Blumel, André

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BLUMEL, ANDRÉ (1893–1973), French Zionist leader. Blumel's original name was Blum, but he changed it on his appointment as chef de cabinet in the government of his namesake, Léon *Blum (1936–37). Born in Paris, he studied law and literature at the Sorbonne. He was active from his youth in the Socialist movement, where he was influenced by Léon Blum and formed a close relationship with him, but he took no interest in Jewish affairs until after World War ii. During the war he was arrested by the Vichy government, but succeeded in escaping and making his way to Spain.

After the liberation of France, under the influence of Joseph (Fisher) Ariel, Blumel became interested in Zionism and was appointed president of the Keren Kayemet in France. As a result of his many connections with the Ministry of the Interior, he was able to be of great help in the *Beriḥah and "illegal" immigration of Jews via France, His friend Edouard Dépreux, whom he served as chef de cabinet when the latter was minister of the interior, nominated him as his personal representative in Marseilles when the immigrant boat Exodus anchored at Port de Bouc, and it was due to his efforts that the French Government refused to disembark the passengers by force, despite pressure by the Foreign Ministry. Together with Marc *Jarblum, he acted as liaison between Chaim *Weizmann and Léon Blum in the struggle for the emergence of the State.

Blumel became secretary general and subsequently president of the French Zionist Federation in the 1950s, but differences of opinion developed between him and the Zionist parties as a result of his leftist tendencies in the internal politics of the country. He remained in close contact with the communists even when they adopted an extreme anti-Zionist policy, in the belief that he would persuade them to adopt a more favorable attitude to Zionism and Israel. Lacking a Jewish background, and out of tune with the Jewish masses, he regarded the relationship between Zionists and Jewish communists as comparable to those between political parties in France, and believed that reconciliation and cooperation was possible between them. Widespread criticism of his articles in the Jewish communist press caused him to resign from the Zionist Federation.

Blumel was president of the U.S.S.R.-France Friendship League and paid a number of visits to Moscow and other communist countries at their invitation. Although he tried to intervene with their governments, especially that of the U.S.S.R., on the Jewish question, he was easily convinced by them, and his many statements to the effect that there was no anti-Jewish discrimination in the U.S.S.R. and that Jews had no need for Jewish education roused the anger of Jewish leaders in France. Despite the fact that none of the promises made to him by the Soviet authorities were implemented, he continued to believe in their goodwill.

Apart from serving as legal adviser to the Israel Embassy and the Jewish Agency in France, Blumel took no further active part in Jewish life, and after the Six-Day War published articles vehemently attacking the policy of the Israel government. Although out of line in Jewish communal life, the important part that he played in the Exodus affair and the fact that he was the first to attract the old French Jews to Zionism are to his credit.

[Jacob Tsur]