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BLUM, LEON (1872-1950).

French statesman, three-time premier of France, socialist leader, and writer. Blum’s father was a wealthy Alsatian merchant whose four sons grew up with a good Jewish background. Young Leon studied law, and by the age of 22 was a distinguished poet and writer. The Dreyfus case stirred Blum deeply, and he became active in the defense of the Jewish officer accused of treason by the French Army. In the course of this work in 1896, he met Jean Jaures, famous leader of the French Socialists. Under his influence, Blum joined the Socialist movement, and by the end of World War I he had become the outstanding leader of the Socialist party. From 1919 onward, Blum served in the Chamber of Deputies almost continuously. From 1936 to June 1937 and again in 1938, he was premier of France.

Under the threat of the growing Nazi power in Germany, the French Socialist Party joined the Communists in a Popular Front coalition during the late 1930’s. Blum successfully opposed all efforts at a merger with the Communists. During World War II, when Nazi Germany ruled France through the puppet Vichy government, Blum was imprisoned and brought to trial for treason in Riom. With remarkable courage, Leon Blum faced his accusers as “a Socialist among Fascists, a Jew among antisemites,” and turned accuser himself. He showed so effectively that the appeasers were the real traitors of France that the Vichy government stopped the trial. Blum was transferred from the French prison to a German concentration camp; at the approach of the Allied armies, he was sent to a camp in Italy. Then in his seventies, he managed to stay alive until the Allied victory brought his freedom in 1945. France immediately put him into public service again, and in the spring of 1946, he came to the U.S. on a mission for his country. In December of that year, he again became premier of France. Leon Blum always identified himself closely with Jewish causes and repeatedly aided Zionism. In 1929 in Zurich, he participated in forming the enlarged Jewish Agency for Palestine. The halutzim of Palestine were grateful to Leon Blum. On November 10, 1943, while he was behind the barbed wire of a concentration camp, a kibbutz in northern Galilee was named after him: Kfar Blum.

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