Shmuel was the seventh of the Weizmann children (Rachel Leah had given birth to fifteen children, of whom twelve reached adulthood). Unconvinced by his older brother Chaim’s Zionist ideas, he was a “socialist” who joined the anti-Zionist Bund movement and entered into passionate arguments with Chaim.
Shmuel’s grandson, the geophysicist Dr. Azary Gamburtsev, who lives in Moscow, has discovered that the bodies of Stalin’s victims were cremated at the “Donskoye” cemetery in Moscow. Today, a stone memorial there commemorates the “innocent victims of political repressions, 1930-1942”; it is surrounded by plaques with individual names, put there by the families of the deceased.
Masha Weizmann, the ninth of the Weizmann children, studied medicine in Zurich. She had gone to Switzerland in 1908 with her sister Anna
(“Annushka”), who studied chemistry. Upon their return to Russia, during World War I Masha was mobilized to serve as a physician on the front. There she met Vassily Savitsky, then a cavalry officer. They married after the 1917 Revolution and moved to Moscow.
Masha and Annushka visited Eretz-Israel in the late 1920s but returned to Russia. Only in 1933 did Annushka move to Eretz-Israel, where she worked in the Daniel Sieff Research Institute. Masha and her husband remained in Russia. In the late 1940s, in the mounting wave of persecutions and arrests, Vassily was sentenced to five years imprisonment in the Gulag. In February 1953, Masha was arrested too. One of the charges against her: several months earlier, when her brother, the President of Israel, had passed away, she had been spotted crying in front of Israel’s embassy, whose flags had been lowered to half-mast as a sign of mourning.
Masha was labeled a “bourgeois nationalist” and charged with engaging in Zionist propaganda, defaming the Soviet regime, plotting to leave the Soviet Union and listening to hostile radio stations, including The Voice of Israel and the BBC. Like her husband, she was sentenced to five years in Siberia, but just then Stalin died, and she was released.
About a year later, Dr. Vera Weizmann, Chaim’s widow, visited Moscow. Thanks to her appeal to the Soviet authorities, Masha and Vassily managed to obtain permission to emigrate to Israel.
Shmuel Weizmann’s grandson, Dr. Gamburtsev, clearly remembers taking leave of Masha, his grandfather’s sister, even though more than fifty years have passed since that day in the 1950s. Masha and Vassily’s apartment was freezing cold and entirely empty except for a piano, at which a girlfriend of Masha’s, clad in a fur coat, was playing Chopin.
On February 11, 1956, Masha and her husband arrived in the port of Haifa. Aboard the boat they were welcomed by Masha’s nephew Ezer Weizmann (son of her youngest brother Yehiel), then a senior commander in the air force. Waiting for them on the pier were other family members, among them Annushka Weizmann.
Masha and Vassily moved in with Annushka in her house in Neve Matz Residencies on the Weizmann Institute campus. Masha went to work as a doctor in Rehovot. Institute residents remember her warmth, love of life and sense of humor. She continued to live on campus after Annushka’s death in 1963. About 11 years later, Dr. Masha Weizmann passed away. And in 1989 – 15 years after her death – she was cleared of all guilt in the Soviet Union, by a decree of the Supreme Soviet.
Special thanks to the Weizmann Archives, and to Michal Brenner, Reuma Weizmann, Dr. Azary Gamburtsev and Prof. Igal Talmi.