October 27, 1944

Chaim Weizmann Writes to Orde Wingate’s Widow about a Memorial for Wingate at Hebrew University in Jerusalem

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From the moment he met him in Jerusalem, Weizmann felt that Orde Wingate was a marvel: powerful, spiritual and, in his intensity, whimsicality and originality, remarkably like T.E. Lawrence. This was an apt comparison, for, like Lawrence, he was a brilliant and inspiring leader - and, in his capacity as the organizer of a Jewish guerilla force, was soon to earn the sobriquet “the Lawrence of Judea.” His 1939 removal from Palestine for his arch-Zionism was a blow, and his death in battle, in Burma, in 1944, an irreparable loss to the British Army, to the Jewish cause, and to Weizmann personally.
 
Here Weizmann writes to Wingate’s young widow, Lorna, about a proposed memorial to her husband to be built at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Before she approaches Churchill to be a sponsor of the appeal to raise funds (see Churchill to Wingate, March 14, 1945), Weizmann suggests that she get her ducks all in a row: there is some politicking to be done, he explains – and he is the man to do it.
 
But I feel it would be a grave mistake, and might injure the whole effort, if a public appeal were to be launched now, without our having secured the formal assent of at least two bodies: The Board of Governors of the University, and the Executive of the Jewish Agency. The J.A. Execu­tive can easily be consulted in the matter, and I offered to do it as soon as I reach Jerusalem - which will be very soon indeed now. As to the Board of Governors, which is really the only body competent to take the actual decision, and the responsibility, in such a matter, it is somewhat disper­sed at present: quite a number of the members are in England; a number of others are in Palestine, and the rest in America. Again, I thought that when I get to Palestine I could get the Palestinian members to approve the project, and it would then be easy to line up the people in England and - by telegram - those in America. If the Executive, Lord Samuel, myself and the Palestinian members of the Board agree to something, it is likely to go through.

Weizmann adds that it is premature to assume the memorial would take the form of naming the Central Hall after Wingate. But he thinks they will feel, as he does, that one of “the main buildings of the University – the Hall or another – should bear Orde’s name,” and he is prepared to do his utmost to further such a project.

Typed Letter Signed (“Chaim”), with a five word autograph emendation, pages, recto and verso, quarto, 77 Great Russell Street, London, October 27, 1944. To Lorna Wingate.

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Transcript

77, Great Russell Street W.C .1
27th October, 1944.

My dear Lorna,

I feel I must write to you on a matter which I am afraid may be causing you some worry and distress  - just as it is me. The last thing I would wish to do, as I hope you know, is to add to your troubles in any way. But I am really anxious that whatever is undertaken to honour Orde's memory among us should be properly done, and in such a way as to cause no friction, and even no unnecessary discussion.

I am quite sure that Dr. Senator acted with the best intentions, but surely he has been rather precipitate? A few days ago, Norman Bentwich sent me the appeal - already signed by Lord Samuel - with a request that I also should sign it. He mentioned that you were prepared to ask the P.M. to support it. According to the appeal, and to Bentwich's statement, the funds collected from Jews and Gentiles would go towards the erection of a Central Hall for the University, on which work would start at the end of the war, as part of the University's extension programme. While Sena­tor was here, he spoke to me of many things connected with the University, and mentioned casually that he had seen you, and that you would like to see Orde's name associated with the University - a wish I understood very well, and myself share. He may in passing have said something about the Central Hall, but as the whole extension programme is merely a tentative project now being elaborated in Jerusalem (and has thus yet to be submit­ted to the Board of Governors), I fear I did not pay too much attention to it. I did, however, take note of what you wanted, and I shall certainly do all I can to give effect to it.

But I feel it would be a grave mistake, and might injure the whole effort, if a public appeal were to be launched now, without our having se-cured the formal assent of at least two bodies: The Board of Governors of the University, and the Executive of the Jewish Agency. The J.A. Execu­tive can easily be consulted in the matter, and I offered to do it as soon as I reach Jerusalem - which will be very soon indeed now. As to the Board of Governors, which is really the only body competent to take the actual decision, and the responsibility, in such a matter, it is somewhat disper­sed at present: quite a number of the members are in England; a number of others are in Palestine, and the rest in America. Again, I thought that when I get to Palestine I could get the Palestinian members to approve the project, and it would then be easy to line up the people in England and - by telegram - those in America. If the Executive, Lord Samuel, myself and the Palestinian members of the Board agree to something, it is likely to go through.

There is, however, the danger that the whole project may arouse sore opposition and friction if these people are not consulted in advance, and frankly I am amazed at Senator's action in this regard. Nor can I see that there is such need for very great haste at present: we can get the whole thing through properly by Christmas, as I have explained in detail to Bentwich.

I would like to make it clear that of course I do not know whether the Board and the Executive will adopt the project of a Central Hall; nor whether they will feel that building is possible in present circumstances. But I think they will feel - as I certainly do - that one of the main buildings of the University - the Hall or another - should bear Orde's name, and I am prepared to do my utmost to further such a project. I do believe, however, that the small delay I have suggested is essential if we wish to avoid unnecessary trouble and discussion later, which I am sure would be neither your wish, nor Orde's, nor that of any of us who cherish his memory. I do hope I have made clear what I am trying to do, and that you will understand that I am endeavouring to help - and not just raising difficulties.

We shall be leaving very soon now. Of course I shall keep you informed of what is happening when we get there, and remain, as ever,

Affectionately yours,

CHAIM

My best love to Mother

I did get - and appreciate - your letter.