insight into the attraction of opposites reminiscent of Theodor Herzl’s own association with the first Lord Rothschild in London.
The House of Rothschild had from the beginning of Zionism been a preoccupation of the movement in all the calculations forced upon it by its paucity of funds and lack of major figures. Indeed, the first rough draft of Herzl’s Judenstaat had been titled ‘Address to the Rothschilds.’ Baron Edmond’s operations in Palestine had become legendary. Having anticipated the political movement by some 15 years, he continued to support agricultural colonies on a scale that rendered the similar work being undertaken by the Odessa-based Hovevei Zion insignificant by comparison. An autocrat, he allowed for no identification with the Jewish national movement nor consultation with it. Committed Zionists saw the colonies that were dependent on his munificence as having a negative impact upon the settlers. They carried the taint of patronage, and were conducted with a dictatorial hand to the point that brought instances of actual revolt on the part of the colonists themselves. Nevertheless, as Weizmann stated in a speech on returning from his first visit to Palestine in 1907, and given in extenso in the Introduction to Volume V, the Baron had accomplished more in the country than the collective labours of the Zionist Organization […] The work of the Baron has been the work of a statesman.’
By 1913 Edmond de Rothschild had willy-nilly grown accustomed to the reality of a movement that had come of age. He could no longer proceed as though it did not exist, or treat its activities with aristocratic Gallic disdain. The Baron was, in fact, moving close to Zionism. Jacobson learned through Jacques Bramson and Joseph Spanien, two Zionist contacts who formed part of the Baron’s entourage from the world of art, that the philanthropist was contemplating buying land on a large scale in Palestine. and would even be amenable to supporting the establishment of a University in Jerusalem.
A signal from such a quarter that there was prospect of reviving his old cherished dream was one Weizmann could not resist. It will be recalled from the previous volume that his professional self-esteem had suffered a wounding blow when he learned that he was not to succeed to the Chair of Organic Chemistry in Manchester. He had furthermore broken with the incumbent professor on matters related to their work in fermentation chemistry on behalf of a commercial enterprise in London. Thus the English city and its University now held few attractions for Weizmann. But his hopes that the Haifa Institute, upon which plans were well-advanced, would include a chemistry department to enable his early transfer to Palestine were also disappointed. The future University in Jerusalem, however, would fulfil those expectations and correspond perfectly with his conception of what Zionism implied: it would not only be a cultural prize for Palestine itself and a significant political stake in the country, but also enhance the attractions of the land as a spiritual centre for the entire Jewish people. He was the natural candidate for all preparatory work necessary to bring such a project before the public, and together with Feiwel and Leo Motzkin, another old comrade from the days when they had to struggle to get the cultural question taken seriously by the leadership, he was entrusted with the task.
The assignment was at best a tentative one, its object being to produce a report for further discussion when the Eleventh Congress convened in Vienna in September that year. But this argued without Weizmann’s immense drive when confronted with a practical task consonant with his personal convictions. Indeed, before long he was so far in advance of the contributions due from Motzkin and Feiwel that he all but discounted them. He felt there was not a moment to lose. The changed climate in Turkey presented dangers as well as possibilities, for ‘the Balkan Wars had demonstrated the importance of safeguarding Zionist interests in Palestine should the tottering Ottoman Empire collapse completely—an eventuality that the movement would not welcome. It saw its interests as coinciding with the consolidation of the Porte, and Jacobson had held out prospects to his colleagues of striking a bargain with Constantinople: were they to raise a loan for Turkey, resistance against Jewish immigration and land-purchase might well be abandoned. ‘If money were available,’ wrote Weizmann, ‘it would now be possible to buy literally half of Palestine, and it’s dreadful that the Jewish conscience is so hard to rouse.’
He was therefore in Zionist harness in a way never before allowed him. To readers of the early volumes in this series, there is a familiar ring to the letters deprecating the inactivity of his colleagues, his impatience with those who produced only difficulties, his feelings of betrayal, his canvassing of leading personalities in the academic world, his exaltation at even the smallest victory. There is a fever of creativity, punctuated by periods of exhaustion. He does not spare himself, for he finds these exciting times to live in and despite the hyperbole in which he phrases his disappointments he is obviously enjoying every moment of it. To be sure, he is still capable of keeping a cool head: ‘I don’t want to look like someone with muddled and crackpot schemes,’ he says. A seat on the S.A.C., to head the ‘University department’ as it were, was his for the asking. Even though both he and Vera disliked the thought of living in Berlin, he was tempted. But on observing what to him appeared dilatoriness in the promotion of the project by some S.A.C. members as well as other Zionists, or in espousing the concept as wholeheartedly as himself, he withheld from the step. He felt he could do much more in Manchester with a typewriter and part-time secretary, and be a servant of the movement without enslavement to its cumbersome machinery. Such a move was made by Yehiel Tschlenow within the period covered by the present letters. Weizmann observed with admiration the change wrought in the conduct of affairs when the Moscow ophthalmologist transferred to a leading position in the Executive, but he refrained from emulating his example.
We are still in the period of conflict between the so-called ‘politicals’ and `practicals.’ With a watchful eye on the forthcoming Congress, the S.A.C. was now much exercised to complete the victory won by the `practicals’ at Basle two years earlier, and relieve its adversaries on the ‘political’ side of the residue of power remaining to them. We read here of efforts to change the character of the Jewish Colonial Trust, the Zionist bank, control of which had been retained by David Wolffsohn and his friends when Herzl’s successor lost his position as leader of the movement. Negotiations had begun
in the latter part of the period covered by Volume V to recruit persons of stature in the banking community not committed to partisan views—even from outside the movement—who would introduce their expertise into the direction of the bank’s affairs as members of its Board; and the S.A.C. hoped to seat all G.A.C. members on the J.C.T. Council.
The move was doomed to failure. Likewise was the attempt to take the English Zionist Federation out of the hands of pronounced Herzlians, principally Leopold Kessler and Joseph Cowen, and to end the paralysis in English Zionism through its division into those two irreconcilables, the E.Z.F. and the Order of Ancient Maccabeans. Weizmann acted for the S.A.C. loyally in this, as with the J.C.T. matter, although he had personally lost patience with the inflexible opposition adopted by Moses Gaster of the `practical’ side, and had indeed served a year as a vice-president of the Federation under Cowen. He, and his principal associates in English Zionism, Sacher and Simon, were willing to work with either side. But he knew that without Gaster there was little hope of bringing the diverse elements together, despite the man’s record as a difficult colleague. He had first to mediate between the S.A.C. and Gaster, a task he found distinctly distasteful, for the latter’s terms for his return to active work included the dissolution of the E.Z.F. and its replacement by a new body. In fighting the move Cowen carried his long drawn-out fight against ‘practical’ Zionism to the camp of the S.A.C. itself. He contended that, by transferring the headquarters from Cologne to Berlin and summoning that year’s Congress in Vienna, it had given the impression that Zionism was a German cat’s-paw.
The S.A.C. was heavily represented at the 1913 Annual Conference of the E.Z.F., and Weizmann, employing the term often bandied about in those days, appealed there for a ‘homogeneous leadership.’ He nominated Gaster, the O.A.M. leader Herbert Bentwich and the Bradford merchant Jacob Moser for the principal offices. The E.Z.F., however, refused to dissolve itself as required by Gaster, and returned Cowen as its president.
Weizmann was by now so fully preoccupied with the University that he gave little further thought to Anglo-Zionist controversies. He continued to support the O.A.M. as a ‘practical’ organization, but nevertheless, when he saw that the Federation under Cowen was really beginning to work again, he consented, ‘for tactical reasons’ to election once again as a vice-president.
The Eleventh Congress therefore took place in Vienna with an S.A.C. not fully in command, and with a University project on the agenda that -had produced ammunition for powerful attacks by leading `politicals.’ Max Nordau employed his unparalleled powers of oratory to pour withering scorn upon the scheme, while Samuel Melamed described it as `childish, fantastic’ Jewish unnecessary and unrealisable.’ Nordau moreover demonstrated Chronicle his displeasure with Zionist policy in general by absenting himself from the Congress altogether; his reputation both among the Jews and the world at large made his defection a grievous loss to the standing of the Congress as a public Jewish forum. There was also trouble on the other side of the divide, from Menahem Ussishkin, the leading ‘practical’ Zionist from Russia. Ussishkin’s arrival at the Congress transferred to Vienna a long-standing feud with Tschlenow, and this constituted an impediment to the latter’s forthcoming elevation to the S.A.C. and the virtual presidency of the movement. Ussishkin no longer enjoyed the authority of earlier years in world Zionism, but he was not to be discounted by any means. He and Weizmann were due to speak on the University, and he could do so from a position of unrivaled strength, for the Hovevei Zion Committee at Odessa, of which he was chairman, had already voted a considerable sum towards the purchase of land on Mount Scopus for the projected institution. Knowing of his speech in advance, and that it contained an insistence that the language of tuition be in Hebrew from the first day, Weizmann was to state, with ill-concealed sarcasm, `Ussishkin is going to carry through the University business by storm.’
Weizmann’s own speech reflected the sobering process he was undergoing as a result of what to him still appeared as widespread indifference to the scheme. He knew that many regarded the plan as over-ambitious, and likely to interfere with economic activities in Palestine. Education had become a highly controversial subject anyway, and the Zionists were already in acute difficulties with their partners, the Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden, on the language question in relation to the Technicum then being erected in Haifa. Weizmann was, additionally, now aware that Rothschild, if he came in, would tie important conditions to his support. Finally, many delegates conceived the University as an institute for the study of Judaism, a glorified Yeshiva, in fact, and this was very far from his own vision of its character and purpose.
Reviewing the history of the proposal from its earliest recommendation by Hermann Schapira in the eighties of the last century, Weizmann reminded the Congress that when the subject of a University had first been seriously mooted, in 1901, it had been warmly commended by Herzl, to the degree of taking preliminary steps towards obtaining a Turkish concession for the project. He went on: ‘The University will be the guardian of those spiritual treasures which are most valuable for the future of the nation; it will be the nursery of our living Jewish national language, the focal point of Jewish activities in the literary, artistic and scientific spheres, in brief the “cultural centre” of the Jewish people.’ He spoke further of the state of emergency in Diaspora Jewry (they were then in the midst of the Beilis ritual libel case) and, while Zionism did not claim it could put an end to the sad plight of the Jews in the near future, it was ‘tomorrow’s bread.’
Therefore they had an urgent duty to prepare at once. The University would be a stone in the building they wished to set up for a new Jewry in Palestine. ‘Cultural colonisation will be a factor of no lesser value for attaining our aim than the economic colonisation of Palestine. ‘
Nursery of the living national language though the University might be, Weizmann was nevertheless less categoric than Ussishkin as regards the language of tuition. ‘There is no doubt that it is possible to teach Jewish as well as humanistic subjects in the Hebrew language. There may, however, be some doubts about mathematics and science […] It is still doubtful whether there is already a terminology in Hebrew sufficient for University study and whether the use of Hebrew would not impair the quality of the teaching. But I do not think that difficulty insurmountable. Hebrew is a flexible language, very suitable for expressing scientific ideas and, given sufficient time for preparation, the lecturers should be able gradually to master this difficult task.’ He also spoke of the importance of developing the National Library in Jerusalem as the corner-stone of the University, calling for an intensive propaganda effort on its behalf.
The resolution before the Congress was an innocuous one. The recommendation to found a University included nothing so controversial as a statement of the institution’s character, or a date for its inauguration. Consequently it was passed unanimously, with details of implementation left to the G.A.C. An initial list of contributions was announced by Wolffsohn, and to all intents the project was now to become a broad activity of Zionism, equally with such universally-accepted instruments as the Jewish National Fund.
It is difficult to believe this would have been so were Weizmann himself not in command of the enterprise. For soon after the Congress the Technicum controversy broke upon the scene with a ferocity that dwarfed all other issues in Zionism. It began with a modest proposal by Shmarya Levin, who was actively concerned with
Technicum affairs on behalf of the S.A.C., that one subject be taught in Hebrew, and that this be the language of tuition in all subjects in the secondary school due to be attached to the Technicum. This was rejected by the Hilfsverein, in which control of the Technicum was then vested. Subsequent events then followed each other with alarming speed. Repercussions began with the resignation of Ahad Ha’am, Levin and Tschlenow, the three Zionist members of the Curatorium (the governing council of the Technicum), and a revolt on the part of some students and teachers at the existing Hilfsverezn schools in Palestine that brought disorders and the intervention of the Turkish authorities. In the furore pro-German and anti-German interests ranged against each other in open hostility. Zionism earned public condemnation in the general Press by leading Jewish figures of the assimilationist standpoint within Germany itself. Before long the S.A.C. was under threat by the Hilfsverein of a withdrawal of its teachers training college from Palestine. The Zionist body replied by launching a fund-raising campaign to open Hebrew schools there under its own jurisdiction.
Weizmann observed the progress of this controversy with growing discomfort, although he naturally supported the Hebrew stand and responded loyally to the Zionist requirement that a special campaign for the schools be undertaken. He saw the events not only as imperiling his activities for the University from a financial point of view, but also as alienating the non-Zionist figures he was nursing to give the project the prestige it needed if Rothschild and others were to take it seriously. An outstanding scientist among these was Paul Ehrlich, the German-Jewish pioneer in medicine and Nobel laureate whom Weizmann regarded as his most influential adherent. ‘There is an anti-Zionist wind blowing in Germany,’ he wrote, ‘and I am afraid Ehrlich will catch cold from it.’ The conflict embroiled Jewish interests in America, Zionist and non-Zionist alike. The New York philanthropist Jacob Schiff, declaredly pro-German, had contributed a substantial sum towards the Technicum and had his own nominees on the Curatorium. He intervened with an attack upon the Zionists. This particularly distressed Weizmann. He was endeavouring, through Judah Magnes, then a rabbi in New York with excellent contacts in the German-Jewish aristocracy there, to obtain a benefaction from Nathan Straus, who like his fellow-philanthropist Schiff was German-born.
The conflict over the Haifa institute reached the stage of a Hilfsverein threat to liquidate the entire operation, on the grounds of insolvency, and then restart it as a project exclusively their own. This arose because the Wissotzky family, trustees of the estate that had made the endeavour possible in the first place, withheld an installment of their contribution pending the detachment of the Technicum administrative office from that of the Hilfsverein. Only the outbreak of war, and the entirely different situation that ensued, settled this controversy.
Meanwhile, Weizmann was carefully keeping his University out of the storm. What mattered most was to secure the identification of Baron Edmond with the project, for this would give it the realism and immediacy that alone would stimulate other large contributions and alert Zionists everywhere to the need for active regional efforts at fund-raising. Conversely, the Baron himself would react most favorably if he saw that he was not alone in providing finance for the enterprise. These factors were kept keenly in mind by Weizmann in what became virtually a one-man campaign, although he consulted a wide circle of sympathizers and collaborators and kept them informed of developments. Problems emerged at every turn. One of these sprang from the very principle of engaging the Baron’s cooperation. Rothschild had always affected to conduct his work for Palestine with the minimum of publicity, to the point almost of anonymity. But, to Weizmann’s distress, information supposedly held in confidence by the S.A.C. found its way into the Press, frequently in exaggerated form.
The old autocrat also had definite ideas as to the character of the institution he was invited to help establish. He insisted upon the creation of an institute of research, in the style of the Pasteur, and Ehrlich’s institute in Frankfurt. He was convinced that a University offering teaching departments was premature, and carried an undesirable political connotation. Another blow: it was intimated that Rothschild’s financial commitment would not come up to original expectation. All this involved Weizmann in painful compromise and laborious explanation. He knew that a University carried an aura among the Jews that would not be attained by a research institute, however well-endowed, and he was careful to obtain the sanction of the S.A.C. before proceeding to an agreement with Rothschild on the latter’s terms. It was to require every skill of draftsmanship to produce a public announcement that would fire the Jewish world with the early prospect of a Hebrew University in Jerusalem and simultaneously comply with the Rothschild conditions.
Having settled for a research institute as the nucleus of a subsequent University, Weizmann became committed to it, passionately defending the scheme with the authority of one professionally immersed in the academic world. He was convinced that if the
Zionists demonstrated energy and earnestness, they would receive more money from Rothschild who, in any case, was soon to show himself more amenable to the University concept. Nevertheless, a fight was on. There was controversy particularly with Vladimir Jabotinsky, who was responsible for the fund-raising and propaganda campaign in Russia. Jabotinsky, brilliant publicist that he was, saw the entire Rothschild connection as self-defeating: they were to receive less money than they had anticipated for a project that was not a University and still far too costly, and, because of Rothschild’s susceptibilities, they were to be denied the magic of his name.
Given all the arduousness of the previous months, the exhausting journeyings, the meticulous preparation of the ground to recruit figures of scientific stature, the careful handling of the Baron’s confidant Gaston Wormser, the patient enlistment of James de Rothschild, the unpredictability of Ussishkin who suspected the S.A.C. under Tschlenow of disregarding him, the doubts of close friends such as Ahad Ha’am who feared the siting of the University in Jerusalem as politically provocative, and of Sacher and Leon Simon who voiced scepticism time and again—given all this, Jabotinsky’s remonstrances were more than Weizmann could bear. He sent long, angry protests to Berlin, framing his reproaches against Jabotinsky in particularly bitter terms. The letters on this episode reveal the writer as a master of polemic. They are a joy to read for the irony and contempt with which he demolishes an argument unacceptable to him.
Weizmann’s meetings with the Baron and his representatives mark the beginning of this great family’s involvement in a specific Zionist endeavor, a matter of no small historical significance. Out of them Weizmann was able to compose that brilliant thumbnail sketch of the old man—then aged 69 but with 20 years still to live—that appears in Trial and Error. But it was the Baron’s insistence that the Manchester Zionist meet James, the son he wished to succeed him in his Palestine enterprises, that was to result in the greatest developments. For the two eventually became firm friends, and James was to be brought wholly within the Zionist orbit. The Knesset building in Jerusalem, built with funds from James de Rothschild’s estate, stands as powerful testimony to their fructifying relationship.
Weizmann’s sense of pursuing a lonely mission in gathering together the strands to give the University feasibility is reflected in his fulsome expressions of appreciation whenever he received a letter, it seems almost any letter, in reply to the salvoes he was sending out from Manchester. He was particularly grateful to Magnes for his response from across the Atlantic. The latter ultimately proved successful in winning Straus over, a matter of exceptional importance in view of the anxiety of various Germany-biased associations to absorb the Straus endowments in Palestine, mainly concerned with public health, in their own philanthropic, as opposed to nationally Jewish, activities. It was Weizmann’s understandable belief that all the Technicum’s tribulations were born of Zionism’s partnership with a body which, beneath its veil of disinterestedness, held firmly to a contradictory philosophy. As we have seen in Volume V, Weizmann had previously sought, without success, to integrate the health centre being projected by Straus with the Technicum. Now he saw it as enriching the medical department of the new University, for which Straus had already signified a contribution.
Summarizing Weizmann’s personal situation at the moment when his destiny was about to change course, we find his disappointment at not receiving the Manchester professorship softened with his nomination as Reader in Bio-chemistry there. He considered – the terms eminently satisfactory, in that his salary was much improved and his teaching commitments reduced. He had entered into a new arrangement for research on a private basis with a Mannheim company controlled by his friend and comrade in Zionism Julius Simon. His wife Vera was now at last fulfilling her own ambition for a career, with an engagement in the municipal pre-natal medical service. They were both determined to settle in Palestine at the earliest opportunity, it being then accepted that the Medical Faculty at the Hebrew University, a project which he now saw as ‘journeying under a lucky star,’ would embrace a Chemistry department with himself at its head. Weizmann’s passion for the subject remained undiminished, and he found respite during the period under review in the laboratories of leading scientists in Berne and Paris. He had an invitation also from Ehrlich to work at his famous Frankfurt institute when war broke out.
In the forum of world Zionism Weizmann was now a leading figure, if one excludes those in whole-time service in the S.A.C. where a position was open to him should he wish it. True, he was not yet the declared leader of the movement in Great Britain, but the organization there was a divided and ineffectual house that still awaited repair, and although individuals in it were important, it had as yet no collective role to equal the federations of Central and Eastern Europe. As chairman of the Steering Committee, the Permanent-Ausschuss, at three Congresses, 1909, 1911, 1913, he had had great influence on the discussions. When he won command of the British and, subsequently, the world movement, this could be seen to be rooted in his concern to enroll a younger generation in Zionism. We learned from the previous volume of the importance he attached to regular visits to the Universities, and we gain the acquaintance in Volume VI of many more people shortly to occupy positions of responsibility. Besides Sacher and Simon, previously encountered, we are here introduced to Leonard Stein, Selig Brodetsky, Simon Marks and Israel Sieff—men who were to become identified with the `Weizmann School’ that was dominant in Zionism, with its synthesized ‘political’ and ‘practical’ ideology, until the end of the Second World War.
Volume VI of the Weizmann Letters and Papers terminates in an atmosphere of un-concluded business, with the decisive meeting for the University planned for a day when Europe was already in the grip of war. Although new issues of greater urgency were to engage Chaim Weizmann’s attention, he did not forsake his dream for a great educational and cultural institution in Jerusalem. The guns still firing, twelve foundation stones of the new University were laid on Mount Scopus, on July 24, 1918, and the man who looked to this moment through the whole of his Zionist life could say: ‘From this day the Hebrew University is a reality. Our University, formed by Jewish learning and Jewish energy, will mould itself into an integral part of our national structure […] It will have a centripetal force, attracting all that is noblest in Jewry throughout the world; a unifying centre for our scattered elements. There will go forth, too, inspiration and strength that shall revivify the powers now latent in our scattered communities. Here the wandering soul of Israel shall reach its haven.’