Theodor Herzl facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Herzl in 1897
2 May 1860|
Pest, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire
|Died||3 July 1904
Reichenau an der Rax, Austria-Hungary
|Resting place||1904–1949: Döbling Cemetery, Vienna
1949–present: Mt. Herzl, Jerusalem
|Other names||Binyamin Ze'ev|
|Alma mater||University of Vienna|
|Known for||Father of modern political Zionism|
Theodor Herzl (2 May 1860 – 3 July 1904) was an Austro-Hungarian Jewish lawyer, journalist, playwright, political activist, and writer who was the father of modern political Zionism. Herzl formed the Zionist Organization and promoted Jewish immigration to Palestine in an effort to form a Jewish state.
Although he died before Israel's establishment, he is known in Hebrew as Chozeh HaMedinah (חוֹזֵה הַמְדִינָה), lit. Visionary of the State. Herzl is specifically mentioned in the Israeli Declaration of Independence and is officially referred to as "the spiritual father of the Jewish State", i.e. the 'visionary' who gave a concrete, practicable platform and framework to political Zionism. However, he was not the first Zionist theoretician or activist; scholars, many of them religious such as rabbis Yehuda Bibas, Zvi Hirsch Kalischer and Judah Alkalai, promoted a range of proto-Zionist ideas before him.
Theodor Herzl was born in the Dohány utca (Tabakgasse in German), a street in the Jewish quarter of Pest (now eastern part of Budapest), Kingdom of Hungary (now Hungary), to a Neolog Jewish family. His father's family had migrated from Zimony (today Zemun, Serbia), to Bohemia in 1739, where they were required to Germanize their family name Loebl (from Hebrew lev, 'heart') to Herzl (diminutive of Ger. Herz; 'little heart').
He was the second child of Jeanette and Jakob Herzl, who were German-speaking, assimilated Jews. It is believed Herzl was of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic lineage predominately through his paternal line and to a lesser extent through the maternal line.
Jakob Herzl (1836–1902), Theodor's father, was a highly successful businessman. Herzl had one sister, Pauline, a year older than he was; she died on 7 February 1878, of typhus. Theodor lived with his family in a house next to the Dohány Street Synagogue (formerly known as Tabakgasse Synagogue) located in Belváros, the inner city of the historical old town of Pest, in the eastern section of Budapest.
In his youth, Herzl was aspired to follow the footsteps of Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez Canal, but did not succeed in the sciences and instead developed a growing enthusiasm for poetry and humanities. This passion later developed into a successful career in journalism and a less-celebrated pursuit of playwrighting. According to Amos Elon, as a young man, Herzl was an ardent Germanophile who saw the Germans as the best Kulturvolk (cultured people) in Central Europe and embraced the German ideal of Bildung, whereby reading great works of literature by Goethe and Shakespeare could allow one to appreciate the beautiful things in life and thus become a morally better person (the Bildung theory tended to equate beauty with goodness). Herzl believed that through Bildung Hungarian Jews such as himself could shake off their "shameful Jewish characteristics" caused by long centuries of impoverishment and oppression, and become civilized Central Europeans, a true Kulturvolk along the German lines.
In 1878, after the death of his sister, Pauline, the family moved to Vienna, Austria-Hungary, and lived in the 9th district, Alsergrund. At the University of Vienna, Herzl studied law. As a young law student, Herzl became a member of the German nationalist Burschenschaft (fraternity) Albia, which had the motto Ehre, Freiheit, Vaterland ("Honor, Freedom, Fatherland"). He later resigned in protest at the organisation's antisemitism.
After a brief legal career in the University of Vienna and Salzburg, he devoted himself to journalism and literature, working as a journalist for a Viennese newspaper and a correspondent for Neue Freie Presse, in Paris, occasionally making special trips to London and Istanbul. He later became literary editor of Neue Freie Presse, and wrote several comedies and dramas for the Viennese stage. His early work did not focus on Jewish life. It was of the feuilleton order, descriptive rather than political.
Zionist intellectual and activist
As the Paris correspondent for Neue Freie Presse, Herzl followed the Dreyfus affair, a political scandal that divided the Third French Republic from 1894 until its resolution in 1906. It was a notorious antisemitic incident in France in which a Jewish French army captain was falsely convicted of spying for Germany. Herzl was witness to mass rallies in Paris following the Dreyfus trial. There has been some controversy surrounding the impact that this event had on Herzl and his conversion to Zionism. Herzl himself stated that the Dreyfus case turned him into a Zionist and that he was particularly affected by chants of "Death to the Jews!" from the crowds. This had been the widely held belief for some time. However, some modern scholars now believe that due to little mention of the Dreyfus affair in Herzl's earlier accounts and a seemingly contrary reference he made in them to shouts of "Death to the traitor!" that he may have exaggerated the influence it had on him in order to create further support for his goals.
Jacques Kornberg claims that the Dreyfus influence was a myth that Herzl did not feel necessary to deflate and that he also believed that Dreyfus was guilty. Another modern claim is that, while upset by antisemitism evident in French society, Herzl, like most contemporary observers, initially believed Dreyfus was guilty and only claimed to have been inspired by the affair years later when it had become an international cause célèbre. Rather, it was the rise to power of the antisemitic demagogue Karl Lueger in Vienna in 1895 that seems to have had a greater effect on Herzl, before the pro-Dreyfus campaign had fully emerged. It was at this time that Herzl wrote his play "The New Ghetto," which shows the ambivalence and lack of real security and equality of emancipated, well-to-do Jews in Vienna. The protagonist is an assimilated Jewish lawyer who tries unsuccessfully to break through the social ghetto enforced on Western Jews.
According to Henry Wickham Steed, Herzl was initially "fanatically devoted to the propagation of Jewish-German 'Liberal' assimilationist doctrine". However, Herzl came to reject his early ideas regarding Jewish emancipation and assimilation and to believe that the Jews must remove themselves from Europe. Herzl grew to believe that antisemitism could not be defeated or cured, only avoided, and that the only way to avoid it was the establishment of a Jewish state. In June 1895, he wrote in his diary: "In Paris, as I have said, I achieved a freer attitude toward anti-semitism ... Above all, I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to 'combat' anti-semitism." Herzl's editors at Neue Freie Presse refused any publication of his Zionist political activities. A mental clash gripped Herzl, between the craving for literary success and a desire to act as a public figure. Around this time, Herzl started writing pamphlets about A Jewish State. Herzl claimed that these pamphlets resulted in the establishment of the Zionist Movement, and they did play a large role in the movement's rise and success. His testimony before the British Royal Commission reflected his fundamental, romantic liberal view on life as the 'Problem of the Jews'.
Beginning in late 1895, Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews), which was published February 1896 to immediate acclaim. The book argued that the Jewish people should leave Europe for Palestine, their historic homeland. The Jews possessed a nationality; all they were missing was a nation and a state of their own. Only through a Jewish state could they avoid antisemitism, express their culture freely and practice their religion without hindrance. Herzl's ideas spread rapidly throughout the Jewish world and attracted international attention. Supporters of existing Zionist movements, such as the Hovevei Zion, immediately allied themselves with him, but he also encountered bitter opposition from members of the Orthodox community and those seeking to integrate in non-Jewish society.
Vision of a Jewish homeland
Diplomatic liaison with the Ottomans
Herzl began to energetically promote his ideas, continually attracting supporters, Jewish and non-Jewish. According to Norman Rose, Herzl "mapped out for himself the role of martyr ... as the Parnell of the Jews". Herzl saw an opportunity in the mid-1890s anti-Armenian Hamidian massacres which severely tarnished the public image of the sultan in Europe. He proposed that in exchange for Jewish settlement in Palestine, the Zionist movement could work to improve Abdul Hamid II's reputation and shore up the empire's finances. Bernard Lazare harshly criticized this position, arguing that Herzl and other delegates of the Zionist Congress "have sent their blessing to the worst of murderers".
On 10 March 1896, Herzl was visited by Reverend William Hechler, the Anglican minister to the British Embassy in Vienna. Hechler had read Herzl's Der Judenstaat, and the meeting became central to the eventual legitimization of Herzl and Zionism. Herzl later wrote in his diary, "Next we came to the heart of the business. I said to him: (Theodor Herzl to Rev. William Hechler) I must put myself into direct and publicly known relations with a responsible or non responsible ruler – that is, with a minister of state or a prince. Then the Jews will believe in me and follow me. The most suitable personage would be the German Kaiser." Hechler arranged an extended audience with Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden, in April 1896. The Grand Duke was the uncle of the German Emperor Wilhelm II. Through the efforts of Hechler and the Grand Duke, Herzl publicly met Wilhelm II in 1898. The meeting significantly advanced Herzl's and Zionism's legitimacy in Jewish and world opinion.
In May 1896, the English translation of Der Judenstaat appeared in London as The Jewish State. Herzl had earlier confessed to his friend Max Bodenheimer that he "wrote what I had to say without knowing my predecessors, and it can be assumed that I would not have written it [Der Judenstaat] had I been familiar with the literature".
In Istanbul, Ottoman Empire, 15 June 1896, Herzl saw an opportunity. With the assistance of Count Philip Michael von Nevlinski, a Polish émigré with political contacts in the Ottoman Court, Herzl attempted to meet Sultan Abdulhamid II in order to present his solution of a Jewish State to the Sultan directly. He failed to obtain an audience but did succeed in visiting a number of highly placed individuals, including the Grand Vizier, who received him as a journalist representing the Neue Freie Presse. Herzl presented his proposal to the Grand Vizier: the Jews would pay the Turkish foreign debt and help Turkey regain its financial footing in return for Palestine as a Jewish homeland. Prior to leaving Istanbul, 29 June 1896, Herzl was granted a symbolic medal of honor. The medal, the "Commander's Cross of the Order of the Medjidie," was a public relations affirmation for Herzl and the Jewish world of the seriousness of the negotiations.
Returning from Istanbul, Herzl traveled to London to report back to the Maccabeans, a proto-Zionist group of established English Jews led by Colonel Albert Goldsmid. In November 1895 they received him with curiosity, indifference and coldness. Israel Zangwill bitterly opposed Herzl, but after Istanbul, Goldsmid agreed to support Herzl. In London's East End, a community of primarily Yiddish speaking recent Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Herzl addressed a mass rally of thousands on 12 July 1896 and was received with acclaim. They granted Herzl the mandate of leadership for Zionism. Within six months this mandate had been expanded throughout Zionist Jewry: the Zionist movement grew rapidly.
World Jewish Congress
In 1897, at considerable personal expense, he founded the Zionist newspaper Die Welt in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, and planned the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. He was elected president of the Congress (a position he held until his death in 1904), and in 1898 he began a series of diplomatic initiatives to build support for a Jewish country. He was received by Wilhelm II on several occasions, one of them in Jerusalem, and attended the Hague Peace Conference, enjoying a warm reception from many statesmen there.
His work on Autoemancipation was pre-figured by a similar conclusion drawn by Marx's friend Moses Hess, in Rome and Jerusalem (1862). Pinsker had never yet read it, but was aware of the distant and far off Hibbat Zion. Herzl's philosophical instruction highlighted the weaknesses and vulnerabilities. To Herzl each dictator or leader had a nationalistic identity, even down to the Irish from Wolfe Tone onwards. He was drawn to the mawkishness of Judaism rendered distinctively as German. But he remained convinced that Germany was the centre (Hauptsitz) of antisemitism rather than France. In a much quoted aside he noted "If there is one thing I should like to be, it is a member of old Prussian nobility". Herzl appealed to the nobility of Jewish England – the Rothschilds, Sir Samuel Montagu, later cabinet minister, to the Chief Rabbis of France and Vienna, the German financier Maurice de Hirsch who had created the Jewish Colonization Association in 1891 to encourage mass emigration of Russian Jews to North and South America, and would later be repurposed as the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association in 1924, and especially French philanthropist and art collector Edmond James de Rothschild who was already independently funding the establishment of Jewish colonies in Ottoman Palestine, and to whom Herzl wrote a 65-page long pitch in 1895.
He fared best with Israel Zangwill, and Max Nordau. They were both well-known writers or 'men of letters'—imagination that engenders understanding. The correspondence to Hirsch, who had died in 1896, led nowhere. Baron Albert Rothschild had little to do with the Jews. Herzl was disliked by the bankers (Finanzjuden) and detested them. Herzl was defiant of their social authority. He also shared Pinkser's pessimistic opinion that the Jews had no future in Europe; that they were too antisemitic to tolerate because each country in Europe had tried antisemitic assimilation. In Berlin they said Juden raus in a well worn phrase. Herzl therefore advocated a mass exodus from Europe to the Judenstaat. Pinkser's manifesto was a cry for help; a warning to others Mahnruf, a call for attention to their plight. Herzl's vision was less about mental states of Jewry, and more about delivering prescriptive answers about land. "The idea that i have developed is a very old one; it is the restoration of the Jewish State" was a follow-up of Pinkser's early weaker version Mahnruf an seine Stammesgenossen von einem nassichen Juden.
Zionism and the Holy Land
Herzl visited Jerusalem for the first time in October 1898. He deliberately coordinated his visit with that of Wilhelm II to secure what he thought had been prearranged with the aid of Rev. William Hechler, public world power recognition of himself and Zionism. Herzl and Wilhelm II first met publicly on 29 October, at Mikveh Israel, near present-day Holon, Israel. It was a brief but historic meeting. He had a second formal, public audience with the emperor at the latter's tent camp on Street of the Prophets in Jerusalem on 2 November 1898. The English Zionist Federation, the local branch of the World Zionist Organization was founded in 1899, that Herzl had established in Austria in 1897.
In 1902–03, Herzl was invited to give evidence before the British Royal Commission on Alien Immigration. His appearance brought him into close contact with members of the British government, particularly with Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain through whom he negotiated with the Egyptian government for a charter for the settlement of the Jews in Al 'Arish in the Sinai Peninsula, adjoining southern Palestine. The project was blocked as impractical by Lord Cromer, the Consul General in Egypt.
In 1903, Herzl attempted to obtain support for the Jewish homeland from Pope Pius X, an idea broached at 6th Zionist Congress. Palestine could offer a safe refuge for those fleeing persecution in Russia. Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val ordained that the Church's policy was explained non-possumus on such matters, decreeing that as long as the Jews denied the divinity of Christ, the Catholics could not make a declaration in their favour.
In 1903, following Kishinev pogrom, Herzl visited St. Petersburg and was received by Sergei Witte, then finance minister, and Viacheslav Plehve, minister of the interior, the latter placing on record the attitude of his government toward the Zionist movement. On that occasion Herzl submitted proposals for the amelioration of the Jewish position in Russia.
At the same time Joseph Chamberlain floated the idea of a Jewish Colony in what is now Kenya. The plan became known as the "Uganda Project" and Herzl presented it to the Sixth Zionist Congress (Basel, August 1903), where a majority (295:178, 98 abstentions) agreed to investigating this offer. The proposal faced strong opposition particularly from the Russian delegation who stormed out of the meeting. In 1905 the 7th Zionist Congress, after investigations, decided to decline the British offer and firmly committed itself to a Jewish homeland in Palestine. A Heimstatte—a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine secured by public law.
Death and burial
Herzl did not live to see the rejection of the Uganda plan. At 5 p.m. 3 July 1904, in Edlach, a village inside Reichenau an der Rax, Lower Austria, Theodor Herzl, having been diagnosed with a heart issue earlier in the year, died of cardiac sclerosis. A day before his death, he told the Reverend William H. Hechler: "Greet Palestine for me. I gave my heart's blood for my people."
His will stipulated that he should have the poorest-class funeral without speeches or flowers and he added, "I wish to be buried in the vault beside my father, and to lie there till the Jewish people shall take my remains to Israel". Nevertheless, some six thousand followed Herzl's hearse, and the funeral was long and chaotic. Despite Herzl's request that no speeches be made, a brief eulogy was delivered by David Wolffsohn. Hans Herzl, then thirteen, read the kaddish.
First buried at the Viennese cemetery in the district of Döbling, his remains were brought to Israel in 1949 and buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, which was named after him. The coffin was draped in a blue and white pall decorated with a Star of David circumscribing a Lion of Judah and seven gold stars recalling Herzl's original proposal for a flag of the Jewish state.
Legacy and commemoration
Herzl's grandfathers, both of whom he knew, were more closely related to traditional Judaism than were his parents. In Zimony (Zemlin), his grandfather Simon Loeb Herzl "had his hands on" one of the first copies of Judah Alkalai's 1857 work prescribing the "return of the Jews to the Holy Land and renewed glory of Jerusalem". Contemporary scholars conclude that Herzl's own implementation of modern Zionism was undoubtedly influenced by that relationship. Herzl's grandparents' graves in Semlin can still be visited. Alkalai himself witnessed the rebirth of Serbia from Ottoman rule in the early and mid-19th century and was inspired by the Serbian uprising and subsequent re-creation of Serbia.
On 25 June 1889, he married Julie Naschauer, the 21-year-old daughter of a wealthy Jewish businessman in Vienna. The marriage was unhappy, although three children were born to it: Paulina, Hans and Margaritha (Trude). Julie died in 1907, 3 years after Herzl, aged 39.
Beginning in late 1895, Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews). The small book was initially published 14 February 1896, in Leipzig, Germany, and Vienna, Austria, by M. Breitenstein's Verlags-Buchhandlung. It is subtitled "Versuch einer modernen Lösung der Judenfrage", ("Proposal of a modern solution for the Jewish question"). Der Judenstaat proposed the structure and beliefs of what political Zionism was.
Herzl's solution was the creation of a Jewish state. In the book he outlined his reasoning for the need to reestablish the historic Jewish state.
His last literary work, Altneuland (in English: The Old New Land, 1902), is a novel devoted to Zionism. Herzl occupied his free time for three years in writing what he believed might be accomplished by 1923. Though the form is that of a romance, it is less a novel than a serious forecast of what could be done within one generation. The keynotes of the story are love of Zion and insistence upon the fact that the suggested changes in life are not utopian but to be brought about simply by grouping all the best efforts and ideals of every race and nation. Each such effort is quoted and referred to in such a manner as to show that Altneuland, though blossoming through the skill of the Jew, will in reality be the product of the benevolent efforts of all the members of the human family.
Herzl envisioned a Jewish state that combined modern Jewish culture with the best of the European heritage. Thus a "Palace of Peace" would be built in Jerusalem to arbitrate international disputes, and at the same time the Temple would be rebuilt on modern principles. Herzl did not envision the Jewish inhabitants of the state as being religious, but there was respect for religion in the public sphere. He also assumed that many languages would be spoken, and that Hebrew would not be the main tongue. Proponents of a Jewish cultural rebirth, such as Ahad Ha'am, were critical of Altneuland.
In Altneuland, Herzl did not foresee any conflict between Jews and Arabs. One of the main characters in Altneuland is a Haifa engineer, Reshid Bey, who is one of the leaders of the "New Society". He is very grateful to his Jewish neighbors for improving the economic condition of Israel and sees no cause for conflict. All non-Jews have equal rights, and an attempt by a fanatical rabbi to disenfranchise the non-Jewish citizens of their rights fails in the election which is the center of the main political plot of the novel.
Herzl also envisioned the future Jewish state to be a "third way" between capitalism and socialism, with a developed welfare program and public ownership of the main natural resources. Industry, agriculture and trade were organized on a cooperative basis. Along with many other progressive Jews of the day, such as Emma Lazarus, Louis Brandeis, Albert Einstein, and Franz Oppenheimer, Herzl desired to enact the land reforms proposed by the American political economist Henry George. Specifically, they called for a land value tax. He called his mixed economic model "Mutualism", a term derived from French utopian socialist thinking. Women would have equal voting rights—as they had in the Zionist movement from the Second Zionist Congress onwards.
In Altneuland, Herzl outlined his vision for a new Jewish state in the Land of Israel.
"If you will it, it is no dream." a phrase from Herzl's book Old New Land, became a popular slogan of the Zionist movement—the striving for a Jewish National Home in Israel.
In his novel, Herzl wrote about an electoral campaign in the new state. He directed his wrath against the nationalist party, which wished to make the Jews a privileged class in Israel. Herzl regarded that as a betrayal of Zion, for Zion was identical to him with humanitarianism and tolerance—and that this was true in politics as well as religion. Altneuland was written both for Jews and non-Jews: Herzl wanted to win over non-Jewish opinion for Zionism. Herzl's draft of a charter for a Jewish-Ottoman Land Company (JOLC) gave the JOLC the right to obtain land in Israel by giving its owners comparable land elsewhere in the Ottoman empire.
The name "Tel Aviv" was the title given to the Hebrew translation of Altneuland by the translator, Nahum Sokolow. This name comes from Ezekiel 3:15 and means tell—an ancient mound formed when a town is built on its own debris for thousands of years—of spring. The name was later applied to the new town built outside Jaffa that became Tel Aviv-Yafo, the second-largest city in Israel. The nearby city to the north, Herzliya, was named in honour of Herzl.
- The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat), (1896) full text online
- The Old New Land (Altneuland), (1902)
- Hagenau (1881)
- Kompagniearbeit, comedy in one act, Vienna 1880
- Die Causa Hirschkorn, comedy in one act, Vienna 1882
- Tabarin, comedy in one act, Vienna 1884
- Muttersöhnchen, in four acts, Vienna 1885 (Later: "Austoben" by H. Jungmann)
- Seine Hoheit, comedy in three acts, Vienna 1885
- Der Flüchtling, comedy in one act, Vienna 1887
- Wilddiebe, comedy in four acts, in co-authorship with H. Wittmann, Vienna 1888
- Was wird man sagen?, comedy in four acts, Vienna 1890
- Die Dame in Schwarz, comedy in four acts, in co-authorship with H. Wittmann, Vienna 1890
- Prinzen aus Genieland, comedy in four acts, Vienna 1891
- Die Glosse, comedy in one act, Vienna 1895
- Das Neue Ghetto, drama in four acts, Vienna 1898. Herzl's only play with Jewish characters. Translated as The New Ghetto by Heinz Norden, New York 1955
- Unser Kätchen, comedy in four acts, Vienna 1899
- Gretel, comedy in four acts, Vienna 1899
- I love you, comedy in one act, Vienna 1900
- Solon in Lydien, drama in three acts, Vienna 1905
- Herzl, Theodor. Theodor Herzl: Excerpts from His Diaries (2006) excerpt and text search
- Herzl, Theodor. Philosophische Erzählungen Philosophical Stories (1900), ed. by Carsten Schmidt. new edition Lexikus Publ. 2011, ISBN: 978-3-940206-29-9.
- Herzl, Theodor (1922): Theodor Herzls tagebücher, 1895–1904, Volume: 1
- Herzl, Theodor (1922): Theodor Herzls tagebücher, 1895–1904, Volume: 2
In Spanish: Theodor Herzl para niños
- Gathering of Israel
- Herzl Day
- Jewish diaspora
- Return to Zion
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