Dr. Nahum Goldmann, 88, a towering and independent figure in the world Zionist movement, died Aug. 29 at a hospital in Bad Reichenhall, West Germany.

Doctors said Dr. Goldmann was admitted two weeks ago for treatment of severe stomach bleeding. He had suffered in recent years from heart, liver and kidney ailments.

A Lithuanian by birth but a German by education and nationality, he represented a different tradition from that of Eastern Europe, which produced his great contemporaries, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who was born in Russia and who was the first president of Israel, and David Ben-Gurion, who was born in Poland and who became the first prime minister of Israel. Moreover, his outlook was markedly different -- and frequently in conflict -- with the present-day leadership of Israel.

Zionism was the passion of his life. He never wavered from his conviction that Jews must have their own homeland and eventually their own state. Where he differed from many of his colleagues was his equally strong insistence that the rights of Arabs in the Middle East must also be protected.

Dr. Goldmann was a successful publisher by profession. During World War I, he headed the Jewish affairs department of the German Foreign Ministry, seeking to persuade Turkey, a German ally in that conflict, to allow Jewish immigration into what was then Palestine and a province of the Ottoman Empire.

In the 1930s, he represented the Jewish Agency, the Jewish shadow government in Palestine under the British mandate, at the League of Nations.

During World War II, he joined Weizmann and Ben-Gurion in formulating what became known as "The Biltmore Program," so named for the hotel in New York where their meetings took place. This conference, which brought together leaders from America, Europe and Palestine, set Zionist policy for the post-war era.

Up to that time, the mainstream of Zionism worked for Jewish interests in Palestine under the British mandatory authority that had controlled the area since the end of World War I. The "Biltmore Program" stated that Zionism's purpose henceforth would be unlimited Jewish immigration, the end of the mandate and the establishment of a Jewish state.

In the 1950s, Dr. Goldmann played a major role in arranging the post-war reparations agreement between Israel and West Germany. He organized secret contacts between German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Ben-Gurion. A result of this agreement was the pumping of billions of German marks into the Israeli treasury and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

From 1949 to 1977, he was president of the World Jewish Congress. In 1951, he was named chairman of the executive committee of Jewish Agency. In 1956, he succeeded Weizman as president of the World Zionist Organization and held that post until 1968.

Until the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel remained within the borders that had been established at the end of its War of Independence in 1948. The stunning victories of June 1967, vastly expanded these frontiers. Israeli leaders took an increasingly militant view of Israeli rights in the region as opposed to those of Arabs.

Dr. Goldmann maintained until the end of his life, however, that Jews and Arabs would have to make peace with each other. His offers to Israeli leaders to conduct secret talks with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970 and his attempts in 1974 to contact Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, led some to accuse Dr. Goldmann of treachery.

On an even broader plain, Dr. Goldmann favored friendly relations between Israel and the Soviet Union as a way of bettering the lot of Soviet Jews.

At the end of his life, he was highly critical of Israel's invasion of Lebanon, describing the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin as a "tragic" period in Jewish history and accusing Begin of reviving anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism throughout the world.

Dr. Goldmann's last political action was to join former French premier Pierre Mendes-France and World Jewish Congress President Philip Klutznick in calling for an end to the war in Lebanon and co-existence between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples "on the basis of self-determination."

Although the statement was cooly received by the Israeli leadership, Arafat praised it as "a positive initiative."

On hearing of Dr. Goldmann's death, Simcha Ehrlich, the acting prime minister of Israel while Begin is on vacation, called Dr. Goldmann "a leader of the Zionist movement" whose achievements for the Jewish people were crowned by the $827 million restitution pact with post-war Germany. Ehrlich added, "We regret that a man of so many virtues and abilities went the wrong way."

Israeli Labor Party leader Shimon Peres called Dr. Goldmann a man of "rare ability for oratory and brilliant rhetoric. He was at one point the bridge that joined continents and movements in the life of the Zionist movement. He died while seeing the country from an opposing view, but this was his own choice."

A spokesman for West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said that the German chancellor was "dismayed at the death of this strong-willed politician of peace."

Heinz Galinski, chairman of the Jewish community in Berlin, said of Dr. Goldmann's passing, "He was a great statesman without a state, a great diplomat, although he had no official status." He added that Jewry has lost one of its "greatest personalities."

Dr. Goldmann was born into a family of rabbis and editors. His father was a writer and teacher. The family moved to Germany at the turn of the century. He graduated from high school in Frankfurt-am-Main and studied at the universities of Marburg and Berlin. He earned doctoral degrees in law and philosophy at Heidelberg.

After World War I, he devoted himself to publishing. His major project, of which he was co-editor as well as publisher, was the "Encyclopaedia Judaica," which is to this day the definitive compendium of Jewish affairs. Ten volumes appeared in German and two in Hebrew before Hitler came to power in 1933. The the project was shelved until after World War II. The 14-volume English-language edition was published in 1972.

Dr. Goldmann celebrated his 85th birthday in Germany. The gala affair was attended by Chancellor Schmidt and other notables. No official Israeli representative took part.

During his lifetime, Dr. Goldmann held nine passports. At the time of his death, he had homes in Israel, France and the United States and held Swiss citizenship.

Survivors include his wife, Alice, and two sons, Michael and Guido.