Licht, Alexander

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LICHT, ALEXANDER (1884–1948), Zionist leader in Yugoslavia. Licht was born in the Croatian village Sokolovac. Except for one year of study in Vienna, he was educated in Zagreb, where he also graduated as a lawyer. He was the founder and spiritual leader of the "Zagreb school" in Yugoslav Zionism, which consisted mainly of young people and intellectuals and transformed the Zagreb community from a center of assimilationism into a dynamic focal point of Zionism. As a young man he was elected chairman of the Jewish youth circle Literarni Sastanci, which soon became a Zionist society. In Vienna he was the chairman of Bar Giora, a Zionist group of students from the areas which became Yugoslavia. He also organized in 1906 the second conference of Jewish academic youth in Osijek and wrote articles on Zionism in the Croatian press that won the sympathy of the gentile intelligentsia. He translated the "Ghetto songs" of Morris Rosenfeld into Croatian and edited the Zionist monthly Židovska Smotra ("Jewish Review"). In 1909 he was elected secretary of the Zionist Organization for the southern Slavic countries (Dalmatia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Slavonia). He served on the front during World War i, and after returning in 1918 he addressed a memorandum to the Yugoslav National Committee expounding the Zionist attitude to the problems arising from the disintegration of the Hapsburg Empire. In 1919 he was instrumental in preventing dangerous frictions between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews and the expulsion of Jews from Bosnia and Vojvodina. Between the world wars, Licht served as chairman of the Zionist Executive and later of the Zionist Organization of Yugoslavia. In 1929 he became a member of the Zionist General Council. In 1941 he was arrested and, after spending several months in prison in Graz, Austria, he wandered from one refugee camp to another in Slovenia, Italy, and Switzerland, where he finally managed to settle with his family. He died in Geneva and in 1955 his remains were transferred to Jerusalem.

[Yakir Eventov]