||A biographical study of David Wolffsohn by Adolf Friedemann (1871-1932). The cover of the pamphlet has a picture of palm trees surrounded by the words (in Hebrew) – One G-d, one people, one land, one language (which was Wolffsohn's slogan).
David Wolfsohn (1856–1914) was the second president of the World Zionist Organization. Born in Dorbiany, Russian Lithuania, Wolffsohn received a religious education. In 1873 his parents sent him to live with his brother in Memel (now Klaipeda) in order to avoid conscription to the czarist army. He studied at a talmud torah under Rabbi Isaac Ruelf, who later became one of the leading forerunners of the Hibbat Zion movement, and who very much influenced Wolfsohn. At an early age Wolffsohn began to earn his living in Loebau, East Prussia, and in Lyck, where he made the acquaintance of David Gordon, the editor of the Hebrew newspaper Ha-Maggid and one of the first proponents of Hibbat Zion. He moved from place to place and worked at various jobs, at one time even as a peddler. He finally settled down in the timber trade, first working for others, and later independently, becoming prosperous.
Wolfsohn was one of many whose latent sympathy for the Zionist idea was fired by the appearance of Der Judenstaat. He met Herzl in the autumn of 1896, was immediately captivated, and promised his assistance, especially in matters of finance. From then on he was Herzl's constant companion, and is one of those most frequently mentioned in Herzl's diaries. His imagination was set aflame by Herzl's political vision, which, despite Wolffsohn's habitual reserve and cultivated image as a "businessman," motivated him throughout.
It was only after Wolffsohn's death that his personality and work were fully appreciated. Only then was he recognized, even by his opponents, as a man of the people who had risen from the ranks by virtue of decades of devoted work. He was also a symbol of the synthesis between East and West, combining the best qualities of both European Jewish communities. His good nature, however, made him an easy prey for all those who considered Herzl's successor fair game for any treatment they cared to mete out to him. This was the source of the tragic quality that permeated the period of his leadership of the Zionist Movement.