Chaim Azriel Weizmann : biography
Childhood and adolescence
Weizmann was born in settlement Motal (Motyly) near Pinsk in Russian empire, Belarus of nowadays. Euzer Weizmann, who was Chaim’s father, served as a clerk in a wood floating office. Weizmann’s house was known for its atmosphere of Jewish traditions, but, however, some ideas of enlightenment and Jewish national revival passed through it. Chaim got traditional Jewish education at a heder and after that he entered a public school in Pinsk.
Education and the beginning of political activity
Having finished school, Weizmann continued his education in Germany, studying at Darmstadt Polytechnic Institute and, after that, at Royal Engineering College in Berlin. He finished his education in 1899, having got a degree of doctor at Freiburg University in Switzerland. In 1901 Weizmann got a position of teacher of biochemistry in Geneva University. In 1904 Chaim Weizmann received an offer from Manchester University and pretty soon he moved to England.
While he was studying in Berlin, Weizmann joined one Zionist club, inspired by ideas of Theodor Herzl. In 1899 Weizmann took part in activity of the second Zionists congress in Besel. But soon, because of ideological difference of views with Herzl, Weizmann and his like-minded companions founded a democratic fraction within Zionists stream. The program of the fraction supposed paying a lot of attention to cultural work, democratization of the Zionists stream and investigation of the ways of occupation of territory of Israel with an accent of co-operative methods of economic course. The founders of the group didn’t agree with Herzl, who cared only about diplomacy and political lobbyism. That was also the time when Weizmann firstly pushed his idea of founding Jewish university as the spiritual center of Zionism. With the initiative of the democratic fraction they included a paragraph about national upbringing in the program after the fifth Zionists congress.
In 1903 Weizmann joined opponents of the “Uganda plan”, which consisted of creating a temporary Jewish national center far from Eretz-Israel.
Before the First World War
Soon after he moved to Manchester, Weizmann married a student of medical faculty of Manchester University. His wife was Vera Chatzman. That was the period when Weizmann’s pro-British orientation was forming. He remained loyal to it for many years, even at the period of disappointment of British colonial political course in Palestine and of attitude of the British authorities to Zionism. In 1910 he became an English citizen. Those years he developed close friendship with Lord Balfour, the future British minister of foreign affairs. Weizmann managed to convince Balfour that the idea of Jewish national home as Israel territories was right.
Weizmann remembered that Balfour could not understand the reason his Jewish friend was against of “Uganda plan”.
Weizmann firstly visited Palestine in 1970, after the eighth Zionists congress. The impressions of that visit made him redouble his efforts to popularize his idea of occupation the territories of Israel. In 1914 he took part in fighting for teaching all the disciplines in Hebrew in the new founded Polytechnic Institute in Haifa. He started to protest after the trusty committee of the institute decided to choose German as the language for teaching. As the result of that fighting for teaching in Hebrew, the opening of the institute was postponed. Only after the First World War its doors were opened for the first students.
First World War and Balfour’s declaration
On 1 August 1914 First World War started. The Zionists organization for the whole took neutral position in that war. However, some notable British Zionists, such as Vladimir Jabotinsky, made efforts to found a Jewish legion in the British Army, the aim of which would be liberation of Palestine from Turkish rule.
Weizmann managed to render British military forces a good service. While working at synthetic rubber, he worked out a new way of producing acetone, which was needed for manufacturing ammunition. His method consisted of using bacteria Clostridium acetobutylicum, which is nowadays sometimes called “Weizmann’s organism”. With the help of his relations in British ruling circle and at the same time increasing influence of the Zionists organization, he managed to draw attention of the British government to Zionism. The culmination was the declaration of Balfour. On 2 November 1917 the functioning minister of foreign affairs wrote to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild about favorable attitude of the British government to restoration of the Jewish national center in Palestine: it also informed that the British government would make all possible efforts in order to achieve the goal. In 1920 the principals of the declaration were confirmed at the peaceful conference in San-Remo. And on 22 July 1922 the text of the declaration was included in the text of the British mandate in relation of Palestine, which was affirmed by the League of Nations.
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