In December 1939, four months after the beginning of World War II, Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky paid a visit to a retired 61-year-old British colonel.
The colonel, Richard Henry Meinertzhagen, served as an advisor at the War Office in London and knew Jabotinsky from his service in the British army in the Land of Israel after the Ottoman era in 1918.
The colonel documented his conversation with the Zionist leader in his private diary, which was published in London in 1959 as a book titled, "Middle East Diary, 1917-1956." Here is a short segment from the conversation:
Jabotinsky: I have brought a plan to bomb Hitler and the entire Nazi leadership.
Meinertzhagen: An ambitious plot.
Jabotinsky: An attainable one.
Meinertzhagen: Do elaborate.
Jabotinsky: A number of high-ranking Nazis in Munich must be assassinated. Their funeral will require the arrival of their senior comrades, including Hitler. Bombs containing 100 kilograms of explosives will be concealed in one of the coffins. As all the Nazis gather around the grave, 100 kilograms of bombs will explode and they'll all move on to the next world.
Meinertzhagen: Who will activatethe bomb system?
Jabotinsky: The Jewish gravedigger in Munich. He's a friend of mine.
The colonel, who was impressed by the plan, presented it to the Foreign Office in London. He concluded this chapter in one short line in his diary: The Foreign Office frowned and the Nazis were saved.
Monday marked the 70th anniversary of Jabotinsky's death, according to the Jewish calendar. He died on August 4, 1940, and his body – along with that of his wife Jeanne – was brought to Israel
and buried on Mount Herzl on July 9, 1964, as specified in his will.
Jabotinsky was a writer and poet, one of the founders of the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in Odessa, and a delegate in Zionist congresses. He created the Zion Mule Corps, which fought against the Turks together with Joseph Trumpeldor. He established the Jewish Legion which fought against the Turks in the Land of Israel and was decorated for bravery for soldiering in the Jordan Valley in 1918. He was one of the founders of the Haganah organization and its commander in the Jerusalem riots. He established the Beitar movement and the Revisionist Movement. He was also an early leader of the militant Zionist underground organization, Irgun.
Colonel Meinertzhagen was an ornithologist and had a passion for bird watching. He liked to travel and was a political commentator and brilliant military strategist. His original diaries comprised 70 volumes and his 376-page book, which summarizes them, was translated into Hebrew by Aharon Amir. The publisher, Dr. Reuven Hecht, received an official thank-you note from Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
In 1920, Colonel Meinertzhagen predicted that a Jewish state would be established 30 years later. He began leaning towards Zionism thanks to Aaron Aaronson, one of the leaders of the Nili espionage network, which worked to end the Ottoman rule in the Land of Israel and was Meinertzhagen's main intelligence provider.
The colonel met Jabotinsky for the first time in 1920, when the latter prepared to defend Jerusalem against Arab riots, but was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
Meinertzhagen turned to the army's chief commander in the Land of Israel, who said he could not intervene in the "work of justice". Meinertzhagen replied, "But you can intervene in the work of injustice." Jabotinsky's punishment was reduced to one year in prison.
They met once again on September 14, 1939, two weeks after the war broke out, and had lunch at the Carlton Hotel in London. The colonel characterized Jabotinsky as a passionate Zionist, a fighter, "undeterred but talented." This time, Jabotinsky presented two additional revolutionary idea, which he also suggested in letters to ministers in Winston Churchill's cabinet.
In December 1939, Jabotinsky suggested a plan to sabotage German oil rigs in the Danube River. According to the Meinertzhagen diaries, the plan was examined in the presence of a several British experts, was deemed successful and led to the destruction of many oil rigs. The diary did not say anything else about the matter.
Jabotinsky, Meinertzhagen wrote, was a wild and enthusiastic Zionist, a great revolutionist, and was always ready for action. He favored power and action over arguments and discussions.
Although Meinertzhagen supported the moderate line led by Chaim Weizmann, Jabotinsky's rival in the Zionist Movement, he did rule that Israel gained victory in 1948 thanks to Jabotinsky's group of Zionist fighters (the Irgun).