Volume XII, Series A (August 1923 – March 1926)

August 16, 2019


The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann 

August 1923 – March 1926

Volume XII, Series A

Introduction: Joshua Freundlich

General Editor Barnet Litvinoff, Volume Editor Joshua Freundlich, Transaction Books, Rutgers University and Israel Universities Press, Jerusalem, 1977

[Reprinted with express permission from the Weizmann Archives, Rehovot, Israel, 

by the Center for Israel Education www.israeled.org]

This volume of the Weizmann Letters covers a period of two years and nine months, from the 13th Zionist Congress at Carlsbad in August 1923 until Chaim Weizmann’s departure from London for a visit to Palestine in March 1926.

These were years of reorientation in the history of Zionism, with its center of gravity shifting from the political sphere to the task of construction in Palestine. The transition was bound to involve difficulties for the movement, for political work, with its immediate challenges, would naturally be more appealing than the practical work in Palestine, which was gradualist, and only bore fruit after a considerable lapse of time.

Weizmann had the vision, and the aptitude, to recognize that the functions of the Zionist Organization had to change. It was his conviction that it had exhausted all the possibilities of political achievement, and that there were now no political obstacles to immigration and settlement in Palestine. Few Zionist leaders shared this view. The great majority still believed that the National Home would become a reality by virtue of political declarations and resolutions, and were inclined to ascribe the difficulties in Palestine to the machinations of the Mandatory Government and the weakness of the Zionist Organization’s political policies. Weizmann’s main endeavors during these years were concentrated on the adaptation of the Organization to the changing position. His persuasion was only partially successful, and there was frequent conflict. Weizmann’s authority as President of the Zionist Organization was gravely impaired in consequence.

He took the view that political conditions were favorable to the Jewish National Home, and therefore sought to maintain good relations with the Mandatory authorities, refraining from any initiative for change in the status quo. Thus determined, his aim was to frustrate all violations of the terms of the Mandate without provoking a confrontation with the British Government. The strategy was to be observed in his handling of the two political crises which occurred late in 1923: the proposal for the establishment of an Arab Agency, and the plan to include Palestine in a federation with the neighboring countries.

The concept of an Arab Agency was Britain’s last attempt at a path of cooperation with the Arabs in the government of Palestine, following Arab rejection of the proposal to participate in a Legislative Council, or an Advisory Council. It emerged from the deliberations of a special committee of the British Cabinet which met in the summer of 1923 to examine policy in the Middle East as a whole. One conclusion formed by the committee was that the root of the Palestine Arabs’ opposition lay in the preferential status enjoyed by the Zionists by virtue of the privileges of the Jewish Agency. An Arab Agency of similar status would, in the committee’s opinion, cooperate with the Administration in all economic, social and other matters affecting the non-Jewish population. As for immigration, the Arab Agency would have the right to express its views on its character, so as to prevent injury to the rights and status of the country’s non-Jewish inhabitants.

Weizmann knew of the Arab Agency proposal in general and unofficial terms as early as the summer of 1923, but he saw no reason for concern since Sir Herbert Samuel, the British High Commissioner in Palestine, assured him that the Arabs would not accept it. Now, after the proposal had been formally submitted to the Arabs and its rejection was confirmed, Weizmann’s main concern was focused on Zionist public opinion and the danger of a breach with the Colonial Office. At a special meeting of the Zionist Actions Committee, held on 31 October 1923, he demanded that the Zionist Organization be content with the rejection of the proposal by the Arabs, without insisting on satisfaction on the question of principle involved. The A.C. did not accept this view, and instructed the Executive to submit to the Colonial Office a resolution protesting against the Arab Agency proposal and emphasizing that it was incompatible with the spirit of the Palestine Mandate. Weizmann expressed his displeasure with this resolution by holding up its submission to the Colonial Office.

More dangerous than the Arab Agency proposal, in Weizmann’s view, were the negotiations in the autumn of 1923 for a treaty between Hussein, King of the Hejaz, and the British Government. This was a continuation of discussions begun early in the year. Its object was to place the independence of the Hejaz within the framework of a treaty similar to that signed by Britain and Egypt in 1922. Britain required Hussein’s recognition of her special political status in those Middle East countries over which she had been awarded a Mandate. Hussein demanded, as a condition for his consent, British acknowledgment of the principle of Arab unity and the independence of the Arab countries. A draft treaty was drawn up recognizing the independence of Iraq, Transjordan and the Arab countries of the Arabian Peninsula. As for Palestine, Britain undertook to do nothing that might endanger the religious and civil rights of its Arab community. It was also stated that, if these countries wished to establish customs or other links with a view to future confederation, the British Government would offer its good offices. In return, King Hussein recognized Britain’s special status in Iraq, Transjordan and Palestine. This draft treaty, which was published in spring 1923, aroused strong opposition in the Arab world—critics argued that it implied recognition of the Jewish National Home in Palestine—and it was rejected by King Hussein.

In autumn 1923, the contacts between Hussein and Britain were renewed, and the Arabs now tried to give the proposed confederation a distinctly political significance. Weizmann took a grave view of the plan and protested vigorously to the Colonial Office, but apparently he was satisfied by the explanations he received there, and reassured his colleagues in the Executive and the Zionist movement. Ultimately, the proposal for an Arab federation headed by Hussein was abandoned.

The Arab Agency and the Hussein treaty episodes shed light on Weizmann’s relations with the Colonial Office and the High Commissioner in Palestine. With the former he maintained good relations, which were unaffected by the change of government in Britain. The Conservative Government in office from October 1922 to January 1924, with the Duke of Devonshire as Colonial Secretary, might well be described as one of the least favorable to Zionism in the history of the Mandate. It was established with the definite aim of revising the foreign policy of its predecessors under Lloyd George, which was identified with the Balfour Declaration policy. The Government did indeed reconsider and re-examine British policy in the Middle East as a whole, but all it saw fit to do was to offer the Arabs an Arab Agency.

The Labour Government which succeeded the Conservatives in January 1924 constituted an unknown quantity for the Zionists. However, its political weakness and dependence on the permanent staff of the Colonial Office did not enable it to make far-reaching changes in Palestine policy, as Weizmann originally feared.

The Conservatives returned late in 1924, with a change of heart, and remained in office until 1929. The new Colonial Secretary, Leopold Amery, was a firm believer in the Zionist cause.

Despite all these changes of government, there was clear continuity in Palestine policy. This evidenced that the Jewish National Home commitment was no longer identified with one party exclusively, but had become a permanent feature of British policy in the Middle East, with growing stress on the strategic importance of Palestine in the light of the instability in Egypt.

Weizmann’s relations with Sir Herbert Samuel, the High Commissioner for Palestine, were complex. The Zionist leader was convinced that many of the undesirable political initiatives taken by the Government, such as the treaty with Hussein and the Arab Agency proposal, originated with Samuel, or that the latter’s efforts to carry them through at Colonial Office behest were over-zealous. He believed that Samuel had fashioned his own mental picture of the Jewish National Home, according to which it was to develop into a kind of cultural and spiritual centre on the pattern expounded by the advocate of Cultural Zionism, Ahad Ha’am: a small community with cultural institutions, a university and a few model agricultural settlements. Weizmann could not agree to such a concept of the National Home.

On the other hand, Weizmann was well aware of Samuel’s virtues—his personal integrity, his sincerity and his devotion to his task—and he did not underrate the demonstrative value of the fact that the High Commissioner for Palestine was a Jew. Weizmann, therefore, desired Samuel, whose term of office was due to expire, to extend his stay in Palestine. It may be assumed that Weizmann would have taken more vigorous action with the Colonial Office in this regard had he not suspected Samuel of having had a hand in the critical view of Jewish immigration expressed in the League of Nations report discussed below. It is not surprising, therefore, that Weizmann did not treat seriously the clamorous campaign of the Jewish leaders in Palestine—who had previously showered Samuel with abuse—for the extension of Samuel’s term as High Commissioner.

The appointment of a new High Commissioner was a source of considerable anxiety to him. Weizmann’s own choice would have been Gilbert Clayton, the Chief Secretary of the Palestine Government, but it was decided to send out Field Marshal Plumer, a man unknown to him. His first impression of Plumer, however, was favorable, and his hopes that it would be possible to maintain a good working relationship with the new High Commissioner were destined to be realized.

Weizmann’s sole foray in the diplomatic field during this period was in connection with the first report of the League of Nations on the Palestine Mandate. According to the League Charter, the Mandatory Power had to submit an annual report on its stewardship to the Mandates Commission of the League. Palestine was discussed by the Mandates Commission only towards the end of 1924, after almost four years of British civil rule in the country, because the Mandate for Palestine was not finally approved until September 1923. The British Government submitted a report, and Samuel appeared in person before the Commission. The Arabs sent a memorandum demanding the establishment in Palestine of a national government, with Arabs and Jews represented in accordance with the numerical proportion between them before the start of Zionist immigration. The Zionist Organization also submitted a detailed report, but the Commission refused to consider this on the ground that it had not been presented in accordance with the correct procedure, i.e., as a petition from inhabitants of the country submitted through the Mandatory Power. 

Even before publication of the Commission’s report, Weizmann, who was in Geneva during the Commission’s deliberations and had private meetings with its members, had serious apprehensions that the Commission would not show sympathy for the Zionist cause. He realized too late that the Zionist Organization, unlike the Arabs, had neglected the League of Nations, that Catholic circles were using the League for a struggle against the National Home, and that the Arab argument that the British Mandate over Palestine was incompatible with the League of Nations Charter, which called for self-determination, was meeting with a favorable response in many quarters. And indeed, the Mandates Commission’s report, when published, was a severe blow to the Zionist cause, disparaging the Jewish immigrants in Palestine and their preparedness for manual labour. Weizmann protested to the Colonial Office and the League of Nations, and sent a long and emotional letter to Sir Herbert Samuel, whom he blamed—without justification—for the developments at Geneva. Weizmann’s protests bore fruit and, at the League of Nations Council meeting in Rome in December 1924, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain, officially dissociated himself from the report.

The Zionist Organization learned the lesson of this episode. A special office, headed by Victor Jacobson, was set up in Geneva to take care of Zionist interests at the League of Nations, and the organization came to the next meeting of the Mandates Commission well prepared. The Zionist memorandum was properly presented and received, and the Organization could congratulate itself on the acceptance by the Commission of some of its claims in regard to the participation of the Palestine Government in the financing of Jewish education and the allocation of State lands for Zionist settlement.

In the spring of 1924, before the end of his visit to the United States (see below), Weizmann summed up, in a letter to Moshe Smilansky in Rehovoth, the main lines of his program for the coming year: a) To open the way for the Jewish Agency; b) Secure the necessary money for the budget in Palestine; c) Together with Ruppin to bring about a situation ultimately resulting in the formation of an Investment Corporation; d) Work towards the opening of the University that year.

Weizmann remained faithful to this program, in the order given, until it was achieved. His main efforts from 1922 to 1929 were dedicated to the establishment of the enlarged Jewish Agency. According to Article Four of the Mandate for Palestine, ‘an appropriate Jewish agency’ was to be recognized ‘for the purpose of advising and cooperating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may effect the establishment of the Jewish national home […] and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country.’ The Zionist Organization was recognized as such agency, but it was required to `take steps […] to secure the cooperation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home.’

The Zionist Organization was in no hurry to comply with this article of the Mandate: first, because the British Government did not ask it to do so, presumably because it was satisfied with the status quo; secondly, because it was well known that the question of the enlargement of the Jewish Agency contained the seeds of controversy, some of which had been revealed in 1919, when the Zionist Organization was discussing with the British the text of the Mandate.

Early in 1922 Weizmann demanded the initiation of measures for enlargement of the Agency. He was convinced that the task imposed on the Zionist Organization in Palestine was beyond its powers, and that in order to succeed it was essential to obtain the aid, in resources and organizational capacity, of Jewish bodies and individuals outside the movement. These were unwilling to join the Zionist Organization and it was, therefore, necessary to create a special framework—the enlarged Jewish Agency—through which they could cooperate with the Zionist Organization in its Palestine work without abandoning their principles. With iron determination and dedication to his goal, ignoring unrelenting opposition within the movement and indifference—even derision—in the Jewish world, he continued to strive for the establishment of the enlarged Agency, until he finally achieved his aim in August 1929.

As anticipated, the plan aroused acute controversy in the Zionist camp. Many Zionists, especially in Eastern Europe, looked with suspicion on those Jewish organizations and individuals that Weizmann wished to co-opt to the Agency. They insisted on the preservation of the national and democratic character of the Zionist Organization and the convening of a world Jewish congress before the establishment of the enlarged Agency. Weizmann, on the other hand, felt that such a congress would emphasize the nationalist aspects and repel the Jews of the West, who were the principal candidates for co-option to the Agency. He wanted to establish the Agency by convening a council in which representatives of the Zionist Organization and the Jewish organizations and communities would participate on an equal basis.

The 13th Zionist Congress, which took place in Carlsbad in August 1923, was dominated by this controversy. Weizmann was confronted by an extensive and powerful opposition, headed by Isaac Gruenbaum, who was supported by an important section of Polish Zionism. It was especially painful to Weizmann that the Zionist intelligentsia, including educators and officials in Palestine, were among his opponents. He exhausted his strength in a personal struggle with his colleagues on the Executive: Leo Motzkin, Richard Lichtheim and Menahem Ussishkin. He succeeded, indeed, in keeping them out of the new Executive, but on the other hand he was compelled to accept a compromise on the question of the Agency which he regarded as a far-reaching concession. The Executive was authorized to open negotiations for the establishment of a council jointly with non-Zionists, as he demanded, but the Congress resolution stipulated that it should only be of a temporary character until the convening of the world Jewish congress, and its functions and powers were not defined. This situation was rectified later by the Zionist Actions Committee, which adopted a resolution, at its October 1923 session, defining in detail the functions and powers of the joint council. On the basis of this resolution, Weizmann believed that he could start practical negotiations for the co-option of the non-Zionists to the Council of the Agency.

Weizmann started on the establishment of the Agency by negotiating with Jewish organizations in Britain, presumably because he was accustomed to dealing with them and also, perhaps, because he believed the British Government to be particularly interested in their participation. He soon found, however, that the English Jews had no great enthusiasm for the project, that they made numerous conditions for their participation, and that their adhesion would be of very little political and economic significance.

In the United States, on the other hand, Weizmann found a large Jewish community which had the necessary financial resources at its disposal and was ready to come forward and take part in practical work in Palestine. Furthermore, this community had a recognized leadership – the families of those ‘German’ Jews who had come to the United States in the middle of the 19th century from Central Europe, and who now held key positions in the spheres of business, law and politics. Although these leaders had not been elected by democratic procedure, they were highly influential, and acceptable to the Jewish community as a whole. Weizmann was convinced that, should he win over this leadership, he would find the way open to the great Jewish masses—the middle class and the trade unions—which had so far kept their distance from any activity in Palestine.

During a visit to the United States in the spring of 1923, Weizmann acquainted the representatives of American Jewry with the main elements of his program. Within the year he undertook another, more prolonged, visit, the main object of which was to secure cooperation with the non-Zionists. Weizmann came to the Jews of America with a two-fold plan: to establish an ‘Investment Corporation’ which would provide funds for profitable enterprises in Palestine; and to establish the general lines of cooperation in the Jewish Agency.

The idea of the Investment Corporation was favorably received, as a reply to the charge by many American Jewish philanthropists that the Keren Hayesod was wasteful in its administration in the United States and in the expenditure of its monies in Palestine. The company was soon agreed to in principle, and it began operations in 1926 under the name of the Palestine Economic Corporation. Its establishment also enabled some of the followers of Justice Louis D. Brandeis to return to public Zionist activity—apparently to the displeasure of Brandeis himself.

The question of the Jewish Agency was more difficult. True, Weizmann received the support of Louis Marshall, the recognized leader of the ‘German’ Jews, but there were still many obstacles to overcome. Weizmann was anxious to limit discussion of the establishment of the Agency to the practical level, so as to obviate theoretical debate. He had also to tread delicately between the decisions of the Zionist institutions on the question of the Agency and the arrangements that were acceptable to those in America who were suspicious of any cooperation with the ‘German’ Jews. Further more, Weizmann did not succeed in finding a negotiator equally trusted by himself, the American Zionists and the likely non-Zionist participants. He was obliged to take personal charge of the discussions. As a result, his absences from the United States delayed progress towards the enlargement of the Agency.

At first it seemed that everything was proceeding smoothly. In February 1924 the Non-Partisan Conference, which was described as an impressive demonstration of Jewish solidarity, met in New York under the chairmanship of Louis Marshall. A sub-committee Zionists and non-Zionists. The conference reconvened in May 1924 was formed to lay down the basic principles of cooperation between and worked out a plan to which Weizmann and the Zionist Executive assented. Whether willingly or by virtue of the circumstances, the Zionist movement as a whole acquiesced in the enlargement of the Agency, and the extreme displeasure voiced at the Actions Committee meeting in July 1924 was merely lip-service; beneath the surface the committee was reconciled to the establishment of the new body.

At first it seemed that everything was proceeding smoothly. In February 1924 the Non-Partisan Conference, which was described as an impressive demonstration of Jewish solidarity, met in New York under the chairmanship of Louis Marshall. A sub-committee Zionists and non-Zionists. The conference reconvened in May 1924 was formed to lay down the basic principles of cooperation between and worked out a plan to which Weizmann and the Zionist Executive assented. Whether willingly or by virtue of the circumstances, the Zionist movement as a whole acquiesced in the enlargement of the Agency, and the extreme displeasure voiced at the Actions Committee meeting in July 1924 was merely lip-service; beneath the surface the committee was reconciled to the establishment of the new body.

Yet the opportunity was missed. Marshall had reoccuring hampered negotiations with Jewish organizations beyond the United States in regard to their adhesion to the Agency, and prevented the early summoning of the 14th Zionist Congress to approve the measures taken in America. The Non-Partisan Conference did not meet again until March 1925, and although some practical steps were adopted for the establishment of the Agency, the ‘Crimea Affair’ soon cast its shadow on relations between Zionists and non-Zionists in the United States, and the process slowed to a halt.

The plan for Jewish agricultural settlement in the Crimea was part of the Soviet Government’s effort to direct Russia’s Jewish population to productive occupations following their uprooting from traditional livelihoods in trade and handicrafts by the Revolution. The Soviet Government placed land at the disposal of the settlers, but wanted financial backing from the Jewish organizations in the United States. The resettlement plan was adopted by non-Zionist circles in American Jewry immediately and without reserve. They were impressed by the dimensions of the plan—it involved extensive areas of land and the settlement of hundreds of thousands of Jews—as well as by the absence of all the political obstacles bound up with the complex situation that existed in Palestine. Very soon, the financing of Jewish resettlement in the Crimea became the most important feature of the appeal campaign of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (`the Joint’), and Palestine receded into the background.

Weizmann, who had a deep suspicion of the actions of any Russian Government—Czarist or Soviet—in regard to the Jews, had no faith in the sincerity of the authorities and the practicability of the project. At the same time, he understood that the Zionist Organization could not come out in open opposition to a plan ostensibly designed to improve the position of a major Jewish community. This consideration was not fully shared by the American Zionist leaders, some of whom regarded the enthusiasm of the non-Zionists for the Crimea project as proof that they had never been serious in their intention to participate in the Jewish Agency. Weizmann himself was unable to travel to the United States to smooth over the difficulties, and throughout the second half of 1925 he helplessly observed the dissolution of the entire fabric of relations with the American non-Zionists which he had worked so strenuously to create. Soon, all his plans lay in ruins. Relations with Marshall and his colleagues had been broken off, while the Zionist Organization of America, in a belligerent stance against the non-Zionists, displayed a clear tendency towards isolationism vis-a-vis European Zionism.

Weizmann’s difficult situation at this time was largely the result of his almost exclusive reliance in the preceding years on American Zionism and American Jewry. He had found in the Americans men after his own heart: Jews with a direct and business-like approach, who regarded Zionism as, above all, a constructive enterprise of settlement in Palestine. The Zionist ideologies of the Europeans, on the other hand, were sophisticated and complex, with considerable emphasis on the spiritual, political and propaganda aspects. In his contacts with the Americans, moreover, Weizmann was free from all the limitations that cramped his leadership in Europe. For the Americans, both Zionist and non-Zionist, Weizmann was the personification of the cause and its undisputed leader.

It was quite otherwise in Europe. Following a brief honeymoon after the World War, friction had developed between Weizmann and the Zionist establishment. Veteran leaders from Eastern Europe resented the heightened status of the man whom many still regarded as Chaim from Pinsk, believing he had won a position beyond his just deserts. Weizmann, for his part, did not succeed in his relations with the institutions of the movement, and sometimes displayed contempt for his colleagues and for the Zionist machine. Robert Weltsch, one of the few among his associates who dared to forewarn him of the dangers of the situation, tried in a number of letters early in 1924 to convince Weizmann of the need to improve his public image, to respect decisions of the Zionist institutions and to build up a reliable circle of supporters. But Weizmann continued to regard himself as President by virtue of the loyalty of the Zionist masses rather than by virtue of democratic election, and he ascribed his difficulties to his being a trail-blazer, in advance of the column, and with a clearer view than was possible to his followers.

This situation made the meetings of the Zionist institutions, the Actions Committee and the Congress a trial for Weizmann. At the Congresses the confrontations brought frequent wrangling, and motions of confidence in the outgoing Executive became lukewarm formulae expressing more distrust than confidence. Lengthy bargaining over the composition of the new Executive sometimes terminated only through an ultimatum from Weizmann. The situation came to a head at the 14th Congress, in Vienna in August 1925, when the Congress was unable to elect an Executive acceptable to all, so that

its formation had to await the next meeting of the Actions Committee. Weizmann himself expressed his attitude to the supreme council of the Zionist movement by leaving the Congress before its close.

The chronic lack of funds kept him constantly at the task of obtaining money for the continuation of the work in Palestine, and in search of special allocations, sometimes of sums that today appear to be trivial, for specific projects. He was also burdened by the need to take decisions on administrative matters, some of them of minor significance.

In one field Weizmann was able to see the early fruits of his labors. In April 1925 the opening ceremony of the new Hebrew University was held on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. It was still no more than a modest beginning, for Institutes of Microbiology and Biochemistry, and the Institute of Jewish Studies, alone had begun work; but it seemed that the foundations had been laid for the continued development of the university. Weizmann succeeded in securing funds and friends for the university in the United States, the outstanding supporter being Felix Warburg. Here too, however, he was compelled to pay the price for his almost exclusive reliance on America. He stressed the establishment of institutes for advanced research, especially in the natural sciences, and for the study of Palestine itself, but the Americans were inclined to concentrate on Jewish studies and the provision of university education for local students. Judah Magnes, who was in charge of the preparations for the opening of the university and for its practical management, was close to American Jewry in his personal ties and philosophical  outlook, and to Weizmann’s chagrin it was he who imposed the groundwork for the development of the university.

Sixty of the 415 letters reproduced in this volume were written by Weizmann to his wife Vera, during his travels outside London or while Vera Weizmann was abroad in various European health resorts. Together with the numerous letters to Alfred and Leonie Landsberg in Wiesbaden, they reveal something of his private situation, simultaneously shedding light on aspects of his public life. These were difficult years for Weizmann personally. Weighing upon him at this period was his involvement in litigation connected with his patent for the manufacture of acetone registered during the Great War. Early in 1924, the company owning the patent, Commercial Solvents, sued a rival company, Synthetic Products, which had begun to manufacture acetone by a similar process. The defendants claimed that the patent Weizmann had registered was not valid, since the process for the manufacture of alcohol and acetone by bacterial fermentation had been discovered before the war by a research group of the Strange and Graham company, with which Weizmann had once been associated (see Vol. V).

Weizmann was at first not unduly perturbed, believing that the action would be settled out of court. In the course of time, however, he found that the matter was more complicated than he had first imagined, and that his rivals were fully aware that his public position added to his vulnerability in legal proceedings. The preparations for the law suit cost Weizmann much in time and money, and deeply depressed him. On several occasions he lost his self-confidence and sought some kind of settlement with his opponents. Legal proceedings eventually began in London early in 1926. The court accepted Weizmann’s claim that the process for the manufacture of acetone which he had discovered was substantially different, in the variety of bacteria, the fermentation process and the raw materials used, from the one developed by the Strange and Graham group, and he was awarded costs against his opponents.

At the same time, Weizmann was frequently beset by other difficulties. All was not well in his marital relations. He set out on his journey to the United States in the winter of 1925 with a sense of anxiety and crisis. In one of his letters, written before disembarking in the United Stated, he assured Vera, on a note of supplication, that ‘everything will be all right at home’ on his return and that he would make their journey to Palestine together a second honeymoon. This hope was not realized, apparently. During 1925 the feelings separating the Weizmanns intensified, and they ceased to live a normal family life together. They left their permanent home at Addison Crescent and Vera, together with their younger son Michael, remained at various resorts, mainly in France. Weizmann then led a nomadic existence: in London (for some time with George Halpern and his family) and at European spas. Their elder son, Benjamin, began his studies at Cambridge. Weizmann’s letters to his wife during this period (hers to him have not been found) testify to the depth of the crisis between them. Generally they contain his answers to Vera’s complaints and demonstrate his attempts to restore the understanding between them and rebuild their family relationship.

Even this, however, did not exhaust the list of his problems. His health was undermined, necessitating an operation, and from hints in his letters it appears that he was burdened by financial difficulties, no doubt in connection with the law suit over the patent. Nor did he receive great satisfaction from his son, Benjamin, who was experiencing difficulty in his studies. Within a short time he also suffered personal losses: the deaths of his sister, Minna, and his brother-in-law, Abraham Lichtenstein.

All these hardships denied Weizmann the free time and emotional tranquillity that he needed to confront the problems of the Zionist movement. During this decisive period, for example, when relations between Zionists and non-Zionists in the United States were seriously undermined, Weizmann was unable to leave London, although he realized only too well how vital his presence in America would be. Pondering his situation, he contemplated resignation, if only temporarily, and so gain respite from the affairs of the movement. He informed his closest intimates of this intention and also wrote an official letter on the subject to Rabbi Hirsch Chajes, the President of the Actions Committee, but the committee did not find it possible to relieve him of his post. The spring of 1926 saw some improvement in Weizmann’s mood; the law-suit concluded with victory and he was about to leave for Palestine, as if to draw encouragement and new strength from direct contact with the Homeland.

JOSHUA FREUNDLICH