In September of 1891, Bodenheimer called on the Hovevei Zion societies to form
a world-wide organization: "Zionisten aller Länder
vereinigt euch!" - "Zionists of all countries, unite!"
He established contacts with Hovevei Zion
groups in Berlin Vienna, London and Paris.
In February 1892,
Bodenheimer met David Wolffsohn for the first time.
Together, they founded the "Nationaljüdischer Klub Zion Köln"
(National-Jewish club Zion of Cologne) in 1893. It was a
Tziyon, which was renamed
the Nationaljüdische Vereinigung (National-Jewish
Association) in 1894 and became the basis of the German
Zionist movement. Bodenheimer also participated in
various other Zionist activities in Cologne.
In May 1896,
started the correspondence with Theodor Herzl
and soon joined up with him in
forming the Zionist movement. In July 1897, the
"Nationaljüdische Vereinigung für Deutschland,"
October 1897, it was renamed the Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland." Bodenheimer
served as chairman until 1910.
On 30 August 1897,
Bodenheimer addressed the first Zionist Congress in
Basle. He was elected member of the Action Committee,
which prepared the text of the Basle program, and on
which he served until 1921.
Bodenheimer was a member of the delegation that accompanied Herzl on
his journey to Palestine. They met the German Kaiser
Wilhelm II in Constantinople and Mikveh Israel. In 1899,
when the Zionist organization established the Jewish Colonial
was appointed member of its council and
remained a member throughout his life.
The fifth Zionist
Congress in December 1901 adopted the "Organisationsstatut"
- foundation law - of the Zionist Organization, which
was largely the work of Bodenheimer. He was elected member of the
constitution drafting committee of the
Jewish National Fund and was responsible for its organization and was
initially its director. He was also appointed the Kongressanwalt -
Attorney for the Zionist congress.
Max Bodenheimer was also evidently a
German patriot and had faith in the liberal regime of
the Kaiser. In 1902, Bodenheimer petitioned the Kaiser
to form a league of Eastern European states in Poland,
Lithuania and other areas. This would, he believed, fit
in with German East European Policy, which was to detach
these lands from Russia and thereby reduce the Russian
threat. He persuaded himself, and tried to persuade the
German government, that the Jews would have a natural
affinity for Germany, as they spoke Yiddish. To an
extent, this was undeniably true, since young Jews in
Russia compared their miserable condition to the
splendor of German Jewry, and since they very often came
to Germany to complete their studies.
was an intimate friend of Herzl. Following Herzl's
death, and with the move of
the German Zionist Federation from Cologne to Berlin in
1904, Bodenheimer's position as leader of German Zionism began to
Bodenheimer served as member of the Board of Directors of
Jewish National Fund until 1921, and directed its
activities from Cologne until the outbreak of World War
I in 1914.
Bodenheimer was appointed chairman of a committee
charged with the re-drafting of the Zionist
Organization's constitution. The revised constitution
was adopted by the 10th Zionist Congress in 1911. In 1912,
Bodenheimer visited Palestine for the second time.
After the outbreak
of World War I, Bodenheimer moved the head office of the
Jewish National Fund to The Hague, foreseeing the
problems that would ensue if the fund's headquarters
were not in a neutral country.
In November 1914, Bodenheimer resigned as
chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jewish National Fund. During the war, he initiated the Komitee zur Befreiung der russischen Juden - Committee
for the liberation of the Jews of Russia, (later Komitee
für den Osten - Committee for the East) in order to
improve the situation of the Jewish
population in areas occupied by the German and Austrian
armies. Actually, the program of this committee was
apparently a renewal of the 1902 idea of a Jewish and
German supported league of Eastern European states.
Anti-Semites converted this utopian and naive proposal
into a mythical proposal for a "Judeopolonia" - Poland
to be ruled by Jews, and it reappeared very often in
postwar anti-Semitic propaganda, as well as in more
recent Polish anti-Semitic ideology, such as the 2001
book, "Judeopolonia," by Andrzej Leszek Szcześniak.
Bodenheimer was chairman of the steering committee
for the first post-war Zionist conference in London. At the 12th
Zionist Congress, 1921 in Karlsbad, Bodenheimer was
elected Chairman of the Kongressgericht - Congress
- of the Zionist Organization, but he resigned from his
office in July 1922. In December 1921, Bodeneimer's official
connection with the
Jewish National Fund ended.
Max Bodenheimer's son, Frederick
Simon Bodenheimer, studied entomology. He came on Aliya
to Palestine after completing his studies in Bonn in
1921, and worked in the entomological station of the
Jewish Agency from 1921 to 1928.
In 1926, Bodenheimer visited Palestine for the third time.
In 1928, the
Council of the Jewish Community of Cologne asked him to organize a special Jewish exhibit
International Press Exhibition "PRESSA".
became disillusioned with the compromising policies of Chaim Weizmann
However, when the Revisionists left the Zionist movement
in 1933, Bodenheimer left the Revisionists.
In April 1933,
following the election of the Nazi government in Germany, Max Bodenheimer moved to Amsterdam.
In March, 1936, Max Bodenheimer moved to Jerusalem at
the age of 71, and began to write his memoirs.
Bodenheimer died in Jerusalem on July 19, 1940.
include many pamphlets and articles on Zionism, as well
as a 1933 drama about the life of Jesus and his
memories, published posthumously first in Hebrew (1952)
then in German (1958) and finally in English, as Prelude
to Israel, in 1963. His daughter Hannah published some
of his correspondence.
March 21, 2009