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Chaim Weizmann

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Chaim Weizmann

Chaim Weizmann
חיים עזריאל ויצמן
Хаим Вейцман
Chaim Weizmann, 26 March 1949
1st President of Israel
In office
17 February 1949 – 9 November 1952
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
Preceded by Himself
(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 by Himself
(as President)
Personal details
Born Chaim Azriel Weizmann
(1874-11-27)27 November 1874
Motal, Russian Empire
(Now Belarus)
Died 9 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
Children 2 - Michael Oser Weizmann (1916-1942)
Benyamin Weizmann
Alma mater Technical University of Darmstadt
Technical University of Berlin
University of Fribourg
Profession Chemist
Religion Judaism

Chaim Azriel Weizmann (first President of Israel. He was elected on 16 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952. Weizmann convinced the United States government to recognize the newly formed state of Israel.

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 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.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Studies 1.2
    • In Britain (1904-1937) 1.3
    • Family 1.4
    • Gravesite 1.5
  • Political career 2
    • Early Years 2.1
    • Welcomed to Britain 2.2
    • Inspiring a Jewish Homeland 2.3
    • Leader of Zionism in the British Empire 2.4
    • Cabinet attitudes to Anti-Zionism 2.5
    • Assimilationist Opposition to Declaration 2.6
    • Settlement with the Arabs 2.7
    • Immigration issue in Jewish Palestine 2.8
    • The Second World War 2.9
    • The Shoah 2.10
  • First president of Israel 3
  • Scientific career 4
  • Alleged involvement with 1945 revenge operation 5
  • Some published works 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • External links 10


Early life

Weizmann was born in the village of Motal near Pinsk in Belarus (at that time part of the Russian Empire). He was the third of 15 children born to Oizer and Rachel Czermerinsky Weizmann.[1] His father was a timber merchant.[2] Until the age of 11, he attended a traditional cheder. At the age of 11, he entered high school in Pinsk.


In 1892, Weizmann left for

  • Historical Letters and Primary Sources from Chaim Weizmann Shapell Manuscript Foundation
  • Weizmann Institute of Science
  • The Chaim Weizmann Laboratory on Chaim Weizmann's laboratory at the Weizmann Institute (includes info and links on Weizmann's scientific work)

External links

  • Berlin, Isaiah (1958). Chaim Weizmann. London: Second Herbert Samuel Lecture. 
  • Berlin, J. (1981). Personal Impressions. private info. 
  • Crossman, Richard (1960). A Nation Reborn. London. 
  • Dugdale, Mrs Edgar (1940). The Balfour Declaration: Origins and Background. London. 
  • Gilbert, Martin (1978). Exile and Return: The Emergence of Jewish Statehood. London. 
  • Gilbert, Sir Martin (2008) [1998]. History of Israel. Black Swan. 
  • Halpern, Ben (1987). A Clash of Heroes: Brandeis, Weizmann, and American Zionism. London and New York: Oxford University Press.  
  • Leon, Dan (1974). Chaim Weizmann: elder statesman of Jewish Resistance (no.3 series). Jewish Library. 
  • Litvinoff, Barnet (1982). The Essential Chaim Weizmann: the man, the statesman, the scientist. Weidenfield & Nicholson. 
  • Litvinoff, Barnet (1968–1984). The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann. 25 vols. New Brunswick, New Jersey. 
  • Reinharz, Jehuda (1992). "His Majesty's Zionist Emissary: Chaim Weizmann's Mission to Gibraltar in 1917". Journal of Contemporary History 27. 
  • Rose, Norman (1986). Chaim Weizmann: A Biography. London: Elisabeth Sifton Books.  
  • Schneer, Jonathan (2014). The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of arab-Israeli Conflict. Macmillan.  
  • Stein, Leonard (1961). The Balfour Declaration. London.  
  • Stein, Leonard (1964). "Weizmann and England". London: Presidential Address to the Jewish Historical Society delivered in London, November 11, 1964. 
  • Verete, M. (Jan 1970). "The Balfour Declaration and its makers". Middle Eastern Studies. 
  • Vital, David (1987). Zionism: The Crucial Phase. London. 
  • Vital, David (1999). A People Apart: The Jews in Europe 1789-1939. Oxford Modern History. 
  • C Wilson, ed. (1970). The political diaries of CP Scott, 1911-1928. 
  • Wolf, Lucien (1934). Cecil Roth, ed. Essays in Jewish History. London. 


  1. ^ Chaim Weizmann Of Israel Is Dead
  2. ^ Brown, G.I. (1998) The Big Bang: A History of Explosives Sutton Publishing ISBN 0-7509-1878-0 p.144
  3. ^ Biography of Chaim Weizmann
  4. ^ "Biography of Chaim Weizmann". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  5. ^ Weizmann Reveals Truman Promised Negev to Jews; Surrenders His British Citizenship Weizmann Reveals Truman Promised Negev to Jews; Surrenders His British Citizenship
  6. ^ a b c d e "10 things we didn’t know about Dr. Chaim Weizmann" (PDF). The Weizmann International Magazine of Science & People. No. 3. Spring 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  7. ^ Glenda Abramson, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of Modern Jewish Culture. Routledge. p. 950isbn=9780415298131. Retrieved 18 March 2015. As a research chemist, he registered some 100 patents under the name Charles Weizmann. 
  8. ^ Schellenberg, Walter (2001) Invasion, 1940: The Nazi Invasion Plan for Britain, p. 260. Little Brown Book Group. ISBN 0-9536151-3-8. Accessed at the Imperial War Museum Amazon search inside
  9. ^ Family Trials
  10. ^ "Jewish Women Encyclopedia, Vera Weizmann". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  11. ^ Casualty Details Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  12. ^,%20MICHAEL%20OSER
  13. ^ Yechiel Weizman Another Brother of Dr. Weizman, Dies in Israel
  14. ^ Carl Alpert, TECHNION: The Story of Israel's Institute of Technology. ISBN 0-87203-102-0
  15. ^ Current Biography 1942, pp.877–80.
  16. ^ Schneer, p.115
  17. ^ Lord Sieff, Memoirs, p.67
  18. ^ there seems to be confusion with C P Snow
  19. ^ Chaïm Weizmann (1983). The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann: August 1898–July 1931. Transaction Publishers. p. 301.  
  20. ^ Stein, Balfour Declaration, p.109; Samuel, Memoirs, p.139; Schneer, p.123
  21. ^ Weizmann, Trial and Error, i, p.149
  22. ^ Schneer, p.149
  23. ^ James Malcolm, Origins of the Balfour Declaration: Dr Weizmann's Contribution, Oxford, St Anthony's, MEC, J&ME, LSOC/2
  24. ^ Malcolm to Sykes, Feb 3, 1917, Hull Univ, Sykes Papers, DDSY/2; Schneer, p.195
  25. ^ Schneer, p.196
  26. ^ Sacher, Zionist Portraits, p.109
  27. ^ English Zionist Freedom
  28. ^ Schneer, p.202
  29. ^ Schneer, p.202-03
  30. ^ MEC, Sykes Papers, note of a conference at 10 Downing Street on 3 Apr 1917
  31. ^ Sokolow to Weizmann, April 4, 1917, CZA, Sokolow Papers
  32. ^ Sacher to Simon, Sept 2, 1917, CZA, A/289114; Schneer, p.315
  33. ^ Weizmann to Scott, Sep 13, 1917, in Stein, Letters, no.501, 7510
  34. ^ Ginzberg to Weizmann, Sep 5, 1917, OUNBL, Stein Papers; Schneer, p.318
  35. ^ Schneer, Jonathan The Balfour Declaration, 2010, p.273
  36. ^ Vital, Zionism, p.291, n50.; Schneer, p.342
  37. ^ Oct 31, 1917, 137(5-6), NA, Cab21/58.; Schneer, p.343
  38. ^ Sacher, Zionist Portraits, p.37
  39. ^ Schneer, p.346
  40. ^ Schneer, p.366
  41. ^ Schneer, p. 367
  42. ^ J Barr, A Line in the Sand, p.70 - Barr argues that Feisal was bribed by the British with £150,000 pa to sustain the Caliphate.
  43. ^ International Boundary Study, Jordan – Syria Boundary, No. 94 – 30 December 1969, p.10 US Department of State
  44. ^ Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2004. Print. p. 228
  45. ^ Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2004. Print. p. 225>
  46. ^ Ben Halpern, A Clash of Heroes: Brandeis, Weizmann, and American Zionism (Studies in Jewish History) Oxford University Press, 1987
  47. ^ Shamir, Ronen (2013) Current Flow: The Electrification of Palestine. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  48. ^ Michael Brown, The Israeli-American connection: its roots in the yishuv, 1914–1945, p.26
  49. ^ Donald Neff, Fallen Pillars: U.S. Policy towards Palestine and Israel since 1945 [3]
  50. ^ Religion: Zionist Chiefs, Time, Jul. 28, 1930
  51. ^ [Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2004. Print. p.226]
  52. ^ j Barr, A Line in the Sand, p.166
  53. ^ Chaim Weizmann (1 January 1983). The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann: series B. Transaction Publishers. pp. 102–.  
  54. ^ Benny Morris (2004). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge University Press. pp. 11, 48, 49,.  
  55. ^ William Roger Louis (2006). Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez, and Decolonization. I.B.Tauris. p. 391.  
  56. ^ Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error, Harper & Brothers, New York 1949, p. 426 ff.[4]
  57. ^ known as the real leader of the Hungarian Jews, see: Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust, vol.3, p.
  58. ^ Dictionary of the Holocaust: biog, geog, and terminology, (eds.) Eric Joseph Epstein and Philip Rosen, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1997
  59. ^ .(Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust, p.1642
  60. ^ The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann, Series B. Papers Volume II December 1931 – April 1952, Paper 87, pp.636–637, Yad Chaim Weizmann (1984), Library of Congress Catalog No. 82-17442
  61. ^ Gilbert, History of Israel, p.210
  62. ^ Gilbert, p.252-3
  63. ^ Gilbert, pp.267-8
  64. ^ Rose, p.445
  65. ^ Crossman, p.41
  66. ^ Wiesgal & Carmichael, p.2
  67. ^ Local Industry Owes Much to Weizmann
  68. ^ "Chaim Weizmann Lab, Dept. of Organic Chemistry". Weizmann Institute. 
  69. ^ a b c d e Dina Porat (2009). The Fall of a Sparrow. Stanford University Press. pp. 216–235. 
  70. ^ a b c Ehud Sprinzak and Idith Zertal (2000). "Avenging Israel's Blood (1946)". In Jonathan B. Tucker. Toxic Terror. MIT Press. pp. 17–41. 
  71. ^ Michael Freedland (March 15, 1998). "The Jewish Executioner". The Observer. p. C1. 


See also

  • Weizmann, Chaim (1918). What is Zionism. London. 
  • Weizmann, Chaim (1949). Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizmann. Jewish Publication Society of America. 
  • Weizmann, Chaim (1949). Autobiography: Chaim Weizmann. London: Hamilton Ltd. 
  • Weizmann, Chaim (Jan 1942). "Palestine's role in the solution of the Jewish Problem". Foreign Affairs. 

Some published works

[69] 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.Dina Porat Kovner's biographer [70] There is no independent evidence for the meeting and some historians doubt it.[71].Yulik Harmatz Kovner's story was repeated in 1998 by another Nakam leader [69].Stalag 13 The lesser plan was put into operation in April 1946 at [70][69] 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.[70][69] After the Second World War, a Jewish group called

Alleged involvement with 1945 revenge operation

His efforts led in 1934 to the creation of the Daniel Sieff Research Institute, which was financially supported by an endowment by Nobel Prize laureate Fritz Haber, but took over the directorship himself after Haber's death en route to Palestine. In 1949 the Sieff Institute was renamed the Weizmann Institute of Science in his honor, in agreement with the Sieff family. Weizmann's success as a scientist and the success of the Institute he founded make him an iconic figure in the heritage of the Israeli scientific community today.

"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."[68]

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 :

After the Shell Crisis of 1915 during World War I, Weizmann was director of the British Admiralty laboratories from 1916 until 1919. 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. After the war, and the continual settlement of Palestine became an in international question, he was appointed to head the Jewish Agency. Apart from a short break in the thirties, Weizmann continued in the post through the latter war, with his deputy, David Ben Gurion playing an bellicose role as a liberationist. His eclipse led to the collapse of British rule, and the inundation by illegal immigrants.

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.

Weizmann lectured in chemistry at the 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.[67]

Weizmann with Albert Einstein, 1921

Scientific career

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.[65] "The greatest Jewish emissary to the Gentile world..." was one academic verdict.[66]

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.[64] He had to be consoled with the Weizmann Institute's successes.

Dr Chaim Weizmann was the Mapai candidate for President. The Revisionist Party put forward Prof.Joseph Klausner. When Herut MK (Member of Knesset) Aryeh Ben-Eliezer spoke on behalf of Klausner saying there was no shame in collaboration, he was booed, as fascist, Followers of Mussolini! 85 votes to 15 declared for Weizmann. 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.[62] 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.[63] The Honourable Chaim 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.

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 kibbutzim was named (President's Village) Kfar Ha-Nasi.[61]

Weizmann (left) with first Turkish ambassador to Israel, Seyfullah Esin (c), and Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, 1950

First president of Israel

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.[60]

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

In Feb 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. Dr Rezso Kasztner[57] took over the direct negotiations with Eichmann to release migrants, but they came to nothing.[58] Weizmann also promoted a plan to bomb the Death Camps, but the British felt that this was too risky, dangerous and unfeasible, due to technical difficulties.[59] On September 20, 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.

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.

In May 1942 the Zionists met at Biltmore Hotel in NY, USA; 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.

In 1939 a conference was established at St James 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.

The Shoah

In 1942 Weizmann was invited by US President 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.[56]

In 1939 at the outbreak of war, Weizmann was appointed as an Honorary adviser to the 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. 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.

The Second World War

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.

Traditionally 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%. Ramsay MacDonald's attempted reassurance on economic grounds in a White Paper did little to stabilize Arab-Israeli relations.[52] In 1936 Weizmann addressed the Peel Commission, set up by Stanley Baldwin, whose job it was to consider the working of the British Mandate of Palestine. 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."[53] 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.[54][55] 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.

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).

Immigration issue in Jewish Palestine

[51] as well as sympathy after the Holocaust were important factors for British support.Suez Canal 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 [50] 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.[49]'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.Louis Brandeis, 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 American Jewish Committee, the Schiff arrived in Jaffa harbor with money and supplies provided by USS North Carolina). In early October 1914 the [48] During the war years, Brandeis headed the precursor of the

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.[46] 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.[47]

After 1920, he assumed leadership in 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.

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.[42] 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.[43] Weizmann stated at the conference that "the Zionist objective was gradually to make Palestine as Jewish as England was English" [44] Shortly thereafter, both men made their statements to the conference.

Weizmann (left) with Faisal I of Iraq in Syria, 1918

Settlement with the Arabs

Sykes stressed the Entente: "We are pledged to Zionism, Armenianism liberation, and Arabian independence". On December 2, 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 December 11, Turkish armies were swept aside when Allenby entered Jerusalem. On January 9, 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 garner the support of International Jewry in Britain, France and Italy[40] Schneer postulates that the British government desperate for any wartime advantage were prepared to offer any support among philo-Semites.[41] 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.

All the memos from Zionists, non-Zionists, and Curzon were all-in by a third meeting convened on Wednesday, October 31, 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[36] 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..."[37] Weizmann "was absolutely loyal to Great Britain".[38] 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[39] The Arab Revolt threatened to upset the apple cart. Turkish atrocities never reached Weizmann's ears, at least from the British.

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

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. [35]

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 September 4, 1917, he faced some fanatical opposition. But letters of support "sobering down[33] opposition, and a letter from his old friend Ahad Ha'am "a great number of people regard you as something of a symbol of Zionism[34] Schneer identifies this letter in the footnotes as being from Ginzberg and not Ahad, but in his text. 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, Ahad Ha'am, and at times Sacher.

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.

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,

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.

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

On June 15, 1917 the Board of Deputies collapsed. Weizmann learnt that all the deputies had resigned. Like 20,000 military Jews living in East End of London, who had fled Russian pogroms, Weizmann was not particularly warlike. So to his Zionist friends he had swallowed the Revisionist ideas of 'Jingo' Jabotinsky, "a disease called Cadetism". Israel Sieff had resigned from the BPC. Leon Simon resigned from the ZPC (Zionist Political Committee), because Weizmann refused to disavow the idea of a jewish regiment[32]

Ethel Snowden, Philip Snowden

Assimilationist Opposition to Declaration

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."[30] The complexity of Arab desiderata - "facilities of colonization, communal autonomy, rights of language and establishment of a Jewish chartered company"[31]

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[27]- Manchester's Sieff, Sacher and Marks, and London's Leon Simon and Samuel Tollowsky. This was the Zionists takeover of the Jews leadership in Britain[28] 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 12th, they received news of the Kerensky take over in Petrograd. Tsarist Russia was very anti-Semitic but incongruously this made the British government even more determined to help the Jews.[29] 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. One purpose of the Alliance was to strengthen the hand of Zionism in USA.

In 1915, Weizmann also began working with 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 leaders and agreed to expedite their claims. Weizmann was characteristically wishing to reward his Jewish friends for loyalty and service. News of the Kerensky Revolution 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."[26] The Manchester Zionists published a pamphlet Palestine on January 26, 1917, which did not reflect British policy, but already Sykes looked to Weizmann's leadership.

Weizmann consulted several times with Samuel on the homeland policy during 1915, but Edwin Montagu, 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 April 14, 1915.[22] 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.

When Lucien Wolf's house was attacked, he blamed the lack of police protection. To established Jewry Zionists were foreign, and opponents consisted of a few maverick 'racists' like Leo Maxse, the editor of National Review. 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.

Cabinet attitudes to Anti-Zionism

Scott wrote Lloyd George who set up a meeting for a reluctant Weizmann with Herbert Samuel Memorandum as it came to be known was a watershed moment in the Great War and annexation of Palestine.

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.[21]

During World War I, at around the same time he was appointed Director of the British 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.[20] Many of Weizmann's contacts revealed the extent of the uncertainty in Palestine. From 1914-1918, Weizmann developed his political skills mixing easily in powerful circles. On November 7 and 8, 1914, he had a meeting with Madame Dolly Rothschild. Her husband Lord James 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. Baron James, from Bordeaux, 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. Mr Scott of the Guardian described the diminutive leader as

Leader of Zionism in the British Empire

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.[19]

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,

Weizmann's passport photo, ca. 1915

Inspiring a Jewish Homeland

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,[18] Weizmann was mentor to Harry Sacher, and two other distinguished young men, Israel Sieff, and Simon Marks (founders of Marks & Spencer). These men possessed shnorrer(sturdy beggar) which was complimented by the role they played in the Balfour Declaration. They founded a second parallel Cousinhood to the aristocratic Rothschilds. Weizmann formed a friendship with another import/export merchant from Russia, Asher Ginzberg, 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 Ahad Ha'am, a cultural Judaic Zionist. He stayed at Ahad's home in Hampstead, from whence he lobbied Whitehall, beyond his job as Director of the Admiralty for Manchester.

He revered Britain but relentlessly pursued Jewish freedom.[16] 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.[17]

In 1904, Weizmann became a chemistry lecturer at the University of Manchester and soon became a leader among British Zionists. At that time in Manchester, Arthur Balfour was a Conservative MP representing the district, as well as Prime Minister, and the two met during one of Balfour's electoral campaigns in 1905-06. 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.[15] 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." 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.

Welcomed to Britain

Weizmann missed 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, a document was presented 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.[14]

Early Years

Political career

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.


His nephew Ezer Weizman, the son of his brother Yechiel, a leading Israeli agronomist,[13] became commander of the Israeli Air Force and also served as President of Israel.

Weizmann was married to Dr.Vera Khatzmann.[10] The couple had two sons. 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.[11] 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.[6] 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.[12] A second son, Benjie Weizmann settled in Ireland and became a dairy farmer.

Of Chaim Weizmann's fourteen siblings, twelve survived to adulthood. The majority of his family emigrated to Palestine, and two were also chemists; Dr. Anna (Anushka) Weizmann worked in his Daniel Sieff Research Institute lab, registering several patents in her name.[6] His brother, Prof. Moshe Weizmann, was the head of the Chemistry Faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.[6] However, 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 only became known to his wife and children in 1955.[6][9] Another sister, Maria (Masha), was a physician who fell victim to 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.


While in Britain, he was known by many as Charles Weizmann, a name under which he also registered his ca. 100 research patents.[6][7] Near the end of the Second World War, it was discovered that the SS had compiled a list of over 2,800 people living in Britain, which included Weizmann, who were to be immediately arrested upon the success of an invasion of Britain in the abortive Operation Sea Lion.[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.[5] Chaim Weizmann and his family lived in Manchester for about 30 years (1904–1934) in 1904, senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, but moved during the First World War to 16 Addison Road, in west London.

In Britain (1904-1937)

[4].University of Manchester and, in 1904, senior lecturer at the University of Geneva In 1901, he was appointed assistant lecturer at the [3]

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