Haim Arlosoroff

Haim Arlosoroff (sitting, center) at a meeting with Arab leaders at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, 1933. Also pictured are Chaim Weizmann (to Arlosoroff's right), Moshe Shertok (Sharett) (standing, right) and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (standing, to Shertok's right).

Haim Arlozoroff (1899 — 1933) (Hebrew: חיים ארלוזורוב‎) was a Zionist leader in Palestine during the era of the British Mandate for Palestine and head of the political department of the Jewish Agency. Arlosoroff was assassinated while walking on the beach in Tel Aviv in 1933.



Haim Arlozoroff was born in Romny, Ukraine on February 23, 1899. Anti-Semitism forced his family to leave his birthplace and to settle in Berlin, Germany following a pogrom in 1905. This is where Haim grew up and went to school; later, being very interested in economics, he studied at the University of Berlin where he received a doctorate in that subject. While he was attending the university, Arlozoroff wrote articles on Zionist matters, such as getting money to the settlers in Palestine, and planning a program of cooperation between Jews and Arabs. While still in Germany, in 1918, he co-founded Ha-Po'el ha-Tza'ir, a party which attracted many intellectuals of the time.

After finishing his studies he left Germany for the British Mandate of Palestine in 1924. In 1926 he was chosen to represent the yishuv at the League of Nations in Geneva.

Political career

Arlozoroff became a leader of Mapai, the most important Jewish political party of the time, and was a close friend of the Jewish scientist and statesman, Haim Weizmann. His talents were recognized early, and Arlozoroff was soon appointed head of the political department of the Jewish Agency. At first he believed that the British would help settling Jews in Palestine, so he worked with the British government which was in charge of running that territory. Soon Arlozoroff came to feel that the British could not be trusted and that the Jews must risk angering them in order to rebuild their own homeland and save the Jews of Europe from the nationalist and authoritarian regimes under which they lived, especially in Nazi Germany.

Ha'avara agreement

At this point, Haim Arlozoroff visited Nazi Germany to negotiate the controversial Ha'avara Agreement with the Nazi government, an agreement which allowed for the emigration of Jews to Palestine along with most of their property. The Nazis were happy to get rid of Jews, but unwilling to allow them to take their property with them. Via this agreement, the Jews had to put their money into a special bank account. This money was then used to purchase German goods for export to Palestine (and other countries). The proceeds of the sale of these goods were given to the Jews on their arrival in Palestine. For the Nazis, this helped them get rid of Jews, while overcoming any attempts at a boycott of Nazi exports (especially from a moral point of view - it was the Jews themselves importing the goods). For the Zionist settlement, this huge influx of capital gave a much-needed economic boom in the midst of worldwide depression.


On 16 June 1933, just two days after his return from negotiations in Germany, Haim Arlozoroff was murdered. He was killed while walking with his wife Sima on a beach in Tel Aviv. The death of Arlozoroff greatly aggravated political relations within the Zionist movement. Abba Ahimeir, the head of an activist group with fascist tendencies[1], the Brit HaBirionim, was charged by the Palestine Police Force with plotting the assassination. Ahimeir was also a leader of the nationalist Zionist Revisionist faction whose publication, "Hazit HaAm" continuously attacked the Labor movement and Zionist leaders, including Arlosoroff, calling him with names and stating that the Jewish people "will know how to react to such villains". Two rank-and-file Revisionists, Abraham Stavsky and Ze'evi Rosenblatt, were arrested as the actual murderers and were identified by Arlosoroff's widow. All three vehemently denied the accusation.

The district court acquitted Ahimeir and Rosenblatt but convicted Stavsky, who, however, was eventually acquitted by the Supreme Court for lack of corroborating evidence, as the law then required. The defense accused the police of manipulating the widow’s testimony and other evidence for political reasons, and expounded the theory that the murder was connected to an intended sexual attack on Sima Arlozoroff by two young Arabs. Stavsky later rose within Irgun ranks and was responsible for the procurement of the Irgun arms vessel known as the "Altalena." He was killed in the altercation involving the control of the arms with the newly established Israel Defense Forces on the Beach of Tel Aviv.

In addition to the theories that people connected to the revisionist movement are the perpetrators of murder and that it was an intended sexual attack by two Arabs there are theories connecting it to the Soviet and Nazi regimes. One involves the Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels: During the first world war, Magda Behrend, who later became the wife of Joseph Goebbels, met and became close friends with Lisa Arlosoroff, Haim Arlosoroff's sister. The nature of her relationship with Haim Arlozoroff is unknown. Magda married Goebbels on 19 December 1931, with Adolf Hitler as a witness. A year and a half later, Arlozoroff went to Germany to negotiate the Ha'avarah (transfer) agreement with high Nazi officials. The theory is that with Haim Arlosoroff's personal involvement in the negotiations, Goebbels took notice of his wife's former Jewish friend and sought to erase what might have been an embarrassment for the Goebbelses. Magda's former Jewish stepfather, Richard Friedländer, was arrested on Goebbels orders and died in the concentration camp in 1938. The Soviet connection was promoted by Shmuel Dothan in 1991 to counter what the Soviet considered as a global military plot against them.[2]

Arlosoroff's grave in Trumpeldor Cemetery, Tel Aviv

For years figures belonging to the right-wing claimed to be wrongfully accused by Mapai of being responsible for Arlosoroff's death. About fifty years after the murder, following the publication of a book on the assassination by Shabtai Teveth in 1982[3], the Israeli government, now led by Menachem Begin, established a formal investigative committee. It was led by the former High court of Justice Judge David Bachor. Its purpose was to decide whether Rosenblatt and Stavsky were responsible for assassinating Arlosoroff, or not. The committee decided unanimously that Rosenblatt and Stavsky had nothing to do with the murder. The committee was inconclusive about the identity of the real murderers or whether or not the murder was politically motivated.

Legacy and commemoration

Arlozoroff is buried at the "Trumpeldor Cemetery" in Tel Aviv. Arlozoroff's memory is honored today by the many streets named after him throughout the towns of Israel and in the names of several places in Israel: Kiryat Haim, a large neighborhood of Haifa, Giv'at Haim, a kibutz and Kfar Haim, a moshav.


  1. ^ Nachman Ben-Yehuda, The Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1995, page 139.
  2. ^ Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Political Assassinations by Jews, SUNY Press, 1993, pages 140-143.
  3. ^ Shabtai Teveth, Rezach Arlosoroff, Schocken, 1982 (in Hebrew).


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