Inside Kishinev’s Pogrom: Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Michael Davitt, and the Burdens of Truth

Brandeis University Press
Book Chapter - Steven Zipperstein

Chaim Weizmann’s Trial and Error, his grand, lyrical autobiography of the late 1940s, returns repeatedly to lessons learned from the 1903 Kishinev pogrom. It offered him, he writes, the first glimpse of what the new century might have in store for Jews in Europe and also Palestine: “I had some experience with the atmosphere that precedes pogroms,” he recalls telling Palestine High Commissioner Herbert Samuel in 1920. It would forever remind Weizmann of how inconceivable it was for him, despite his desire to pursue chemistry research, to avoid the political fray. Describing himself in the wake of the Palestinian riots of 1929: “I found it in fact I had found it impossible in an earlier crisis that which followed the Kishinev pogrom and other pogroms thirty years before – to abstract myself....from Jewish life.” (1)