De Haas Gives Graphic Description of Zionist Leader’s Audience Before Wilhelm II
A graphic description of the conversation between ex-Kaiser Wilhelm and Dr. Theodor Herzl during the former Emperor’s audience granted to Herzl before Wilhelm’s visit to Palestine is given in “Theodor Hcrzl, A Biographical Study” by Jacob de Haas recently off the press.
The two volumes of the first life of Herzl published in English contain a wealth of historic material concerning the founder of the modern Zionist movement and many valuable documents relating to the political history of the Zionist Organization. Much of the material contained in the pages of Mr. de Haa’s life of Hcrzl is entirely new and furnishes the exact facts for a proper estimate of Theodor Herzl’s rise and his achievement in revitalizing the ideal of a Return to Zion.
The book contains sixty illustrations, a chronological table of the early days of Zionism. Many letters written by the founder of the Zionist movement to de Haas, who acted as Herzl’s honorary secretary, are published in facsimile in the volume.
From the account of the Herzl’s audience before the former Kaiser, it seems that the idea of a German protectorate over a Palestine under Turkish sovereignty was considered a political possibility to which the Kaiser gave favorable consideration and was nearly committed to this course. Describing the audience, which took place at the Yildiz Kiosk in Constantinople, Mr. de Haas relates:
“Herzl made mental note of the fact that the Emperor had seated himself at a writing desk and had crossed his legs, covered by his military boots, ‘like a man preparing to make himself comfortable for a long interview.’ The Emperor motioned him to a seat opposite. von Bulow took a chair beside him. and they conversed for more than an hour, with their silk hats between their knees. Herzl, as directed, began to state his case in well known and long prepared words, the Emperor staring steadily at him, and only now and then by the flicker of an eyelid, or the pressing of his lips indicating the impression the Zionist leader was making upon him.
“But Herzl was not long allowed to direct the conversation. Presently the Emperor began to take the lead in the discussion, and explained why he favored Zionism. He spoke in not too friendly a tone of the Jews.
” ‘He did not doubt that with the financial aid and human power at our disposal we could succeed in carrying out the colonization of Palestine. . . There are among your people (landsleute) elements it would be worth while to transfer to Palestine. I think for instance, of Hesse, where there are usurers among the farming population. If these take their possessions and settle as colonists they would become more useful.’
His comparison of the Jews with a few usurers nettled Herzl, and he did not hesitate to express his views as to the causes of anti-Semitism. ‘That he could have identified the Jews with a few money-lenders angered me; my displeasure restored my self-possession.’
“Von Bulow took up the challenge involved in Herzl’s remarks and pointed out that the Jews were ungrateful to the House of Hohenzollern, though they owed it much. The Emperor’s grandfather had always been kind to the Jews, and notwithstanding this the Jews were in all the opposition parties; they were even to be found among the anti-monarchial group.
“The Emperor interjected ‘Singer’referring to Dr. Paul Singer who, with Bebel and Liebknecht, organized and led German socialism for many decades. Herzl responded by pointing to the effect Zionism was having on the young radical groups.
‘ The Emperor made it clear that he believed the Jews would participate in the colonization of Palestine when they knew he would take them under his protection, for then practically they would not be leaving Germany. Von Buiow added that the Jews would no doubt be grateful for this. To make his irony clear von Bulow pointed out that the rich Jews did not faver Herzl’s views, and that the great newspapers, including the Neue Freie Presse, did not favor Zionism.
The Imperial approval was clear enough, but so was Von Bulow’s guarded opposition. To establish accord between the ruler and his minister, Herzl began pointing out that the position of France was so weak that she could not oppose the Zionist efforts, and that, therefore, the moment was opportune for action.
The conversation was skilfully brought back to Zionism. France could not oppose, and Russia would regard it as a solution of its problem. The Emperor referred somewhat ironically to the two hundred years of Jewish persecution in Russia, and thought the Jews would suffer most in France, for there anti-Semitism had ‘the church behind it. and the Jesuits do not give up what they have once started.’
Herzl proceeded with his argument. He laid all his international political cards on the table and said at the end, ‘I do not know–I am so entangled, but the matter appears to me entirely natural.’ The Emperor gazing steadily at him responded. ‘To me also.’ Von Bulow interposed. ‘Yes. if those here (the Turkish authorities) are willing. Probably you should see the ministers’–while with thumb and forefinger he suggested the counting of money, and added aloud ‘here they all take.’
“The Emperor waived the suggestion: ‘It will surely make an impression when the German Emperor concerns himself about this and shows he is interested.’ The Emperor was speaking in the tones of the great overlord, which reminded Herzi of the fabled animal which with a human voice exclaimed: ‘I am the fabled unicorn.’ The Emperor continued ‘Finally I am the sole supporter of the Sultan. He owes me something.’
“So the ground was laid! The formal address to be presented in Jerusalem was arranged for and then the Emperor turned to Herzl. ‘Write out the address and give it to von Bulow. I will then correct it with him. Tell me in a word what I shall ask of the Sultan.’
“Herzl responded, ‘A chartered company–under German protection.’
” ‘Good! A Chartered Company!’ He gave me his hand.. pressed mine heartily, and left the room by the middle door.’ The Imperial word was committed to the cause.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.