Indiana University Press

The diaries that Theodor Herzl kept between 1895 and 1904—between the beginning of his involvement in “the cause of the Jews” (Die Judensache) and his untimely death at the age of 44—are a major source for his life and activity, and they have been used in different manners by all of his biographers. 1 But because of their voluminous extent—almost 2,000 pages in printed form—few people have read them in their entirety. A careful check of Herzl’s biographies will show that in some cases only dramatic highlights were seriously mentioned, and most of the detailed material went unnoticed. Hence much of the richness and the variety of the material—by itself a profile of Europe’s fin de siècle—has been underutilized and sometimes did not figure in the reconstruction of Herzl’s own account of his tortured intellectual odyssey. The diaries themselves are a mixed bag, especially in the earlier parts, which are composed mainly of collections of paper scraps on which Herzl jotted down, in a disjointed and disorganized way, ideas that came across his mind and that he thought he might use later; these are accompanied by drafts of plans of action or speeches he intended to make. Later in the diaries appear almost daily accounts of meetings and audiences he had with politicians, statesmen, and bankers, reports on meetings of committees and various Jewish activities, and drafts of letters to numerous personalities as well as biting comments about some of his interlocutors and collaborators, some of whom were important historical figures, some less so. Some of the entries run to dozens of pages, others are half-formed, staccato sentences; some were written in great haste, others in relative leisure; some contain almost verbatim accounts of meetings and talks, others just note headings for a later, fuller report that, in many cases, Herzl was never able to compose. Such a variety does not always make for easy reading or systematic assessment. [End Page 1]

Neither did the publication history of the diaries help to make them available to a wide audience. The first edition, in the original German, was prepared by Herzl’s close collaborator and literary executor, Leon Kellner, and appeared in a three-volume edition in 1922-23; 2 later it was included in the standard German-language edition of Herzl’s works. 3 The Kellner edition, however, is an incomplete and most unreliable text: issued by an official Zionist publishing house, the editorial committee, which included both Herzl’s son Hans and Zionist thinkers like Martin Buber, chose to erect an heroic monument, not provide a full text. Whole passages were omitted, uncomplimentary references to persons in the Zionist movement and its periphery were cut out, embarrassing personal or financial details were censored and penciled out—and the omissions were not noted, so the reader could not know when something has been elided. As in other cases (Marx and Engels come to mind), such defensive strategies tend to diminish the stature of the person they aim to protect. Yet it was this edition that served for decades as the major source of Herzl’s image. The first Hebrew translation (1930) was based on this truncated version, and it was reprinted many times in this form, the last time in 1960, in a “full” Hebrew edition of Herzl’s writings celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth.

The first full edition of the diaries, based on the manuscripts housed at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem, appeared, paradoxically, not in the original German but in an English five-volume translation published by the Herzl Press in New York in 1960. 4 A full German critical edition appeared only in the 1980s as part of the critical scholarly edition of Herzl’s writings published by the Propyläen Verlag in Germany under a joint Israeli-German team and with the generous help of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. 5 Although the text is meticulously edited, it does suffer from an overdose of scholarly zeal, which burdens it with a scientific apparatus that is not always reader-friendly. This edition was the basis of the first full Hebrew edition, the first volume of which appeared in 1997; two further volumes are to follow. 6

This complex editorial history of the diaries suggest why they were not, in general, available to most readers interested in Herzl—in Israel or abroad. Thus his own account hardly trickled down to the popular images of Herzl that abound in Zionist historiography and public myth. In many cases, some quotations have been repeatedly recycled from one author to another, whereas the full text of the diaries has been read by very few people. This became clear to me when preparing the introduction to the Hebrew edition of 1997.

The aim of this article is to look at the diaries as a whole, documenting Herzl’s own version of events, subjective and biased as it may be, as well [End Page 2] as his accounts of the various milieus—in Paris, in Vienna, in several European capitals, in Constantinople, and during his fleeting visit to Palestine. It does not aim at supplying another full biography of Herzl; it merely tries to glean what understanding of Herzl we may get from the way he experienced the crucial years of his activity as a public figure.

I have generally followed the 1960 English text, and all references to the Diaries are to this edition. It is generally a reliable translation, but occasionally I have changed a few words for stylistic reasons. The translator did not always possess Herzl’s own felicity of idiom, and sometimes the translation is wooden and flat; it also tends to capitalize, in Germanic fashion, many nouns that are not capitalized in English. On a few occasions, when it appeared to me that the translation seriously deviated from the original text, I have noted this in the endnotes.

At the Crossroads

The most quoted entry in Herzl’s diaries is undoubtedly the sentence in which he tries to sum up his assessment of the first Zionist Congress, convoked at his invitation in Basel in August 1897:

Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in one word—which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly—it would be this: at Basel I have founded the Jewish state. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years and certainly in fifty, everyone would recognize this. 7

The self-assurance implied in this statement, as well as its almost prophetic pronouncement (“certainly in fifty years”), have obviously justified its inclusion in the Zionist pantheon. Almost unknown, yet in many respects perhaps much more profound and telling, are the sentences following it:

The foundation of a state lies in the will of the people for a state. . . . Territory is only the material basis: the state, even when it possesses territory, is always something abstract. . . . At Basel, then, I created this abstraction which, as such, is invisible to the vast majority of people—and with minimal means. I gradually worked the people into the mood for a state and made them feel that they were its National Assembly. 8

He then goes on in a language reminiscent of Abbé Sieyès’ remark during the French Revolution, when he characterized the Third Estate as being nothing but aiming at being everything—that is, the totality of [End Page 3] the nation: “Today the Presidium of the Zionist Congress is nothing at all; we still have to set up everything.” 9

This awareness that the formation of a national movement is an act of political will, and not the necessary outcome of quasi-objective historical circumstances, accompanies Herzl’s activity throughout his diaries. As a personal document, these diaries are just one expression of the great revolutionary transformation in consciousness that Herzl himself helped to ignite in a critical period of Jewish history toward the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. They are also an evident testimony to the long road taken by Herzl from being a mere journalist, mildly famous but utterly powerless, to becoming a national leader, driven by his will and endurance. This journey molded both him and the movement he helped to create. Herzl’s achievements and failures, as seen through his own eyes, are a reflection of the achievements as well as of the limitations of the Zionist movement; in a way, they are inseparable.

How much Herzl sees the key to the success of his project in the political, national will can be seen also from a marginal comment he makes a year after the first Zionist Congress, during a visit to Holland. It may come as a surprise that he sees in the Netherlands, and not in the national movements then emerging in Central and Eastern Europe, an expression for the sovereignty of human will:

I see a city suddenly rising from the plain, without mountain, river, or sea—without motive, so to speak. This is The Hague. A proof that will-power makes cities rise. If I point my finger at a spot, and say: here shall be a city—a city will come into being there. All Holland is a proof of what men can extract from the most unfavourable soil. 10

This image of a demiurge, creating whole worlds out of a void, is also expressed during Herzl’s visit to Palestine and Egypt in 1898, when he admits to being much more impressed by the Suez Canal than by the Acropolis (which he also visited on the way): the Canal is another testimony of the supremacy of human will. In a similar vein, Herzl expresses the sentiment that will later find its way into the motto of his utopian novel Altneuland (“If you will it, this is not a fable”) when he writes in June 1895, at the very beginning of his diaries: “No one ever thought of looking for the Promised Land where it actually is—and yet it lies so near. This is where it is: within ourselves.” 11 It is this turning to the revolution in human consciousness, this intoxicating feeling of an almost divine power of creation, that accompanies Herzl’s diaries throughout the years, just as it accompanies all his activities. Yet it is also interwoven with a constant angst and feeling of insecurity, a clear [End Page 4] expression of Herzl’s own torn and tormented soul and of the basic ambivalence inherent in his whole project.

From the very beginning of the diaries, when Herzl self-assuredly states that he is working on a major project, it is not clear—neither to Herzl nor to the reader—what he is really engaged in. Is he founding a major political movement, or drafting an historical novel? Especially in the first sections of the diaries, Herzl moves back and forth from pragmatic political proposals, aimed at the existing world of Realpolitik, to sometimes confused jottings for an imaginary novel in which he would try to describe the plight of the Jews and offer a utopian solution in the shape of a Jewish commonwealth, replete with coats of arms and majestic public buildings, romantic pictures of mounted Guards regiments, and a Mayflower-like founding ship.

These first sections of the diaries, where it is obvious that Herzl had not yet made up his mind what his project was going to be, should be read carefully and critically, with an eye to distinguishing between a draft political program and a draft for a utopian, romantic novel. This distinction should be made even if Herzl himself did not make it, and even if the diaries combine both elements sometimes indistinguishably. These sections were written in a few days in June 1895, when Herzl virtually barricaded himself in his hotel room in Paris and went through a Sturm-und-Drang period just prior to his return to Vienna, after having spent years in Paris as the political correspondent for the Neue Freie Presse, and they received disproportionate attention from some biographers. Even if one overlooks the personal and family complications that accompanied his return to Vienna, it is clear that Herzl felt at a crossroads, alternating between thoughts of entering the political scene with a dramatic act or continuing his journalistic and literary career, and nothing was clear to him. Penning the diaries was itself an attempt at clarification and self-understanding.

These sometimes feverish notations do show that Herzl was undergoing a crisis. The years in Paris, where he reported the political events of some of the most turbulent years of the French Third Republic and in which he found himself in the corridors of power, did obviously make Herzl crave for political activity and public attention. But being totally untested in politics and lacking any public base, Herzl hesitated about how to make his breakthrough into the public arena. Should it be writing a dramatic, even sensational novel, or attempting to reach the public through some sort of political activity? Lacking political and personal contacts in Vienna, to which he returned after an absence of more than four years, made him hesitate between the literary and the political path. [End Page 5]

Eventually, the two alternatives coalesced into one project: in his political activity, Herzl made use of the action program that he developed toward the end of the first book of the diaries in the form of a speech (which was never made) to the assembled House of Rothschild and that he then used as a basis for Der Judenstaat (1896); the literary notes in the diaries found their way into the much later utopian novel Altneuland (1902). It should be mentioned that when the utopian novel was eventually written—and this is itself a testimony to Herzl’s own development and the experience he gained over the years—it would be a much more realistic utopia than some of the slightly ridiculous if not pathetic initial notes he jotted down on scraps of paper and included in the first sections of the diaries. Altneuland is indeed a utopia, but a sober, rational, and realistic one, based on modern science and contemporary social thought; it is far removed from Herzl’s initial remarks in the opening pages of the diaries, in which he gives free rein to his fertile imagination as a playwright and journalist and which sometimes remind the reader more of opera than of serious political thinking (a High Priest, curassiers in beautiful armor and uniforms, dramatic initiation rights). 12 None of this appears in Altneuland, where Herzl notes himself that he has been influenced by social visionaries like Edward Bellamy and other socialist utopian writers.

Yet the melodramatic never totally leaves Herzl: when still unsure about how to proceed, and whether he should write a book or what kind of book, he mentions a conversation with the French (and antisemitic) writer Alphonse Daudet, who strongly urged him to choose the form of a novel, even a sentimental one. Daudet said that Uncle Tom’s Cabin did more for the emancipation of the blacks than many learned and well-argued tomes: “A novel reaches much farther.” 13

This drama accompanied Herzl constantly. When he waited in May 1901 in the antechamber of the Grand Duke of Baden amidst flags commemorating the German victory in the 1870-71 war with France, he comments: “Waiting among these flags are pictures in another recurring chapter in the novel of my life.” 14 Similarly, when in April 1902 he sums up the futility of his series of attempts to penetrate the Ottoman labyrinthine corridors of power, he ruefully comments: “Thus closes this book of my political novel.” 15

This may also be called Herzl’s encounter with the nexus between vision and Realpolitik. Both of these ingredients appear repeatedly in the diaries and invest some of his meetings with the most prominent political figures of his generation with a flavor of a burning and ardent mission, for all of his disappointment at his own impotence and the powerlessness of the cause he was trying to represent. One may find in [End Page 6] this encounter an echo of the tradition of the German bildungsroman—obviously a genre to which Herzl was not a stranger—with its structured gap between the hero’s idealism and the inscrutability and opaqueness of reality, between Dichtung and Wahrheit, as epitomized in Goethe’s monumental novel. In this sense, Herzl inscribed his own bildungsroman not only in the pages of his diaries but also on the canvas of Jewish and world history.

The Crisis of Austro-Hungarian Politics and Society

What Herzl never clearly spells out in his diaries, however, is why he chose to dedicate himself in June 1895, on the eve of his return to Vienna from Paris, to what he called Die Judensache—the cause of the Jews, as he also initially entitled his diaries—when at the time it was still unclear to him in what way this was going to unfold.

Contrary to the conventionally accepted notion that it was the Dreyfus Affair which brought him to the idea that only a political solution could solve the “Jewish problem,” there is no indication of this in the diaries. True, as the Neue Freie Presse Paris correspondent, Herzl followed closely the first stages of the Affair (he had already left Paris when the later, and politically much more significant, phases of the Affair unfolded, including Emile Zola’s involvement). He witnessed the first trial and verdict, followed by the public degradation of Dreyfus. But in many of Herzl’s despatches from Paris, Dreyfus’s Jewish background is hardly mentioned; what comes through very strongly is Herzl’s scathing critique of the failure of the French judicial system, the evident miscarriage of justice, his disgust with the intrigues in which the political, military, and ecclesiastical elites were enmeshed, his alarm at the chauvinistic, anti-German nationalistic hysteria that engulfed most of the republican parties in France, and the corruption of parliamentary and journalistic life in Paris.

The diaries do bear witness to the fact that in France Herzl discovered the frightening phenomenon of mass politics and the need to rein in populist and demagogic politicians. But in the dozens of articles and despatches from Paris, and in thousands of pages of diaries, there is no indication that it was the Dreyfus Affair as such that triggered Herzl’s realization that Emancipation has failed.

In the critical years in which Herzl’s ideas about the Jewish problem were formed and for which there is almost daily evidence in the diaries (1895-97, from the beginning of the diaries to the opening of the first Zionist Congress), Dreyfus’s name is mentioned only a couple of times, [End Page 7] and even then rather marginally. In November 1895 Herzl mentions, when speaking with a French Jewish notable, that “I suffered when Captain Dreyfus was accused of high treason,” 16 but the context of the meeting makes clear that what is highlighted here is the element of Jewish solidarity, with which Herzl tried to convince his interlocutor, not any traumatic effect the Affair has made on him. Dreyfus’s name appears again in 1897 in a talk with an Austrian statesman, when Herzl mentions that “strangely,” the Dreyfus Affair has come up again. 17 Even in 1898, after Zola’s J’accuse has been published and caused the most violent outbursts against its author, Herzl writes to Nordau, then living in Paris: “You are—despite Dreyfus trials—in a free country,” 18 and he contrasts this with his own tribulations in Vienna. When Dreyfus is freed from Devil’s Island in June 1899, this is mentioned in the diaries in a most oblique way. Anyone who would like to find in the diaries—rich in introspection, self-searching, and an abundant array of historical references—any indication for the centrality of the Dreyfus Affair to Herzl’s reawakening of a Jewish identity or his development toward Zionism will be utterly disappointed.

The diaries do contain numerous entries dealing with much deeper phenomena threatening Jewish life in regions with a denser Jewish population than France, whose Jewish population at that time hardly numbered more than 100,000. These dangers, which threatened to uproot masses of Jews from their countries of residence and create a massive immigration and refugee problem, gave rise to the emergence of Herzl’s idea for a national-territorial solution to the Jewish problem. Herzl discerned these phenomena not in France but in Austria and Germany, and eventually in Russia. It may be that the first generation of Zionist activists and historians in the immediate post-Herzl era, most of whom hailed from Germany, led mainstream Zionist historiography to emphasize the French ingredient (Dreyfus) rather than those aspects of Herzl’s own analysis related to Germany and Austria that appear repeatedly in the diaries and about which they themselves might have felt uneasy.

In the opening pages of the diaries, Herzl mentions that the Jewish problem has haunted him for a long time and that he has written about it in his youthful diaries and in his letter to the chief rabbi of Vienna, Dr. Guedemann. He mentions Eugen Dühring’s book, published in 1881, The Jewish Problem as a Race, Moral and Cultural Question, as a major indication for the emergence of a modern, racist antisemitism, adding “As the years went on, the Jewish Question bored into me and gnawed at me, tormented me and made me very miserable.” 19 All of this was many years before the Dreyfus Affair; he even mentions that fleetingly he [End Page 8] thought perhaps a mass conversion of the Jews might solve the problem, but he realized immediately that it would be meaningless.

That France is not central to Herzl’s concerns appears also in a letter written in June 1895, when he writes: “I am simply trying to get at antisemitism where it originated and still has its center: in Germany.” 20 It is from the political discourse in Germany and Austria that modern antisemitism gets its impact: not only Dühring in Germany but Wilhelm Marr and Heinrich von Treitschke as well.

Yet the antisemitic discourse had a wider social context for Herzl, and this was epitomized for him by the emergence in Austria of the Pan-German movement of Georg von Schönerer and the Social Christian Party of Karl Lueger. These parties were not only antisemitic but also aimed at dismantling the Austro-Hungarian empire, and in this aim Herzl saw the major danger for Jews living in the lands of the Habsburg Dual Monarchy, which included not only Austria and Hungary proper but also Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Galicia, Bukovina, and Transylvania. Two million Jews lived in these regions—the largest Jewish concentration after the Russian empire—and the moderate, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious empire of Franz Josef I was considered at that time by the Jews to be the bastion of tolerance and prosperity.

Herzl saw all of this threatened by the election of Lueger as mayor of Vienna by popular vote at precisely the same time as he began writing his diaries. Here a xenophobic, populist social demagogue gained elective power in a major European metropolis, then the capital of an empire that stood for tolerance and moderation. The new social and political reality beginning to undermine the foundations of the Habsburg monarchy was for Herzl the alarm bell that triggered his frantic search for a solution to the plight of a large mass of Jews, who until then thought that they had found a safe haven under the wings of the benevolent empire. For Herzl, the processes leading to the demise of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the emergence of antisemitism are closely linked: his diaries abound with forebodings about the rise of antisemitic parties in Hungary as well—partly in response to the growing salience of many Jews in the banking and industrial life of that part of the Habsburg Dual Monarchy. He followed the political struggles between Pan-German and Czech nationalists in the Bohemian lands, especially in Prague. Many Jews there felt integrated into the leading German culture of Bohemia, and when Pan-German associations started introducing “Aryan clauses” into their statutes, which effectively barred not only Jews but even converts from their ranks, it appeared that for many of them their whole world was about to collapse. When some tried to turn to the Czech national movement, they were equally rebuked, eventually [End Page 9] finding themselves in the political cross fire of competing nationalist movements. Herzl discovered a similar problem in Galicia, where the Jewish population was torn between conflicting linguistic claims of the German and the Polish language and culture, and where the poverty in which many Jews lived in that underdeveloped province of the empire only added to their misery.

In the diaries, the structural crisis of the empire appears to Herzl as both the epitome of the major crisis of European politics and culture and the major threat to the stability of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe. Antisemitic notions, mainly originating in Germany, only exacerbate what is a structural problem of the body politic itself. This crisis of the Dual Monarchy appears in the diaries more than any other issue: because it also caused the break-up of the liberal-conservative coalition in the Austrian Reichsrat and led to a virtual impasse in parliamentary life, it naturally figured quite prominently in the thoughts of one of Vienna’s foremost political journalists. For Herzl, all this meant that the stability achieved through the Austro-Hungarian historical compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867 was about to disintegrate, and in parallel fashion the destiny of the Jews was inextricably interwoven with the ability of the empire to survive; the threat to the empire meant an existential threat to its Jewish population.

In a series of articles published by Herzl in Die Welt in November 1897, he castigates the Jews in Bohemia for identifying with the German national claims against the Czechs. The German nationalist party in Bohemia is basically antisemitic, he argues, and the Germans will not be grateful to the Jews for their unrequited support; moreover, the Czech enmity toward the Jews will increase—as it actually did. 21 The Jews find themselves on the horns of an unsolvable dilemma, Herzl argued in a diary entry in March 1898, when he plays with the idea of writing a novel about the challenges faced by German-speaking Jews in Bohemia. In the novel, a Jew emerges as a leader of the Germans in Bohemia, but they reject him, as “the Germans in Bohemia etc. refuse to be led by a Jew.” 22

The fact that Jews found themselves in the cross fire of such linguistic-national struggles was to Herzl a classical example of the problem that Emancipation was unable to solve; hence the national solution was the only way out. Herzl was so involved in the politics of language and ethnicity in Vienna that, during one of his numerous talks with Austrian ministers, he even prepared a memorandum to the prime minister on the language policy in schools of ethnically mixed regions. Yet increasingly the diaries show him despairing of a solution, leading him to the conclusion that the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was doomed, unable [End Page 10] to overcome the conflicting national claims. Only a few years later, an unknown painter would be introduced to this vortex of Pan-German, anti-Czech, and antisemitic politics of fin-de-siècle Vienna, and he would proceed from this Viennese ambience to engulf Europe in its worst war and to inflict the Holocaust on European Jewry. 23 And 10 years to the day after Herzl’s death, the assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne by a Serbian terrorist in Sarajevo led to the collapse of the Habsburg empire. None of the successor states, with the exception of Czechoslovakia, was ever able or willing to grant to their Jews what the Austro-Hungarian empire did: tolerance, opportunity, and protection under the law.

In this context the diaries give evidence of frantic attempts by Herzl to find support for his ideas from the two conservative-liberal prime ministers in Vienna, Count Casimir Badeni and Ernst von Körber, both of whom tried, unsuccessfully, to curb the onslaught of nationalistic conflicting claims. These contacts with the Habsburg political establishment oscillated between attempts to gain political support for Zionism (referring, among others, to the danger to Austrian political stability caused by Jewish refugees streaming into Austrian territory from Romania) and a complex, and not always transparent, set of negotiations aiming at appointing Herzl editor-in-chief of a new, pro-government paper. For Herzl, this also entailed the possibility of discussing his Zionist ideas in his journalistic writings, which his employers, the liberal Jewish owners of the Neue Freie Presse, never allowed him to do in the newspaper for which he was one of the main editorial writers.

The more Herzl followed these developments, the more he became convinced that the ideological, racist antisemitism originating in Germany was further undermining the ability of the Austrian regime to mediate among various conflicting national claims. Lueger’s election was to Herzl the beginning of the end—something that most of his liberal Jewish contemporaries failed to see.

Herzl’s growing awareness of the brittleness of the Austro-Hungarian empire was connected with his general cultural pessimism regarding Emancipation itself, especially in Germany and Austria. The liberals’ mistake, Herzl argued, lay in their imagining that people can be made into equal citizens through legislation alone. The liberals believed that doing away with the laws that put restrictions on the Jews and allowing them out of the ghetto would suffice, but “when we emerged from the ghetto, we were, and for the time being remained, Ghetto Jews.” 24 The Jews, and society in general, would have needed some time for mutual accommodation, but such a transition and adjustment time was not available. Jewish involvement in banking and credit also caused socialist [End Page 11] critique to be aimed at them, and when the second generation moved from commerce to the professions (such as law and medicine), this created fear among the lower middle classes, who felt themselves threatened. This fear gave ammunition to Lueger and his social antisemitism. These were structural issues accompanying the process of Emancipation in Germany and Austro-Hungary, while in France they were almost non-existent, so Herzl does not even mention the social context in which Jews lived in French society. But, according to Herzl, it was not only the liberal experiment that became a predicament to the Jews; socialist ideas, which appealed to many Jews precisely because of the contradictions of capitalist liberalism, were not going to offer a solution either. Again, drawing on the German and Austrian experiences, he remarks that “to work with the socialist movement would be no help against antisemitism. Evidence of this was Germany where despite Marx, Lassalle and more recently Singer, antisemitism had originated and grown strong.” 25

This is the cruel paradox: the security of the Jews was connected with the bourgeois order, yet Emancipation as carried out by the bourgeoisie created the sort of novel social tensions that jeopardized the position of the Jews. The bourgeois order was disintegrating from within, and in multi-national societies like the Austro-Hungarian empire Jews found themselves in a double bind, socially as well as nationally. Simultaneously, between socialist criticism and populist demagoguery against Jewish financial magnates on the one hand, and the turning of many Jews to socialism on the other, the option of a liberal integration was slowly dying out. According to Herzl, the liberal Jews tended to minimize the dangers of populist antisemitism: they could not deny its existence, but they viewed it as a marginal, transient phenomenon, soon to disappear through humanitarian charitable work or education for tolerance. This, to Herzl, was an unrealizable dream: political reality—with the emergence of populist movements that were paradoxically gaining strength due to the extension of the suffrage—drew massive groups to anti-Jewish slogans that themselves tended to undermine the bourgeois order.

In the specific case of the Austro-Hungarian empire, with its relatively large concentration of Jews, this development undermined the very fabric of the body politic that was the sole guarantor of tolerance. The solution could not be a philanthropic policy aiming at long-range results: it had to be political and immediate and to extricate the Jews from the failure of European politics, which was unable to maintain its own values and was dragged toward nationalist extremism and social [End Page 12] demagoguery. The Jewish question was an expression of the deep crisis of European society, and this society was unable to solve it: hence a solution had to be found outside of Europe through the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth.

Failed Strategies: From Magnates to Masses

This analysis is the foundation for the strategy Herzl initially hoped to follow—and in which he totally failed. The opening pages of the diaries recount Herzl’s attempt to convince Jewish magnates—first Baron Maurice de Hirsch, and later the various branches of the Rothschilds—to support his political plan for the solution of the Jewish question. Baron de Hirsch’s initiative in establishing Jewish agricultural settlements in Argentina and the support of the Paris branch of the Rothschilds for the Jewish settlements in Palestine suggested to Herzl that the Jewish moneyed aristocracy would support his plan. The initial sections of the diaries recount Herzl’s preparations for his meeting with de Hirsch, and after its failure Herzl realized that he had to be better prepared, so the diaries contain numerous drafts of an address he hoped to present to the combined branches of the Rothschilds on one of their estates. Such a meeting never took place—the Rothschilds never even responded—but the various drafts prepared by him helped Herzl clarify his own ideas and are by themselves a testimony to his own political development.

Herzl’s failure in mobilizing the Jewish magnates is an obvious reflection of his own lack of experience and political insight at that early stage of his activity. He failed to understand the complexity of Jewish life, just as he failed to grasp the basic ambivalent position of the Jewish titled plutocracy. Despite the years spent in Paris, Herzl remained socially rather isolated and, contrary to the later image (which he himself sometimes tried to cultivate), was not at home with the elite of French society, nor did he move in the circles of the moneyed classes. As is clear from his own description of his visit to de Hirsch’s mansion when trying to convince him to support his Zionist ideas, this was his first visit to such a palatial residence and his first meeting with de Hirsch or any of his equals. His surprise, provincial in its naivete, at the good taste of the de Hirsch residence also attests in its candor to his own distance from the world of the Jewish plutocracy and the salons of Parisian high society as such. It was this naivete, combined with his deep feeling of almost messianic mission, that led Herzl to his belief that he—a relatively [End Page 13] successful journalist, but lacking influence or standing—would succeed, through his sheer will power and the ardency of his beliefs, to convince one of Europe’s richest and most powerful men to support a political program because he, Herzl, saw it as an almost redemptive solution to the plight of the Jews.

Herzl’s failure was built into the very situation in which he found himself. Moreover, though Herzl’s analysis did discern the unique role of the Jewish moneyed aristocracy in European economic life as well as its vulnerability, Herzl did not really grasp the ambivalent position in which they found themselves in European society and politics. On the one hand, here were men whose economic power was courted by all the rulers and governments of Europe; on the other hand, all of their wealth, patents and titles of nobility, their palaces and race horses, could not obliterate their standing as ultimate outsiders because of their Jewish background. Hence, they would have to tread carefully and not get involved in moves that would signal an independent Jewish politics. Herzl realized correctly that people like de Hirsch and the Rothschilds—aware, perhaps, of their responsibility for much of the social antisemitism caused by their own wealth and standing—would express Jewish solidarity, as they did in many cases in the past, but it would be philanthropic solidarity, not political action. An independent Jewish politics appeared to most people then as a hopeless chimera, and bankers like de Hirsch and the Rothschilds would not jeopardize their standing and their influence by getting involved in it—especially as it might undermine their own belief in their eventual integration in European society. Intercession on behalf of persecuted Jews—as in the Damascus Affair or more recently in Russia—was one thing, premised as it was on the common liberal beliefs in justice and the Enlightenment. But independent Jewish politics was quite another matter.

Moreover, the Jewish moneyed aristocracy did, after all, live off the needs and tribulations of European politics. It made much of its money by making use of political conflicts and military needs, and its status was premised to a large extent on being above dynastic and great-power politics, precisely because it was the ally of all the dynasties and all the powers when considerations of profit justified this. It would take years until one branch of the Rothschilds, the English, would participate in a political project whose aims were neither profit nor Jewish philanthropy but political gains for the Jews as a people.

Later, Herzl seemed to have realized this, when he dared to challenge de Hirsch in a letter (which was probably never sent), “You are the big Jew of money, I am the Jew of the spirit”; 26 but this was after his initial approach had failed. It was a lesson Herzl learned the hard way, and it [End Page 14] entailed no little humiliation. He did, however, realize that the Rothschild’s wealth was a problem for the Jews, and he always hoped that they would eventually confront this difficult truth and use some of their money to support his political efforts. But very early on it became clear to Herzl that his success would come—if at all—not from Jewish wealth and influence but from their plight and their poverty. Herzl thus realized at the very beginning of his effort that it would be the poor and downtrodden Jews who would be his constituency. Yet until he was able to turn this insight into a political reality, the road was still unclear.

After his failure with the Jewish magnates, Herzl still believed in a kind of deus ex machina that would, through his own powers of persuasion, bring about the realization of his political program. His only initial mistake, he thought, was that he addressed the wrong people: not Jewish magnates but the leaders of world politics should be approached.

So the diaries witness the second stage of his attempt: he tried to reach the German emperor, even the aging—and by then powerless—Bismarck. He did succeed in finding a contact to one of Emperor Wilhelm II’s close associates, the Grand Duke of Baden, as well as some of his ministers, but did not succeed in reaching the emperor himself. Out of his own funds he published the brochure Der Judenstaat, which is based on his various drafts for the “Address to the House of Rothschild”: hence its closely crafted and politically careful legalistic language. In June 1896 he traveled to the Sultan’s court in Constantinople—all paid by himself and with no organization of public support behind him. This pathetic attempt to try, as a private person, to influence the Sultan was doomed to failure, and it involved Herzl in further humiliations and not a little loss of money, since he did not—and could not—find his way in the byzantine labyrinths of the Ottoman court.

Yet out of these two sets of failure—with the Jewish magnates and trying to break into world politics without any public base—Herzl the neophyte learned some useful lessons about public life. Despite the total failure of his attempts to get the attention of the world’s statesmen, he succeeded in creating the first links of what would later become his network of connections. Some of these new acquaintances were influential people with important access to real sources of power, if sometimes devoid of great clout themselves (like the Grand Duke of Baden, who would consistently help Herzl over many years); others were people out of the demimonde of politics and journalism, sometimes on the verge of corruption and pocket-book journalism. Some of these contacts would be helpful in the future, some less so, but they slowly made Herzl better acquainted with the real world on whose stage he hoped to play such an unprecedented and unrehearsed role. [End Page 15]

The same happened in Jewish circles, which were initially totally unfamiliar with Herzl’s name—after all, he had never before been active in Jewish politics or community affairs. After Der Judenstaat was published, and in the course of looking for contacts with the powers-that-be, Herzl’s name became slowly known in Jewish circles in Vienna, Paris, London, and Eastern Europe. Some of this was negative notoriety, but being criticized or attacked is also a vehicle for getting out of the morass of anonymity. When Herzl decided in the spring of 1897 to publish the weekly Die Welt as a preparation for convening the Zionist Congress, he acquired access to public opinion in the Zionist cause for the first time; the editors of the Neue Freie Presse continued in their insistence that none of Herzl’s Zionist ideas be even mentioned in their paper.

Thus, through trial and error, Herzl eventually landed upon the strategy that would be the basis for his eventual activity. A less egocentric person would probably have given up after the initial failures and humiliations; Herzl’s great achievement was his ability to learn from these failures and to develop the interconnected mix that would catapult him—and the movement he created—from obscurity to some recognition and organizational achievement. This strategy consisted of an uneven mix of three elements: continuing his diplomatic endeavors to find political allies for the Zionist idea on the international level; creating a political mass movement—the Zionist Organization, slowly emerging from the annual Congresses—as a way of crystallizing the Jewish political will and serving as a basis for diplomatic activity; and creating the organizational and financial structures of the Zionist Organization as a vehicle for its political will and its implementation.

The process of maturation of Zionist activity is parallel to the maturation of Herzl’s own personality and activity. Even without getting into involved—and difficult to prove or sustain—psychological explanations, which are sometimes de rigueur in the Herzl biographical literature, the transformation undergone by the writer of the diaries is indeed far-reaching. At their beginning we see a journalist who is looking for a new role in life (perhaps an influential editor? a playwright? a politician? a founder of a state or a Lycurgus-like legislator?); he is naive in his approach, marginal in his social status, and very conscious of his inexperience in appearing before the high and the mighty or in public in general. It is reasonable to imagine that, had we possessed other contemporary accounts of his first meetings in Jewish affairs, the reports would in all probability reflect a not very serious impression. There is little doubt that some of his interlocutors thought of him as a financial confidence man, another (Jewish) journalist trying to make money or a name for himself by mediating between statesmen and rich bankers. [End Page 16] Herzl’s extreme carefulness regarding all financial matters, which sometimes bordered on the puritanically obsessive, attests to his own sensitivity about being viewed in such unfavorable light.

And yet, at the end of the diaries, and as their story unfolds, a new picture emerges. Despite the fact that the diplomatic efforts failed and the institutions founded were organizationally weak and financially precarious, it is clear that in fewer than nine years (from the time he started the diaries until his death), Herzl did change Jewish politics—and with it, world politics as well, though this would become clear only many years later.

The Jewish cause turned, mainly through Herzl’s tireless and rather unsuccessful efforts, from a marginal problem—discussed in coteries of half-employed Jewish intellectuals within a small number of penurious philanthropic organizations and hotly yet ineffectively debated in obscure publications hardly read outside a small circle of people in the East European Jewish Pale of Settlement—into a subject of world politics. The vision of the Return to Zion found its way from unknown Jewish periodicals to the world press, the courts, embassies, chancelleries, and foreign ministries of the major European powers.

Until Herzl came around, a Jewish person never existed who started from being almost totally anonymous and succeeded in fewer than 10 years to have discussions on Jewish matters with the German emperor, the Ottoman sultan, the king of Italy, the Pope, the prime ministers and foreign ministers of Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Italy, the Brit-ish colonial secretary, the Russian ministers of finance and the interior, and scores of other politicians and dignitaries. The index of Herzl’s diaries reads like an International Who’s Who or the Gotha Almanach. This by itself is an impressive achievement. The Pope, for example, may not have many divisions yet is backed by a powerful, rich, and historically experienced universal Church; Herzl, in contrast, had only his own will power to fall back on, and his only armory consisted of his ability to light a spark in the hearts and minds of his interlocutors, Jews and non-Jews alike. In this way he succeeded in changing the place of the Jewish problem on the world’s map. Few are the leaders of national movements who achieved so much and with such meager means: without legions, without an army, without an underground, without acts of terrorism, with no financial basis, and with no real strategic partners.

Herzl’s background as a newspaper man surely made him aware that public relations and the very fact of being publicly present may be the strongest weapon in modern politics—certainly for a people as politically weak as the Jews were at the turn of the century. On several occasions Herzl mentions the need for symbolic language and the power [End Page 17] of symbols in politics. When coming up with the idea of building a permanent hall for the Zionist Congresses in Basel, he says to his friend, the architect Oscar Marmorek, “With nations one must speak in a childish language: a house, a flag, a song are the symbols of communication.” 27 Herzl also put together the organizational and financial instruments of the nascent Zionist organization, but more than anyone else then active on behalf of the Jews, he understood the power of mass communication in the matters of the weak and the downtrodden. Those who have strong legions on their side may not need mass communication; for the weak, it may be their only weapon.

A Jewish Self-Education

Before reaching these goals, however, Herzl had to overcome a major obstacle: like many other founders of national movements, Herzl came from the margins of the community whose leader he eventually became. He was almost totally ignorant in Jewish matters—be they normative, historical, or sociological. What he knew about Jews and Jewish life came from the generalized Jewish background of his family and immediate surroundings, but he was never active in Jewish life, nor did he study it or its history.

Like many educated, bourgeois Viennese Jews, Herzl did sometimes use Hebrew or Yiddish expressions, and they occasionally appear in the diaries; yet this knowledge was not accompanied by more than a fleeting acquaintance with Jewish history. For example, it appears he had never read Heinrich Graetz’s monumental history of the Jewish people, which was the source of Jewish knowledge for many Central and East European Jewish intellectuals at the time; initially he was not even aware of the Hovevei Zion (“Lovers of Zion”) movement in Russia, nor did he realize the extent of the Hebrew Haskalah (Enlightenment) in Eastern Europe. In a way, Herzl reinvented the Zionist wheel all by himself, learning about his predecessors only as he went along.

A number of examples appear in the diaries. Before writing Der Judenstaat, Herzl had never read Moses Hess’ Rome and Jerusalem (1862) and probably had never heard of it. In 1901 he writes that he took a copy of the book with him when he traveled to Palestine in 1898, “but never had been able to finish [it] properly because of the pressure and rush of these years.” 28 Only in 1901 did he get to read it during a 19-hour train journey to and from a spa, and he became immediately enraptured: “What an exalted, noble spirit! Everything that we have tried is already in the book.” Hess’ Hegelianism put him off a little bit, but he warmly [End Page 18] embraced Hess’ admiration for Spinoza. He recognized what he calls Hess’ “national spirit” and concludes: “Since Spinoza Jewry has brought forth no greater spirit than this forgotten, faded Moses Hess!” 29

Likewise, Herzl heard only by accident from an acquaintance about George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda and notes down in June 1895, “I must read Daniel Deronda. Perhaps it contains ideas similar to mine.” 30 It is doubtful he ever took the time to do so. Several months later, in November 1895, during his visit to London, he notes that the chief rabbi mentions to him that his plan was exactly “the idea of Daniel Deronda,” 31 probably not realizing the slightly ironical, if not dismissive, tone in which this remark might have been made. All this did not prevent Herzl in 1897 from suggesting to Leon Kellner, his assistant as editor of Die Welt, that he prepare a series of articles for the paper on “representative exponents of the Zionist idea: Disraeli, George Eliot, Moses Hess, etc.” 32

More surprising is that initially Herzl was not acquainted with Leon Pinsker’s Autoemancipation: after all, this book appeared in 1882 (and not 20 years earlier, like Hess’ forgotten tome) and did have some impact on Jewish public opinion. There is even an ironical coda to the way Herzl made his first acquaintance with Pinsker’s name and his work. Herzl heard about Pinsker for the first time in 1895 from one of the leaders of the French Alliance Israélite Universelle, and when noting the conversation in his diaries, he misspells Pinsker’s name. Herzl reports that his interlocutor told him “especially in Russia I would find many adherents. In Odessa, for example, there had lived a man named Pinsger who had fought for the same causes, namely the regaining of a Jewish national home. Unfortunately, Pinsger was already dead. His writings are said to be worthwhile. Should read them as soon as I have time.” 33

Despite the fact that this occurred during the months when he was writing Der Judenstaat, Herzl did not find the time to read Autoemancipation. Only in early February 1896, when Der Judenstaat was already being printed, did he receive a copy from a Jewish member of the Austrian parliament, sitting for a constituency in Galicia. He read the booklet and was enchanted—exactly as he would be a few years later when reading Hess’ Rome and Jerusalem:

An astounding correspondence in the critical part, a great similarity in the constructive one. A pity that I did not read this work before my own pamphlet Der Judenstaat was printed. On the other hand, it is a good thing that I didn’t know it—or perhaps I would have abandoned my own undertaking. 34

It is reasonable to assume that an earlier acquaintance with Pinsker would not, in all probability, have made Herzl “abandon [his] own [End Page 19] undertaking,” yet this is an elegant rhetorical device to find a silver lining in his own ignorance about his Zionist predecessors.

A similarly ironic twist accompanies Herzl’s ignorance of the very existence of the Hovevei Zion movement in Eastern Europe, which was to a large extent established as a response to the impact of Pinsker’s Autoemancipation. Although the movement’s achievements were modest, it was instrumental in helping Jewish immigration to Palestine, it held public conventions and other meetings, and it did support the first agricultural Jewish settlements there. Yet Herzl hears about it for the first time in November 1895 in Cardiff from Colonel A. E. W. Goldsmid, one of his first British supporters. He recounts that the colonel showed him the flag of the movement, and he misspells its name (then and on several other occasions) as “Chowe we Zion”—obviously not understanding its meaning, and apparently thinking the “we” was a Hebrew “vav,” equivalent to “and”—which it is not. 35 That he hears for the first time of the most important attempt at Zionist organization preceding him through an encounter in Cardiff is again a testimony to his utter unfamiliarity with the realities of Jewish life, especially in Eastern Europe.

Similarly, he mentions Sabbetai Sevi several times in his diaries and sees him as a precursor of an attempt to bring the Jews back to the Land of Israel, but his knowledge is again flawed. As becomes clear from a note in his diaries, he thought that the Sabbatean movement emerged in the eighteenth century—and not in the mid-seventeenth as it actually did. 36

Yet while Herzl’s ignorance of Jewish matters is sometimes embarrassing, his ability to overcome it is impressive. Once he learns about the Hovevei Zion movement and its networks of supporters, he realizes this is a major reservoir for mobilization, and through this network he makes his first contacts with Jews in Galicia. For him Galicia becomes the bridge to Eastern Europe and to the Ostjuden; though it belonged to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Galicia was part of the East European Jewish environment, in terms of both the economic and social position of the Jews and the religious and cultural profile of the Jewish community itself. Herzl’s Der Judenstaat got an immediate warm reception among Galician Jews and among Jews from Lemberg or Przemysl, who occasionally traveled to Vienna for their business affairs or on behalf of Jewish organizations. Herzl’s first contacts with East European Jewry were thus being established: through these Galician acquaintances came also the first contacts with Jews in the Russian empire.

The only support Herzl got in his own Vienna was from the Jewish students, who acclaimed him at a time when the city’s Jewish official establishment, rabbinical or liberal-secular, was keeping its distance [End Page 20] from him. Most Jewish students in Vienna at that time came from the eastern provinces of the empire (Galicia, Bukovina) as well as from Polish areas of the Russian empire and from Russia proper. This created another link to Eastern Europe, and Herzl was quick to utilize it for the network that eventually created the reservoir of people who were to be invited to the first Zionist Congress.

A similar link to Eastern Europe was also formed through Herzl’s liaisons with non-Jewish personalities. In his journalistic and political contacts in Vienna, which Herzl tried to utilize for the Zionist cause, the number of Polish personalities from Galicia stood out, such as the member of the Austrian parliament Stanislaw Kozmian from Cracow, who published a sympathetic review of Der Judenstaat in a Polish newspaper in Lemberg, or the Austrian prime minister Count Badeni and the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister Count Agenor von Goluchowski, both members of the Polish aristocracy from Galicia. Paradoxically, these contacts also drew Herzl closer to the plight of the Jews in Galicia, since these landowning aristocratic statesmen appeared to be well acquainted with the precarious economic and social position of the Jews in Polish-Galician society. And, as their comments to Herzl make clear, they were well aware that these social tensions might also undermine political stability in that corner of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Herzl’s deepening acquaintance with East European Jewry influenced his approach to the centrality of the Land of Israel to his Zionist project. Initially, when he still hoped for philanthropic support from the Jewish magnates, and in deference to Baron de Hirsch’s Argentinean project, he left the question “Palästina oder Argentina” open. Paradoxically, some of the arguments Herzl uses in his dialogue with himself on the issue in the diaries show the depth of his own alienation from contemporary Europe and its cultural and political failures. Palestine is too near to Europe and its Great Power politics, he writes in an entry from the summer of 1895, adding that “South America . . . would have a lot in its favour on account of its distance from militarized and seedy Europe.” 37 On another occasion he mentions that, so far as Palestine is concerned, “Europe would still be too close to it, and in the first quarter-century of our existence we shall have to have peace from Europe and its military and social entanglements, if we are to prosper.” 38 He adds, however, that “on principle I am not against Palestine nor for Argentina.” Similar considerations make him leave the issue open in Der Judenstaat, though he evidently turns to favor the Palestinian option.

Yet all the doubts seemed to disappear when Herzl was overwhelmed by the positive response his pamphlet receives in Eastern Europe and when it became clear to him that the enthusiasm thus created could be [End Page 21] directed only toward Eretz Yisrael and not the Argentinean Pampas. The historical and religious memories, still very much alive in Eastern Europe and having recently received a significant push by the activities of Hovevei Zion (unknown, as we have observed, to Herzl during the first phases of his activity), all made Herzl realize that the political will, which he always saw as crucial to the emergence of a national movement, can be directed only toward Zion, not South America. Following advice from Nordau, he took care to have a Yiddish as well as a Hebrew translation of Der Judenstaat prepared as quickly as possible, “for the Russians.” 39 This realization was accompanied by a clear decision about the focus of his activity: although Herzl held hundreds of meetings with diverse personalities about Palestine, not one meeting was recorded about Argentina.

This led to the role Herzl envisaged for language in the (re)construction of the Jewish nation. Here again, Herzl’s views were far from dogmatic—and certainly at variance with many of the ideas then prevalent in Central and Eastern Europe that anchored national identity in linguistic criteria. Obviously Herzl was aware that the language issue was a complex matter, given Jewish dispersion, yet his search for a solution expressed many of the questions of national identity that have continued to challenge—and haunt—the Zionist movement and Israel until this very day.

Herzl never defined the Jewish nation. While viewing himself as a free thinker or, perhaps more in tune with his own times, as a deist or (as he himself once put it) a Spinozist, Herzl maintained in a clear and unambigious statement that “We recognize ourselves as a nation by our faith.” 40 A reverence for the public role of religion was evident in many of Herzl’s public acts: for example, he went to synagogue on Saturday on the eve of the opening of the first Congress in Basel and admitted that the aliyah with which he was honored excited him even more than his own opening address at the Congress; he continuously attempted to mobilize at least some rabbinical support for his efforts; and he called his Zionist utopian novel Altneuland, in clear allusion to the Prague Altneuschul.

Yet this public reverence for religion (which also reflects a Habsburg tradition) did not extend to the Hebrew language, which he dismissed as a mainly liturgical language, unfit for modern life (again his initial ignorance of the East European Haskalah surely influenced this judgment). Moreover, Yiddish was “a stealthy tongue of prisoners” 41 and should not be considered appropriate for a newly (re)born nation.

Herzl’s ambivalence about language is just another example of the fact that there was nothing primordialist (to use a current but to Herzl [End Page 22] anachronistic expression) in his view of the Jewish nation. This non-primordialism came out, in a paradoxical way, also in a letter to Bismarck, when in an obvious allusion to his image as the Iron Chancellor, Herzl praises the unifier of Germany as “the man who has stitched a torn Germany together with his iron needle in such a wonderful way that it no longer looks patched up.” 42 This was a clear admission of how complex the construction of a nation-state may be—for Germans just as for Jews.

Preparing Der Judenstaat, Herzl muses again and again in his diaries about what language the new nation should use, and in a paragraph that probably says more than Herzl wanted to divulge about his own torn identity, he writes:

Everyone retains his own language. I am a German Jew from Hungary and can never be anything but a German. At present I am not recognized as a German. But that will come once we are over there. And so let everyone keep his acquired nationality and speak the language which has become the beloved homeland of his thoughts. Switzerland offers visible proof that a federated state of different nationalities can exist. 43

He then adds: “I believe German will be our principal language,” further complicating the argument by saying “I draw this conclusion from our most widespread jargon, ‘Judeo-German.’ But over there we shall wean ourselves from this ghetto language, too, which used to be the stealthy tongue of prisoners. Our teachers will see to that.” 44 So Hoch-Deutsch, not Yiddish; yet the wide Jewish acquaintance with Yiddish as a Germanic tongue would be helpful, but the jargon would be purified.

The repeated multi-lingual example of Switzerland was for Herzl also an argument against provincialism. When one of his associates at Die Welt tried to convince him of the merits of Hebrew, he countered by saying “I think the main language must gain acceptance without coercion. If we found a neo-Hebrew state it will be only a New Greece. But if we do not close ourselves off in a new linguistic ghetto, the whole world will be ours.” 45

One of the strongest and perhaps most surprising expressions of Herzl’s thinking about Jewish national identity appears in the diaries in a series of obiter dicta commenting on his meeting in London with Israel Zangwill, who became one of Herzl’s first supporters before developing his own territorialist views. Zangwill set out his own views to Herzl on the racial unity of the Jewish people, but Herzl rejected this construction of Jewish identity lock, stock, and barrel. He also made some not overly kind remarks about what he calls Zangwill’s “long-nosed negroid type, with very woolly deep-black hair,” adding: [End Page 23]

However, [Zangwill’s] point of view is a racial one—which I cannot accept if I so much as look at him and at myself. All I am saying is: we are an historical entity, a nation made up of diverse anthropological elements. This also suffices for the Jewish state. No nation has uniformity of race. 46

Besides this total rejection of racist theories regarding both nationalism in general and the Jewish nation in particular, Herzl was often enchanted when told about the heterogeneity of the Jewish people. In 1897 he heard from a Jerusalem doctor about the variety of Jewish types there and notes in his diary with obvious exhilaration:

He told me wonderful things about Palestine, which is said to be a magnificent country, and about our Jews from Asia. Kurdish, Persian, Indian Jews come to his office. Strange: there are Jewish Negroes who come from India. They are the descendants of slaves who were in the service of the expelled Jews and adopted the faith of their masters. In Palestine one sees also Mountain Jews and Jews from the steppes who have a martial air. 47

And when meeting with the king of Italy, Herzl was again exhilarated to hear about the existence of black Jews in Eritrea, obviously Beta Israel who emigrated from Ethiopia to what at that time became an Italian colony. 48

This utter rejection of a racial component in Herzl’s construction of Jewish identity and his preference for a historical-cultural approach, which in the Jewish context is also related to religion, was especially meaningful if one recalls the salience of racial theories of nationalism then prevalent in Herzl’s immediate neighborhood in Central and Eastern Europe. In a literary form this appears also in one of Herzl’s diary entries when he sketches the portraits of the imaginary couple for the novel that was never to be written in its initially conceived form: “Novel: Hero is of the blond type, blue eyes, piercing look. His beloved is a Spanish Jewess, slender, dark-haired, high bred.” 49

Given this outlook, which denied ancestry and descent as a unifying factor, was aware of the multi-faceted nature of Jewish existence, and called for the preservation of a multiplicity of languages and cultures, Herzl’s sometimes over-dramatized obsession with unifying symbols becomes perhaps more understandable. It is precisely a people made up of such “diverse anthropological elements” that needs these unifying symbols—a flag, a coat of arms, symbolical institutions, monumental buildings, the creation of a political consciousness, mass ceremonies, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem as a modern city, symbolizing the Jewish renaissance yet at the same time connecting it to world civilization. [End Page 24]

The Emergence of Zionist Diplomacy

Herzl’s diaries also provide a major source about the emergence of Zionist diplomacy, and I will comment briefly here on Herzl’s modus operandi and the evolution of his handling diplomatic contacts. Although Herzl’s entries obviously represent the way he wished to present himself, his own doubts, insecurity, and gropings for a right approach come through clearly and do shed light on the tortuous ways of the beginning of Zionist diplomacy.

Herzl’s political and diplomatic attempts brought him into contact with some of the most prominent European and Middle Eastern statesmen, and the very development of these contacts did help to put the Zionist cause on the map of world politics. Hovevei Zion, for all its activity over almost two decades, never managed to achieve even a fraction of what Herzl was able to do in the space of a few years. True, these contacts were all dismal failures: despite his frequent visits to Constantinople, his unusual (and only) visit to Palestine in order to meet the German emperor in Jerusalem, and his numerous audiences with German, Austrian, British, and other statesmen and officials—Herzl failed to achieve even one endorsement of his project from any of these personages for a Jewish settlement in Palestine or even in areas close to it like Cyprus or Sinai.

Yet it was a magnificant failure. It laid the foundation for the kind of diplomacy that ultimately led to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the U.N. decision of 1947 on the partition of British Palestine, which gave international legitimacy to the establishment of Israel in 1948. It was a unique combination of Jewish misery, humanitarian concerns, and an appeal to the self-interest of statesmen and Great Powers. It was a powerful amalgam of vision and Realpolitik—and the diaries show how it took Herzl some time, and much tribulation, to develop it. Personally, it was a Sisyphean endeavor for Herzl, yet the diaries as a bildungsroman show his own development and emergence from obscurity, naivete, and sheer bravado to a statesmanlike maturity.

When he started on his odyssey in 1895, Herzl had no experience in public affairs, nor did he have meaningful contacts at the commanding heights of European politics, neither in Austria nor in France. It is true that Herzl used his carte de visite as an editor of the Neue Freie Presse as a means of opening doors (sometimes clearly embarrassing his employers), but his previous journalistic contacts were not very wide or impressive. In this respect, the diaries are a testimony of a double process: first, of the complex way in which Herzl developed his contacts; and second, [End Page 25] of his own emergence as a seasoned leader and negotiator through the ever-widening network of his contacts and the growing sophistication of the way he approached what eventually became meaningful—though fruitless—diplomatic negotiations. Herzl in 1904, prior to his untimely death, was a very different person regarding political and diplomatic activity from the person who wrote in 1895 that he is embarking on an “immensely important matter”—yet actually not having the faintest idea of how to go about it.

Paradoxically, his journalistic background did not always help him. Because for years Herzl reported from Palais Bourbon, the seat of the French National Assembly, he put undue emphasis on what people said in public debate, whereas the intricacies of political life were not always clear to him; very often he repeated in his despatches snippets of gossip he picked up in parliamentary corridors and among his fellow journalists and reported them as facts. It is for this reason that in his first meetings, be it with the German emperor or with Ottoman courtiers, he believed that oratorical flourishes would do the trick, and that if he were to convince his interlocutors with the justice of his project, he would gain their support. As becomes clear from his diaries, he frequently misinterprets the good manners and politesse of his interlocutors for support or agreement, not realizing that the rules of the diplomatic game—especially as they were being played in the aristocratic ambience of the late-nineteenth century—call for politeness and courtesy, faint and generalized praise, and the eschewing of confrontation and harsh language. Yet this false optimism that sometimes initially informs Herzl’s reports about his diplomatic meetings did, by itself, supply him with the needed stamina and hope for further efforts and thus did not discourage him—as a more realistic reading of what people were telling him would have otherwise done.

Equally, Herzl was not always aware of the entangled financial interests of his interlocutors, both as individuals and as statesmen. (This is mostly clear from the extremely naive financial plans offered by him in Constantinople.) Nor did he realize that some of the statesmen he was meeting had their own private channels to various Jewish financiers and bankers, who sometimes evidently advised their friends and clients against listening to what (to many of them) were the irresponsible ravings of a somewhat pushy journalist playing prophet.

Only slowly did it dawn on Herzl that a well-polished phrase and a convincing speech will not suffice to turn around the chancelleries of Europe. Nevertheless, he did develop his speaking technique (initially he appeared to be both rather nervous and extremely long-winded—handicaps about which he reports with candor and honesty). He realized [End Page 26] that polite phrases are the staple of diplomacy, yet they are meaningless if not accompanied by clear interests or effective pressure. His contacts with Austro-Hungarian politicians, through which he became better acquainted with the intricacies of the internal politics of the Dual Monarchy, made him aware of this. Slowly Herzl emerged not as a mere enthusiast for an idée fixe but as a spokesman for a movement; he obviously exaggerated its power, and his tendency to drop the names of the high and the mighty who were supposedly supporting Zionism sometimes proved counter-productive. Similarly, it takes him some time to realize that the court intrigues in Constantinople would make it impossible for him—or the Zionist movement—ever to reach a modicum of understanding about what was really happening. It took Herzl several futile visits to the Sultan’s court to realize that he was sometimes used as a pawn among courtiers in intrigues he could not even begin to fathom. On the political level too, it took Herzl time to realize that at best—and for a financial consideration the Zionist movement would never be able to muster—the Ottoman empire might be ready to allow the immigration of a restricted number of Jews into its imperial territory, just like it took in some of the Jews expelled in 1492 from Spain, or Muslims expelled from the Caucasus by the Russians or who left Bosnia-Herzegovina after 1878. But, he realized, the Ottoman empire would never accede to a territorially compact settlement of Jews in Palestine or any other discrete region of the empire, knowing only too well that this would eventually lead to a claim for a separate political entity.

At the point when his fortunes seemed to be at their lowest, after his fourth visit to Constantinople in February 1902, Herzl realized that the Zionist movement may then be too weak for a breakthrough into world politics. And yet, he also recognized that the opportunity for an international charter for Jewish immigration to Palestine might come one day—albeit much later than he had thought and only after the Ottoman empire would be divided up among the European powers. This became, indeed, the historical opportunity that eventually led to the Balfour Declaration.

In the summer of 1903, after the Kishinev pogroms and on the eve of the sixth Zionist Congress, Herzl’s growing maturity became evident in his talks with Russian statesmen. The Russian minister of the interior Count Vyatcheslav Plehve was the only statesman to grant Herzl a communique that, ever so faintly and with much circumspection, expressed some support for the Zionist endeavor. The timing was not accidental: the atrocities of the Kishinev pogroms stunned Jewish as well as world public opinion. The extent of antisemitism in Russia was well known, as was the fact that the tsarist government itself followed an [End Page 27] explicitly antisemitic policy. After all, these were the reasons for the massive Jewish emigration from the lands of the Russian empire, especially after 1882. Yet the Kishinev pogroms were something different: massive killings in broad daylight with the police virtually standing by and even rumors of tacit support from official sources. The new means of communication brought not only reports but also pictures of scores of people brutally murdered, hundreds wounded, and thousands of shops and dwellings burned and looted. For a Europe on the verge of a new century, it became utterly incomprehensible that such scenes, which most people thought belonged to the Middle Ages, were happening before their own eyes, more or less in the center of Europe.

One of the consequences of the publicity accompanying the atrocities in Kishinev was that the tsarist government found itself in an international tight spot. The Russian government itself was criticized in much of the Western press as being an accessory to the murder of its own subjects; the Western press abounded in negative descriptions of the tsarist regime; a number of European governments protested to the Russian authorities, sometimes because of Jewish petitions but also on general humanitarian grounds (or the fear that masses of Jewish refugees would inundate the West); and, last but not least, a number of Jewish banking houses in Europe and the United States stopped, or threatened to stop, credits to the cash-strapped tsarist government.

Herzl now realized that the plight of the Jews and the pressure under which the Russian government found itself presented him with a unique opportunity. For years he had tried to gain access to Russian statesmen or members of the Imperial family—but to no avail. He now succeeded through the good services of a Polish lady resident in Saint Petersburg, who in her earlier literary works expressed support for Zionism and appeared to be well connected with some ministers in the tsarist government. 50 In August 1903, Herzl set out for Saint Petersburg—not for an audience with the tsar or one of the grand dukes but for meetings with Minister of the Interior Count Plehve and Minister of Finance Count Sergei Witte. The extended reports of his meetings with the two are perhaps the most fascinating accounts Herzl gives in his diaries of any of his hundreds of diplomatic meetings. 51 Although the meeting with the dour and overtly antisemitic Witte was totally disappointing, in his talks with Plehve Herzl succeeded in presenting the inherent connection between the plight of the Jews in Russia and the cardinal internal problems of the tsarist empire—and in offering a solution for the joint dilemma: organized emigration. He maintained that organized emigration, in contradistinction to individual emigration, could be undertaken only as part of a political project that would allow the Jews to organize and economically sustain such a mass emigration. And this could be [End Page 28] achieved only through a publicly acknowledged status for the Zionist Organization and its control over a territory to which the immigrants could flock en masse.

In his talks with Plehve, Herzl transcended his personal feelings toward the minister (who was obviously not a friend of the Jews, though he maintained a diplomatic politesse throughout the interview), and together they agreed on the structural problems inherent in the existence of a large Jewish minority in the tsarist empire. Herzl reiterated his conviction that the status of the Jews in Russia posed a difficult dilemma for the Russian regime and might even in the end doom the very survival of tsarism. Plehve seemed to agree. On the one hand, he says, the government was ready to accept the Jews as equal subjects provided they integrate socially and linguistically into Russian society and get out of their communal and religious isolation. On the other hand, Plehve admitted that this would confront the government with another problem—the inundation of Russian gymnasiums and universities with Jewish students; it was this that led the authorities to impose a maximum quota on the number of Jewish students (“numerus clausus”). Otherwise, the Russian minister said, “we should soon run out of posts to give the Christians.” 52 But this, Herzl argued, pushes the Jews into revolutionary activity and causes further antisemitism as well as more government oppression.

In a strange way, both agreed on the inherent dilemma, and Herzl rose to the occasion by not wasting time on condemning the antisemitic politics of the government (it would only elicit defensive responses) but challenging Plehve to suggest a way out. If Jews continued to feel discriminated against even if they joined the Russian cultural mainstream, then they would turn into revolutionaries and threaten the tsarist system; and if it would not be easy for them to emigrate because of the financial hardships involved and the beginning of anti-immigration laws (the British Aliens Law was passed at that time), then it should be in the interest of the Russian government to support a public effort at organized emigration—that is, Zionism. Herzl used similar arguments in previous talks with the Austrian prime minister von Körber and the German chancellor Bernhard von Bülow, but here his argument was clear, cogent—and addressed to the right person.

Herzl also realized that Plehve was worried about the coming Zionist Congress, due to be convened later in the summer, where the issue might become central and the adverse publicity would further complicate the Russian government’s attempt to gain credits from Western bankers, many of whom were Jewish. For Herzl this was an historic moment of converging interests, and he used it brilliantly.

There is an interesting sidelight to this argument: Plehve agreed that [End Page 29] some Russian support for a Zionist movement calling for emigration was conceivable, but he then commented that the latest convention of Zionists in Minsk called not only for emigration to Palestine but also for strengthening Jewish education and national consciousness within Russia. This, Plehve asserted, was unacceptable to the tsarist government because it opened the whole Pandora’s box of Russia’s myriad nationalist movements; the Russian government would find it difficult to allow to the Jews what it did not allow to other nationalities. Yet Plehve agreed to some loosening of the laws regarding Jewish residence outside the Pale of Settlement, especially in areas where there were “no poor Jews”; he also supported setting up agricultural cooperatives for Jews so that they would have avenues of economic activity other than commerce and the professions.

In his two meetings with Plehve, Herzl appeared for the first time not as a mere supplicant for a downtrodden people or as someone trying to master the intricacies of court cabals. He spoke to Plehve as a statesman to a fellow statesman: the agenda was composed of common interests, even if viewed from different perspectives; the main arguments were taken from the objective weight of factual reality. The issue to Herzl—and he succeeded in conveying it to Plehve—was not antisemitic demagoguery or discriminatory politics but the inherent dilemma of the tsarist system faced with a large and eventually unassimilable Jewish population. Hence the solution could not be “educational” or “philanthropic.” Russia was the cruelest example of the Jewish problem inherent in the nature of modern societies, and it was precisely the attempts of modernization and industrialization undertaken by the Russian government that exacerbated these problems and tensions. It thus happened that even a tsarist regime basically inimical to the Jews could not allow itself such murderous outbreaks as the Kishinev pogrom because of their impact on its international standing and credit rating in an age of modern mass communication and global economic interdependence.

Herzl’s cultural pessimism, which saw antisemitism not just as another form of Gentile wickedness or ancient prejudice but as a phenomenon deeply ingrained in the contradictions of modern European society, allowed him to build a political bridge to a powerful statesman whose destiny, and the destiny of the regime he represented, were inextricably connected, for better or for worse, with the fate of the large Jewish population under its rule. With ironic sophistication Herzl even mentioned to Plehve that, among Russian Zionists, very few supported the Uganda option, and he made a similar point in a letter to one of the tsar’s adjutants.

When Plehve was willing to issue a letter expressing some support for [End Page 30] Herzl’s effort, Herzl paid him off handsomely in a speech he delivered at a banquet organized in his honor by the Saint Petersburg Zionists. With the tsarist police informers obviously in the audience, Herzl addressed potential Jewish revolutionaries in Russia, saying that in the future Jewish commonwealth there would be a place for a socialist movement, but that, for now, national organization should come before social politics.

Herzl’s meeting with Plehve became public knowledge (both sides were obviously interested in it). The Bundists did not like it, nor did other Jewish radicals, who sharply criticized the meeting with the minister responsible for the oppressive tsarist police. Yet on his way back to Vienna, when Herzl stopped in Wilno, the Jewish masses received him as King of the Jews—notwithstanding the objections of the local Bundists.

Institutions and Nation-Building

Creating the organizational structure of the Zionist Organization was equally a project that grew haphazardly and by trial and error, and the diaries are again an invaluable source for following Herzl’s tribulations as well as doggedness. Initially he did not have at his disposal any organizational or financial means; he continued working for the Neue Freie Presse, insisting that he receive no compensation whatsoever for his Zionist activities. On the contrary, he financed his early travels for the Zionist cause, as well as the foundation of Die Welt, out of his and his father’s not-too-abundant means, in the process depleting most of the funds of his wife’s dowry. The dozens of meetings, hundreds of letters and telegrams, and other activities reported in the diaries are testimony to an incredible, even manic energy. It is a testament to this energy that, just two years after starting to think about Jewish affairs, Herzl was able to inaugurate the first Congress.

With the ever-widening circle of activities—westward, toward England, as well as eastward, toward Russia—came the first fissures and controversies that accompany any political project. With enlargement came dissension, and factions arose. Although the diaries naturally reflect Herzl’s subjective assessment of these controversies, one cannot but be impressed by how much Herzl managed to achieve organizationally in the first years. He imposed, almost single-handedly and rather autocratically, the democratic structure of the movement, anchoring it in an elective system with an open membership based on the payment of the shekel. (Some of the Russian members were far from happy with this system; where they came from, a much more hierarchical culture was prevalent.) At the second Congress, women were granted equal voting [End Page 31] rights—at a time when no parliamentary system in Europe or North America was yet open to women’s votes. To a large extent, the democratic and representative system that the Zionist movement bequeathed to the State of Israel was basically formed in the first few years of the movement under Herzl’s insistent guidance.

Therein lies a paradox: much as Herzl was responsible for founding the Zionist movement on a representative and democratic system, this was not after all his first preference, nor did the populist demagoguery of Austrian and French politicians like Karl Lueger and Edouard Drumont naturally endear democracy to him. As he wrote to one of his English supporters almost apologetically in March 1897, his first choice were the Jewish magnates, who he hoped would make up the founding membership of his “Society of Jews”; but, he says, “I have waited long enough. . . . I wanted to act without stirring up the masses, through direction from above. . . . I have met with no understanding, no support. . . . At the . . . Congress I shall call upon the masses to resort to self-help, since no one else wants to help them.” 53 Convening a public Congress and appealing to the masses were thus a response to the lack of support from the Jewish elites, and Herzl’s eventual insistence on the construction of the Zionist movement along democratic and representative lines was rather remarkable under these conditions.

This voluntaristic, representative structure of the Zionist movement also led Herzl to play with the idea of trying to take over, through democratic means, the leadership of the Jewish local communities as well as to send Zionist representatives to parliaments in areas where Jews could use the suffrage for this purpose. This attempt, which appealed to Herzl especially under Austrian conditions, which gave bourgeois and urban populations clear preferences in the voting system, made Herzl think that in Galicia or Bukovina Zionist members could be returned to the Reichsrat in Vienna. The attempt failed at the time, but eventually, in the interwar period in Central and Eastern Europe, it became a policy that the Zionist organization tried to implement on both local and national levels.

Other central institutions of the Zionist movement were also suggested by Herzl in the initial hectic period leading to the first Congress and in its immediate aftermath. As early as November 1896, Herzl writes to one of his followers in Lemberg that “in all places where Jews reside, a National Fund should be started through collections, donations etc. The Fund will everywhere remain under the management of those who raised it . . . only statements of accounts are to be given to the central office.” 54 Here are the origins of Keren kayemet le-Yisrael (Jewish National Fund). In this context Herzl also came up with the idea for [End Page 32] another financial arm of the movement, the Jewish Colonial Trust, adding in an interesting aside in December 1897 that “the Jewish Colonial Trust must actually become the Jewish National Bank. Its colonial aspect is only window-dressing, hokum, a firm name” 55 —that is, aimed at getting support in the West and assuaging Turkish fears about national aims. Similarly, he set up the foundation for a bank affiliated with the Zionist Organization—the Anglo-Palestine Bank, eventually to become Bank leumi le-Israel, today the country’s leading bank.

Through the diaries we learn also about Herzl’s gradual way of getting acquainted with the geography, topography, and economy of Palestine, about which he knew practically nothing initially. Within the first few months of his activity he met with experts in electricity, and they ignited his imagination about a power-producing canal between the Mediterranean and the Dead Seas—an idea that would appear in Altneuland and still haunts the fertile imagination of some of the less realistic scientists in Israel. Herzl discussed with economic experts the possibility of investments in the country and asked for reports about which industries could be developed, from chemical industries to silicate bricks. He looked at the possibility of massive land purchases from the Beirut Sursuq family, which owned extensive tracts of arable but underused land in the northern parts of Palestine. He considered the advisability of buying the German Templers Bank, the financial arm of the German Protestant colonies in Palestine. As early as 1896 he envisaged the reforestation of the country, with every Jew contributing toward the planting of one tree. And, he proposed the idea of setting up a university and offered the idea to the Ottoman authorities as a contribution toward the modernization of the empire. Few of the Hebrew University’s teachers today are aware that the first practical version of the idea that eventually became crystallized on Mount Scopus was connected with a Zionist project intended to help Ottoman modernization; as Herzl wrote in a May 1902 letter intended for the Sultan, “We could create a Jewish University in Your Imperial Majesty’s Empire, for example in Jerusalem.” 56

Thus, despite the fact that Herzl’s activity remained focused on diplomatic and political goals—which eventually became identified with Herzlean Zionism—the diaries provide ample testimony to the fact that he did not view his aims in merely political terms but devoted much thought and organizational energy toward the creation of the infrastructure of what would later be called “constructivist” Zionism. It was only natural that many would mainly see the political, public activity, but it becomes clear that Herzl was far from thinking that the Zionist project would succeed merely through diplomatic and political means. In this sense, a careful perusal of the diaries restores Herzl’s own feverish [End Page 33] activities to their inner balance, where nation-building to Herzl was constantly connected with the creation of economic, social, cultural, and intellectual structures. A meeting with Emperor Wilhelm II produced photographs, some of which became icons in the annals of Zionism, but the process of institution-building is not only much more arduous but also less photogenic, and many of Herzl’s own biographers have failed to realize that not just the photogenic is historically significant.

Uganda: Anatomy of a Blunder

This may be the place to comment, however briefly, on the Uganda affair, which was undoubtedly Herzl’s worst political blunder. It alienated him from many of his own supporters and caused the first major crisis in the nascent Zionist movement. It was also the one case in which Herzl’s feel for mood and atmosphere betrayed him. Yet his diaries give us a deeper insight into the specific context and sequence of events that led him to propose, however tentatively, the idea of trying to negotiate an alternative to Palestine, albeit on a temporary basis. The extent of the crisis in the Zionist movement during the debate following the sixth Zionist Congress in 1903 can be gauged also by the fact that the controversy gave rise to the first attempt at political assassination in the annals of the Zionist movement: a Russian Jewish student, Chaim Selig Luban, tried to assassinate Nordau, who also supported the possibility of considering Uganda as a stopgap measure. At a Hanukah ball of the Paris association Mevaseret Zion held on December 19, 1903, Luban stood up, yelled “Death to the Traitor!” and aimed two shots at Nordau, who was slightly wounded. Luban was later declared insane and never stood trial.

Because the Uganda affair appears prominently in Zionist—as well as anti-Zionist—historiography, a number of facts should be recalled. Herzl saw Uganda not as an alternative to Palestine but merely as a temporary asylum (Nachtasyl) for homeless refugees. Furthermore, the idea, which emerged during contacts with the British government concerning its diplomatic support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, gained sudden prominence at one of the most difficult junctures in the history of the young Zionist movement, when it experienced one diplomatic defeat after another and the wave of refugees streaming out of Russia in the wake of the Kishinev pogroms seriously challenged Herzl and his associates in their claim to be able to find a solution to the plight of the Jews. [End Page 34]

The diaries do indeed show 1903 as the most difficult year in Herzl’s activity in the Zionist movement, and the imminent danger facing the Jews in Russia only highlighted Herzl’s failure to come up with an adequate solution. Herzl realized that all of his attempts to secure a charter from the Sultan were in vain and would lead nowhere. Before 1903 he had believed that, despite his setbacks at Constantinople, one more journey there, or one more bold financial plan coupled with oiling the right palms of Ottoman officials, may eventually lead him to success in gaining a Turkish license for Jews to settle en masse in Palestine. In 1903, however, it became clear to Herzl that nothing would come of these attempts; he also began to realize that, due to the international diplomatic complexities of the Eastern Question, with which he was getting only slowly acquainted, the chances for German or British support for his endeavors in Constantinople were minimal and all his optimistic initial hopes were nothing but a grandiose illusion.

Yet strangely and surprisingly, another idea presented itself during that period through Herzl’s contacts with British statesmen, namely the proposal of considering the possibility of Jewish settlement in Sinai (the El-Arish project). Out of this idea and its failure, the British idea of another imperial possession—Uganda—came up. The details themselves are fascinating and show how serendipitous some crucial political developments are.

When the idea of a charter from the Sultan proved to be a dead end, Herzl heard from some of his English supporters about a proposal by British government sources connected with Sinai, and he thought that it might serve as a gateway to Palestine. Sinai belonged to Egypt, which was then a virtual British protectorate, and some people in the British government toyed with the idea of settling a friendly population on the border between the northeasternmost corner of its Egyptian possession and the Ottoman empire. It appeared that even the Coptic prime minister of Egypt, Boutros Ghali (later assassinated by an Egyptian nationalist) tended to support the idea. For the first time in the history of its diplomatic efforts, it seemed that the Zionist movement would get support from a major European power to settle Jews in an area adjacent to Palestine (Herzl even occasionally called the El-Arish area “Egyptian Palestine”). 57 The Zionist movement also mounted an exploratory delegation to visit Sinai with the blessing of the British pro-consul in Egypt, Lord Cromer, and the Colonial Office. The delegation, which strained the meager resources of the Zionist movement to their limits, included experts in geography, agriculture, economics, industrial development, and hydrology. It left Egypt for Sinai in February 1903, and Herzl—encouraged by the fact that he was proceeding for the first time with the [End Page 35] support of a European power—seemed to believe that success was finally at hand. In May 1903 he notes in his diary, “I thought the Sinai plan was such a sure thing that I no longer wanted to buy a family vault in the Döbling cemetery where my father is provisionally laid to rest.” 58 And in a letter to Lord Rothschild he had written a short time earlier, “I need colonization in El-Arish because it can be started at once, because I shall be alleviating a piece of misery and because I can inspire the masses with it” 59 —adding that he needs immediate financial support to make the plan work.

It is a bitter historical irony that the Kishinev pogroms and the failure of the El-Arish plan occurred at the same time. The pogroms took place on or near April 19, 1903, and that same month it became clear that the El-Arish plan was not feasible—both because the delegation found that the lack of water resources in Sinai could not be overcome and because the British government changed its mind. As late as April 24, when Joseph Chamberlain suggested to Herzl for the first time the idea of Uganda as a possible alternative to Palestine, he rejected it out of hand; the dimensions and repercussions of Kishinev would not yet have been clear, and Herzl still viewed the El-Arish plan as a possibility. Only one month later did Herzl realize that the Sinai plan was a nonstarter, and he then heard from one of his correspondents in London that Chamberlain was again bringing up the idea of Uganda. Only then did he decide to look at that option seriously.

It is in this context that Herzl agonized over Uganda, and his notes for June and July of 1903 abound in these considerations, mentioning that eventually Uganda would be used for exchange only, without giving up Palestine. He tried to convince his associates that, if the Zionist movement possessed a territorial base anywhere, it could enter the game of international politics and its bargaining power would increase; these are the arguments he would use at the sixth Congress. In September 1903, while visiting the one true friend he had among Europe’s titled heads, the Grand Duke of Baden, he gives an anguished expression of his feelings:

At one point the good old Duke seemed moved: when I told him that we would gladly renounce the good land in East Africa for the poor land in Palestine. I would particularly regard it as a vindication for us avaricious Jews, if we gave up a rich country for the sake of a poor one. 60

More than any other issue, the Uganda episode appears in the diaries as a fascinating drama—if not as a historical tragedy. A national leader like Herzl finds himself in a tight corner, buffeted by a combination of a [End Page 36] national catastrophe (Kishinev) and political failure (El-Arish), grasping at straws, and yet forfeiting much of his leadership because it appears to many that he has given up, or betrayed, his own ideals. The fact that it was Herzl—always sensitive to the symbolic and emotional in mass politics—who made this tragic mistake only shows how deep was the crisis in which he found himself. A possible analogy to the crisis Herzl hurled the Zionist movement into through his support for the Uganda option may be to look at what happened to socialist movements in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century. Some leaders, without appearing to give up the movement’s revolutionary ideology, decided to consider the possibility of joining bourgeois governments in order to solve pragmatically some of the immediate concrete problems then facing the working class. It did not help these leaders, who were tarred with a “ministerialist” heresy, when they claimed that this was merely a tactical move; they were not able to extricate themselves from the accusations of betrayal hurled at them. The explosive power of ideological symbols is so strong in radical movements, be they socialist or nationalist, that pragmatic considerations are not always perceived as such but are immediately transposed to the ideological level and create schisms that are not easy to overcome.

Only after the difficult scenes accompanying the closing sessions of the sixth Congress did Herzl realize how serious his political mistake really was. In his diary he sketches a draft for an imaginary address he would give at the next Congress (“If I live to see it”—he added in an ominous note). In his hastily scribbled note he reiterates his belief that “Palestine is the only land where our people can come to rest,” yet he adds that immediate solutions also have to be found and rhetorics about the Love of Zion will not suffice, because “hundreds of thousands need immediate help.” 61 But the wound never healed.

Visions of Terrestrial Zion

The diaries also supply the most extensive information about Herzl’s views and attitudes regarding Palestine. They report his reactions to it during his one visit to the country as well as his vision as to its role in the future. Altneuland is of course the major source for Herzl’s vision of the Land of Israel as a modern and industrial society, combining—in Herzl’s own words—the better aspects of both capitalism and socialism into a novel web of “mutualism” (a term he drew from utopian socialist thought). 62 This would be accompanied by tolerance and equal rights for the Arab population of the country, one of whose leaders, an [End Page 37] architect from Haifa called Reshid Bey, also figures prominently in the novel as a leader of the New Society.

Yet the diaries also pay tribute to Herzl’s attitude toward the real, existing Palestine—Erets Yisrael shel matah. It was a country whose landscape and existing state caught Herzl’s imagination, albeit sometimes in a complex way. His reaction to the squalor he found in the country, especially in the Old City of Jerualem, led him to flights of imagination regarding the future. Here again the diaries are delicately poised between the real and the imaginary, echoing Herzl’s initial internal tension between planning a political project and writing a novel.

Moreover, in his travels Herzl began to see many other places through a Palestinian prism. We have already seen how a trip to Holland brought forth from him a paean to the creative powers of human will under inauspicious natural and geographical conditions. Another example occurred in October 1898, when he visited the German ambassador to Vienna in his Prussian country house. Herzl traveled through the sandy terrain of Brandenburg, so different from the romantic landscape he was used to in Austria and southern Germany. As in the case of Holland, the immediate geographical context served him as a lesson to be applied in Palestine: “The Mark [i.e. Brandenburg] is by no means a sandy desert as people say it is. So we too shall convert the sandy deserts of our country into a beautiful Mark.” 63

The ever-intruding presence of the Land of Israel appeared sometimes in an overtly romantic, if not theatrical, fashion. Thus on Yom Kipur 1901, while vacationing at his customary resort of Alt-Aussee (and giving no indication that he was keeping the fast), Herzl considered whether to send another appeal to the Sultan. And then, with the obvious subtext of “By the waters of Babylon” in the background, he writes in his diary (specifically mentioning that it was “23 September, Yom Kipur”), “Today I sat by the lake, and it was so beautiful. And I thought how it would be if next spring I could sit by the Lake of Gennesaret like this, and I decided to write [to the Sultan].” 64

But most of his references to Palestine are practical and operational, and they contain repeated projects for the rebuilding and renovation of Jerusalem. Since his visit to the city in 1898, Jerusalem had caused him deep ambivalence: a profound enthusiasm for its historical heritage together with equally deep disgust at the swarms of beggars of all religions virtually attacking the visitor at the holy sites, which should be dedicated to contemplation and serenity. This moves him to note that eventually in the Old City, after being cleaned and renovated, only the holy sites of the three religions should be left, and the whole population should be resettled in modern, sanitary suburbs outside of the city walls. [End Page 38] The need to combine the historical and the modern regarding Jerusalem came up in his diaries many times—perhaps most surprisingly while reporting in January 1904 about riding in an open carriage in Rome for his meeting with the king of Italy. Commenting on the richness and glory of the architecture “of old-new Rome” along his route, he mentions that in Jerusalem a “street of the Diaspora” would be built “and display the architectural styles of all the ages and nations through which we have moved,” immediately adding the practical to the visionary: “Building regulations are to be given out for each section of this street, and sites are to be allotted (gratis?) only to people who pledge themselves to building in the style of their particular section. At 11.05 I drew up before the King’s wing of the Quirinal.” 65

Herzl’s one visit to Jerusalem did indeed leave a set of mixed emotions—all showing, however, that he did not remain neutral or indifferent to it. The journey itself was a short one, and its timetable was totally determined by his hope (futile, as it soon became clear) to be granted a declaration supporting Zionism from the German emperor Wilhelm II during the latter’s visit to the Holy Land. Despite the hectic schedule and the political agenda of the visit, the diaries show Herzl’s emotional turmoil. On the last night before reaching Jaffa, traveling on a small Russian steamer from Port Said in Egypt, Herzl notes that he could not sleep and sat all night long on the deck. At the break of dawn, he and the other members of the delegation were trying to seek out “the Jewish coast” (die jüdische Küste), and he then notes that “we approached the land of our fathers with mixed feelings.” The ambivalence must have been influenced, at least in part, by the strange combination of the people in whose company they were traveling: “the old German pastor from South Africa, the Russian muzhiks in the foul-smelling steerage, the Arabs who have been travelling with us from Constantinople . . . the poor Rumanian Jewish woman who wants to join her sick daughter in Jeruscholajim.” 66

It is indeed a complex encounter, and Herzl reacts very similarly to the way many of the immigrants of the first and second Aliyah responded to the country: first Jaffa—“poverty and misery and heat in gay colours,” then through “the neglected Arab countryside” to the Jewish settlement of Rishon le-Zion. 67 There he grows enthusiastic when seeing for the first time a Jewish agricultural village, but he also senses some of the heavy atmosphere caused by the farmers’ dependence on the largesse distributed by the Rothschild administration, which took over the settlement when it faced financial collapse. Yet later, when the youngsters of Rehovot welcome him with an Arab-style fantasia on horseback, his eyes fill with tears when he observes, in clear reference to the German [End Page 39] historian Heinrich von Treitschke’s vicious turn of phrase, how moved they all were seeing those “daring horsemen into whom our young trouser-salesmen [hosenverkaufende Jünglinge] can be transformed.” 68

Herzl and his delegation arrived in Jerusalem by train from Jaffa late on Friday afternoon; because of the train’s delay, they arrived after sunset and the onset of the Sabbath, and thus decided to proceed on foot to their hotel, despite the fever from which Herzl was suffering. On their way, they got a first glimpse of the Old City and its walls, and Herzl’s romantic fascination expresses itself forcefully:

In spite of my weariness, Jerusalem by moon-dust with its grand outline made a powerful impression on me. Magnificent the silhouette of the fortress of Zion, the citadel of David. . . . Even in its present decay it is a beautiful city, and when we come here, can become one of the most beautiful in the world again. 69

Herzl’s reverence for the public aspects of religious observance comes out again several times during his visit. The Wailing Wall and its beggars turn Herzl off, as do the general religious obscurantism and fanaticism he discerns in the Old City; his general comments are far from complimentary, reflecting his European cultural bias as to what the public aspect of religion should be:

When I remember thee in days to come, O Jerusalem, it will not be with pleasure. The musty deposits of two thousand years of inhumanity, intolerance, and uncleanliness lie in the foul-smelling alleys. The one man who has been present here all this time, the amiable dreamer [Schwärmer] of Nazareth, has only contributed to increasing the hatred.

He adds immediately, “If we ever get Jerusalem and I am still able to do anything actively at that time, I would begin by cleaning it up! 70 —and goes on to spell out his details of urban renewal.

His itinerary in Jerusalem was itself interesting: one might have expected that, as a cultured European who occasionally waxed enthusiastic about the glory of churches and cathedrals, he would visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He did not, “because my friends restrained me.” 71 Neither did he visit the mosques on the Dome of the Rock, mentioning that it was forbidden to visit them, “otherwise one becomes subject to excommunication by the rabbis.” 72 Obviously, Herzl’s knowledge of Jewish religious rites was constantly expanding, and he gave it due respect in his public acts. He also visited a minor Jewish site: the tombs of the Judaized kings of Khadayiv (in Sheikh Jerach Quarter). [End Page 40] These “Tombs of the Kings” were purchased by the Sephardi French banking family of the Pereires and donated to the French government. Herzl is furious in his comment on Jewish banking magnates presenting a Jewish royal tomb to a Gentile government: “This is how impossible people considered it that the Jews would ever own anything themselves,” 73 obviously implying that such historical relics should be in Jewish hands.

Yet except meeting with a small coterie of Jerusalemite Jews involved in Zionist activity, Herzl avoided contact with the ultra-Orthodox Old Yishuv of the city, probably so as not to compromise them in the eyes of the Ottoman authorities. He also insisted that his delegation be separate from that of the Jewish community representatives when welcoming the emperor at his entry into the Old City at Jaffa Gate.

All of this suggests that the view, sometimes expressed in the wake of the Uganda controversy, that Herzl did not feel attached to Jerusalem or the Land of Israel just does not stand up to scrutiny of the available sources expressing his reactions when confronted with the terrestial Palestine. Even when the Uganda option was being discussed and Herzl had already given up on getting any positive response from the Sultan, he approached the Ottoman minister of war through the military Ottoman attaché in Vienna, trying to propose limited Jewish settlement in the Acre district in northern Palestine, even if an overall charter for the whole land was unattainable. 74 In a parallel move, he asked Plehve and some others of his Russian contacts to intervene with the authorities in Constantinople to allow this limited project, so that immigration of Russian Zionists could follow immediately. 75 This and many similar examples suggest that, even while considering the Uganda option, Herzl never gave up on Palestine and continued, through his contacts and appeals, to try and further a growing Jewish presence in the land of Israel even if his ambitious—and, realistically speaking, wholly unattainable—plan for a Turkish charter had by then completely failed.

An Egyptian Interlude

Some of Herzl’s impressions of his visit to Egypt in the spring of 1903, in connection with the failed El-Arish project, should be mentioned because they give a rare glimpse of his sensitivity to some of the problems of the region. Anyone who imagines that Herzl viewed European imperial rule in the Middle East as permanent and that he premised the ultimate victory of Zionism on its longevity should have a look at what Herzl was able to discern in Egypt during a very short visit. [End Page 41]

Following in the footsteps of all European tourists, Herzl visited the pyramids of Giza and en route saw what many other visitors would not care about—and he makes a politically interesting though obviously hollow commitment: “The misery of the fellahin by the road is indescribable. I resolve to think of the fellahin too, once I have power.” 76 At the same time he was impressed by the intellectual quality of the many educated young Egyptians who came to an archaeological lecture (by Sir William Willcocks on river canalization in ancient Chaldea): “They are the coming masters. It is a wonder that the English do not see this. They think they are going to deal with fellahin forever. Today their 18,000 troops suffice for this big country. But how much longer?” 77

Herzl then goes on into a longer excursus on the historical role of the West in the Orient, and, in language reminiscent of Karl Marx’s analysis of the dialectical outcome of British rule in India, he makes the following comments, which few of his generation expressed in such an acute way:

What the English are doing is splendid. They are cleaning up the Orient, letting light and air into the filthy corners, breaking old tyrannies, and destroying abuses. But along with freedom and progress they are also teaching the fellahin how to revolt.

I believe that the English example in the colonies will either destroy England’s colonial empire—or lay the foundation for England’s world dominion: one of the most interesting alternatives of our time. It makes one feel like coming back in fifty years to see how it has turned out. 78

Exactly 50 years later, in 1953, Egypt was in the throes of the Young Officers revolution, aimed against the vestiges of British colonial rule in the region.

* * *

These obiter dicta are another example of the diaries as a bildungsroman, representing the development of Herzl’s personality on the background of the fin de siècle; as such they teach us something not only about Herzl and the Zionist movement but also about the state of Europe—Yesterday’s World, as the title of Stefan Zweig’s novel indicates. At the opening of the diaries, Herzl appears as the political neophyte, full of half-baked and sometimes contradictory ideas, unaware of political realities as well as the complexity—and richness—of Jewish life. Toward the end of the diaries Herzl is a different person—one whose successes and tragic failures are inextricably interwoven into the history of the movement he helped to bring to life. He is certainly sadder and [End Page 42] wiser but also much more sovereign in understanding reality—and how it can actually be changed.

In August 1902, Lord Rothschild wrote to Herzl a letter about his fears of whether Palestine may eventually turn out to be an Orthodox ghetto, giving expression to his doubts about whether the Jews were capable of setting up a modern state. Herzl strongly disagrees, pointing to the liberal vision he sketched in Altneuland, and then adds:

Were the founders of the states which are now great mightier, better educated, wealthier than we Jews of today? Poor shepherds and huntsmen have founded communities which later became states. In our time, Greeks, Rumanians, Serbs, Bulgarians have established themselves—and should we be incapable of doing so? 79

It was this belief in the creative, demiurge-like potential of nations—and individuals—that catapulted Herzl to the heights of activity where other, more prudent people would not have dared to tread or would have been discouraged from proceeding after so many failures. The diaries are a testimony to Herzl’s own will power as well as to his processes of maturation, where all of his insecurity and intellectual agonies—sometimes overcompensated by the insistence on proper dress and correct behavior—document his own painful emergence from relative obscurity to political leadership.

In the diaries one can perhaps also find the epitaph Herzl would have liked written on his own tomb, encapsulating his view of his role in history. In a bitter entry in the diaries written after an acrimonious confrontation with some of the Russian Zionists who disagreed with him on both substantial and procedural matters, Herzl bursts out:

One day, when the Jewish state will be in existence, everything will appear petty and self-evident. Perhaps a fair-minded historian will find that it was something, after all, that an impecunious Jewish journalist, in the midst of the deepest degradation of the Jewish people and at a time of the most disgusting antisemitism, made a flag out of a rag and a people out of a decadent rabble, and was able to rally this people around such a flag. 80

Shlomo Avineri

Shlomo Avineri, Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the author of, among other works, of The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx (1968), The Making of Modern Zionism (1981), Moses Hess: Prophet of Communism and Zionism (1985), and Arlosoroff (1990).


1. See, especially, Alex Bein, Theodor Herzl (Cleveland, 1962), Amos Elon, Herzl (New York, 1975), and, more recently, Ernst Pawel, The Labyrinth of Exile—A Life of Theodor Herzl (New York, 1989), and Steven Beller, Herzl (New York, 1991).

2. Theodor Herzl, Tagebücher (Berlin, 1922–23), 3 vols.

3. Theodor Herzl, Gesammelte Zionistische Werke (Tel Aviv, 1934–35), vols. 2–4.

4. The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, ed. Raphael Patai, trans. Harry Zohn (New York, 1960), 5 vols. Hereafter, citations to Diaries refer to this edition.

5. Theodor Herzl, Zionistisches Tagebuch (Berlin-Wien, 1983–85), ed. Johannes Wachter and Chaya Harel, 2 vols (they appear also as vols. 2 and 3 of Herzl’s Briefe and Tagebücher of the complete edition).

6. Theodor Herzl, Inyan ha-yehudim—sifrei yoman, trans. Josef Wenkert, intro. Shlomo Avineri, notes Michael Heyman (Jerusalem, 1997), vol. 1. This edition, though based on the 1983–85 full German version, cut the scholarly apparatus by about two-thirds and added an overview of Herzl’s life that does not appear in the German edition.

7. Sept. 3, 1897, Diaries, 2: 581.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Sept. 30, 1898, Diaries, 2: 674.

11. June 6, 1895, Diaries, 1: 105.

12. In a characteristic entry (Diaries, 1: 74) Herzl says that Hungarian Hussars will serve the Jewish state: they are so much more picturesque.

13. June 1895, Diaries, 1: 12.

14. Diaries, 3: 1146.

15. Apr. 4, 1902, Diaries, 3: 1270.

16. Nov. 17, 1895, Diaries, 1: 273.

17. Nov. 24, 1897, Diaries, 2: 601.

18. Feb. 23, 1898, Diaries, 2: 615.

19. June 1895, Diaries, 1: 4. The reference to his youthful diaries is to fragments published separately in vol. 1 of Briefe und Tagebücher, where in an entry dated Feb. 9, 1882 (pp. 611–16) appears a lengthy and bitter discussion of Dühring’s book. Herzl was then 22 years old.

20. Draft letter to Baron Albert von Rothschild, head of the Vienna branch of the family, June 28, 1895, Diaries, 1: 190. He then adds: “I consider the Jewish Question an extremely serious matter. Anyone who thinks that agitation against the Jews is a passing fad is seriously mistaken. For profound reasons it is bound to get worse and worse, until the inevitable revolution.”

21. See Diaries, 2: 658ff.

22. Diaries, 2: 619. The hero of this novel was to be modeled on Dr. Heinrich Friedjung, the Jewish editor of the Viennese Deutsche Zeitung, the party organ of the national Pan-German Deutscher Klub. The novel was never written. The best account, with an extensive bibliography, on antisemitism in Austria in that period is Peter Pulzer’s The Rise of Political Antisemitism in Germany and Austria, rev. ed. (London, 1988), esp. 121–84.

23. The most detailed account of Hitler’s Viennese ambience in the first decade of the twentieth century has recently been given by Brigitte Hamann, Hitlers Wien (München, 1997).

24. June 1895, Diaries, 1: 10.

25. Nov. 5, 1895, Diaries, 1: 263.

26. June 3, 1895, Diaries, 1: 26.

27. July 10, 1898, Diaries, 2: 645.

28. May 2, 1901, Diaries, 3: 1090.

29. Ibid.

30. Diaries, 1: 72.

31. Diaries, 1: 279.

32. May 15, 1897, Diaries, 2: 548.

33. Sept. 20, 1895, Diaries, 1: 243. The English translation does not reproduce the misspelling as it appears twice in this entry in the original, thus depriving the reader from getting adequately acquainted with the limits of Herzl’s Jewish knowledge and, consequently, diminishing the measure of his achievements.

34. Feb. 10, 1896, Diaries, 1: 299.

35. Nov. 25, 1895, Diaries, 1: 281. The English translation once more does not reproduce the misspelling, thus again making Herzl’s Zionist education opaque to the reader.

36. June 17, 1895, Diaries, 1: 114.

37. June 11, 1895, Diaries, 1: 69.

38. June 13, 1895, Diaries, 1: 133.

39. Nov. 19, 1895, Diaries, 1: 276.

40. “Wir erkennen uns als Nation am Glauben” (June 9, 1895, Diaries, 1: 56). The sophistication and nuanced meaning of this deceptively simple statement should not be underestimated; it may also come as a surprise to anyone expecting simplistic secular definitions in public matters from a person like Herzl, who was non-observant on a personal level. There is a direct line leading from Herzl’s statement to the (secular) definition of Jewish identity offered by Israel’s Supreme Court in the Rufeisen case (“Brother Daniel”) and the subsequent amendment to the Law of Return: both exclude from entitlement to automatic immigration to Israel and citizenship people who, though born Jewish, later converted to another religion. Herzl repeats the argument on another occasion as well, when writing on June 15, 1895 (Diaries, 1: 171): “the only thing by which we still recognize our kinship is the faith of our fathers.”

41. June 7, 1895, Diaries, 1: 40.

42. June 19, 1895, Diaries, 1: 120.

43. June 15, 1895, Diaries, 1: 171. The English translation tries to gloss over Herzl’s admission “Ich bin einer deutscher Jude aus Ungarn” by translating it as “I am a German-speaking Jew from Hungary,” which is obviously a travesty. I have reverted to the clear statement as it appears in the original. Herzl makes several more allusions to Switzerland as a linguistic model, such as in an entry for June 9, 1895 (Diaries, 1: 56), where he says “Language will present no obstacle. Switzerland too is a federal state of various nationalities.”

44. June 15, 1895, Diaries, 1: 171.

45. Feb. 23, 1896, Diaries, 1: 306.

46. Nov. 21, 1895, Diaries, 1: 276.

47. Feb. 20, 1897, Diaries, 2: 516–17.

48. Jan. 23, 1904, Diaries, 4: 1599. On this occasion Jews in China are also mentioned.

49. July 16, 1895, Diaries. 1: 203.

50. The intermediary was the poet Paulina Korwin-Piotrowska, who dedicated a special poem to the idea of Zionism that was read at the opening of the second Zionist Congress in 1898. She had been trying unsuccessfully for years to help Herzl meet Russian statesmen.

51. The following is based on Herzl’s extensive entries in Diaries, 4: 1519–40.

52. Diaries, 4: 1525.

53. Diaries, 2: 532.

54. Letter to Adolf Stand, Nov. 8, 1896, Diaries, 2: 494. Later, during 1907–11, Stand succeeded in being elected from Lemberg to the Austrian parliament on a Zionist ticket.

55. Diaries, 2: 607. Few of the supporters or the critics of Zionism are aware of this complex origin of the adjective “colonial” in the name of this financial institution of the Zionist movement.

56. Diaries, 3: 1275, where Herzl adds: “The Ottoman students would no longer need to go abroad. They would stay in the country. . . . The Jewish University should bring together all the scholarly qualities of the best universities, technical schools, and schools of agriculture. The institution will offer nothing unless it is of the very first rank.” Herzl repeats this idea of “a Jewish University” in an accompanying letter of May 3, 1902 (Diaries, 3: 1276), to Izzet Pasha, a high court official in Constantinople.

57. In a letter to Plehve, Sept. 5, 1903, Diaries, 4: 1551.

58. Diaries, 4: 1491.

59. Apr. 27, 1903, Diaries, 4: 1477.

60. Sept. 1, 1903, Diaries, 4: 1549.

61. Aug. 1903, Diaries, 4: 1548.

62. On Herzl’s first discussions of “mutualism,” see June 21, 1899, Diaries, 3: 852.

63. Oct. 1898, Diaries, 2: 687.

64. Diaries, 3: 1179.

65. Jan. 3, 1904, Diaries, 4: 1595. The historicist ecclecticism of Vienna’s Ringstrasse is an obvious backdrop to these ruminations about the Strasse der Diaspora.

66. Oct. 27, 1898, Diaries, 2: 738–39. On several other occasions during his trip to Palestine, but nowhere else, Herzl refers to the city as “Jeruscholajim” always in connection with its religious Jewish heritage.

67. Ibid., 739–40.

68. Ibid., 742.

69. Oct. 29, 1898, Diaries, 2: 744–45. Herzl writes in the original “wenn wir herkommen.” Why the English translation rendered this as “if we come here” is inexplicable; I have changed it back to what corresponds to Herzl’s statement. This is a minor, yet not insignificant, detail.

70. Oct. 31, 1898, Diaries, 2: 745.

71. Ibid., 747.

72. Ibid.

73. Nov. 2, 1898, Diaries, 2: 753.

74. Dec. 25, 1903, Diaries, 4: 1581–82.

75. Dec. 26, 1903, Diaries, 4: 1582ff.

76. Mar. 29, 1903, Diaries, 4: 1454.

77. Mar. 26, 1903, Diaries, 4: 1449.

78. Ibid.

79. Aug. 22, 1902, Diaries, 4: 1349.

80. June 1, 1901, Diaries, 3: 1151.

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