Theodor Herzl

Theodor Herzl was born on 2 May 1860 in Pest (Hungary, now Budapest). He was a journalist and the creator and main representative of political Zionism at the time, the founder and the first president of the World Zionist Organisation.

He grew up in a rich Hungarian Jewish family. He studied law in the University of Vienna. After university he worked in the Austrian justice system, however with time he devoted himself more and more to literature and to politics. At first, he thought the Jewish Question would be resolved though the mass conversion of Jews and assimilation. The Dreyfus affair represented a turning point in his life. He arrived then at the conclusion that the only solution to the Jewish Question is the general emigration of Jews from the Diaspora and the creation of an own State. He presented his ideas to public opinion in 1896 by publishing the book The State of the Jews, which was a pivotal event for the Zionist movement in the world. The ideas which he presented there were sceptically accepted by West-European Jews and seen as too radical. The lack of success did not disencourage Herzl.

In 1897 together with his supporters (and R. Ozjasz Thon from Kraków) he called the first World Zionist Congress in Basel. In order to make the Zionist ideas more popular he founded the weekly “Die Welt”. All these actions were underlying the idea of the creation of a Jewish national State in Palestine. The last act of Herzl was the book “Old New Land”, published in 1902, where he presented the vision of a Jewish State in which current European culture and Jewish heritage would work symbiotically. The State would however not be religious, although it would show respect for religion. Many languages would be used but the main language would be Hebrew.

Up to the end of his life he made attempts to achieve a possible world for his idea. He died unexpectedly from pneumonia on 3 July 1904 in Edlach. He was buried in Vienna and about 6,000 people took part in his funeral. In 1949 his remains were taken to Israel and buried in the Herzl Hill in Jerusalem.

In the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków one can find a work by Ozjasz Thon published in Warsaw in 1929 under the title Theodor Herzl, which presents him in a personal and very interesting way.