Reaction to Publication of Jewish State
Herzl's Jewish State forced men to take sides. Neutrality was out.
267. Gudemann has read the first proofs and writes me in rapture. He believes the tract will strike like a bombshell, and work wonders. The Chief Rabbi Adler has written him that he considers the matter impractical and at the same time dangerous. The Chief Rabbi has too comfortable a post to find pleasure in my project.
268. Sultry atmosphere in the office. Talked with Bacher. He has many grave and great misgivings. The chief danger: that I say, we cannot assimilate. The anti-Semites will seize upon this just as, in general, they will pluck out of my text any "plums" that suit their purpose, and quote them forever after.
269. Benedikt came in ...I asked him whether he had read my tract. He replied: "I cannot stop to pick on trifling faults here and there in the text; the thing must be taken as a whole - or not taken,” the "not taken" uttered with a drop in his voice. That was all. Still, a somewhat dramatic touch.
270. The big encounter with Benedikt. He said: (1) No individual has the right to take upon himself the tremendous moral responsibility of setting this avalanche in motion - endangering so many interests. (2) We shall no longer have our present fatherland, and shall not yet have a Jewish State. (3) The pamphlet is not ripe for publication. ...He wants me to desist from publication. I answered: "My honor is pledged. ...It no longer belongs to me, but to the Jews...
271. He threatened me in no uncertain manner, although he expressly conceded my right to publish the pamphlet "If you do publish the pamphlet, at least you should not put your name to it." "That would be cowardice!" I said, "and what is more, useless cowardice!" In the end he asked me to think it over for another twenty-four hours. Presumably, I am to be shaken by an inward struggle.
272. Alexander Scharf dropped in to see me ...After the first half-hour ...he reminded me of the anecdote about the lunatic in the asylum who said: Look at that poor idiot: he thinks he is the Emperor of Russia, whereas I am. Within an hour he compared me to Christ. I was the second Jesus who could do the Jews grievous harm...
273. Dessauer expressed a pretty thought. He said it would be interesting to see the Jewish State a century or two from now. To see what had come out of my idea. He thinks it quite as likely that we shall live to witness the birth of the Jewish State as that it will not occur until several decades after our death. In fifty years’ time, he thinks, the Jewish State will be in existence.
274. The Judische Akademische Lesehalle greeted me with enthusiasm...A group of young men came up to me, and I spoke extemporaneously for an hour.. ..They stood crowded together and heard me with mounting exaltation. A great success - as I had expected. Long ago I pictured the entire scene just as it happened. When I drove away, they swarmed to the street and sped after me into the night, loud and chorused cheers of Prosit!
275. Yesterday a social feast at the Kadimah. The students gave me a great ovation ...I spoke of moderation and moderately. I didn't want to arouse any beer-inspired enthusiasm. I urged them to stick to their studies and warned them against unhealthy elation. Perhaps we shall never get to the physical Zion, and so we must strive in any case toward an inner Zion.
276. Chatted with a number of journalists. My pamphlet is the talk of the town. Some people smile and even laugh at me, but in general the earnest thought of conviction apparent in the writing seems to have made an impression. Herman Bahr [an Austrian literary figure] told me he was going to write against me, because people can't do without the Jews. Pas mal!
277. Received from Nordau a glowing letter which fills me with pride. He thinks my Jewish State is a "great deed" a revelation.
278. Enthusiastic letter from Dr. Reuben Bierer of Sofia. The local Chief Rabbi considers me the Messiah. This coming Passover an address on my publication will be delivered before a great meeting in Bulgarian and Spanish.
279. The Rev. William H. Hechler, chaplain to the British Embassy here in Vienna, called on me. A sympathetic and sensitive man, with the long gray beard of a prophet. He waxed eloquent about my solution ...he had calculated with a prophesy. ...Palestine would be restored to the Jews ...in 1897-1898.
280. The three Marmorek brothers declared their adherence to my movement with a certain flourish of solemnity. The Parisian Marmorek of the Pasteur Institute came to the office with his famous brother, the lawyer in order to declare in their own name and in that of their brother the architect that they are joining in with me and that they are fired with enthusiasm.
281. The Danish literary light, Georg Brandes, acknowledged the receipt of the Jewish State in an evasively polite letter. He repeated the old story about the banker who would like to become the Jewish ambassador at Berlin.
282. I sent an ironic reply: I had expected from him a different reaction to the beautiful idea of a Jewish renaissance. I did not believe the idea would be realized in the precise form described in my booklet. But I did believe that a Jewish State will arise and that part of the Jews will continue to remain in the Diaspora, for all peoples now live in such partial dispersions.
Organizing the Movement
These are samples of the difficulties which faced Herzl in founding the Zionist movement.
283. I wanted to fuse all the Jewish committees [in London] into one organization; and lest anyone might think that I was hoping to gain in this way some personal aggrandizement, I offered in return for the ,acceptance of a simple program, to withdraw from the leadership of the movement. I formulated the program: ..."The Society of Jews aims to acquire, under international law, a territory for those Jews who are unable to assimilate themselves"
284. Montagu laid down three conditions for his adhesion: (1) The consent of the Great Powers. (2) That the Hirsch Fund would place at our disposal its liquid capital of ten million pounds. (3) That one of the Rothschilds, which means Edmond, would join the Committee.
285. I said that I did not want a demagogue movement, but if worst came to worst - if the gentry should prove too genteel. I was willing to set even the masses in motion.
286. Goldsmid appeared cooler than he did in Cardiff or was I less exacting in those initial days? Nevertheless I warmed him up with my account of the results achieved to date. But what pleased him best, if I am not mistaken, was my word that I would withdraw from the leadership of the movement if Edmond de Rothschild would join it. I want to prove to the latter that I am not concerned with my post at the helm.
287. In the evening, my mass meeting ...in the East End, [of London] ...Great jubilation and cheering that' carried over into the street. Now in truth it depends solely on myself whether I shall become the leader of the masses; but I will not, if I can manage to purchase the Rothschilds at the price of my own withdrawal from the movement.
288. I wanted only a colonization [I said] which we could protect with our own Jewish army. I must oppose a policy of infiltration. While I would not interfere with the effort of the Zionist societies, Edmond de Rothschild's sport must absolutely cease. Let him subordinate himself to the national cause and I would not only be ready to accord him the highest post but pay for his acceptance of leadership with my own withdrawal. At this a storm broke loose.
289. I then declared that I could not abandon my standpoint with regard to infiltration even if I thereby forfeited the support of all the Hovevei Zion societies, which are now fused into a central organization. Thereupon the chairman adjourned the meeting with a dry, curt "Goodbye Dr. Herzl."
290. It should not be forgotten that both Montagu and Goldsmid declined to preside at the East End meeting. Also, that neither of them attended the Maccabaean banquet. But I need them - consequently.
291. [Meyerson] took it upon himself to go to Edmond de Rothschild and tell him that I was prepared to come and see him. I made no bones of the fact that I was thereby making one of the greatest personal sacrifices for the Jewish cause. For Edmond de Rothschild's treatment of Nordau sickened me.
292. I asked Meyerson to formulate my position clearly: I demanded the unification of all Zionists groups, especially of the Hirsch Fund together with Edmond de Rothschild. The latter need only agree to conditional adherence. As soon as I had brought the whole matter to a conclusion on the diplomatic side, the said gentlemen should take over its direction. As against this, I would pledge myself to abstain from any leadership among the masses. I did not want a demagogic movement, although if needs be I was ready to create one ...But if my program is adopted I shall withdraw completely from the direction of the movement.
293. Nordau declared himself in complete agreement with me. He will, besides, join the Paris committee as, in my words, "Chief of the Movement in France." He demurred a little at the title "Chief" but accepted the post itself. Kann [Dutch banker] said he would participate only if it [the Colonial Trust] were a solid institution. I replied that of course I preferred a good, solid bank, conducted by reliable persons. However, if necessary I should be obliged to deal with the other sort too. It is like a bridge. I am tearing along, full of steam, with a locomotive and cars. Before me lies a stream I have to cross. If it is spanned by a good bridge, so much the better. But if the bridge is weak, I'll cross anyway...
The Zionist Congress
In addition to a glimpse of the squabbles which confronted him during the months preceding the convening of the First Zionist Congress, Herzl explains, in these lines, the significance of the Congress.
295. Received today a letter from Col. Goldsmid ...[He] adjures me to unite our forces with theirs and assures me of his sincere friendship. I replied: The Munich Congress is a settled matter, from which I can no long recede. Moreover, it is a necessity. ...These gentlemen want to do and will do -nothing.
296. I have waited long enough. Next August will mark two years since I undertook the first practical steps in the Jewish cause. I wanted the thing done ...through direction from above, and in cooperation with the men who have hitherto rendered great services to Zionism ...shall call upon the masses to help themselves, since no one else helps them.
297. You …ought to enter the services of Turkey as a General. ...In that capacity you could have command of Palestine under the suzerainty of the Sultan. And upon the dismemberment of Turkey, Palestine would fall to us, to our sons, as an independent country...
298. In Munich, at long last, there will meet again a Jewish National Assembly! Isn't that something so great that every Jewish heart must beat higher at the mere thought of it? Today still in a foreign land, leshonoh haboh, perhaps in our ancient home?
299. If it should come, however, to a cleavage. ...it is not we who shall be badly off, but they. On the other side will stand a few money-bags, with their beggars and lackeys; on our side, all the high-minded, stout-hearted, intelligent and educated forces of the Jewish people.
300. Many circumstances [attacks and opposition to holding the Congress from men whom Herzl considered as adherents] make the founding of our own organ a necessity that can be deferred no longer. ...Finally I asked my father whether he agreed, and upon gaining his consent I decided to create the paper which had been talked about so much the past eighteen months and for which the means were never obtainable. I immediately visualized the whole thing in every detail - except for the name.
301. Overnight the name of the paper occurred to me: Die Welt - with, as device, the Shield of David enclosing a globe on which Palestine occupies the central point. …For the rest, strangely enough, a current of opposition to the paper seemed to be stirring among the company [of collaborators]...
302. Months ago I had proposed that a list of provisional subscribers be secured as a basis for the mouthpiece which everyone so earnestly desired. This had not been done - no more than anything else I recommended unless I did it myself. Therefore I decided simply to create the paper myself with my own funds and my own labor.
303. I begged them, then, to become joint-owners of the paper by investing in it either labor or money. None of them wanted to give money. But Kellner promised to contribute his work in return for a share of the profits, and with this I was content.
304. I think it ought to be a distinguished paper of universal Jewish interests ...The paper must accept no free material, especially from Zionists. If it prospers, people will have enough to say against me - especially those who couldn't be induced to contribute the smallest sum.
305. I am working at the new paper to a point of exhaustion, of a complete breakdown. My close party friends believe it will be a failure.
306. I put together Die Welt. Before there was nothing. Today there exists a paper with a distinct physiognomy ...At six o'clock last evening the first copy of Die Welt came off the press. I dedicated it to my dear parents.
307. Today, a further round in my duel with Benedikt ... After a few remarks. ...Benedikt opened fire. ...Die Welt must cease to appear, or I must sever my connections with it. He would help me find a way of doing this that would not damage my prestige.
308. He begged me urgently, most urgently (and the threat glanced from his eyes) to discontinue Die Welt. He did not say this as an editor to his subordinate, but as one friend to another. Naturally he was concerned that the Neue Freie Presse should suffer no harm, but for the moment he wished to speak only in my own interest. It was a pity; I was ruining myself.
309. Then a threat: I could not take my furlough until I had given him a definite answer, that is to say, stop the publication of Die Welt. ...Furthermore, I must not play a prominent part at the Congress, I must not step to the fore. After having tried to exert upon me all the weight of his superior position, he added with a naivet? that the cruelest mockery could not surpass: "Of course I am not trying to coerce your conscience - only you must do nothing that may hurt the Neue Freie Presse." And it is these people who write indignant editorials whenever a Minister restricts some freedom of opinion on the part of his officials. Of course I remained inflexible...
310. The most interesting event since my last train-entry was the obligatory transference of the Congress from Munich to Basel never liked the idea of going to Munich, which from the outset seemed unsuitable, and which I accepted only in deference to the majority of the Committee on Preparations. Hence I gladly availed myself of the miserable patriotic protest of the Munich communal chieftains to move the Congress to Switzerland...
311. I have created a Congress for the Jewish people, and from here on the people must come to their own aid, if that indeed is their desire. As for myself, many times now I've had more than my fill of the whole thing.
312. If the Congress doesn't achieve any serious results, I will withdraw from the movement and confine myself to keeping the flame alive in Die Welt.
313. The past few days, the most important since the conception of the idea back in Paris, have now raced by ... Other people too are now aware that our movement has entered into the stream of history.
314. If I were to sum up the Congress in a word -which I shall take care not to publish - it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it. The essence of a State lies in the will of the people for a State, yes, even in the will of one powerful enough individual - L'Etat, c'est moi: Louis XIV
315. At Basel, accordingly, I have created the abstraction which, as such, is imperceptible to the great majority. I gradually worked the people up into the atmosphere of a State and made them feel that they were its National Assembly.
316. Though it may have escaped particular notice, the most important move, considering the principle involved, was my introduction of the representative system - in other words, The National Assembly. The next Congress will consist only of delegates.
317. The Basel Congress meant in effect the creation of the "Society of Jews" conformable to the Jewish State, al. though with opportunistic modifications and but imperfectly carried out. The work of the coming year will be to establish the "Jewish Company" - provisionally named the Jewish Colonial Bank...The idea of a bank will ...enkindle the material instincts of Israel, just as the idea of the Congress first alarmed its spiritual instincts and ended by inspiring them.
318. In this Congress we are creating an agency for the Jewish people, such as it has not heretofore possessed, an agency of which it has stood in urgent need. Our cause I too great to be left to the ambition or the discretion of individuals ...and our congress shall live forever, not only until the redemption from the age-long suffering is achieved, but afterwards as well.