Goldmann, Nahum

(1895–1982)
   Zionist and Jewish leader. At home in different countries, persuasive in different languages, Dr Goldmann has been one of the most cosmopolitan of Jewish leaders. Urbane, stocky, a ready speaker with independent and sometimes provocative opinions, he was a familiar figure on the international circuit for half a century. His career revolved around three themes: international Zionism; institutions for the Diaspora as an entity; and his role as a negotiator.
   Born in Lithuania and brought up in Germany, Goldmann was actively engaged from his youth in Zionism. During World War I he worked in a Jewish affairs section of the German Foreign Ministry, and pressed for German endorsement of Zionist aims. Sitting in Berlin, it could not be imagined that the kaiser and his Turkish allies would be defeated.
   In the post-war period, Goldmann joined the radical Zionist faction, a minority group critical of what they regarded as a timorous WEIZMANN leadership. In 1931, as chairman of the political committee at the seventeenth Zionist Congress in Basle, he played a part in ousting Weizmann from the presidency. After the rise of HITLER, he came to accept Weizmann’s point of view as realistic. In 1946 Goldmann went to see Secretary of State Dean Acheson in Washington, and conveyed the willingness of the Zionist Executive to accept ‘a viable Jewish State in an adequate area of Palestine’. When Israel came into existence in 1948, Goldmann disappointed many of his fellow Zionists when he did not settle in the new state and seek his place among its leaders. He was at first co-chairman of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization, and was its president from 1964 to 1968.
   His attempt to build up the Zionist movement as a force independent of Israel made little headway, and he antagonized the Israel government by public criticism of its foreign policy, especially regarding peace with the Arabs. In 1962. he became a citizen of Israel and acquired an apartment in Jerusalem, but did not become a permanent resident. In 1968 he took out Swiss citizenship for what he stated were ‘personal and financial reasons’.
   In 1935 the World Jewish Congress (WJC) was established by Rabbi Stephen WISE, with Goldmann’s support. He remained one of its active leaders and in 1953 was elected its president. The WJC did useful work in making representations to governments and international bodies on matters of Jewish concern. But it did not develop into an authoritative international spokesman for world Jewry as a whole.
   Goldmann’s most positive achievement was in connexion with German reparations. At the end of 1951 he had a meeting in London with the German chancellor, Dr ADENAUER, at the request of BEN-GURION. Adenauer agreed to negotiations between West Germany, Israel, and the Claims Conference that Goldmann had been instrumental in forming as a common front of the major Jewish organizations. In 1952. the Luxembourg Agreement on Reparations was signed. Goldmann then initiated similar negotiations with Austria. In 1965 the Claims Conference set up the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, headed by Goldmann.
   In later years Goldmann considered that, on the German precedent, he might be a useful intermediary between Israel and the Arab world, or with the Soviet Union after it had broken off relations with Israel. However, his own relations with some of the Israel leaders were anything but cordial, and they lacked the degree of confidence in him required for such delicate and indirect diplomacy. That fact was illustrated by the Nasser episode in 1970. Goldmann reported to Mrs MEIR, the prime minister, that through third parties he had been invited to meet Nasser in Cairo. It remains unclear whether such a meeting could have taken place; what was clear was that Mrs Meir and her colleagues were not prepared to give the idea their endorsement.
   After World War I, Goldmann and a partner founded the Eshkol Publishing House in Berlin, and began to produce the Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ten volumes had appeared in German and two in Hebrew before Hitler came to power in 1933 and the project had to be abandoned. Some thirty years later Goldmann revived the idea. The sixteen-volume Encyclopaedia Judaica in English was completed in 1971, published by Keter, Jerusalem.
   Goldmann’s own Memories were published in 1969. The title page fittingly described him as ‘World Jewry’s ambassador at large’. GOLDSCHMIDT, Lazerus 1871– 1930. Lithuanian Talmud scholar. Gold- schmidt translated the entire Babylonian Talmud into German, with a concordance published posthumously. He fled to London from Germany.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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