Theodor Herzl

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Theodor Herzl
Austrian Photographer - Theodor Herzl 1903 - (MeisterDrucke-66140).jpg

Herzl in 1897

Born 2 May 1860
Pest, Hungary, Austrian Empire
Died 3 July 1904 (aged 44)
Reichenau an der Rax, Austria-Hungary
Citizenship Austrian-Hungarian
Known for Father of modern political Zionism
Occupation Journalist, playwright, writer
Spouse ∞ 1889 Julie Naschauer

Theodor Herzl (2 May 1860 – 3 July 1904) was an Austro-Hungarian Jew who is considered the father of modern political Zionism. His book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State or The State of the Jews) was published in 1896. He was the first notable Zionist to specifically refer to and discuss the "Jewish question" and the "final solution of the Jewish question".


Herzl was born of well-to-do middle-class parents. He first studied in a scientific secondary school, but, to escape from its anti-Semitic atmosphere, he transferred in 1875 to a school where most of the students were Jews. In 1878 the family moved from Budapest to Vienna, where he entered the University of Vienna to study law. He received his license to practice law in 1884 but chose to devote himself to literature. For a number of years he was a journalist and a moderately successful playwright. In 1889 he married Julie Naschauer, daughter of a wealthy Jewish businessman in Vienna. The marriage was unhappy, although three children were born to it. Herzl had a strong attachment to his mother, who was unable to get along with his wife. These difficulties were increased by the political activities of his later years, in which his wife took little interest. A profound change began in Herzl’s life soon after a sketch he had published in the leading Viennese newspaper, Neue Freie Presse, led to his appointment as the paper’s Paris correspondent. He arrived in Paris with his wife in the fall of 1891 and was shocked to find in the homeland of the French Revolution the same anti-Semitism with which he had become so familiar in Austria. Hitherto he had regarded anti-Semitism as a social problem that the Jews could overcome only by abandoning their distinctive ways and assimilating to the people among whom they lived. At the same time, his work as a newspaperman heightened his interest in, and knowledge of, social and political affairs and led him to the conviction that the answer to anti-Semitism was not assimilation but organized counterefforts by the Jews. The Dreyfus affair in France also helped crystallize this belief. French military documents had been given to German agents, and a Jewish officer named Alfred Dreyfus had been falsely charged with the crime. The ensuing political controversy produced an outburst of anti-Semitism among the French public. Herzl said in later years that it was the Dreyfus affair that had made a Zionist out of him. So long as anti-Semitism existed, assimilation would be impossible, and the only solution for the majority of Jews would be organized emigration to a state of their own.[1]

Political Zionism

In his diary Herzl describes submitting his draft proposals to the Rothschild Family Council, noting:

"I bring to the Rothschilds and the big Jews their historical mission. I shall welcome all men of goodwill – we must be united – and crush all those of bad."

He read his manuscript "Addressed to the Rothschilds" to a friend, Meyer-Cohn, who said, "Up till now I have believed that we are not a nation – but more than a nation. I believed that we have the historic mission of being the exponents of universalism among the nations and therefore were more than a people identified with a specific land." Herzl replied:

"Nothing prevents us from being and remaining the exponents of a united humanity, when we have a country of our own. To fulfill this mission we do not have to remain literally planted among the nations who hate and despite us. If, in our present circumstances, we wanted to bring about the unity of mankind independent of national boundaries, we would have to combat the ideal of patriotism. The latter, however, will prove stronger than we for innumerable years to come."[2]

Zionism and the Third Reich

Zionism, wrote Herzl, offered the world a welcome “final solution of the Jewish question.”[3]


  • "The Jewish question exists. It would be foolish to deny it... The Jewish problem exists wherever Jews live in noticeable numbers. Where it does not exist, it is introduced by Jews who move in... I believe I can understand anti-semitism, which is in many ways a complicated movement. I look on this movement from the standpoint of a Jew – but without hatred or fear. I believe I recognize in anti-semitism what is crude humor, ordinary economic envy, inherited prejudice, religious intolerance – but also what is deemed to be self defense. [...] Anti-semitism grows daily, hourly, among the peoples, and must continue to grow since its causes continue to exist, and cannot be alienated. [...] The causa remota is the loss, in the Middle Ages, of the ability to assimilate; the cause proxima is our overproduction of middling intelligences, that can neither be drained off, nor rise higher-hence, no healthy draining off, and no healthy rising to a higher level. Downward, we are being proletarianized into revolutionaries; we are the subalterns of every revolutionary party, while at the same time our terrible financial might grows upward." – From Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State).[4]
  • It may be that Turkey will refuse or be unable to understand us. This will not discourage us. We will seek other means to accomplish our end. The Orient question is now the question of the day. Sooner or later it will bring about a conflict among the nations. A European war is imminent. The great European War must come. With my watch in hand do I await this terrible moment. After the great European war is ended the Peace Conference will assemble. We must be ready for that time. We will assuredly be called to this great conference of the nations and we must prove to them the urgent importance of a Zionist solution to the Jewish Question. We must prove to them that the problem of the Orient and Palestine is one with the problem of the Jews – both must be solved together. We must prove to them that the Jewish problem is a world problem and that a world problem must be solved by the world. And the solution must be the return of Palestine to the Jewish people. – Stated in conversation with a delegate at the First Congress, Litman Rosenthal. American Jewish News, 7 March 1919[2]

See also

External links


  1. Theodor Herzl, Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. 2.0 2.1 Behind the Balfour Declaration: Britain's Great War Pledge To Lord Rothschild. The Meaning for Us
  3. Zionism and the Third Reich
  4. The Fraud of Zionism