Edited by: Caute, David
Maurice L. Perlzweig (1895-1985) was the eldest son of an immigrant Jewish cantor and musical composer. The young Maurice gained degrees at UCL and Christ's College, Cambridge. Having abandoned Orthodox Judaism, he became second minister at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John's Wood, also serving at its North London affiliate until 1938 when he was appointed minister at the North-Western Reform Synagogue (the 'Alyth'). Perlzweig is an edited version of 15 autobiographical interviews he gave to the Columbia Oral History Project in 1981-82. Although always a synagogue minister, Perlzweig was by nature a political activist, lobbyist and organiser, with a flair for converting English aristocrats to Judaism. Here he recalls his encounters with leading figures of the inter-war era, including Chaim Weizmann, Albert Einstein, Oswald Mosley, Lewis Namier, T.E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, R.A. Butler, Viscount Melchett, Eva, Lady Reading, Jan Smuts, Charles de Gaulle, the Roosevelts, Rabbi Stephen Wise and Nahum Goldmann. His vividly described missions to the anti-Semitic regimes in Romania and Poland were both remarkable and divisive. Frequently he defied leading figures in the Board of Deputies, such as Neville Gaster, and the Anglo-Jewish establishment. In 1940 he departed with his family for America, serving as the World Jewish Congress's Director of International Affairs. During the war years Perlzweig negotiated in the (contentious) belief that the Franco regime in Spain offered the best hope of providing escape to Jewish refugees. For this he was later to come under attack.