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Theodor Herzl Supports Yiddish Version of His Zionist Newspaper Die Welt
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“You understand that the Yiddish edition of the World arose from the need to reach those social strata that were not reached by the German World. It was absolutely necessary to create a periodical which would in a reliable and faithful manner report on Zionist events and the Zionist requirements.”

Though his newspaper Die Welt linked together supporters across three continents. Herzl recognized that, for his vision of a Jewish homeland to become a reality, Western and Eastern Jews would need to join forces, as would the literati and the Yiddish-speaking man-in-the-street. This letter supports Di Velt, the short-lived Yiddish edition launched in 1900, one of Herzl’s attempts to bridge class, cultural and linguistic gaps.

THEODOR HERZL. Typed Letter Signed, on the need to support the Yiddish version of the Zionist Paper Die Welt. One page, in German, to his “colleagues” of the Zionist movement. Countersigned by Oskar Marmorek, the secretary of the Actions Committee. March 3, 1901, Vienna.

Inventory #24453       Price: $6,800

Full Translation

                                    Vienna, 3 March 1901.

Dear Colleague!

You understand that the Yiddish edition of the World arose from the need to reach those social strata that were not reached by the German World [Die Welt]. It was absolutely necessary to create a periodical which would in a reliable and faithful manner report on Zionist events and the Zionist requirements. As well as the German World emanated from the advocacy for the Bank, so the Yiddish World should be an official broadside of the Zionist organization’s will. This purpose has been fulfilled admirably, although a similar scale event was not yet possible. For this reason some Comrades have again taken on the substantive requirements. However, these requirements are growing day by day. So were complaints from the Russian side that the circular is not written in Russian dialect. Instantly the redaction was made by Mr. Rosenfeld who, although the budget could not bear a larger load, garnered at our request the most outstanding Yiddish writers for the World.

It cannot now correspond to the dignity of our Party, and is not in their interests, that some Comrades’ needs are left without any support. At least we must demand that our trustees vigorously pursue the moral advocacy for the Yiddish World, as we have always done in similar cases. We ask you that you as forcefully but politely, conduct this advocacy forthwith. The value of reliable publications will increase significantly, if practical results of our achievements are set upon.

                                                With Zionist greetings  yours faithfully

                                                            for the Actions Committee:

Marmorek                                                                   Herzl

Secretary                                                                                 Chairman.

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904). Hungarian-born Austrian, considered the father of modern Zionism. As a journalist covering the Alfred Dreyfus affair in 1894, Herzl realized that the solution to anti-Semitism was the establishment of a Jewish national state. (In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the sole Jewish member of the French Army General Staff, was arrested on charges of spying for Germany. Except for the opening day, when the court announced the charges, and the final day, when the jury made its decision, the trial was held in secret. Having attended both sessions and conducting his own research, Herzl became convinced of Dreyfus’s innocence. He deduced that the sole reason that Dreyfus was charged was that he was a Jew. Herzl concluded that anti-Semitism was unavoidable. In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaadt, arguing that this was a political problem, and the only solution was the establishment of a Jewish State. A year later, he convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, where he boldly declared that “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.” His efforts came to fruition 50 years later, when David Ben-Gurion read Israel’s Proclamation of Independence in Tel Aviv, beneath Herzl’s picture.

The recipient, Alexander Marmorek (1865-1923) was a pioneering bacteriologist whose medical accomplishments include a study leading to the modern treatment of typhus and diabetes. A member of Kadimah, the first student society to join Herzl’s nascent Zionist movement, he went on to chair the French Zionist Federation, to found the Jewish Popular University in Paris and to co-found L’Echo Sioniste, a Paris monthly. He and his brothers Oscar and Isidor were among Herzl’s closest friends, and Herzl repeatedly consulted him on political measures. Marmorek was elected to the Zionist General Council at the first eleven Zionist congresses. 

Die Welt, a weekly newspaper founded by Herzl was published in Vienna (1897-1905), Cologne (1906-1911), and Berlin (1911–1914), and featured Jewish interest news, Jewish literature and art, it became the official mouthpiece of the Zionist Movement. In the Jewish Press, June 7, 2017, Saul Jay Singer writes:

“The initial reaction to the paper can only be characterized as miserable; ten days before the publication of the first issue, Herzl had received a grand total of two subscriptions – and even after 10 months he had only 280 subscribers in Vienna out of a Jewish population of well over 100,000.

The journal’s aggregate circulation subsequently varied widely, usually selling at least 3,000 copies and sometimes exceeding 10,000, but it was soundly rejected by large segments of Jewish society, including Orthodox rabbinical leaders, assimilated Jews, and cultural Zionists…

Shortly before the first issue… Herzl wrote to Max Nordau, joking that The Neue Freie Presse is like my legitimate wife. With Die Welt, I am maintaining a mistress – I can only hope that she will not ruin me.” And indeed, Herzl was almost ruined by his investment in the paper, which he initially financed as a private venture at considerable personal expense, combining his own limited resources, his wife’s dowry, and his father’s money.” 

Even after it began to receive financial support from the Zionist Movement, Herzl had to do much of the fundraising.

This was written while Herzl was becoming a global Zionist diplomacy: within days he wrote to an American colleague to solicit President McKinley’s support against Turkish restriction on Jewish settlement in the Holy Land. Two months later, he and Marmorek met with the Sultan in Istanbul to gain support for Jewish settlement.

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