1939 Foreword Kann and introduction in book about Wolffsohn

Book printed in January 1939.

Published by initiative  of Jacobus Kann, read review about the book


Google translation from German:


In this time, when the avant garde of the Jewish people in Palestine leads a life-and-death struggle and in Germany the Jewish population, resident there for centuries is being raped and expelled, a book appears to us depicting the life of an Eastern European Jew who was chosen to be the successor of Theodor Herzl, the president of the Zionist organization.

Emil Bernhard Cohn tells us how it came about in the present biography. Created under the auspices of the David Wolffsohn Foundation in Jerusalem, this book, under the hand of its author, has become much more than a mere biography: a genesis of the Zionist movement and organization from its earliest beginnings. It leads us right into the first heroic period of the movement, when the thoughts are even greater, the feelings even more powerful, the will more intense, and the sacrificial joy of using the whole personality for the great goal even more general to write a history of Zionism.

In doing so, no right was allowed to the hero of this book, who was one of the greatest foremen of the movement. The memory of David Wolffsohn threatened to fall into oblivion. But the Jewish people and the world should know who David Wolfson was. This was the occasion for the Board of Trustees of the Wolfson Foundation to approach Emil Bernhard Cohn, who for more than one reason seemed to describe the life and times of David Wolfsohn.

As chairman of this foundation, but especially as a friend and contemporary of this great man, it is a need for me to give this book the lead. Although I was much younger than him, I worked with David Wolfsohn for many years. At the beginning of these years, our joint, very intense work was devoted to the founding of the Jewish Colonial Trust, upon which Wolfsohn’s entire love depended. From this work grew our friendship for the rest of life.

The Jewish Colonial Trust, once thought of by Wolffsohn as the national bank of the Jewish people, now functioning only as a holding company for Anglo-Palestine Bank equities, could perhaps once again be called to become the central institution of the Jewish people. It was the sacrifice of the Eastern European Jews, who were the main source for raising capital of that bank, and David Wolffsohn was the child of the East Europeans. His powerful personality shows the elemental power of this Eastern Judaism, to which we owe so many important men and leading spirits. In his will Wolffsohn has determined that his not inconsiderable fortune should be used for general Jewish, if possible Zionist purposes in Palestine. The foundation’s foundation has fulfilled this obligation through the construction of the Jewish National Library, which is affiliated to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This is a permanent memorial to David Wolffsohn, on top of Scopus Mountain. Housed in the central Zionist archives is the Wolfsburg Archive, which has been compiled and designed by Mrs. Betti Leszynsky with great love. This is where a wealth of material rests; here Emil Bernhard Cohn has worked, and here for a long time the most important spring will flow for any future historian of Zionism. In handing over this book to the public, the Wolfsohn Foundation expresses the wish that the young generation of Jews draw the courage and enthusiasm from it to give themselves wholeheartedly to the cause of the people, and the best among them the will as workers (Arbeiter) in Eretz Israel own the heritage of the father. David Wolfsohn stands as a shining example. We are grateful to the author of this book, who today is alive again before us, who has handed down the personality of David Wolffsohn to history and to truth and justice.

The Hague, January 1939




This book is based on archival documents and on statements by contemporaries who have known, seen, and spoken to David Wolffsohn. The documents consist of records, travelogues, reminders, etc., from an incalculable number of letters written and received by David Wolffsohn between 1896 and 1914. Their number is not to be discounted. Wolffsohn has at times written up to 20 letters daily concerning Zionist affairs. A large number is located in the Wolffsohn Archive, which is affiliated with the Jerusalem National Library and was extensively used by the author on the spot. These include above all the extensive letter and dispatch change with Herzl, but also several very informative correspondence with the leading Zionists of his time. Then comes the complete and carefully collected and recorded correspondence with his still-living friend Jacobus H. Kann in the Hague, the largest (collection) of them all.

The second source is the testimony of his contemporaries, who in writing and verbally interrogate the author has saved no effort and no travel. The laborious work of Dr. Robinsohn, the private secretary of David Wolfsohn, has been used as an excellent preparatory work by the author with great benefit.

From such source work, which stretched over months and had to be in many cases the most meticulous kind, a picture of personality, time, and the Zionist movement, to which the author added nothing but the depiction he tried to make as vividly as possible, and his love arose to the cause and his friendship for the man, to live in the closest proximity and to enjoy the handling of his fate for almost three years from 1912 to 1914. From this association and his conversations with David Wolffsohn, the author believed he could make a special contribution to writing this book, which he places confidently in the hands of the inclined reader.