What Did Freud Really Think of Zionism?

Spoiler alert: The father of psychoanalysis was not the biggest fan of establishing a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine.

So, as it turns out, Sigmund Freud was not a fan of the Zionist dream.

The good doctor was, in fact, vehemently against the foundation of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel and had no qualms about expressing his disapproval – something he did in a rather eloquent and sharp manner in a letter he sent to the head of the Keren HaYesod branch in Vienna in 1930.

Sigmund Freud, the Abraham Schwadron Portrait Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel.

Let’s take a step back for a moment.

The hostilities began on a hot day in the middle of August 1929. The longtime struggle between the Arabs and Jews in the Land of Israel over ownership and access to the Western Wall had officially come to a boiling point. On Friday, August 16, 1929, an Arab mob that had been riled up by the Supreme Muslim Council, descended upon the Western Wall, expelled the Jewish worshippers from the site and proceeded to burn holy books and Torah scrolls. This event unleashed a wave of violence in the Land of Israel and, in just one week, the Palestine Riots of 1929 saw more than 130 Jews killed and hundreds more injured in Hebron, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Tzfat, Hulda and Be’er Tuvia.

In 1930, just a few months after the violence had come to a stop, Keren HaYesod, a fundraising organization established by the Zionist Congress to help Jews to immigrate to the Land of Israel, launched a public relations campaign for the Yishuv, the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. The organization sent out letters to the world’s prominent Jews asking if they might be willing to issue a statement of support on behalf of the Jews living in the Land of Israel. One such letter, sent by Chaim Koffler, the head of the Keren HaYesod in Vienna, made it to the hands of one Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis who also happened to be Jewish.

The envelope that held the letter from Freud to Dr. Koffler, from the National Library of Israel archives.

Freud, it appears, took some time to consider this request. His response sent on February 26th, 1930, came in a carefully crafted, subtly scathing but perfectly polite letter sent back to Dr. Koffler where he made his feelings on the subject of Zionism and Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel very clear.

Not only did Freud decline the request to issue a public statement of support, but he also made it very clear that he was, let’s call it – unsympathetic – to the plight of the Jews living in the Yishuv.

“I cannot do as you wish,” wrote Freud. “Whoever wants to influence the masses must give them something rousing and inflammatory and my sober judgment of Zionism does not permit this.”

The response from Sigmund Freud to Chaim Koffler, from the National Library of Israel archives.

Freud explained that, while he identified with the goals of Zionism in creating a home for Jews and found a measure of pride in the university that had been established in Jerusalem, he had no understanding of the Zionist movement. He believed that there would never be a state for Jews in the Land of Israel – an opinion he conceded as likely to be unpopular.

“I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state, nor that the Christian and Islamic worlds would ever be prepared to have their holy places under Jewish care. It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land. But I know that such a rational viewpoint would never have gained the enthusiasm of the masses and the financial support of the wealthy.”

Sigmund Freud, the Abraham Schwadron Portrait Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel.

As for expressing sympathy for the Hebrew pioneers who had suffered through the riots, Freud felt that “the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.”

Freud closed the letter with about as much sympathy as he started it.

“Now judge for yourself whether I, with such a critical point of view, am the right person to come forward as the solace of a people deluded by unjustified hope.”

Upon reading Freud’s reply, Dr. Koffler, surprised by its contents, wrote in pencil in the top corner of the letter, “Do not show this to foreigners.” In fact, the letter remained unpublished for 60 years.

“Do not show this to foreigners,” added in the corner of Freud’s letter by Chaim Koffler. From the National Library of Israel archives.

Upon hearing of the letter, Abraham Schwadron whose vast collection is now kept in the National Library of Israel, asked Dr. Koffler if he might send him the correspondence so that it could be added to the Library’s archives. Dr. Koffler agreed to send him the letter for his perusal but asked for Schwadron to please do him the courtesy of returning it – for if the letter were to be kept in the National Library, its contents would certainly find its way into the public sphere.

Letter from Chaim Koffler to Abraham Schwadron, from the National Library of Israel archives.

“Freud’s letter may be heartfelt and warm, but it does not serve our purposes,” wrote Dr. Koffler in April of 1930 in response to Schwadron. “Even if at this time I was unable to help Keren HaYesod, I still see myself as bound not to harm it.”

They say that hindsight is 20/20 and in all fairness, views such as Freud’s were not unheard of among Western European Jews in the early 1930s. Of course, Freud could never have predicted the horrors that would soon befall the Jews of Europe with the rise of the Nazi party and the beginning of the Holocaust. He would never learn the important role those pioneers played in successfully founding the State of Israel. While his opinions may have been “unpopular,” he certainly had his finger on the pulse of issues that still impact Israeli society today.

For further reading on this subject, check out “Freud in Zion: Psychoanalysis and the Making of Modern Jewish Identity,” by Eran J. Rolnik, Karnac Books, 2012. 

This post was written as part of Gesher L’Europa, the NLI’s initiative to connect with Europe and make our collections available to diverse audiences in Europe and beyond.


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The Strange Correspondence Between Albert Einstein and a Lawyer from Bnei Brak

“I am neither a mathematician nor a physicist, but I have, nevertheless, discovered a fantastic philosophical method that I will soon be publishing under the title 'The Logic of the World.'”

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna, 1921

By Chen Malul

It was in the year 1947 that Professor Albert Einstein first encountered the name of Dr. Eliezer Goldwasser, when a letter appeared in his mailbox at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. Upon reading the first few lines, a warning light must have gone off in his head. “Yet another letter from an amateur physicist…” he may have told himself.

Dr. Goldwasser sought financial assistance for his own unorthodox research in the field of physics, and this underlying motivation for did not go unnoticed by the renowned physicist. However, many of the abstract ideas in the letter were incomprehensible, even to Albert Einstein, who sent no reply.

The first two pages of the four-page letter Dr. Goldwasser sent to Professor Einstein. From the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People

Abandoning Religion, Abandoning Homeland

Just weeks before his Bar Mitzvah ceremony, the 13-year-old Einstein had lost the religious drive that had characterized his childhood. Max Talmey, a medical student who often visited the Einstein family home and who served as young Albert’s mentor, gave him a number of books on science. These books led the the curious boy to the conclusion that most of the stories of the Bible were false.


14-year-old Albert Einstein, 1894

The poems he had composed and dedicated to the greatness of God all of His creations were now replaced by mathematical formulas. This was the inception of young Albert’s attempts to understand the principles of mathematics and physics and eventually the secrets of the universe itself.

Albert Einstein’s revolutionary research would reshape humanity’s concepts of of time, space, mass, motion, and gravity and would make him famous the world over. It would also make the Jewish physicist a target of the Nazi regime.

At the time of Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933, Einstein was already residing in the United States. The news of what was happening in Germany and the venomous attacks published against him in the German press convinced him to renounce his German citizenship. He also resigned from the Prussian Academy of Sciences. He would never again set foot in Germany.

Einstein received many proposals from academic institutions across the world, including universities in Europe, the United States, and even Mandatory Palestine. In the end, Einstein chose the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in New Jersey. Though Einstein never forgave the Germans, he continued to use the German language as his main method of communication. This was also the language in which Dr. Eliezer Goldwasser wrote to Einstein. Goldwasser was also a Jewish expatriate from Germany, who, unlike Einstein, chose to settle in the Land of Israel.


Albert Einstein, 1947


Reconciling Religion and Science

Goldwasser resent his letter in January of 1948. This time, Einstein took the time to reply:

“I received and read the first letter. Because the content was unclear to me and because I was inundated with letters from amateur physicists, I was unable to reply to your letter, as well as many others.

I apologize and appreciate your understanding.

-Albert Einstein”


Professor Einstein’s reply to Dr. Goldwasser, January 1948


The curt answer from the great 20th century physicist did not dissuade Goldwasser who had fled from Germany to Mandatory Palestine in 1939. In 1941 he arrived in the town of Bnei Brak, known as a center of Hasidic Judaism. Goldwasser held a doctorate in the field of law and ran a full-time law practice, conducting his research of physics in the little spare time he had left. After reading Einstein’s letter of reply, he set about writing yet another letter describing the research he was working on to Einstein – work that he believed was of great importance.

Goldwasser began this letter by stating “I respect your principles of not answering letters from amateur scientists.” He went on to apologize for sending the letter, “I wrote to apologize to you for venturing to contact you, in light of my 25 years of experience of matters of space, with the purpose of suggesting ideas that in my non-expert opinion can improve your research, and bring you closer to the solving the problems with which you are struggling.

Goldwasser added that if such a renowned scientist as Einstein did not understand his groundbreaking ideas, this must mean that standard scientific thought had not yet caught up to the theory he developed – a theory that would “revolutionize the study of space.” He finished the letter in an enigmatic tone, “The last word has not yet been said.”

The quick response letter drafted and sent by Dr. Goldwasser to Professor Einstein, January 1948

Indeed, as Goldwasser predicted, the last word – his, that is – had not yet been uttered. Four years later, Goldwasser sent another letter. This time, it was addressed to Einstein’s team of researchers at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study:

“I know that Professor Einstein is bombarded by letters from people who ish to offer him ‘scientific advice’. Therefore, I turn to you, the scientific team, and ask you to thoroughly read my letter. If you reach a positive conclusion please bring it to Prof. Einstein’s attention.

I am neither a mathematician nor a physicist, but I have, nevertheless, discovered a fantastic philosophical method that I will soon be publishing under the title The Logic of the World. I am currently writing my theory in a methodical manner and this work will keep me busy for some time yet. At best, it will be complete in a year or two. I can only work on it at night.

My theory, as opposed to common philosophy, is based on proof of God’s existence through a clear, scientific method. I believe that as soon as the book is published, I will be able to prove His existence, His divine essence, and His ability to manipulate the world without effort.


I am not saying this merely to shower praise on myself. Anyone with an interest in your field of study would understand and appreciate the work I have already done.

I see the mission of my life in the scientific reconciliation of humanity with God.”

It is unknown who received the letter at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, or whether the letter was actually read and the requested experiments conducted. Goldwasser received no reply to his third and final letter.


The final attempt? The letter Dr. Goldwasser sent to the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, October 1952

The Story of the Book that Never Was

A search of the National Library catalog, and catalogs of other libraries, showed no evidence that the book Goldwasser promised to publish ever saw the light of day. The correspondence between Einstein and Goldwasser was recently discovered in Dr. Eliezer Goldwasser’s personal archive, and is now preserved in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People.

In conclusion, we would have loved to explain the revolutionary theory that Dr. Eliezer Goldwasser (later Mei-Zahav) conceived – a theory which (as he promised to Professor Einstein’s team) was intended to reconcile science and God. But, if this theory left one of the most brilliant minds in history perplexed, what chance do we really have?

The article was compiled with the help of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, archivist Inka Arroyo Antezana Martinez, and Franka Metz.


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A New School Year for the Children of Europe

In honor of the "Back to School" season, we bring you several stories about children from across Europe on their first day of school.

Hillel Kempler on his first day of school, 1932. Photo courtesy of Centropa.

Starting school for the first time is a rite of passage – a child moving on to the next stage in life begin his or her studies in a formal setting, leaving the comforts of home behind for the great big world that lies beyond.

Germany: A Cone of Sweets for the Sweet New Pupil

In Germany, there is a custom that dates back to the early 18th century, where parents, grandparents or godparents would present a young child starting school for the first time with a Schultüte, a large paper cone filled with sweets, as a way to alleviate some the anxieties that come with new beginnings.

While over the years the contents of the cones have shifted to more practical gifts such as crayons and pencils, the tradition has held strong for both Jewish and non-Jewish children in Germany. These cones create a sweet memory on the first day of school, sending the child off into the big world of a new school with a smile and a happy heart.

Hillel Kempler remembers his first day of school as a seven-year-old lad in Berlin in 1932 fondly thanks to this tradition. “I was enrolled in elementary school in Gipsstrasse in 1932,” said Kempler.  “Of course I received a cone of sweets for this event, as it was customary in Berlin back then. Both Jewish and non-Jewish kids received it.”

“I do not know how many children in my class were Jewish,” Kempler explained. “That did not interest me at the time. Before I came to school, I could already read. I have always loved reading. I read anything that came to my hands. And when I went out on the street, I read the signs at the shops. Maybe it was thanks to my brothers and sisters, who always gave me newspapers and journals. I was in Berlin for only half a year, and I still read German well today, which is amazing.”

Hillel’s sister Miriam on her first day of school in 1929. Photo courtesy of Centropa.

Hillel also remembers his sister’s first day of school in 1929 – a day that was, of course, marked with a cone of sweets. “Miriam came to school two years before me. She was more of a frightened child, always hanging on the apron of her mom, as they say. Everything was an adventure for me, everything was a difficulty for her.”

Czechoslovakia: Counting, Grammar, and Friendships  

Eva Duskova remembers her first day in school fondly. After being walked to school by her father, she found herself hungry to learn – at least when she remembered to listen to the teachers instead of creating trouble with her best friend, Anita during class.

“I remember my first day of school,” said Eva. “I went to the first grade with my girlfriend Anita Frankova, nee Fisherova. We had known each other since the age of four because our parents were friends… In fact, back then we insisted on sitting next to each other in school. And in the end, we did. Of course, right the next day we were separated for misbehaving. We were simply talking to each other. What the teacher was saying wasn’t as interesting. But I very much looked forward to school, I was hungry for knowledge.

Eva Duskova’s first day of school in 1937. Photo courtesy of Centropa.

The first day Anita and I were accompanied by our fathers. I know that the gentlemen in the back behind the desks stood beside each other, and I think that they were quite amused. I think that our fathers took it as this personal prerogative. Whether there were mothers too, that I don’t remember. Very early on I went to school unaccompanied, because it was a short way off, without any sort of danger along the way.

I very much loved going to school. Summer holidays always took too long for me, I couldn’t wait until I could go to school again. I liked studying, in elementary school I had, I think, liked everything. Perhaps less counting and more grammar. And I had a hard time coping with drawing. And in high school, I loved all the humanities, while the natural sciences remained somewhat foreign to me. Though I must say that even so they interested me and I liked studying them.”

Latvia: Connecting with the Hebrew Language

Mera Shulman describes her time in a Jewish school in Riga as a beautiful time in her life where she learned to love learning – despite losing nearly all of her classmates in the Holocaust.

“I went to school when I was seven. I started from the second form at Jewish Hebrew school. At that time, it was common to skip the first grade, if you were well prepared. I studied perfectly well. Everything was interesting for me, I cannot name my favorite subject, I liked them all, except history. In history, I also had an excellent mark, but it was the most laborious one.

Pupils of the 1st form at the Hebrew school. Photo courtesy of Centropa.

She loved her teachers and appreciated them for their specific specialties and what knowledge they could impart.

“Our teacher Korz was very talented for music. Under his guidance, we played a Haydn symphony using pipes and penny whistles. He did his best to invent something unusual for each holiday. In the second form, we put on a very interesting performance, ‘Alphabet.’ I was the shortest, and he gave me [the Hebrew letter] Yud because it was the smallest one. But at the same time, it was explained to me that the words Jew and Israel began with that very letter. [Yud is the tenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, in its written form it is only a small line. In Hebrew both Yehudi (Jew) and Israel start with Yud.] I was very proud to get that remarkable letter.”

Later in life, after surviving the war, Mira could still remember her teachers with great fondness.

Not only did Mira not experience any anti-Semitism in school, she couldn’t even imagine such hatred ever infiltrating the walls of her classrooms.

“Certainly, at this sort of school, there were no anti-Semitic manifestations (and it had no possibility to exist there). By the way, the teacher of the Latvian language, Madame Frei (a Latvian) used to say that she liked Jewish children very much and preferred to work with them.”

This post was written as part of Gesher L’Europa, the NLI’s initiative to connect with Europe and make our collections available to diverse audiences in Europe and beyond.


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How 500 Children Were Returned to the Jewish People After the Holocaust

Letters discovered by chance in the National Library archives document Yitzhak Halevi Herzog's historic mission to redeem Jewish children taken in by Christian institutions and families

Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, the David B. Keidan Collection of Digital Images from the Central Zionist Archives

There is a legend told of Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog.

One day in 1946, Rabbi Herzog arrived at a large monastery which was known to have taken in Jewish children sent away by their parents to protect them from the Nazi terror which had ravaged Europe. Now, the time had come for the children to return home.

The Rabbi turned to the Reverend Mother, thanking her for saving the lives of the children and requesting to receive them back to the Jewish People, now that the war was over. The nun was happy to agree, but asked the Rabbi – “How can you know which of the hundreds of children here at the monastery are Jewish?” After all, it had been many months since their parents had sent them there, and many had been mere infants at the time.

Rabbi Herzog assured the Reverend Mother that he would know. He asked to gather all of the children in a large hall, ascended the stage, and cried in a loud voice:

Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad ! (Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One)

Immediately, dozens of children rushed to the stage, shouting “mama!” and “papa!” as tears filled their eyes. Many were sobbing uncontrollably. Though few of the children remembered much of their early lives, the sound of the Shema, the most famous prayer in the Jewish faith, instantly brought back memories of reciting these Hebrew words with their parents before bedtime.

When Yitzhak Halevi Herzog embarked on his famous tour of European orphanages and monasteries, with the goal of locating and retrieving thousands of lost Jewish children, he was serving as the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Mandatory Palestine. He was recognized as an authority on issues of Halacha (Jewish religious law) and was held in great esteem by both religious and secular leaders around the world.

Yitzhak Halevi Herzog as Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi during the British Mandate period, Jerusalem, September 1945. Photo by Zoltan Kluger, GPO.


Herzog absorbed a variety of different cultures during his early life. Born in Łomża, Poland in 1888, his family moved to Leeds, England in his youth and then Paris, France, where Herzog attended the Sorbonne before continuing to the University of London. His groundbreaking doctoral thesis on the nature of the ancient blue dye known as Tekhelet, used during the Second Temple period, was what first made him a public figure.

In 1915, Herzog was appointed Rabbi of the city of Belfast and would later go on to serve for 14 years as the Chief Rabbi of Ireland. He became a supporter of the struggle for Irish independence and the Irish Republican Army. Eamon de Valera, a leader of the revolt against the British and a future President of Ireland, was a personal friend who at times used the Rabbi’s house in Dublin as a hiding spot.

Rabbi Herzog would also become a supporter of the Irgun Zvai Leumi (a.k.a the Irgun or Etzel), the Jewish underground group which fought against the British authorities in the Land of Israel, to which he finally arrived in 1936.

Rabbi Herzog speaks at a pilot certification ceremony at Lydda Airport, in April of 1939. Source: Library of Congress.


The plight of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust tormented Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, and he devoted those years of his life to attempts to prevent the unfolding disaster. In April 1941, Rabbi Herzog was granted an audience with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom he hoped he could convince to act, before it was too late.

According to Herzog’s biographer, Shaul Mayzlish, the Rabbi told FDR the following during their meeting:

I call upon his honor, as someone in a position of power, in the name of human conscience, in the name of human liberty, in the name of justice, to prevent the butchering of the Jews and allow the survivors the possibility of reaching safe havens[…] Mr. President, I am not the person who will advise you on how to deal with this terrible problem. I come only with a plea and also a warning. The plea – save what can be saved. The warning – those who stood by will be held accountable in the future.

(“The Rabbinate in Stormy Days”, Shaul Mayzlish, Gefen, 2017)

Though the President promised Herzog he would hold a special meeting on the subject with his advisors, the Rabbi came away disappointed. He felt that FDR was much more concerned with other matters.

After the Allied victory in Europe in May 1945, Rabbi Herzog maintained his focus on the rescue of the continent’s surviving Jews. By his own estimate, at the end of the war, some ten thousand Jewish children were held in secret by Catholic institutions and non-Jewish families who had bravely taken them in for their own safety.

In 1946, Herzog embarked on a six month journey throughout Europe, with the goal of returning the Jewish children to their own families. Before he began the search, he stopped at the Vatican, where he sought the help of Pope Pius XII. The Rabbi came with a message of thanks for the crucial intervention of Catholic institutions in saving young Jewish lives, but also insisted that the children now be released, “Each child is like one thousand children, following this great tragedy,” he told the pontiff.

Pope Pius XII did not issue the papal bull that Rabbi Herzog was hoping for, but the Vatican did assist the Rabbi’s efforts.


While Pius XII did not issue the sweeping public declaration the Rabbi was hoping for, the Vatican was indeed helpful in obtaining the release of many of the children.

During his European trip, Herzog visited France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, England, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Ireland. Much of the work he and his team faced was bureaucratic: They drew up updated lists of children with the help of the respective governments and local community institutions, and went about seeking Jewish organizations with the authority to assume legal guardianship.

Once the initial information was collected, it was often a matter of searching through individual villages and monasteries, while using the lists as guides. Volunteers from sympathetic organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, were instrumental in this effort.

“…deeply appreciate your realization historic sacred duty to tiny remnants of unprecedented tragedy…” – A telegram from Herzog thanking a contact in Strasbourg for his assistance. The National Library of Israel collections.


There were many cases in which Christian families had formed strong bonds with the adopted children, and they understandably did not want to give them up. “Rescuing the children is difficult when the one you are contending against comes as a brother,” the Rabbi said in one of his speeches.

…about 9 years old, mother taken by Gestapo and never more heard of, father killed by Gestapo…” A description of one of the many orphans Rabbi Herzog attempted to redeem. The National Library of Israel collections. Click to enlarge.


Much of Yitzhak Halevi Herzog’s correspondence from this period is preserved today in the archives of the National Library of Israel. The Library’s archivists were surprised to discover these letters and telegrams among the personal archives of the well-known Jerusalem attorney Alexander Amdur, an associate of Rabbi Herzog’s. Amdur’s archives were donated to the National Library in 2015.

Herzog’s efforts were not limited to children. In this telegram, Rabbi Herzog sought to obtain a French visa for a holocaust survivor by the name of Sonia Friedberg.

The National Library of Israel collections.


And in the Hebrew letter below, one of her relatives in Israel thanks the Rabbi’s son Yaakov for for their efforts on her behalf, noting her difficult personal circumstances.

The National Library of Israel collections
The National Library of Israel collections. Click to enlarge.

The letter reads:

…I thank you very much for your goodwill in helping me obtain an entry visa to France for my relative from Poland.
Her name and address:
Sonia Friedberg,
Lodz, Piotrokowska 80
Her age – about 35.
I am certain that you will do everything in your ability to ease my relative’s situation. She was snatched from the fire, and she is lonely and desolate in a foreign sea of hatred, in the land where her parents, husband and other relatives perished…

One of Herzog’s most effective partners in the effort to retrieve Jewish children was the Polish-Jewish activist Yeshayahu Drucker, who would approach families and institutions who had taken in Jewish children, often offering money and gifts in exchange for their release. Rabbi Herzog’s political connections were critical in raising these funds.

This Hebrew document contains a partial list of the names, ages and locations of children redeemed by Yeshayahu Drucker.

The National Library of Israel collections. Click to enlarge.


The letter below was addressed to Yaakov Herzog from the “Zionist Coordination Committee for the Redemption of Jewish Children”. It concerns one of the children redeemed by Yeshayahu Drucker.

The National Library of Israel collections.

The letter reads: “…As per your request, the girl Naomi Barter, born in Lodz in 1937, was redeemed from the foreigners by Rabbi Drucker and is now at the sacred communities’ orphanage […] As the expenses of this matter reached a sum of three hundred and twenty thousand zloties and you in your letter write that your American friends committed to participating in the expense of one hundred, we request that you inform us of the method by which we can receive the above sum…”


Naomi Barter, the National Library of Israel collections.


The Hebrew words below were addressed to Rabbi Herzog on behalf of  a group of Jewish children who survived the Holocaust. The exact date and origin is unclear, but they were likely read in his presence.

The National Library of Israel collections.


“We the children of the surviving remnant (Sh’erit ha-Pletah) are very happy to receive our distinguished Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Erzog [sic] and we promise to him that we shall make Aliyah and help build the Land. God willing, we shall live to see the liberated Jewish State, in the spirit of our Torah.”

In October of 1946, over 500 of the redeemed Jewish children boarded a train in Katowice, Poland, which then made the long journey all the way to Mandatory Palestine. These children would soon become citizens of the State of Israel, founded 19 months later.

Upon the declaration of independence in 1948, Yitzhak Halevi Herzog became Israel’s first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. His son Chaim Herzog would later become President of the Jewish State. His grandson Isaac Herzog is today the Chairman of the Jewish Agency and the former Head of the Opposition.

You can find more of Rabbi Herzog’s correspondence from his famous rescue mission, here.

Hagit Zimroni of the Archives Department at the National Library of Israel assisted in the preparation of this article.


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