5. The Dreyfus Herzl Encounter

Q. May we discuss the important "Dreyfus Herzl" encounter of nearly a hundred years ago?
EDB:
Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) was a French artillery officer. Somebody on the staff was passing military information to Germany. As Captain Dreyfus was the only Jew on the staff, his loyalty was suspect. He was tried, convicted, court-martialled and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island. Famous writers, like Emile Zola, took up the battle to prove his innocence. The ugliest and most frightening aspect of the Dreyfus affair was the anti-Semitism it brought to the surface of France.

The battle for Dreyfus' innocence continued until the President of France granted a pardon and he was released. With a new government in power, Dreyfus was reinstated in the army and promoted to the rank of major and awarded the Order of the Legion of Honour. After nearly ten years in prison in chains, solitude, privation and tropical fever, Dreyfus was the figure of a broken man.

As you know, this took place against the background of the French Revolution which emancipated many people from the injustices of the wealthy rulers and the Catholic clergy in power the age of Emancipation, and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (August 27, 1789). The Emperor Napoleon had brought down the so-called "Holy Roman Empire," and abolished the infamous "Inquisitions" of that Catholic regime. He brought the Revolution to an end. "Jews began to extol the Revolution and Napoleon in little less than messianic terms, especially in the reaction after Napoleon's defeat in 1815" only about 79 years before the Dreyfus trial (1894).

Q. Theodor Herzl covered that trial, didn't he? EDB:
Dr. Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), a young Hungarian Jew, was a Paris correspondent for the Neue Freie Press of Vienna, one of the leading liberal papers in Europe at that time. He covered several events that revealed the growing tide of anti-Semitism in France, and the Dreyfus case of 1894. He became disillusioned with the "answer of assimilation."

Herzl evaluated the nineteenth century Jewish eman-cipation introduced by the Revolution and cancelled by reaction as a perpetual seesaw process. He conceived a program for a national and territorial solution, and published it under the title, "The Jewish State," in 1896.

A year later, the First Zionist Congress met in Basle, Switzerland, 29th August, 1897. Herzl's vision was for a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. To accomplish this he needed the sympathy of the Turkish Sultan, for Palestine was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, and he needed the support of the Kaiser of Germany.

William H. Hechler (1845-1931), a British clergyman, met Dr. Herzl in 1896, and became a sympathizer and close friend. Hechler said:

All that this remarkable movement now requires is the public recognition and protection of the Sovereigns of Europe . . . the Jewish State is successful, which it must be according to the Bible, for the Jews are then to be a blessing to the nations.
Hechler personally wrote to the German Emperor. Towards the end of 1898, the Kaiser, Wilhelm II, wrote in reply:
I have been able to notice that the emigration to the land of Palestine of those Jews who are ready for it, is being prepared extremely well and it is even financially sound in every respect. . . . I am convinced that the settlement of the Holy Land . . . will soon bring blessing to the land.
That same year the Kaiser made a formal visit to Jerusalem and met Dr. Herzl and members of the Zionist organization just outside the Jaffa Gate. "It amounted to a clear act of recognition of the Zionist Movement by the Sovereign of a crucially important Protestant European power," Pragai noted in his book.

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