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Theodor Herzl was a visionary. He had already foreseen the Jewish state at the first Zionist Congress. In 1897 he noted in his diary: "I founded the Jewish state in Basel." Who was Theodor Herzl?

Theodor Herzl. (& copy AP / PID / Zionist Archives)
Theodor Herzl was born in Budapest in 1860. His family no longer lived traditionally, but "religiously enlightened", but did not assimilate to the Magyar majority, but cultivated a cosmopolitan German culture. Herzl first attended the Jewish elementary school, then switched to the municipal secondary school and the Protestant grammar school. Even as a child, Herzl showed great interest in writing on the one hand; at 14 he founded the writing club "We" and technology on the other.

Herzl's sister Pauline, one year older, died in 1878, a severe blow to the family and Theodor in particular. The parents then decided to move to Vienna, where Herzl, despite his intention to become a writer, first started studying law. In 1881 he joined the beating student movement Albia, but left it two years later in protest against their anti-Semitic orientation.

Herzl completed his studies with a doctorate in 1884, but soon discovered that the career prospects for Jews in his subject left little room for maneuver. He therefore switched entirely to writing and wrote a series of features that finally opened the door to one of the most important European daily newspapers, the "Neue Freie Presse". Herzl also wrote numerous plays, which, however, were only moderately successful.

Herzl married Julia Naschauer in 1889. The marriage was not happy and only lasted through the numerous phases of spatial separation. Herzl and Julia had three children: Pauline, Hans and Trude.

In 1891 he got the coveted post of Paris correspondent for the "Neue Freie Presse". In Paris he got into politics for the first time, even if only as an observer. His experience reporting the Dreyfus Affair was one of the decisive moments that turned the assimilated Viennese Salon Jew into a Zionist. The public and humiliating demotion of the - innocent - Jewish officer made the Parisians "Death to the Jews!" shouting through the streets. However, Herzl had been preoccupied with the "Jewish question" for a long time, at least since reading Eugen Dühring's "The Jewish question as a race, moral and cultural question" in 1882. He was not only confronted with anti-Semitism himself, but also had to watch it Liberal order in Austria was shaken by the increasing electoral success of the anti-Semite Lueger. In 1893 Herzl came to the conclusion that the Jewish question could not be solved with reason alone, as the "Association for Defense of Anti-Semitism" attempted, because time had already shown that one could not counter the hatred of Jews with rational arguments. In this early phase, Herzl initially considered a mass conversion of all Jews in front of St. Stephen's Church in Vienna, but quickly rejected this, as it was clear to him that this would not stop anti-Semitism. Herzl's drama "Das neue Ghetto", which he completed in 1894, also reflects his realization that assimilation and conversion cannot solve the Jewish question.

In May 1895, Herzl first wrote to the Jewish philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch and presented his idea to him at a personal meeting. However, the baron was not impressed by Herzl's plans. Herzl finally worked out his sketch for this meeting and a letter he had subsequently sent to the baron, and in June 1895 completed his programmatic work "Der Judenstaat". In July he returned to Vienna as editor for the cultural section of the "Neue Freie Presse" and read his draft to various friends and prominent Jewish personalities. For the most part, he met with rejection, his friend Friedrich Schiff even saw the effects of a nervous breakdown in it. Max Nordau alone agreed immediately and with conviction to Herzl's considerations.

After a further revision, "Der Judenstaat. An attempt at a modern solution to the Jewish question" was finally published in Vienna on February 14, 1896. In the same year translations into English, French, Russian and Hebrew appeared. The book has been translated into a total of 18 languages ​​and has appeared in more than 80 editions.

"The idea that I expound in this book is an ancient one. It is the establishment of the Jewish state," wrote Herzl in the preface. Based on the conviction that the Jews are one people and the threat of anti-Semitism despite attempts to assimilate the surrounding area, the only solution to the Jewish question is the establishment of a "Jewish state". Herzl drafts detailed plans for the construction, mass immigration, financing and community of this state. He suggested Palestine or Argentina as possible territory.

"The Jewish State" was received very differently. Most of the Jews in Western Europe strictly rejected his idea. His opponents were not only assimilated Jews, but also Orthodox Jews who saw Zionism at odds with the messianic promises in Judaism. He was laughed at and ridiculed, for example Anton Bettelheim wrote in the "Münchner Allgemeine Nachrichten" of the "Fasching dream of a columnist hungover by the Jew-rush". The Jewish youth and student movement were among his earliest supporters. But especially in Eastern Europe, Herzl was soon able to find enthusiastic followers. Herzl immediately began seeking political support for his plans and embarked on the first of his countless journeys through Europe in search of support for the Zionist cause. In June 1896 he traveled to Constantinople for the first time. In June 1897 he founded the weekly newspaper "Die Welt" as a Zionist organ and gave up his private fortune over the years.

Herzl had convened the First Zionist Congress for August 1897. Originally planned in Munich, which failed due to the resistance of the Jewish community, the congress met on August 29, 1897 in the city casino in Basel. The congress passed the so-called Basel program, which called for "the creation of a public homestead in Palestine for the Jewish people".

Looking back on this event, Herzl noted the words that had become famous in his diary: "If I summarize the Basel Congress in one word - which I will take care not to pronounce publicly - it is this: in Basel I founded the Jewish state. If I That said aloud today would answer me with universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, at least in fifty, everyone will see it. " In fact, it was only a little more than fifty years before David Ben Gurion read out the declaration of independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, under a picture of Theodor Herzl.

Herzl tried tirelessly through diplomatic channels to win the sympathy of the rulers of Europe. When he met the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, he managed to get an audience during his visit to Palestine.

Herzl then embarked with a small Zionist delegation to Palestine (picture on the right), where he visited the Jewish colonies of Mikveh Israel, Rishon leZion, Nes Ziona and Rechovot. In Mikveh Israel he met the emperor and his entourage and finally received his audience on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which, however, was disappointing for Herzl. His political efforts in Constantinople were also unsuccessful. Herzl then turned to Great Britain and met for negotiations with Joseph Chamberlain, the British Colonial Minister, and other politicians. Herzl finally received the proposal for a Jewish autonomous region in East African Uganda.

The year 1903 escalated the difficult situation of Russian Jews, and the Kishinev pogrom shocked Jews across Europe. With this impression, Herzl presented the British Uganda Plan at the Sixth Zionist Congress. Uganda should always only be a temporary solution as a place of refuge for Russian Jews, a "night asylum" as Max Nordau said. Nonetheless, the proposal sparked great controversy in Congress and almost split the movement. Herzl was able to prevent this with a dramatic speech. The Uganda plan was finally rejected outright by Congress a year after Herzl's death.

After the stormy congress of 1903, Herzl continued his diplomatic efforts, in January 1904 he traveled to Italy, where he met King Vittorio Emanuele III. and met Pope Pius X. In May Herzl withdrew to Franzensbad for a few weeks for health reasons. He had had heart problems for a long time and had to go to health resorts again and again. In a letter to David Wolffsohn, his future successor, he wrote: "Don't do anything stupid while I'm dead."

Herzl died on July 3, 1904 in the Edlach spa of the consequences of pneumonia, which his heart attacked did not survive.

In his last will Herzl wrote: "I want the burial of the poorest class, no speeches and no flowers. I wish to be buried in a metal coffin in the crypt next to my father and to lie there until the Jewish people transfer my corpse to Palestine ". He was buried in 1904 at the Döbling cemetery near Vienna, his remains were finally transferred to Jerusalem in 1949 and buried on the hill named after him.

Benjamin Seev Herzl, as the "prophet of the state" is exclusively called in Israel, has become one of the most important symbols of the state. His picture watched over the declaration of independence by David Ben-Gurion, the Herzl Berg became one of the most important places of identification of the young state and still serves as a backdrop for the celebrations of Independence Day. And everyone knows his saying "Im tirzu, ejn so agada", which comes from the introduction of "Altneuland", "If you want it is not a fairy tale".

Source: hagalil.com 10-05-07