In writing this chapter I have before me two photographs, the first showing King George Vth with the Czar of Russia in 1913. The Czar was King George’s cousin. The second photograph shows King George Vth with the Kaiser of Germany, also taken in 1913. And the Kaiser was also his cousin. In that year the King was not to know the fate that would overtake his family and Europe in just a short while.
King George’s cousin the Kaiser was to become his (political) enemy, which was very hurtful to the King. But this family tie was insufficient to prevent hostilities. In 1917 the Kaiser abdicated. It was the end of a dynastic era, where the rulers of Germany andPrussia had used, in the title “Kaiser” the modern form of the ancient title “Cæsar”.
And the King felt that the Czar of Russia could not be offered sanctuary in Britain at the time of the Bolshevik revolution and Communist take-over in 1917. He later regretted this, when the Czar and his family were assassinated the following year. It is recorded that the King said, “I had tears in my eyes – and still have – when he spoke of the vindictive and unnecessary murder of the poor Czar, and I was moved to deepest admiration by his revolt over this alien stunt.” And so yet another title, “Czar”, that was derived from “Cæsar” vanished from national usage.
In that same year, 1917, King George realised that his family connections with the Kaiser of Germany, and the title of his own house, “Saxe-Coburg-Gotha”, with its Teutonic ring, was causing bad reactions in Britain, due to the war. He called in the heads of the Royal College of Heralds, who advised him that the choice of a new title lay between “Wipper” and “Wettin”. Happily he rejected both! Instead he chose the title WINDSOR, and so a new dynasty began on 17th day of July 1917, THE HOUSE OF WINDSOR.
Later in that year three other events of great significance occurred. The first was on the 2nd of November, when the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, sent a letter to Lionel Walter, 2nd Baron Rothschild, chairman of the British Zionist Federation, declaring the government’s official recognition of the Zionist aspirations, in establishing Palestine as a national home for the Jews. The letter promised British aid to Zionists. The actual wording of the letter contained this sentence–
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
The letter was issued through the continued efforts of Chaim Weizmann and NahumSokolow, Zionist leaders in London, but it fell short of what they had asked for, namely the reconstitution of Palestine as “the” Jewish national home.
Balfour’s objective was written into the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (dated 24th July 1922) and which was formally implemented on 29th September 1923. And so, nearly 20 years after the death of Theodor Herzl in 1904, his dream looked as though it was being established as fact.
The second important factor occurred on December 9th 1917, when General Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem and took the city from the Turk, without a single shot being fired. The following year he won a sweeping victory over the Turks atMegiddo. He said that he wanted to present Jerusalem to the British as a “Christmas present.” From that day until May 1948, Palestine became a British mandated territory, and all the promises made earlier by Balfour were wiped away at a stroke. What at first appeared as a great victory, was seen in another light by some observers. I have already mentioned that the date was significant according to Daniel’s prophecy of the 1335 days, in that 1917 was also the 1335th year of the Moslem calendar.
These two events, being just a few weeks apart, caused a new surge of Zionist nationalism amongst Jewish people the world over. The war had taken its toll of Jews, like everyone else in Europe. The total number of Jews killed in the war has been estimated at 140,000, the majority being Russians.
The third event was, of course, the Russian revolution, dated 7th November on the Gregorian calendar, but called the “October Revolution” because in Russia they still used the Old Style Calendar. Now Lenin was deeply sensitive to the sufferings of Russian Jewry under the Czarist regime, and when the revolution broke, all restrictive and oppressive anti-Jewish legislation was swept away at a stroke. This was of course welcomed by Jews of all persuasions. Even the Bolshevik seizure of power eight months later was not at first perceived as a danger, since the Bolshevik leaders had affirmed their sympathy for the Jews, and indeed some of them were Jews themselves. But the new party failed to eradicate anti-Jewish prejudice in Russia, and to it they added their own ideologically motivated persecution of the Jewish religion, and the “counter-revolutionary” Zionist movement. Hence the great contribution to Russia, brought about by the loss of patriotic Jewish manpower during the war, was not remembered with sympathy, but swept away in the rising tide of the new communist oppression.
1917 appeared therefore as a year of release for the Jews, and Britain was in the lead of the countries favouring the settlement of the Jews in Palestine. But in Arthur Balfour’s day it didn’t produce insuperable problems for the government. It was an idea, adeclaration, that envisaged action at some future time. When that time came, Britain behaved in a manner that caused permanent shame to the nation.