International Conference, Cluj-Napoca, October 17-19, 2006

                    BINYAMIN ZEEV HERZL (1860 – 1904)

                          MOSHE CARMILLY-WEINBERGER

    Historians try to classify personalities in world history as “great” or “gifted
men”, who were able to change the course of history. But who can be called a
“great man”? Is it a baseball player with his height, or Genghis Khan recognized as
a “great man” of history? In our humble opinion, the greatness of a man can be
remembered if his work was or is for the benefit of mankind. Great will be the phy-
sician who will find the cure for cancer. “Gifted man” is a personality who,
through his work or ideas could benefit mankind. It is also a fundamental ques-
tion: is man able to change history or does history have an impact on man? Eco-
nomic, political and sociological reasons are decisive elements in history. Are we
able, if crisis suddenly occurs, to determine what the reason was for it? History is
very complicated and it is not easy to find an answer to the problems which were
created by man or hidden elements1.
    Would a Jewish state have been established without the personal involvement
of Binyamin Zeev Herzl? Was he a “great man” who placed the burning Jewish
question before the Jewish and non-Jewish world? Before we answer that funda-
mental question, we have to recognize that “returning to Zion” is as old as the Jew-
ish exile. When in 70 the Romans destroyed the “Beth Hamikdash”, the Temple,

1. Sidney Hook, The Hero in History. A Study in Limitation and Possibility (Boston: Beacon
   Press, 1957), p. 173.
the Jewish people took into the exile a spark of the Menorah in order to keep them
alive and returned with it to Jerusalem. That idea of “Shivat Zion”, to return
home, remained alive in the heart and mind of the Jewish people is the messianic
„Zionism”. Shabetai Tzvi (1666) was a forceful leader of “Return home”. Under
his misleading banner, Jews in Germany destroyed their ovens, they didn’t need
them anymore because that “We are going home”.
    David Reuveni before Shabetai Tzvi spoke about a messianic time in Venice in
1524, where the first ghetto was established in 1555 by Pope Paul IV, who forced
the Jews into a small, restricted place near a foundry, called in Italian “getto”.
David Reuveni launched his “return to the kingdom of Israel”. Jews started to fol-
low him and recognized him as the Messiah. The movement became forceful when
another pseudo-Messiah, Shlomo Molho, a marrano, joined him and together they
proclaimed the messianic prophecy: “We are going home”. It became a fiasco.
Christianity rejected them. The Inquisition condemned Shlomo Molho to death
and David Reuveni disappeared2.
    The French revolution, the Enlightenment, opened a new vista and the ques-
tion of “returning home” had to be discussed in a realistic, political way. Here and
there individuals separately or in a group could not wait and tried to go back to
Eretz Israel. We know that Talmudic scholars, Tossafists left Europe for Palestine,
which was in the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In the 17-18. centuries there was
a strong movement under the leadership of Rabbi Yehuda Hehassid, when his fol-
lowers arrived in Palestine. Later we hear about the “Mevasrei Zion”, “Hovevei
Zion” and the “Bilu” movements, whose members succeeded in going to Palestine
and to settle down.
    The political and economic conditions in East Europe were very bad. An-
tisemitism was rampant. It became evident that the Jewish question had to be
solved. An echo to it was in USA, where a Jewish personality Immanuel Noah in
1825 bought a piece of land in Grand Island near to the Niagara Falls and called it
“Ararat”. He held an official opening in Buffalo and invited Jews to come and set-
tle down there. He prepared a cornerstone for Ararat on which he inscribed:
“Shema Yisrael Adonai Ehad”. Ararat a city for refuge for the Jews founded by
Mordechai Manuel Noah3.
    The desire to find a solution for the burning Jewish question was in the air.
Jewish intellectuals like Leo Pinsker (1821 – 1891) dealt with this problem in
books like his “Auto-emancipation”. He saw the reason of the problem in the dis-

2. Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi. The Mystical Messiah, 1626 – 1676 (Princeton, 1975).
3. Mussaf Haaretz, Sept. 5, 1930, pp. 66-70

persion of the Jewish people. They are alien among the nations of the world. No
cohesive power, which would withstand the negative impact of the outside world.
The only solution is an independent Jewish state. Ahad Haam (the pseudonym of
Asher Ginsberg, 1856 – 1927) emphasized the reinforcement and preservation of
the Jewish culture before they return home.
    Antisemitism was the official policy of the tsarist regime. In 1891 the Jewish
population of Moscow was expelled. Pogroms took place in many cities of Russia
and Romania. The pogrom of Kishinev in 1903 was the most brutal. Many people
were killed in Odessa. In 1912 the Russians in Kiev used the “blood libel”. At the
end of the 19th century, a Russian secret agent in Paris falsified the “Protocols of
the Learned Elders of Zion” to prove the international conspiracy of World Jewry.
The “Protocols” later were printed in Russia and were translated in many languages
in order to fortify the hatred against the Jewish people4.
    It was not better in West Europe either. We are witnessing a new form of an-
tisemitism taught by Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855 – 1927), the son-in-law
of Richard Wagner, who did not have to learn antisemitism from him. H. St.
Chamberlain wrote his “Foundations of the Nineteenth Century”, in which he
classified the Jew in the lowest category among the people. It became the slogan of
Nazism. The so-called “scientific antisemitism” had its teachers in Charles Fourier
(1722 – 1837), Alphonse Toussenel (1803 – 1885) and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
(1809 – 1865). Fourier wanted to rid France of the Jews. He especially did not like
the Rothschilds, the family of bankers. He recommended that the Jews of France
move to Palestine, “to be recognized as a nation with a king, flag, ambassadors and
currency…The land will become a very important territory, because an army of
intelligent people will water and reforest the desert, the region between Lebanon
and Sinai”. The Rothschild family will play the leadership role of Ezra. Fourier’s
antisemitism was reinforced by the antisemitic atmosphere of the city of Lyon,
where he lived. He had a great influence on A. Toussenel, the author of “Les Juifs
Rois de L’Epoque”. Toussenel did not like the British. Great Britain is the cradle of
revolutions and heresy. He hated above all the “cosmopolitan” Jew, who domi-
nated not only France, but all of Europe. The third of that triumvirate was P. J.
Proudhon, whose xenophobia was directed against British, Italians and Germans.
He recommended not only the expulsion of the Jews, but their extermination.
“Make provisions against that race…The Jew is the enemy of mankind. That race

4. History of the Jewish People. Edited by H. H. Ben-Sassoon, vol. III (Tel Aviv, 1969), pp. 168-
   176; 264-265. Hadassa Ben-Itto, “Die Protokolle der Weisen von Zion”. Anatomie einer Fäl-
   schung (Berlin: Aufbau, 1998).

must be sent back to Asia or exterminated”. He had an aversion to merchants.
Maybe Karl Marx, whom Proudhon met in Paris in 1844, was an “additional”
source of antisemitism. Proudhon advised him about Socialism, and Marx in re-
turn illuminated Proudhon about antisemitism5.
     France was filled with antisemitism. Its teachers poisoned not only France but
all of Europe. In Hungary the most provocative propagator was Győző Istóczy,
who in the Hungarian parliament demanded the emigration of the Jews to Pales-
tine. “They don’t belong to the Hungarians”.
     Into that antisemitic world, B. Z. Herzl was born on May 2, 1860 in Budapest,
to Iacob Herzl and Jeannette Diamant. He studied in a Realschule and in the
Evangelic Highschool in Budapest. During his studies he experienced an-
tisemitism. He was eighteen years old when the family moved to Vienna, according
to one source because of the sudden death of his sister Pauline at the age of eight-
een. It was a tragic event.
     In Vienna, Herzl enrolled at the University of Vienna. He studied law and in
1884 he was awarded the title of “doctor in Law”. He started to work as a lawyer in
the court system of Vienna and Salzburg. He felt some alienation in those admini-
strations and dedicated himself to writing essays and theatrical works. One was
presented in the famous “Burgtheater” in Vienna. He was shocked by the publica-
tion of “Die Judenfrage”, an antisemitic work written by Eugen Duehring (1881),
who with other writers rejected the human solution of the Jewish question. They
preferred their physical destruction. No wonder Herzl was astonished and wrote in
his Diary: “it is a despicable book. If a scholar expresses himself in that way, what
can we expect from the multitude who lacks enlightenment?”
     In 1891 Herzl married Julia Naschauer, with whom he had three children:
Pauline, Hans and Trude6.
     In the same year, in 1891, “The Neue Freie Presse” in Vienna sent B. Z. Herzl
as its correspondent to Paris. He spent five years in Paris, where he had the possi-
bility to learn about the political and cultural life of France. In his articles sent to
“The Neue Freie Presse” he touched Jewish topics too. He wrote a theatrical piece,
“The New Ghetto”, in which he dealt with the fate of a young Jewish lawyer who

5. Francis R. Nicosia, Zionism and Antisemitism in Interwar Germany, in Leo Baeck Institute
   Yearbook XLII, 1997, p. 123-124.
6. Julius H. Schoeps, Theodor Herzl and the Zionist Dream (London: Thames and Hudson; New
   York: Wiley, 1997); Joseph Patai, Herzl, (Tel Aviv, 1952); Andrew Handler, Dori, The Life and
   Times of Theodor Herzl in Budapest (1860 – 1878) (Alabama University Press, 1983), pp. 11-
   12; 48; 102-103;149.

lost his life in a duel defending Jewish dignity.
    Herzl could learn about antisemitism in France by witnessing the degradation
of a Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus. He was accused of treason based on a conspir-
acy concocted by two French officers. On January 5, 1894, Alfred Dreyfus was
humiliated publicly, when the population of Paris shouted “Death to the Jews”. It
had a traumatic effect on Herzl. It appeared now in the clearest way that there was
no escape from antisemitism. In 1895 Herzl decided to write a Diary and to enter
into it the most important events of his life. The English version of the Diary was
published in five volumes by Herzl Press, edited by Prof. Raphael Patai in 1960.
The Hebrew edition “Inyan HaYehudim. Sifrei Yoman” appeared in 1997 by
Mossad Bialik and Sifriyah Hatzionith. Its abbreviated form “Herzl Ahshav” was
printed in 20057.
    “When did I start indeed to deal with the Jewish question?” Herzl asked in his
Diary. “From the moment when it became actual. Surely when I read the book of
Duehring. The question bothered me during the years. It captured and over-
whelmed me, causing suffering and pain to me. The Jewish question waits for me
everywhere in Austria or in Germany. I was afraid that they would call after me;
“Hep! Hep!” (It is a humiliating expression. Its real meaning: “Hierosolima est
perdita”. Jerusalem is lost).
    “Here in Paris I move around among people without recognition. Antisemitism
became forceful, but to me too”. (In-an HaYehudim. Sifrei Yoman vol. I; First
book, pp. 55-57; Herzl Ahshav, op.cit. pp. 18, 24).
    On June 16, 1895, Herzl wrote in his Diary the following sentences: “You are
surprised that I show so much interest in our people. It is true it was not a part of
my life. Being a Jew it was not important in my eyes. It was in my subconscious,
but now it appeared in me with tremendous power…It is now weeks that I am
writing from the morning until the night to find only the most important main
lines. I am the first that the solution (of the Jewish problem) caused happiness.
This is my reward and that will be all my compensation. I will accomplish it deci-
sively. My solution is scientific…it is not academic Socialism or words of Con-
gresses. I have in my hands the solution to the Jewish question”.
    He explained it in his “Der Judenstaat”. It took him only one year to finish the
work written in the German language: “Versuch Einer Modernen Loesung der
Judenfrage” von Theodor Herzl, Doktor der Rechte (Leipzig und Wien, 1896). It

7. Herzl Ahshav. Edited by Hani Ziv and Joav Gelber (Al Yisrael, 2005), pp. 22-23; 35-46; Ency-
   clopedia Judaica, vol. VI; col. 224-230; Robert F. Byrnes, Antisemitism in Modern France. Pro-
   logue to the Dreyfus Affair (New Brunswick, 1950).

was received with mixed reaction. The Orthodox and assimilated Jews were not
ready to accept the idea of a Jewish state. Zionist students in Vienna and members
of the “Hovevei Zion” organization understood the meaning of “Der Judenstaat”
and asked Herzl to be the “leader” of the Zionist movement. “Der Judenstaat”
became a bestseller and it was translated into many European languages.
    Herzl succeeded to penetrate with the Jewish question into the political world.
“The Jewish question is not a social problem – he declared – it is not a religious
one either. It is a national problem. In order to solve it we have to change it into a
political one and it has to be dealt with by an association of cultured people. We
are a people, a united one. If that is the case that we are a people then we need a
homeland, a Jewish state in order to transfer Jews to their homeland. We need fi-
nancial help. It has to be mobilized by the wealthy among Jews and everybody who
is able to add to it”8.
    Herzl established “The Alliance of the Jews” at the First Zionist Congress and it
was called “Histadruth Hazionith Haolamith”. The Jewish state will be a neutral
state with the necessary military establishment in order to defend itself. Religion
won’t play a role in it. That declaration caused serious discussions and personal
attack. Now with the Magna Carta with “Der Judenstaat” in his hands, he called
the Jewish leadership who were available, to the First Zionist Congress, in 1897 in
Basel. He found people who understood his political vision and were ready to help
him. Among them was Max Nordau (Maximilian Südfeld), the son of a rabbi
(1849-1923), a famous physician. Born in Budapest, where he gained his M.D.
Author of many scholarly works, among them “Conventional Lies of Our Civiliza-
tion” (1884). Antisemitism was known to him, being in Budapest and in Paris
where he met Herzl. They discussed the solution of antisemitism. Nordau agreed
with Herzl’s idea. He became not only his friend but ready to fight with him. He
prepared the “Basel program” and became vice-president of the First and many
other Zionist congresses. Max Nordau prepared and read there a detailed report
about the situation of the Jews in the world, especially that of Eastern Europe. He
did not overlook the assimilated Jews and defended Herzl’s Zionist platform. Herzl
could not find a better partner and recommended him to be the president after his

8. Theodor Herzl, Der Judenstaat. Versuch Einer Modernen Loesung der Judenfrage (Leipzig –
   Wien 1896); Herzl Theodor, The Jews’ State. Trans. by Henk Overberg (Northvale, N. J. Jason
   Aronson, 1997); Herzl Ahshav, op. cit. p. 50-51; 59-69; Daniel Gutwein, Herzl and the Strug-
   gle within the Jewish Plutocracy the Rothschilds, Baron Hirsch, and Samuel Montagu in Zion,
   vol. 62, no. 1, Jerusalem, 1997, pp. 47-79.

    On August 29, 1897, was the opening of the First Zionist Congress in Basel.
On Sabbath before the opening, Herzl and Nordau went to the synagogue. “Due
to respect, to religion, I went on Sabbath, the day before opening the Congress to
the synagogue”, writes Herzl in his Diary. “The president of the Jewish community
asked me to go up to the Torah. I asked Mr. Marcus from Meran, the brother in
law of my friend Beer of Paris to repeat with me the blessing and I went up to the
bimah. I was more excited than any time during the Congress. The few words of
the Hebrew blessing chocked my throat more than the opening and closing
    Herzl in his opening speech emphasized that “Zionism is returning to Judaism,
before homecoming to the land of the Jews. Zionism intends to establish a home-
land in Eretz Yisrael. He had in mind to have a flag a while one with seven stars,
which symbolizes a workday of seven hours. The Congress chose a flag blue and
white with Magen David in the center11. In June 1897 Herzl launched a weekly
newspaper, “Die Welt”. It should serve as a tool of defense against the enemies of
the Jewish people. “Der Judenstaat” is his most important work, because in it he
put down his vision about the Jewish state. It reflects Herzl’s political and philoso-
phical world. In his view, an independent Jewish state will eliminate the animosity
of fractions between the Jewish and the non-Jewish world. The Jewish state won’t
be a piece of land. It will try to create an entity with “moral and intellectual perfec-
tion”. Subordination of people would be applied only when and where the interest
of the state would demand it. Social problems will be solved by securing work for
the people. Cooperation is the best way between individualism and collectivism.
Herzl did not forget the “stock market” which will be in the hands of the state.
Herzl envisioned an electric railway with comfortable conditions, securing it in
fresh air, excellent light at night. He mentioned national medical care and spoke
about old age homes, kindergartens, summer camps, very well-known in Europe.
Everyone would have the right to use his or native language, as in Switzerland, but

9. Moshe Carmilly-Weinberger, Toldoth Yehudei Transylvania (Jerusalem: R. Mass, 2003), p.190;
   Heiko Hauman, The First Zionist Congress in 1897; Causes, Significance, Topicality (Basel: S.
   Karger, 1997); Cristoph Schulte, Fin de Siecle, Dreyfus, Zionism; Max Nordau der Beobachter
   der III. Republik, Hrsg. von Cristoph Mieths (Tübingen: Niemayer, 1998), p. 50-60; Penslar
   Derek Jonathan, Nordau, Max, ….. Max Nordau’s approach to Zionism (History of European
   Ideas). Vol. 2, no. 3 (London, 1996), pp. 217-226.
10. Herzl Ahshav, op. cit., pp. 75-76; Michael Hyman, “Herzl and Religion” in Daniel Carpi
     Jubilee Vol. (Tel Aviv University, 1996), pp. 97-107.
11. Herzl Ahshav, op. cit., pp. 179-180; 213-217; 219.

the official language of the state would be Hebrew. He saw before his eyes a land,
which will come alive and prosper. Herzl visited the land in 1898, when he met the
“Kaiser of Germany” Wilhelm II, the second time and saw it in its devastation, but
it will flourish, will be covered with trees and flowers. The detailed content of
Herzl’s vision and projects is described in Herzl´s Ahshav12.
    His political initiatives were promising. His first meeting was with Friedrich the
First of Baden and Wilhelm II in Constantinople. The Kaiser of Germany prom-
ised to intervene by the Sultan of Turkey recommending to him the Zionist idea,
which Herzl described first in “Der Judenstaat” and in 1902 in “Alt-Neu Land”
(The Old and New Land). With the help of prof. Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian
Jewish orientalist, the Sultan received Herzl the second time. The Sultan offered
Herzl other places than that of Palestine. In the end, Herzl turned to Great Britain.
In 1902 he exposed the idea of the Jewish state before the “Royal Commission for
Alien Immigration”. They recommended first El Aris south of Palestine and the
second time Uganda in Africa. Herzl under pressure, hearing about the tragic situa-
tion in Eastern Europe, where pogroms took place, inclined towards a provisional
solution, that of Uganda. He brought the idea to the Sixth Zionist Congress, where
it caused opposition and consternation. Especially the delegates from Russia at-
tacked Herzl that he forgot “The Promised Land”. Herzl continued his political
activities. He traveled to Italy to see the pope and the king to mobilize their assis-
tance. These were his last attempts in the interest of the Jewish people and its land.
On August 17, 1904, Binyamin Zeev Herzl died in Edlach (Austria), where he
thought to find some help for his failing heart. He was brought to the cemetery
near Vienna. His demise was a great loss to the Jewish people, especially those in
Eastern Europe felt that his death would weaken the fight for the establishment of
a Jewish state. Elegies in Hebrew were written mainly in Eastern Europe. In his last
will he asked the Jewish people to take him to the Jewish State in which he believed
would be established. A few days before his death, he spoke to Wolfson, the second
president of the World Zionist Organisation and asked him: “to greet in his name
the Land of Israel. “I gave the blood of my heart for my people”13.

12. Ibid., pp. 137-202.
13. Ibid., p. 219; Axel Meyer, Die Kaiserliche Palästina Reise 1898; Theodor Herzl, Grossherzog
    Friedrich I von Baden und ein Deutsches Protektorat in Palästina (Konstanz: Hartung Gorre,
    1998); Isaiah Friedman, Germany, Turkey and Zionism 1897-1918 (New Brunswick, N. J.:

    On August 17, 1949, Binyamin Zeev Herzl was taken by an El Al airplane to-
gether with his parents and sister Pauline to Eretz Yisrael. She was exhumed in my
presence and transferred in time to Vienna. B. Z. Herzl was interred on “Mount
Herzl”, Jerusalem. On his tombstone one word was engraved: Herzl. His son Hans
and daughter, called also Pauline, were recently transferred from the cemetery in
France (Bordeaux) and buried near their father on Mount Herzl.
    Who was Binyamin Zeev Herzl? History speaks about a heroic man. History
creates such a man, or vice-versa, a great man creates history. It is a cooperation
between history and its gifted man. Binyamin Zeev Herzl became a historical figure
due to his personality. A writer asked the question: how was it possible that Herzl,
born in Budapest, educated in Austria, learned about real antisemitism in Paris and
became a Zionist leader? In his view, he had a magic power to capture the interest
of people14. He did not have to go to Paris to learn about antisemitism. “I under-
stood the meaning of antisemitism. When the Germans were in a bad mood, they
broke the windows of the Jews, when the Czechs were in a bad mood, they at-
tacked the Jewish homes. We Jews lived and live as a strange entity among different
peoples”. He understood the problem and the answer to it. Did the Jewish people
recognize his leadership? Yes. The Jews especially in Eastern Europe followed him.
The crisis in Jewish history invited him to guide the Jewish people toward a better
and secured life in its homeland. He was convinced that the way which he chose
was a correct one. The Jewish people listened and followed him. Their positive
attitude to a gifted man created the Zionist movement and it remained alive after
Herzl’s early demise. The vibrant Jewish state is the great monument to Binyamin
Zeev Herzl.

14. Herzl Ahshav, op.cit., pp. 213-217; Michael Graetz, “Sprache und Politik – Herzl´s Judenstaat
   und die Macht der Retorik” (Trumah 7, Berlin, 1988), pp. 101-112.


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