Berman Berman, Natalio

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BERMAN BERMAN, NATALIO (1907–1959), Chilean politician and Zionist leader. Born in Podolia (Russia), Berman immigrated to Chile in 1915 when he was eight years old. His family settled in Valparaíso, where he graduated from high school. From early childhood he demonstrated his qualities as a leader, organizing the Jewish youth of the small community of Valparaíso. At the age of 15 he was named a delegate from Valparaíso to the Zionist Congress of Chile. He studied medicine at the University of Santiago, working as an assistant in anatomy. During his studies he engaged in broad communal activity, founding the periodical Nosotros, which became the organ of the entire Chilean Jewish community. He was active in merging the four existing Jewish youth groups into one organization – the Asociación de Jóvenes Israelitas (aji).

In 1930 Berman was elected president of the Federación Sionista de Chile. After his graduation in medicine he moved to Concepción, continuing his Jewish communal activities. At the same time, however, he was extremely active among the poor Chilean classes, starting his political career in the n.a.p. (Nueva Acción Pública), which later united with the Socialist Party.

In 1936 Berman led a public campaign against higher taxes, as a consequence of which the government exiled him to a remote island in the south of Chile and revoked his Chilean citizenship. This act provoked the general indignation among the Chilean public, and the Parliament passed a law restoring Berman's Chilean citizenship.

In 1937 Berman was elected a member of Parliament for Concepción. During his term of office, which lasted until 1949, he was very active in the struggle against Nazism and in obtaining entry permits for Jewish refugees. Berman participated in the Popular Front government. In 1941 he withdrew from the Socialist Party, forming the Partido Socialista de Trabajadores (Socialist Workers' Party), which later united with the Communist Party. He abandoned the cp, however, due to Stalin's antisemitic policy. Throughout his political career he continued his activities on behalf of the Jewish community.

[Moshe Nes El (2nd ed.)]