Auction 48 - Rare and Important Items

December 2, 2015

Collection of Letters and Love-Letters from David Ben-Gurion to Rega Klapholz, 1930s

Opening: $20,000
Collection of handwritten letters by David Ben-Gurion. Sent to Rega Klapholz in Vienna. Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Warsaw, Paris, Athens, Alexandria and other cities, ca.1932-1938. Hebrew and Yiddish.
An interesting collection of letters sent by David Ben-Gurion to Rega Klapholz, a student of medicine in Vienna, with whom Ben-Gurion had an affair in the first half of the 1930s.
The collection comprises nine telegrams and 38 letters handwritten by Ben-Gurion (five letters in Yiddish, the others in Hebrew). In his letters Ben-Gurion tells Klapholz how much he misses her, asks how she was, tells her about his planned trips, tries to set dates with her, and plans her immigration to Eretz Israel. Ben-Gurion wrote the first letters in Yiddish but soon switched to Hebrew and urged Klapholz to learn the language and write to him in Hebrew.
The letters reflect the close relationship which developed between the two during the years 1932-1935 and the intimacy between them which grew over time. One of the highlights of their relationship is evident in a letter dated September 1934, in which Ben-Gurion writes: "it is hard for me to accept the fact that I am in Europe – and so far from you. As much as you want me to come to Vienna – I even want it more. It seems that you still do not know how much 'the stupid little girl' is dear to me and how much I would like to see her and be with her… it would have been good if you were in Jerusalem – this might have been too good. It would have been easy to work during hard times and know that not far from here a dear girl is sitting where, for even a few minutes, you can rest and forget everything—and maybe when you come to the country – I will lose you altogether… it does not matter. I shall be able to love you anyway".
When Ben-Gurion wrote these letters, he was head of Mapai and one of the foremost leaders of the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Israel. In many of these letters Ben-Gurion describes his activities during these years (he mentions, among other things, the Zionist Congress and Zionist meetings and conventions in London, Galicia, Warsaw and other places), and shares with Klapholz his achievements and his difficulties. More than once Ben-Gurion mentions his rivalry with Ze'ev Jabotinsky and the Revisionist Movement.
In a letter dated July 1933, Ben-Gurion writes: "We had a great meeting today in Warsaw – this was the answer to Jabotinsky's cry for blood… the meeting was very successful. There were no disturbances even though more than two thousand people attended. Some Hooligans outside tried to interfere – and were hit… In three days we will start to publish our daily paper 'Dos Vort', in which we will fight revisionism". Shortly afterwards he writes: "I am working very hard now, but it has been a long time since I felt that I have so much energy as in the war that I lead now, and which I believe is a crucial war which we will win. These days I am totally
involved with the daily paper which we publish, ‘Dos Vort’ – I am sending it to you separately – you cannot imagine with how much joy the paper was received by friends…”.
Ben-Gurion mentions, among other topics, the political situation in Austria in view of the ups and downs of the state authorities and the rise of Nazis in Germany. In a letter dated February 1933 he writes: “Dear beloved Rega, for the past three days my heart is with Vienna, with concern, sadness and love… and Vienna this time means: Vienna and also you… the Viennese workers revealed the shame of the German defeat – and what will happen?... my heart was with you all these days – even when I did not write – what did you feel – are you well and healthy? ... can you continue with your studies until you graduate? ... or maybe you should hurry up and come here?”. In another letter from 1933 Ben-Gurion asks Rega to send him Konrad Heiden’s book about the history of National-Socialism in Germany. In a letter dated December 1933 he writes: “how much longer will you stay in Vienna with no Nazis? Will the Austrian social-democracy succeed where the Germans failed? I doubt it. Dollfuss [Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss] will definitely not dare to do what Hitler did, but I doubt he will leave the workers in Vienna alone…”.
It was Yosef Baratz, one of the founders of Degania and emissary of the Histadrut in Vienna, who first introduced Rega to David Ben-Gurion in 1929, during the 16th Zionist Congress in Zurich. Klapholz was then 22 years old, a student in the Faculty of Medicine in Vienna, who came to the congress with her sister (she is also mentioned several times in the letters offered here) in order to meet the Zionist figures whom she admired. In 1932 she wrote to Ben-Gurion and invited him to meet her in Vienna; this is how the romance started. The affair lasted about four years during which they exchanged letters and met whenever possible.
The affair came to an end in 1935, when Klapholz was awarded her diploma, immigrated to Eretz Israel and started to work in Kupat Holim in Tel-Aviv. On July 9th, she visited Ben-Gurion, but she did not know that he still did not return to the country and only his wife, Pola, was home. Pola, who knew about the affair between her husband and Klapholz, avoided an open confrontation. Instead she gave her a souvenir through which she said all that there was to say – three photographs of her with Ben-Gurion on the shore of the Dead Sea. On the reverse she wrote a dedication: “to Rega – from Pola, 9.7.35”. [One of the letters offered here, in which Ben-Gurion invites Rega to meet him in Zurich, was written in 1938 and implies that the relationship between the two did not end entirely in 1935].
Rega (Regina) Klapholz (1907-2007) was born in Poland and moved with her family to Vienna when she was young. As an adolescent she was a member of the Jewish youth movement “Blau-Weiss”; later on she studied in the Vienna School of Medicine. During her studies she continued her Zionist activity and attended Zionist Congresses held in Europe. When she graduated, in 1935, she immigrated to Eretz Israel and worked as a physician in various places in the country. A few years later Klapholz married Avraham Diamant and they settled in Haifa. For additional information about Klapholz see enclosed material.
Lot of 47 items. Letters are handwritten on different papers, some on hotel stationery. One letter is written on official stationery of the Executive of the Zionist Organization. Most of the original envelopes in which the letters were sent are enclosed. Size varies. Overall good condition. Folding marks, stains and tears to some of the letters. · Enclosed are two books by Ben-Gurion, with handwritten dedication to Rega Klapholz:
1. Mima’amad LeAm, P’rakim leberur darka veye’uda shel Tenu’at HaPo’alim. [Hebrew: chapters examining the route and mission of the workers’ movement], Tel-Aviv: “Davar”, spring 1933. Dedication on title page: “to
Rega – from David”.
2. Anachnu Ushecheneinu [Hebrew: we and our neighbors]. Tel-Aviv: “Davar”, 1931. Dedication on title page: “To Rega with friendship from the author”.
For additional information about the relationship between David Ben-Gurion and Rega Klapholz, and about the correspondence between the two, see: Kin’at David, Life of David Ben-Gurion (Hebrew), by Shabtai Tevet. Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, Schocken, 1987. Vol. 3
Rare and Important Items