Death of Nahum Sokolow Blow to World Jewry
Menu JTA Search

Death of Nahum Sokolow Blow to World Jewry

Download PDF for this date

The death of Dr. Nahum Sokolow, one of the founders of political Zionism, in his seventy-sixth year brought grief today to Jews throughout the world. He was a noted Hebrew scholar and writer and was a leading figure in the Zionist movement.

Dr. Sokolow had not been feeling well, but yesterday morning he breakfasted with his family. He suffered a heart attack in the afternoon and died at 6:15 p.m., with his twin daughters at his bedside. Two other daughters and two sons also survive.

Funeral services were scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday with J.H.Hertz, chief rabbi of the British Empire, delivering an oration at the Willesden cemetery at noon. A memorial service will be held at the Great Synagogue in the evening.

From the first Zionist congress in Basle in 1897 until his death, when after many years as president he was serving as honorary president of the World Zionist Organization, Dr. Sokolow was in the front ranks of Zionist leaders. So all-embracing was his nationalist philosophy that he could not see world peace permanently established without the return of the Jews to Palestine. He envisioned a world League of Nations with headquarters in Jerusalem.

Dr. Sokolow was founder and editor of the year book, “Ha-asif,” and its successor, “Hashanah,” in Warsaw. He also edited a biographical dictionary of Jewish writers, wrote several textbooks and contributed to numerous publications. He was regarded as an authority on the Hebrew language and many phases of Jewish life. His history of Zionism is regarded as the standard work on the subject.

To myriad services he rendered the Jewish people, there was added after the World War his work as chairman of the Committee of Jewish Delegations which succeeded in obtaining from the Versailles Peace Conference treaties recognizing the minority rights of Jews in European countries. It was at the versailles conference, too, that Dr. Sokolow aided in obtaining the endorsement of the statesmen of the world for the Jewish homeland.

Born in Wyszograd, Poland, in 1861, Dr. Sokolow at the age of twenty-three was a member of the editorial staff of Hazefira, Hebrew daily Zionist newspaper. Shortly afterward he became its editor-in-chief and in this capacity was instrumental in the creation of modern Hebrew journalism.

He joined the Zionist movement after the first congress in Basle and after the death of Dr. Theodor Herzl in 1905, he became general secretary of the Zionist Organization at Cologne under David Wolffsohn. In 1909 he accompanied Wolffsohn to Constantinople on a political mission.

Interspersing his organization activities with the editing of the Zionist organ, Die Welt, and the official Hebrew Zionist organ, Haolom, Dr. Sokolow was elected in 1911 to the executive of the World Zionist Organization. From then on he assumed an increasingly important role in guiding the destinies of the young Zionist movement.

During the World War Dr. Sokolow took up residence in London and, together with Dr. Chaim Weizmann and Jechiel Tschlenow, set in motion the large-scale political activity for inclusion of Zionist demands in Great Britain’s peace negotiations. This culminated in issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

At the first Zionist conference after the war — held in London in 1920 — Dr. Sokolow was elected president of the World Zionist Executive and filled this post until 1931 when he became president of the World Zionist Organization, a position he held until last year, when he became honorary president of the organization.

His frequent trips to various countries in behalf of the Zionist cause gained for Dr. Sokolow the soubriquet, “Ambassador of Zionism.” He visited the United States several times, first in 1913, and last during the Winter of 1931-2. Two years ago he flew from Palestine to South Africa to collect funds for the Zionist endeavor. Next month he was to have visited the Argentine.

Dr. Sokolow married in 1876 while still a student in Poland.

While Dr. Sokolow’s erudition and astuteness made him a respected figure among the governments he interviewed in his frequent rounds as the unofficial Zionist ambassador, what contributed perhaps even more to his success was his tact and personal charm. Among the men he interviewed was the President of the United States.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund