Last modified on April 9, 2019, at 22:56

Theodor Herzl


Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) was the founder of modern Zionism.

He was a Hungarian Jew from a wealthy German-speaking family. After taking a law degree in 1884, he became a writer in German of plays and fiction. As Paris correspondent for the Neue Freie Presse during 1891-95, Herzl covered the Dreyfus Affair, in which blatant Anti-Semitism marred French justice. He was shocked by the virulent Anti-Semitism and became convinced that Jewish assimilation was impossible. He expressed his views in The Jewish State (1896), in which he advocated the creation of a Jewish nation-state in Palestine. Despite the opposition of the chief rabbis of the West, Herzl organized the first World Zionist Congress at Basel, Switzerland, in August 1897. The 204 delegates calling for "a publicly recognized home for the Jewish people in Palestine." Herzl worked until his death to secure acceptance of his ideas, first from the Jewish philanthropists Edmond Rothschild and Maurice de Hirsch, then from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, and Pope Pius X. Following the Kishinev massacre of Jews in Russia in 1903, Herzl called for the creation of Jewish nachtasyls (havens) throughout the world. That same year, he endorsed British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain's plan to establish a Jewish homeland in East Africa, but the Zionist Congress rejected this so-called Uganda Plan after two years of squabbling.

Further reading

in front: David Ben Gurian, Golda Meir, Theodor Herzl
  • Beller, Steven. Herzl (2004)
  • Friedman, Isaiah. "Theodor Herzl: Political Activity and Achievements," Israel Studies 2004 9(3): 46-79, online in EBSCO
  • Pawel, Ernst. The Labyrinth of Exile: A Life of Theodor Herzl (1992) excerpt and text search

Primary sources

  • Herzl, Theodor. A Jewish state: an attempt at a modern solution of the Jewish question‎ (1896) full text online
  • Herzl, Theodor. Theodor Herzl: Excerpts from His Diaries‎ (2006) excerpt and text search