Saturday, 22 March 2008

Letter 4 - February 03, (1919)

Hyde Park Hotel, Knightsbridge, London

Dear Family,-

All safely arrived in “Good Old England” and happy.

Saturday eve we anchored in Falmouth harbour and Sunday noon, after a careful inspection of credentials, we clambered onto a little tender and were brought ashore. En route we passed several captured U boats- evil looking camouflaged monsters with huge guns mounted fore and aft. We landed beside a dry dock which held several torpedoed and mined steamers.

Ashore there was very little inspection of baggage- we merely claimed our own and stated that it contained nothing unlawful. It was then loaded onto a special train and travelled with us to London City.

Unfortunately we did not get started until about four o’clock- unfortunately because the country- Cornwall- is most picturesque. The land gives the impression of extreme age,- covered with warped old trees, ruins of old stone houses, impressive medieval churches, and occasional villages. These villages compare to none I’ve seen. They are entirely of stone- grey and black- and are never more than one room high; except for the inevitable church.

We arrived at London at midnight- having had a progressive supper at every waystation. We were met by Louis Robison* and several others to whom we had wired when we cabled you and he had made our reservations. With trunks we arrived here shortly after and Dr. Friedenwald and I together went to bed- together in one room, of course. The silence, the extremely impressive quietness, kept me awake for some little time.

This morning at nine we arose, breakfasted without sugar and only one lump of butter, and spent an hour looking vainly for a taxi. The streets are filled with uniforms- the war is not over. There is a subway strike, and the buses are all overcrowded. Finally we got a taxi and visited Shmaryahu Levin* who is in town. We spent a very pleasant hour with him- he is a rabid enthusiast and a beautiful talker. We then went to the Zionist headquarters where we had a conference with the powers what be here and briefly outlined our aims. The political aspects of the problem were keenly contested by Mr. Szold who is trying to establish some permanent executive body with definite powers in Palestine. The English compatriots have depended largely on the activity of isolated individuals to act in Palestine; and when these men leave, an entirely new regime takes political change and the results is not all to be desired.

The English govt. has, it seems, shown signs of its extreme willingness to accept the “trusteeship” as desired. And the established boundaries are apparently far beyond what had been hoped for.

After the meeting the five of us- Miss Shapiro, Dr. Rubinow. Mr. Szold, Dr. Friedenwald and myself with Mr. Robison and Dr. De Sola Pool*, who leaves in three days for Palestine via the Medit. And Egypt with his wife and child- had lunch together.

After lunch we visited the British Passport Office- a new institution- where we were informed that the various visas were no good and new ratifications were required from all consulates. This will undoubtedly delay us a little- and I don’t regret an opportunity to see a little of this ponderous old town. It is possible that in spite of all, we will have to make the direct trip to Egypt via boat anyway.

The afternoon was wasted over the passport question and late in the evening another conference took place wherein the power of those of us going to Palestine was discussed in a very satisfactory manor. It appears that Dr. Friedenwald has the complete confidence of all concerned and will be allowed to work unmolested.

After supper we visited Mr Cowan*, an active Zionist who lives in the neighbourhood. He was in America in 1904 and no doubt you, Father, were present at dinner by Dr. F. for him. He made a most unfavourable impression at the time for he has a most unpleasant personality- but is actually a hard worker and a real power in England.

We have arrived here just too late to have to use those novelties of war- the meat and sugar cards. They are apparently just passing out of existence. But I’m drinking coffee without sugar!

In all the neighbouring parks are countless trophies of war- from little trench mortars to giant howitzers and long range field pieces. Looking at them in various stages of rust and dilapidation, it is hard to realize that several months ago some of them were playing an active part on the western front.

The renowned London fog has proved no disappointment to me. During the day it is an impenetrable barrier in all directions; and at night with only a few street lamps burning it casts a weird and ghastly cloak over everything. Walking out of doors one unconsciously lowers one’s voice and speaks almost in whispers.

It’s nearly midnight and we must be up by eight tomorrow to register at nine at the Police Station- a requirement of all transients.

Lots of love,


Robison, Louis:- New York City; father of Rudolf’s Zionist colleague, Al.

Levin, Shmaryahu::- b. Russia 1867 – d. Haifa 1935; brilliant writer, speaker, publicist for Zionism all over the Jewish world; during his enforced stay in the U.S.A during W.W.1, won over Jacob Schiff to Zionism.

Pool, Dr. David De Sola:- b. London 1885 – d. New York City 1960s; Rabbi of Shearith Israel in New York (Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue); President of Young Judea 1915-1919; Member of Zionist Commission in Palestine 1919-1921; wife, Tamar.

Cowan – probably Joseph Cowen:- b. England 1868 – d. London 19321; British Zionist activist; founder of the Jewish Colonial Trust, 1919.

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