Chaim Weizmann

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Chaim Weizmann
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Weizman was involved in honing the Balfour Agreement. During the discussions with the British he pushed for the term "the Jewishpeople" to be replaced by "the Jewish race". 1st President of Israel
In office
17 February 1949 9 November 1952
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
Preceded byHimself
(as Chairman of the Provisional State Council)
Succeeded by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
2nd Chairman of the Provisional State Council of Israel
In office
16 May 1948 17 February 1949
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
Preceded by David Ben-Gurion
Succeeded byHimself
(as President)
Personal details
Chaim Azriel Weizmann

(1874-11-27)27 November 1874
Motal, Russian Empire
(Now Belarus)
Died9 November 1952(1952-11-09) (aged 77)
Rehovot, Israel
Nationality Israeli-British
Political party General Zionists
Spouse(s) Vera Weizmann
Relations Maria (Masha) Weizmann, Dr. Anna (Anushka) Weizmann, Prof. Moshe Weizmann, Shmuel Weizmann – siblings
Alma mater Technical University of Darmstadt
Technical University of Berlin
University of Fribourg
Profession Biochemist
Signature Chaim Weizmann Signature.svg

Chaim Azriel Weizmann (Hebrew : חיים עזריאל ויצמןHayyim Azri'el Vaytsman, Russian : Хаим ВейцманKhaim Veytsman; 27 November 1874 – 9 November 1952) was a Zionist leader and Israeli statesman who served as President of the Zionist Organization and later as the first President of Israel. He was elected on 16 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952. It was Weizmann who convinced the United States government to recognize the newly formed state of Israel.

Hebrew language Semitic language native to Israel

Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel; the modern version of which is spoken by over 9 million people worldwide. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Hebrew is the only living Canaanite language left, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Zionism Movement that supports the creation of a Jewish homeland

Zionism is the nationalist movement of the Jewish people that supports the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel. Modern Zionism emerged in the late 19th century in Central and Eastern Europe as a national revival movement, both in reaction to newer waves of antisemitism and as an response to Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment. Soon after this, most leaders of the movement associated the main goal with creating the desired state in Palestine, then an area controlled by the Ottoman Empire.


Weizmann was also a biochemist who developed the acetone–butanol–ethanol fermentation process, which produces acetone through bacterial fermentation. His acetone production method was of great importance in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants for the British war industry during World War I. He founded the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel and was instrumental in the establishment of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Biochemist Scientist specialized in biochemistry

Biochemists are scientists that are trained in biochemistry.

Acetone–butanol–ethanol fermentation Chemical process

Acetone–butanol–ethanol (ABE) fermentation is a process that uses bacterial fermentation to produce acetone, n-Butanol, and ethanol from carbohydrates such as starch and glucose. It was developed by the chemist Chaim Weizmann and was the primary process used to make acetone during World War I, such as to produce cordite, a substance essential for the British war industry.

Cordite family of smokeless propellants

Cordite is a family of smokeless propellants developed and produced in the United Kingdom since 1889 to replace gunpowder as a military propellant. Like gunpowder, cordite is classified as a low explosive because of its slow burning rates and consequently low brisance. These produce a subsonic deflagration wave rather than the supersonic detonation wave produced by brisants, or high explosives. The hot gases produced by burning gunpowder or cordite generate sufficient pressure to propel a bullet or shell to its target, but not so quickly as to routinely destroy the barrel of the gun.


Early life

Weizmann was born in the village of Motal, located in what is now Belarus and at that time part of the Russian Empire. He was the third of 15 children born to Oizer and Rachel Czemerinsky Weizmann. [1] His father was a timber merchant. [2] From ages four to eleven, he attended a traditional cheder, or Jewish religious elementary school, and he began studying Hebrew as a child. At the age of 11, he entered high school Pinsk, where he displayed a talent for science, especially chemistry. While in Pinsk, he also became active in the Hovevei Zion groups there. He graduated with honors in 1892, and decided to pursue chemistry as a profession. [3] [4]

Motal Place in Brest Voblast, Belarus

Motol is a township in Ivanava Raion of Brest Region located about 30 kilometres west of Pinsk on the Yaselda River in Belarus.

Belarus country in Eastern Europe

Belarus, officially the Republic of Belarus, formerly known by its Russian name Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested. Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.


In 1892, Weizmann left for Germany to study chemistry. He began his studies at the Polytechnic Institute of Darmstadt. To earn a living while studying, he worked as a Hebrew teacher at an Orthodox Jewish boarding school. [5] In 1894, he moved to Berlin to study at the Technische Hochschule Berlin. While in Berlin, he joined a circle of Zionist intellectuals. [4] In 1897, he moved to Switzerland to complete his studies at the University of Fribourg. In 1898, he attended the Second Zionist Congres in Basel, and that year became engaged to Sophia Getzowa. [6] In 1899, he was awarded a PhD in organic chemistry. [7] That same year, he joined the Organic Chemistry Department at the University of Geneva. [3] In 1901, he was appointed assistant lecturer at the University of Geneva. [8] Getzowa and Weizmann were together for four years before Weizmann, who had begun also dating Vera Khatzman in 1900, confessed to Getzowa he was involved with two women. He would not tell his family that he was breaking off the relationship with Getzowa until 1903. [6] His behavior was seen as dishonorable, creating fractures with others in the Zionist movement. His fellow students held a mock-court proceeding and ruled that Weitzman should uphold his commitment and marry Getzowa, even if he later divorced her. Weizmann ignored their advice. [9]

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Darmstadt Place in Hesse, Germany

Darmstadt is a city in the state of Hesse in Germany, located in the southern part of the Rhine-Main-Area. Darmstadt had a population of around 157,437 at the end of 2016. The Darmstadt Larger Urban Zone has 430,993 inhabitants.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

In Britain (1904–1937)

In 1904, he moved to the United Kingdom after receiving a job offer from the Chemistry Department of the University of Manchester. He was appointed senior lecturer. [8] In 1910, he became a British citizen, and held his British nationality until 1948, when he renounced it to assume his position as President of Israel. [10] Chaim Weizmann and his family lived in Manchester for about 30 years (1904–1934), although they temporarily lived at 16 Addison Road in London during World War I.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

University of Manchester public research university in Manchester, England

The University of Manchester is a public research university in Manchester, England, formed in 2004 by the merger of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and the Victoria University of Manchester. The University of Manchester is a red brick university, a product of the civic university movement of the late 19th century.

British subject Legal term that has evolved over time

A British subject is a member of a class of British nationality largely granted under limited circumstances to people connected with Ireland or British India born before 1949. The term itself has historically had several different meanings, but is currently used to refer to a nationality class which was created to accommodate individuals who held a status previously called British subject without citizenship. Individuals with this nationality are British nationals and Commonwealth citizens, but not British citizens.

While in Britain, he was known by many as Charles Weizmann, a name under which he registered about 100 research patents. [11] [12] At the end of World War II, it was discovered that the SS had compiled a list in 1940 of over 2,800 people living in Britain, which included Weizmann, who were to have been immediately arrested after an invasion of Britain had the ultimately abandoned Operation Sea Lion been successful. [13]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

<i>Schutzstaffel</i> Major paramilitary organization of Nazi Germany

The Schutzstaffel was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in Nazi Germany, and later throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II. It began with a small guard unit known as the Saal-Schutz made up of NSDAP volunteers to provide security for party meetings in Munich. In 1925, Heinrich Himmler joined the unit, which had by then been reformed and given its final name. Under his direction (1929–45) it grew from a small paramilitary formation to one of the most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany. From 1929 until the regime's collapse in 1945, the SS was the foremost agency of security, surveillance, and terror within Germany and German-occupied Europe.

The Black Book list of prominent British residents to be arrested as part of the preparation for the proposed invasion of Britain; produced in 1940 by the SS

The Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. was a secret list of prominent British residents to be arrested, produced in 1940 by the SS as part of the preparation for the proposed invasion of Britain codenamed Unternehmen Seelöwe. After the war, the list became known as The Black Book.


Of Chaim Weizmann's fifteen siblings, eleven survived to adulthood. Ten of the eleven surviving siblings made aliyah. [3] Two also became chemists; Anna (Anushka) Weizmann worked in his Daniel Sieff Research Institute lab, registering several patents in her name. [11] His brother, Moshe Weizmann, was the head of the Chemistry Faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. [11] Two siblings remained in the Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution, a brother, Shmuel, and sister, Maria (Masha). Shmuel Weizmann was a dedicated Communist and member of the anti-Zionist Bund movement. During the Stalinist "Great Purge", he was arrested for alleged espionage and Zionist activity, and executed in 1939. His fate became known to his wife and children only in 1955. [11] [14] Maria Weizmann was a doctor who was arrested as part of Stalin's fabricated "Doctors' plot" in 1952 and was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in Siberia. She was released following Stalin's death in 1953, and was permitted to emigrate to Israel along with her husband in 1956.[ citation needed ]

Weizmann was married to Vera Khatzmann. [15] The couple had two sons. The elder son, Benjamin (Benjie) Weizmann (1907–1980), settled in Ireland and became a dairy farmer. The younger one, Flight Lieutenant Michael Oser Weizmann (1916–1942), fought in the Royal Air Force during World War II. While serving as a pilot in No. 502 Squadron RAF, he was killed when his plane was shot down over the Bay of Biscay in February 1942. [16] His body was never found and he was listed as "missing". His father never fully accepted his death and made a provision in his will, in case he returned. [11] He is one of the British Empire's air force casualties without a known grave commemorated at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede in Surrey, England. [17]

His nephew Ezer Weizman, the son of his brother Yechiel, a leading Israeli agronomist, [18] became commander of the Israeli Air Force and also served as President of Israel. [19]


Chaim Weizmann is buried beside his wife in the garden of his home at the Weizmann estate, which is located on the grounds of Israel's science research institute named after him.

Political career

Early years

Weizmann was absent from the first Zionist conference, held in 1897 in Basel, Switzerland, because of travel problems, but he attended each one thereafter. Beginning in 1901, he lobbied for the founding of a Jewish institution of higher learning in Palestine. Together with Martin Buber and Berthold Feiwel, he presented a document to the Fifth Zionist Congress highlighting this need especially in the fields of science and engineering. This idea would later be crystallized in the foundation of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 1912. [20]

Welcomed to Britain

In 1904, Weizmann became a chemistry lecturer at the University of Manchester and soon became a leader among British Zionists. At that time, Arthur Balfour was a Conservative MP representing one of the districts of Manchester, and was also Prime Minister; the two met during one of Balfour's electoral campaigns in 1905–1906. Balfour supported the concept of a Jewish homeland, but felt that there would be more support among politicians for the then-current offer in Uganda, called the British Uganda Programme. Following mainstream Zionist rejection of that proposal, Weizmann was credited later with persuading Balfour, by then the Foreign Secretary, for British support to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the original Zionist aspiration. [21] The story goes that Weizmann asked Balfour, "Would you give up London to live in Saskatchewan?" When Balfour replied that the British had always lived in London, Weizmann responded, "Yes, and we lived in Jerusalem when London was still a marsh." Weizmann pushed for the term "the Jewish people" in the Balfour Agreement to be changed to "the Jewish race." Nevertheless, this did not prevent naturalization as a British subject in 1910 with the help of haham Moses Gaster, who asked for papers from Herbert Samuel, the minister.[ citation needed ]

He revered Britain but relentlessly pursued Jewish freedom. [22] Weizmann was head of the Democratic Fraction of Zionism, whose radical aims alienated the London politicals. He was "pre-eminently what the Jewish people call folks-mensch...a man of the people, of the masses, not of a elite, a leader in whose breast beat the common heart of a man". Typically a sturdy yeoman, with a dome-shaped forehead, a short dark beard covering cheeks and jawline. This Belarus man from Motol had attended all but the first Zionist Congress by the time he came to England. [23]

Gradually Weizmann set up a separate following from Moses Gaster and L.J. Greenberg in London. Manchester became an important intellectual resource for Zionism in Britain. He made a valuable contribution to liberalism, encouraging journalism on the Manchester Guardian. Through editor C P Scott, [24] Weizmann was mentor to Harry Sacher, and two other distinguished young men, Israel Sieff, and Simon Marks (founders of Marks & Spencer).[ citation needed ] Weizmann formed a friendship with another import/export merchant from Russia, Asher Ginzberg, a writer who would be essential to the WZF's Zionist inclusivity, urging against "repressive cruelty" to the Arabs. He regularly travelled by train to London to discuss spiritual and cultural Zionism with writers like Ginzberg whose pen name was Ahad Ha'am. He stayed at Ginzberg's home in Hampstead, whence he lobbied Whitehall, beyond his job as Director of the Admiralty for Manchester.[ citation needed ]

Inspiring a Jewish homeland

Weizmann's passport photo, ca. 1915 Weizmann's passport photo.jpg
Weizmann's passport photo, ca. 1915

Zionists believed that anti-Semitism led directly to the need for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Weizmann first visited Jerusalem in 1907, and while there, he helped organize the Palestine Land Development Company as a practical means of pursuing the Zionist dream, and to found the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Although Weizmann was a strong advocate for "those governmental grants which are necessary to the achievement of the Zionist purpose" in Palestine, as stated at Basel, he persuaded many Jews not to wait for future events,

A state cannot be created by decree, but by the forces of a people and in the course of generations. Even if all the governments of the world gave us a country, it would only be a gift of words. But if the Jewish people will go build Palestine, the Jewish State will become a reality—a fact. [25]

Leader of Zionism in the British Empire

During World War I, at around the same time he was appointed Director of the British Admiralty's laboratories, Weizmann, in a conversation with David Lloyd George, suggested the strategy of the British campaign against the Ottoman Empire. From 1914, "a benevolent goodwill toward the Zionist idea" emerged in Britain when intelligence revealed how the Jewish Question could support imperial interests against the Ottomans. [26] Many of Weizmann's contacts revealed the extent of the uncertainty in Palestine. From 1914 to 1918, Weizmann developed his political skills mixing easily in powerful circles. On 7 and 8 November 1914, he had a meeting with Dorothy de Rothschild. Her husband James de Rothschild was serving with the French Army, but she was unable to influence her cousinhood to Weizmann's favour. Although when he spoke to Charles, second son of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, he approved the idea. James de Rothschild advised Weizmann seek to influence the British Government. By the time he reached Lord Robert Cecil, Dr Weizmann was enthused with excitement. Cecil's personal foibles were representative of class consciousness, which the Zionists overcome through deeds rather than words. C. P. Scott, the editor of The Manchester Guardian , formed a friendship with Weizmann after the two men encountered each other at a Manchester garden party in 1915. [27] Scott described the diminutive leader as

extraordinarily interesting, a rare combination of idealism and the severely practical which are the two essentials of statesmanship a perfectly clear sense conception of jewish nationalism, an intense and burning sense of the Jew as Jew, just as strong, perhaps more so, as that of the German as German or the Englishman as Englishman, and secondly arising out of that and necessary for its satisfaction and development, his demand for a country, a home land which for him and for anyone during his view of Jewish nationality can be no other that the ancient home of his race. [28]

Scott wrote to the Liberal Party's Lloyd George who set up a meeting for a reluctant Weizmann with Herbert Samuel, President of the Local Government Board, who was now converted to Zionism. On 10 December 1914 at Whitehall, Samuel offered Weizmann a Jewish home land complete with funded developments. Ecstatic, Weizmann returned to Westminster to arrange a meeting with Balfour, who was also on the War Council. He had first met the Conservatives in 1906, but after being moved to tears at 12 Carlton Gardens, on 12 December 1914, Balfour told Weizmann "it is a great cause and I understand it."[ citation needed ] Weizmann had another meeting in Paris with Baron Edmond Rothschild before a crucial discussion with Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George, on 15 January 1915.[ citation needed ] Whilst some of the leading members of Britain's Jewish community regarded Weizmann's program with distaste, The Future of Palestine , also known as the Samuel Memorandum, was a watershed moment in the Great War and annexation of Palestine.[ citation needed ]

Cabinet attitudes to Anti-Zionism

When Lucien Wolf's house was attacked, he blamed the lack of police protection.[ citation needed ] To established Jewry, Zionists were foreign, and opponents consisted of a few maverick 'racists' like Leopold Maxse, the editor of National Review .[ citation needed ] Jews believed in Britain, but were still not in the promised land; the offer of the hope of Palestine was to salve the conscience. But to assimilationist Jews the Zionist organization was not controlled from Britain. Wolf and Sacher used pressure on the Foreign Office to exemplify their placatory and cooperative stance on a non-interventionist position.[ citation needed ]

Weizmann consulted several times with Samuel on the homeland policy during 1915, but H. H. Asquith, then Prime Minister, would be dead set against upsetting the balance of power on the Middle East. Attitudes were changing to "dithyrambic"[ clarification needed ] opposition; but in the Cabinet, to the Samuel Memorandum, it remained implacably opposed with the exception of Lloyd George, an outspoken radical. Edwin Montagu, for example, Samuel's cousin was strenuously opposed. Weizmann did not attend the meeting of Jewry's ruling Conjoint Committee when it met the Zionist leadership on 14 April 1915. [29] Yehiel Tschlenow had travelled from Berlin to speak at the congress. He envisioned a Jewish Community worldwide so that integration was complimentary with amelioration. Zionists however had one goal only, the creation of their own state with British help.

In 1915, Weizmann also began working with Sir Mark Sykes, who was looking for a member of the Jewish community for a delicate mission. He met the Armenian lawyer, James Malcolm, who already knew Sykes, and British intelligence, who were tired of the oppositional politics of Moses Gaster. "Dr Weizmann ... asked when he could meet Sir Mark Sykes ... Sir Mark fixed the appointment for the very next day, which was a Sunday." [30] They finally met on 28 January 1917, "Dr Weizmann...should take the leading part in the negotiations", was Sykes response. [31] Weizmann was determined to replace the Chief Rabbi as Jewish leader of Zionism. [32] He had the "matter in hand" when he met Sokolow and Malcolm at Thatched House on Monday 5 February 1917. Moses Gaster was very reluctant to step aside. Weizmann had a considerable following, yet was not involved in the discussions with Francois Georges-Picot at the French embassy: a British Protectorate, he knew would not require French agreement. Furthermore, James de Rothschild proved a friend and guardian of the nascent state questioning Sykes' motivations as their dealings on Palestine were still secretive. Sokolow, Weizmann's diplomatic representative, cuttingly remarked to Picot underlining the irrelevance of the Triple Entente to French Jewry, but on 7 February 1917, the British government recognized the Zionist leader and agreed to expedite the claim. Weizmann was characteristically wishing to reward his Jewish friends for loyalty and service. News of the February Revolution (also known as the Kerensky Revolution) in Russia shattered the illusion for World Jewry. Unity for British Jewry was achieved by the Manchester Zionists. "Thus not for the first time in history, there is a community alike of interest and of sentiment between the British State and Jewish people." [33] The Manchester Zionists published a pamphlet Palestine on 26 January 1917, which did not reflect British policy, but already Sykes looked to Weizmann's leadership when they met on 20 March 1917. [34]

On 6 February 1917 a meeting was held at Dr Moses Gaster's house with Weizmann to discuss the results of the Picot convention in Paris. Sokolow and Weizmann pressed on with seizing leadership from Gaster; they had official recognition from the British government. At 6 Buckingham Gate on 10 February 1917 another was held, in a series of winter meetings in London. The older generation of Greenberg, Joseph Cowen and Gaster were stepping down or being passed over. "...those friends ... in close cooperation all these years", he suggested should become the EZF Council [35] - Manchester's Sieff, Sacher and Marks, and London's Leon Simon and Samuel Tollowsky. While the war was raging in the outside world, the Zionists prepared for an even bigger fight for the survival of their homeland. Weizmann issued a statement on 11 February 1917, and on the following day, they received news of the Kerensky take over in Petrograd. Tsarist Russia had been very anti-Semitic but incongruously this made the British government even more determined to help the Jews. [36] Nahum Sokolow acted as Weizmann's eyes and ears in Paris on a diplomatic mission; an Entente under the Ottoman Empire was unsettling. The Triple Entente of Arab-Armenian-Zionist was fantastic to Weizmann leaving him cold and unenthusiastic. Nonetheless the delegation left for Paris on 31 March 1917.[ citation needed ] One purpose of the Alliance was to strengthen the hand of Zionism in USA.

Weizmann's relations with Balfour were intellectual and academic. He was genuinely overjoyed to convince the former Prime Minister in April 1917. Just after the US President had left, the following morning, Lloyd George invited Weizmann to breakfast at which he promised Jewish support for Britain as the Jews "might be able to render more assistance than the Arabs." [37] They discussed "International Control" the Russian Revolution and US involvement in the future of the Palestine Problem. [38] The complexity of Arab desiderata – "facilities of colonization, communal autonomy, rights of language and establishment of a Jewish chartered company". [39] This was followed by a meeting with Carson and the Conservatives (18 Apr) and another at Downing Street on 20 April. With the help of Philip Kerr the issue was moved up "the Agenda" to War Cabinet as a matter of urgency. [40]

Assimilationist opposition to Declaration

Vera Weizmann, Chaim Weizmann, Herbert Samuel, Lloyd George, Ethel Snowden, Philip Snowden Vera & Chaim Weizmann, Herbert Samuel, Lloyd George, Ethel Snowden, Philip Snowden.jpeg
Vera Weizmann, Chaim Weizmann, Herbert Samuel, Lloyd George, Ethel Snowden, Philip Snowden

On 16 May 1917 the President of the Board of Deputies David Lindo Alexander QC co-signed a statement in the Times attacking Zionism and asserting that the Jewish Community in Britain was opposed to it. At the next meeting of the Board, on 15 June 1917, a motion of censure was proposed against the President, who said he would treat the motion as one of no confidence. When it was passed, he resigned. Although subsequent analysis has shown that the success of the motion possibly had more to do with a feeling on the part of Deputies that Lindo Alexander had failed to consult them than with a massive conversion on their part to the Zionist cause, nevertheless it had great significance outside the community. [41] Within days of the resolution the Foreign Office sent a note to Lord Rothschild and to Weizmann asking them to submit their proposals for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The way had been opened to the Balfour Declaration issued in the following November.

On 31 October 1917, Chaim Weizmann became president of the British Zionist Federation; he worked with Arthur Balfour to obtain the milestone Balfour Declaration;[ citation needed ]

His Majesty's government view would favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country, 2 November 1917.

A founder of so-called Synthetic Zionism, Weizmann supported grass-roots colonization efforts as well as high-level diplomatic activity. He was generally associated with the centrist General Zionists and later sided with neither Labour Zionism on the left nor Revisionist Zionism on the right. In 1917, he expressed his view of Zionism in the following words,

We have [the Jewish people] never based the Zionist movement on Jewish suffering in Russia or in any other land. These suffering have never been the mainspring of Zionism. The foundation of Zionism was, and continues to be to this day, the yearning of the Jewish people for its homeland, for a national centre and a national life.[ citation needed ]

Weizmann's personality became an issue but Weizmann had an international profile unlike his colleagues or any other British Zionist. He was President of EZF Executive Council. He was also criticized by Harry Cohen. A London delegate raised a censure motion: that Weizmann refused to condemn the regiment. In August 1917, Weizmann quit both EZF and ZPC which he had founded with his friends. Leon Simon asked Weizmann not to "give up the struggle". At the meeting on 4 September 1917, he faced some fanatical opposition. But letters of support "sobering down" [42] opposition, and a letter from his old friend Ginzberg "a great number of people regard you as something of a symbol of Zionism". [43] Weizmann and Sokolow wanted to elicit from the government more than verbal promises. They had met in leafy Bloomsbury to thrash out the problems – Sokolow, Sieff, Marks, Simon, Ginzberg, and at times Sacher.[ citation needed ]

Zionists linked Sokolow and Weizmann to Sykes. Sacher tried to get the Foreign Secretary to redraft a statement rejecting Zionism. The irony was not lost accusing the government of anti-semitism. Edwin Montagu opposed it, but Samuel and Lloyd George favoured Zionism. Montagu did not regard Palestine as a "fit place for them to live". Montagu believed that it would let down assimilationists and the ideals of British Liberalism. The Memorandum was not supposed to accentuate the prejudice of mentioning 'home of the Jewish people'. Weizmann was a key holder at the Ministry of Supply by late 1917. By 1918 Weizmann was accused of combating the idea of a separate peace with Turkey. He considered such a peace at odds with Zionist interests. He was even accused of "possibly prolonging the war". [44]

At the War Cabinet meeting of 4 October, chaired by Lloyd George and with Balfour present, Curzon also opposed this "barren and desolate" place as a home for Jews.[ citation needed ] In a third memo Montagu labelled Weizmann a "religious fanatic".[ citation needed ] Montagu believed in assimilation and saw his principles being swept from under by the new policy stance. Montagu, a British Jew, had learnt debating skills as India Secretary, and Liberalism from Asquith, who also opposed Zionism.

All the memos from Zionists, non-Zionists, and Curzon were all-in by a third meeting convened on Wednesday, 31 October 1917. The War Cabinet had dealt an "irreparable blow to Jewish Britons", wrote Montagu. Curzon's memo was mainly concerned by the non-Jews in Palestine to secure their civil rights. [45] Worldwide there were 12 million Jews, and about 365,000 in Palestine by 1932. Cabinet ministers were worried about Germany playing the Zionist card. If the Germans were in control, it would hasten support for Turkey, and collapse of Kerensky's government. Curzon went on towards an advanced Imperial view: that since most Jews had Zionist views, it was as well to support these majority voices. "If we could make a declaration favourable to such an ideal we should be able to carry on extremely useful propaganda." [46] Weizmann "was absolutely loyal to Great Britain". [47] The Zionists had been approached by the Germans, Weizmann told William Ormsby-Gore. But the British miscalculated the effects of immigration to Palestine, and over-estimated German control over Turkey. The Turks were in no position to prevent movement. Sykes reported the Declaration to Weizmann with elation all round: he repeated "mazel tov" over and over. The Entente had fulfilled its commitment to both Sharif Husein and Chaim Weizmann. [48] The Arab Revolt threatened to upset the apple cart. Turkish atrocities never reached Weizmann's ears, at least from the British.[ citation needed ]

Sykes stressed the Entente: "We are pledged to Zionism, Armenianism liberation, and Arabian independence".[ citation needed ] On 2 December, Zionists celebrated the Declaration at the Opera House; the news of the Bolshevik Revolution, and withdrawal of Russian troops from the frontier war with Turkey, raised the pressure from Constantinople. On 11 December, Turkish armies were swept aside when Allenby entered Jerusalem. On 9 January 1918, all Turkish troops withdrew from the Hejaz for a bribe of $2 million to help pay Turkey's debts. Weizmann had seen peace with Turkey out of the question in July 1917. Lloyd George wanted a separate peace with Turkey to guarantee relations in the region secure. Weizmann had managed to gain the support of International Jewry in Britain, France and Italy. [49] Schneer postulates that the British government desperate for any wartime advantage were prepared to offer any support among philo-Semites. [50] It was to Weizmann a priority. Weizmann considered that the issuance of the Balfour Declaration was the greatest single achievement of the pre-1948 Zionists. He believed that the Balfour Declaration and the legislation that followed it, such as the (3 June 1922) Churchill White Paper and the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine all represented an astonishing accomplishment for the Zionist movement.[ citation needed ]

Settlement with the Arabs

Weizmann (left) with Faisal I of Iraq in Syria, 1918 Weizmann and feisal 1918.jpg
Weizmann (left) with Faisal I of Iraq in Syria, 1918

On 3 January 1919, Weizmann met Hashemite Prince Faisal to sign the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement attempting to establish the legitimate existence of the state of Israel. [51] At the end of the month, the Paris Peace Conference decided that the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire should be wholly separated and the newly conceived mandate-system applied to them. [52] Weizmann stated at the conference that "the Zionist objective was gradually to make Palestine as Jewish as England was English" [53] Shortly thereafter, both men made their statements to the conference.

After 1920, he assumed leadership in the World Zionist Organization, creating local branches in Berlin [54] serving twice (1920–31, 1935–46) as president of the World Zionist Organization. Unrest amongst Arab antagonism to Jewish presence in Palestine increased erupting into riots. Weizmann remained loyal to Britain, tried to shift the blame onto dark forces. The French were commonly blamed for discontent, as scapegoats for Imperial liberalism. Zionists began to believe racism existed within the administration, which remained inadequately policed.[ citation needed ]

In 1921, Weizmann went along with Albert Einstein for a fund-raiser to establish the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and support the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. At this time, simmering differences over competing European and American visions of Zionism, and its funding of development versus political activities, caused Weizmann to clash with Louis Brandeis. [55] In 1921 Weizmann played an important role in supporting Rutenberg's bid to the British for an exclusive electric concession for Palestine, in spite of bitter personal and principled disputes between the two figures. [56]

During the war years, Brandeis headed the precursor of the Zionist Organization of America, leading fund-raising for Jews trapped in Europe and Palestine [57] ). In early October 1914 the USS North Carolina arrived in Jaffa harbor with money and supplies provided by Schiff, the American Jewish Committee, and the Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs, then acting for the WZO, which had been rendered impotent by the war. Although Weizmann retained Zionist leadership, the clash led to a departure from Louis Brandeis's movement. By 1929, there were about 18,000 members remaining in the ZOA, a massive decline from the high of 200,000 reached during the peak Brandeis years. [58] In summer 1930, these two factions and visions of Zionism, would come to a compromise largely on Brandeis's terms, with a restructured leadership for the ZOA. [59] An American view is Weizmann persuaded the British cabinet to support Zionism by presenting the benefits of having a presence in Palestine in preference to the French. Imperial interests on the Suez Canal as well as sympathy after the Holocaust were important factors for British support. [60]

Immigration issue in Jewish Palestine

Chaim Weizmann (sitting, second from left) at a meeting with Arab leaders at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, 1933. Also pictured are Haim Arlosoroff (sitting, center), Moshe Shertok (Sharett) (standing, right), and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (standing, to Shertok's right). Chaim Arlosoroff.jpg
Chaim Weizmann (sitting, second from left) at a meeting with Arab leaders at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, 1933. Also pictured are Haim Arlosoroff (sitting, center), Moshe Shertok (Sharett) (standing, right), and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (standing, to Shertok's right).

Jewish immigration was purposely limited by the British administration. Weizmann agreed with the policy but was afraid of the rise of the Nazis. From 1933 there were year-on-year leaps in mass immigration by 50%. Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald's attempted reassurance on economic grounds in a White Paper did little to stabilize Arab-Israeli relations. [61] In 1936 Weizmann addressed the Peel Commission (set up by the returning Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin), whose job it was to consider the working of the British Mandate of Palestine. He insisted that the Mandate authorities had not driven home to the Palestinian population that the terms of the Mandate would be implemented, using an analogy from another part of the British Empire:

I think it was in Bombay recently, that there had been trouble and the Moslems had been flogged. I am not advocating flogging, but what is the difference between a Moslem in Palestine and a Moslem in Bombay? There they flog them, and here they save their faces. This, interpreted in terms of Moslem mentality, means: "The British are weak; we shall succeed if we make ourselves sufficiently unpleasant. We shall succeed in throwing the Jews into the Mediterranean.' [62]

On 25 November 1936, testifying before the Peel Commission, Weizmann said that there were in Europe 6,000,000 Jews ... "for whom the world is divided into places where they cannot live and places where they cannot enter." [63] The Commission published a report that, for the first time, recommended partition, but the proposal was declared unworkable and formally rejected by the government. The two main Jewish leaders, Weizmann and Ben-Gurion had convinced the Zionist Congress to approve equivocally the Peel recommendations as a basis for more negotiation. [64] [65] This was the first official mention and declaration of a Zionist vision opting for a possible State with a majority of Jewish population, alongside a State with an Arab majority. The Arab leaders, headed by Haj Amin al-Husseini, rejected the plan.

Weizmann made very clear in his autobiography that the failure of the international Zionist movement (between the wars) to encourage all Jews to act decisively and efficiently in great enough numbers to migrate to the Jerusalem area was the real cause for the call for a Partition deal. A deal on Partition was first formally mentioned in 1936 but not finally implemented until 1948. Again, Weizmann blamed the Zionist movement for not being adequate during the best years of the British Mandate.[ citation needed ]

Second World War

At the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, Weizmann was appointed as an Honorary adviser to the British Ministry of Supply, using his extensive political expertise in the management of provisioning and supplies throughout the duration of the conflict. He was frequently asked to advise the cabinet and also brief the Prime Minister. Weizmann's efforts to integrate Jews from Palestine in the war against Germany resulted in the creation of the Jewish Brigade of the British Army which fought mainly in the Italian front.[ citation needed ] After the war, he grew embittered by the rise of violence in Palestine and by the terrorist tendencies amongst followers of the Revisionist fraction. His influence within the Zionist movement decreased, yet he remained overwhelmingly influential outside of Mandate Palestine.[ citation needed ]

In 1942, Weizmann was invited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to work on the problem of synthetic rubber. Weizmann proposed to produce butyl alcohol from maize, then convert it to butylene and further to butadiene, which is a basis for rubber. According to his memoirs, these proposals were barred by the oil companies. [66]

The Holocaust

In 1939, a conference was established at St James's Palace when the government drew up the May 1939 White Paper which severely curtailed any spending in the Jewish Home Land. Yishuv was put back to the lowest priority. At the outbreak of war the Jewish Agency pledged its support for the British war effort against Nazi Germany. They raised the Jewish Brigade into the British Army, which took years to come to fruition. It authenticated the news of the Holocaust reaching the allies.[ citation needed ]

In May 1942, the Zionists met at Biltmore Hotel in New York, US; a convention at which Weizmann pressed for a policy of unrestricted immigration into Palestine. A Jewish Commonwealth needed to be established, and latterly Churchill revived his backing for this project.[ citation needed ]

Weizmann met Churchill on 4 November 1944 to urgently discuss the future of Palestine. Churchill agreed that Partition was preferable for Israel over his White Paper. He also agreed that Israel should annexe the Negev desert, where no one was living. However, when Lord Moyne, the British Governor of Palestine, met Churchill, he was surprised that he had changed his views in two years. Eleven days later Moyne was assassinated for his trenchant views on immigration in November 1944; the immigration question was put on hold.[ citation needed ]

In February 1943, the British government also rejected a plan to pay $3.5 million and just $50 per head to allow 70,000, mostly Romanian, Jews to be protected and evacuated that Weizmann had suggested to the Americans. In May 1944, the British detained Joel Brand, a Jewish activist from Budapest, who wanted to evacuate 1 million Jews from Hungary on 10,000 trucks, with tea, coffee, cocoa, and soap. In July 1944, Weizmann pleaded on Brand's behalf but to no avail. Rezső Kasztner [67] took over the direct negotiations with Adolf Eichmann to release migrants, but they came to nothing. [68] Weizmann also promoted a plan to bomb the Death Camps, but the British claimed that this was too risky, dangerous and unfeasible, due to technical difficulties. [69] On 20 September 1945, Weizmann presented the first official documents to the British, USA, France, and Soviets, for the restitution of property, and indemnification. He demanded that all heirless Jewish property should be handed over as part of the reparations for the rehabilitation of Nazi victims.

In his Presidential statement at the last Zionist congress that he attended at Basel on 9 December 1946 he unequivocally said:

Massada, for all its heroism, was a disaster in our history; It is not our purpose or our right to plunge to destruction in order to bequeath a legend of martyrdom to posterity; Zionism was to mark the end of our glorious deaths and the beginning of a new path leading to life. [70]

First president of Israel

Weizmann addressing soldiers at Sarafand, 1949 Weizmann.jpg
Weizmann addressing soldiers at Sarafand, 1949
Weizmann (left) with first Turkish ambassador to Israel, Seyfullah Esin (c), and Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, 1950 Chaim Weizmann - Seyfullah Esin - Moshe Sharett 1950.jpg
Weizmann (left) with first Turkish ambassador to Israel, Seyfullah Esin (c), and Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, 1950
Weizmann memorial stamp issued December 1952 Stamp of Israel - President Dr. Weizmann - 110mil.jpg
Weizmann memorial stamp issued December 1952

Two days after the proclamation of the State of Israel, Weizmann succeeded Ben-Gurion as chairman of the Provisional State Council, a collective presidency that held office until Israel's first parliamentary election, in February 1949.

On 2 July 1948 a new kibbutz was founded facing the Syrian Heights overlooking the Jordan River, only 5 miles from Syrian territory. Their forces had already seized Kibbutz Mishmar Ha-Yarden. The new kibbutz was named (President's Village) Kfar Ha-Nasi. [71]

When the first Knesset met in 1949, Weizmann was nominated as Mapai's candidate for president. The Revisionist Party put forward Prof. Joseph Klausner. Weizmann was elected president by the Knesset on 17 February 1949. [72] On 24 February 1949, Weizmann as President entrusted Ben-Gurion with forming a government. A Coalition was made up of 46 Mapai, 2 Arab Democratic List of Nazareth, 16 of United Religious Front, 5 of Progressive Party, 4 of Sephardi List. Mapam was officially a socialist party with Mapai, but was anti-religious and so remained outside the coalition. [73] On 2 November 1949, anniversary of Balfour Declaration the Daniel Sieff Institute much enlarged and rebuilt was renamed the Weizmann Institute of Science. The institute was a global success attracting scientists from all over the Diaspora. In 1949 there were 20 researchers, twenty years later there were 400 and 500 students. [74] Weizmann met with United States President Harry Truman and worked to obtain the support of the United States, they discussed emigration, for the establishment of the State of Israel.

The President lived at Rehovot, where he regularly received the Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion into his garden. He was denied any actualisation of the political role he had hoped for by the Left. [75] He had to be consoled with the Weizmann Institute's successes.

When he died on 9 November 1952, he was buried at Rehovot. He was acknowledged as a patriot long before Israel had even begun to exist. [76] "The greatest Jewish emissary to the Gentile world..." was one academic verdict. [77]

Scientific career

Weizmann with Albert Einstein, 1921 Albert Einstein WZO photo 1921.jpg
Weizmann with Albert Einstein, 1921

Weizmann lectured in chemistry at the University of Geneva between 1901 and 1903, and later taught at the University of Manchester. He became a British subject in 1910, and while a lecturer in Manchester he became known for discovering how to use bacterial fermentation to produce large quantities of desired substances. He is considered to be the father of industrial fermentation. He used the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum (the Weizmann organism) to produce acetone. Acetone was used in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants critical to the Allied war effort (see Royal Navy Cordite Factory, Holton Heath). Weizmann transferred the rights to the manufacture of acetone to the Commercial Solvents Corporation in exchange for royalties. [78]

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill became aware of the possible use of Weizmann's discovery in early 1915, and Minister of Munitions David Lloyd George joined Churchill in encouraging Weizmann's development of the process. Pilot plant development of laboratory procedures was completed in 1915 at the J&W Nicholson & Co gin factory in Bow, London, so industrial scale production of acetone could begin in six British distilleries requisitioned for the purpose in early 1916. The effort produced 30,000 tonnes of acetone during the war, although a national collection of horse-chestnuts was required when supplies of maize were inadequate for the quantity of starch needed for fermentation. The importance of Weizmann's work gave him favour in the eyes of the British Government, this allowed Weizmann to have access to senior Cabinet members and utilise this time to represent Zionist aspirations.

After the Shell Crisis of 1915 during World War I, Weizmann was director of the British Admiralty laboratories from 1916 until 1919. In April 1918 at the head of the Jewish Commission, [79] he returned to Palestine to look for "rare minerals" for the British war effort in the Dead Sea. Weizmann's attraction for British Liberalism enabled Lloyd George's influence at the Ministry of Munitions to do a financial and industrial deal with Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) to seal the future of the Zionist homeland. [80] Tirelessly energetic Weizmann entered London again in later October to speak for a solid hour with the Prime Minister, propped by The Guardian and his Manchester friends. At another conference on 21 February 1919 at Euston Hotel the peace envoy, Lord Bryce was reassured by the pledges against international terrorism, for currency regulation and fiscal controls. [81]

Concurrently, Weizmann devoted himself to the establishment of a scientific institute for basic research in the vicinity of his sprawling estate, in the town of Rehovot. Weizmann saw great promise in science as a means to bring peace and prosperity to the area. As stated in his own words :

"I trust and feel sure in my heart that science will bring to this land both peace and a renewal of its youth, creating here the springs of a new spiritual and material life. [...] I speak of both science for its own sake and science as a means to an end." [82]

His efforts led in 1934 to the creation of the Daniel Sieff Research Institute (later renamed the Weizmann Institute of Science), which was financially supported by an endowment by Israel Sieff in memory of his late son. [83] Weizmann actively conducted research in the laboratories of this institute, primarily in the field of organic chemistry. He offered the post of director of the institute to Nobel Prize laureate Fritz Haber, but took over the directorship himself after Haber's death en route to Palestine. [84] [85]

During World War II, he was an honorary adviser to the British Ministry of Supply and did research on synthetic rubber and high-octane gasoline. [86]

Alleged involvement with 1945 revenge operation

After the Second World War, a Jewish group called Nakam formulated several plans to kill Germans in revenge for the Holocaust. [87] Nakam's leader Abba Kovner, a former Lithuanian partisan, testified that he had approached Weizmann (at that time, President of the World Zionist Organization) with plans for a mass poisoning and that Wiezmann had put him in touch with a chemist who arranged for a quantity of poison to be procured. [87] [88] According to the story, Kovner did not tell Weizmann of his intention to poison millions of Germans via their water supply, but only of the backup plan to poison SS members who were in allied POW camps. [87] [88] The lesser plan was put into operation in April 1946 at Stalag 13. [87] Kovner's story was repeated in 1998 by another Nakam leader Yulik Harmatz. [89] There is no independent evidence for the meeting and some historians doubt it. [88] Kovner's biographer Dina Porat wrote that Weizmann was not in Palestine on the date of the alleged meeting but allows that he might have met Weizmann in early 1946 instead. [87]

Some published works

Related Research Articles

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