Menachem Begin


Menachem Begin was born in Brest-Litovsk, Poland on 16 August 1913, son of Zeev-Dov and Hassia Begin. He was educated at the Mizrachi Hebrew School and the Polish Gymnasium (High School). In 1931, he entered Warsaw University and took his law degree in 1935.

Until the age of 13 he belonged to the Hashomer Hatza’ir scout movement, and at the age of 16 joined Betar (Brit Trumpeldor), the nationalist youth movement associated with the Zionist Revisionist Movement. In 1932 he became head of the Organization Department of Betar for Poland travelling on its behalf throughout the country, and contributing many articles to the revisionist press. He was sent to Czechoslovakia to head the movement there.

In 1937 he returned to Poland, and for a time was imprisoned for leading a demonstration, in front of the British Legation in Warsaw, protesting against British policy in Palestine. He organized groups of Betar members who went to Palestine as illegal immigrants, and in 1939 became the head of the movement in Poland. On the outbreak of World War II, he was arrested by the Russian authorities and in 1940-41 was confined in concentration camps in Siberia and elsewhere, but was released under the terms of the Stalin-Sikorski agreement.

On his release he joined the Polish army and was transferred to the Middle East. After demobilization, in 1943, he assumed command of the Irgun Zvati Leumi (National Military Organization), known by the initials of its Hebrew name as “Etzel”. In this capacity he directed Etzel’s operations against the British, and the Palestine Government offered a reward of £ 10,000 for information leading to his arrest, but he evaded capture by living in disguise in Tel Aviv. In 1947, he met in secret with several members of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine as well as the foreign press, to explain the outlook of his movement.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, he founded the Herut Movement, together with his colleagues, and headed the party’s list of candidates for the Knesset. He has been a member of the Knesset since the first elections.

On 1 June 1967, Mr. Begin joined the Government of National Unity in which he served as Minister without Portfolio until 4 August 1970.

On June 20, 1977, Mr. Menachem Begin, head of the Likud party – after having won the Knesset elections (17 May 1977) – presented the new Government to the Knesset and became Prime Minister of Israel.

His publications include “White Nights” (describing his wartime experience in Europe), “The Revolt”, which has been translated into several languages, and numerous articles.

He is married to Aliza (nee Arnold), and has a son and two daughters.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1978, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1979

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/ Nobel Lectures/The Nobel Prizes. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.

Selected Bibliography
The Camp David Accords
Carter, Jimmy. Keeping Faith. Memoirs of a President. New York: Bantam, 1982.
Kamel, Mohammed Ibrahm. The Camp David Accords: A Testimony. London: KPI, 1986. (By the Egyptian foreign minister, who disagreed and resigned.)
Quandt, William B. Camp David. Peacemaking and Politics. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1986. (Authoritative.)
By Begin
The Revolt. Rev. ed. New York: Nash, 1977. (The struggle against the British, 1944-48).
White Nights: The Story of a Prisoner in Russia. Translated by Katie Kaplan. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.
Other Sources
Gervassi, Frank. The Life and Times of Menahem Begin: Rebel to Statesman. New York: Putnam, 1979.
Haber, Eitan. Menahem Begin: The Legend and the Man. Translated by Louis Williams: New York: Delacorte, 1978. (An admiring biography.)
Silver, Eric. Begin, the Haunted Prophet. New York: Random, 1984. (Critical.)
Temko, Ned. To Win or to Die: A Personal Portrait of Menahem Begin. New York: Morrow, 1987. (A vivid account by a journalist striving for objectivity.)

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1971-1980, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Irwin Abrams, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

Menachem Begin died on 9 March 1992.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1978

To cite this section
MLA style: Menachem Begin – Biographical. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2024. Sun. 3 Mar 2024. <>

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