Central Zionist Archives – Jerusalem
Old Members Trust Travel Grant Report – Aaron Simons, History and Politics
I can happily report that my trip to the Central Zionist Archives (CZA) in Jerusalem was a great success.
For my undergraduate thesis in history, I am investigating how British Zionism responded to Nazi persecution of Continental Jewry, with particular focus on the Holocaust, from the British White Paper in 1939 to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1949. The archives of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland are held in Jerusalem, necessitating my visit.
The visit was certainly a fruitful one. I pulled up the documents of every ZF Conference from 1939 to 1949, which included detailed minutes and copies of speeches by prominent figures such as Chaim Weizmann, Moshe Sharett, Selig Brodetsky, Israel Sieff and Simon Marks. Contrary to some of the historiography on this topic, I found a significant level of awareness of the Holocaust amongst Anglo-Zionism, and some highly emotional responses as well as some more pragmatic and political ones.
The material found will constitute a major part of my thesis, which I hope to be a real contribution to the historiography of British Zionism. There is only one major work on the period I am covering, which gives only a cursory glance to the interaction between Anglo-Zionist ideology and Nazi persecution. Thanks to my visit to the CZA, I now have the archival material to add to this surprisingly under-studied area of historical scholarship.
On a personal level, I found the visit highly rewarding too. As a joint schools student of History and Politics, I have had comparatively few opportunities to get to grips with primary sources. The visit to Jerusalem really allowed me to get to grips with archival material and hone my skills in this department. None of this would have been possible without visiting the CZA.
It was a real privilege to visit the archives and one that was only possible due to the generosity of the College travel grant. I am extremely grateful to the Trustees of the College for providing me with this opportunity and extend my sincerest thanks to them.
Published: 18 July 2016
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