WEIZMANN: Last of the Patriarchs by Barnet Litvinoff
Kirkus Star

WEIZMANN: Last of the Patriarchs

Email this review


A general but pointed biography of Weizmann (1874-1952), in his time the foremost diplomat and international organizer for Zionism, and ultimately Israel's first president. After studying biochemistry in Berlin and discovering Theodore Herzl, the young Russian emigre resolved in Manchester that ""he would be the first Jewish Professor of Chemistry and (why not?) His Britannic Majesty's Consul"" in the new Palestinian homeland. Litvinoff, himself quite pro-British but shocked by the government's stand toward the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s, proceeds to show the extent to which Weizmann ""worked for Zionism and the British as though they were one and the same thing."" Making chemical breakthroughs to fuel WW I armaments, pledging Jewish protection of the Suez Canal, disdaining American and Palestinian Zionists as provincial and impetuous, Weizmann cultivated his banking patrons and whatever Whitehall allies he could find. He had scant success with Iris threat that, for lack of British concessions on Jewish settlement in Palestine, more ""extremist"" Zionists would gain sway. Indeed, by this account he was a crushed man even before the total anti-Zionism of the 1939 White Paper, and during WW II he endured not only the extermination of European Jewry but the oil companies' ban on his major discoveries of synthetic fuel and rubber processes. Though Litvinoff goes overboard with his lofty refusal ""to scatter references throughout the text or support the narrative with bulky footnotes,"" this is a critical and succinct study, in a different category from the large, celebratory Weizmann: His Life and Times (1976) by Harold Blumberg.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Putnam