Friedmann, Paul

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FRIEDMANN, PAUL (1840–?), philanthropist and author, initiator of a settlement scheme for Jews in Midian. A Protestant of Jewish descent, Friedmann was born in Koenigsberg, Prussia, but the place and year of his death are unknown. After accumulating a vast fortune, he traveled over Europe to gather material for his works, Les Dépêches de G. Michiel, Ambassadeur de Venise en Angleterre pendant les années 1554 à 1557 (1896) and Anne Boleyn – A Chapter of English History 1527–1535, 2 vols. (18852). In 1891 he privately published Das Land Madian (Arabic for Midian), in which he described the possibilities of colonizing this land without mentioning Jews as the prospective settlers. Influenced by the Russian pogroms of the 1880s, he envisioned the unpopulated land of Midian as a haven for the victims of such persecution, and ultimately even as a Jewish state. With the assent of Sir Evelyn Baring (later Lord Cromer), Britain's representative in *Egypt, Friedmann opened negotiations with the British authorities. He simultaneously set out to enlist the first settlers and was finally able to persuade a group of 17 men, 6 women, and 4 children from Austrian Galicia to join his expedition. He acquired a yacht, which he called "Israel," that reached Suez on December 1, 1893, with a total of 46 persons. The Prussian officer in command exercised strictest discipline, which proved unbearable, and 18 persons left the group. After one of them was found dead in the Sinai desert, Friedmann was blamed for the "murder." Leaving the women and children in *Cairo, the group finally reached the Sinai Peninsula and prepared to cross the Red Sea to Midian. News reached them, however, that the Turks had occupied the Midianite city of Dhaba and that in accordance with Turkish law no non-Muslim was permitted to settle in this area, which is part of the Hejaz.

A number of Friedmann's group deserted the camp and arrived in Cairo, spreading gruesome stories about the enterprise. As Friedmann's scheme had been favored by Baring, it was branded in the local press as a British attempt to occupy Midian, and bitter controversies arose between the British and Turkish authorities. Finally Friedmann was compelled to abandon his efforts. He was then a broken man, financially as well as spiritually, and although he brought successful court actions against a number of newspapers that attacked him, the litigation took many years and was, ultimately, of no avail.


O.K. Rabinowicz, in: In Time of Harvest: Essays in Honor of Abba Hillel Silver (1963), 284–319; J. Fraenkel, in: Herzl Year Book, 4 (1961), 67–117; J.M. Landau, in: B. Dinur et al. (eds.), Shivat Ẓiyyon (1950), 169–78; N.M. Gelber, in: ibid., 2–3 (1953), 351–74.

[Oskar K. Rabinowicz]