Theodor Herzl's Der Judenstaat published in Vienna

ON 15 FEBRUARY 1896 a slim volume appeared in the shopwindow of M. Breitenstein's Verlags-Buchhandlung in Vienna: Der Judenstaat. Versuch einer Modernen Lösung der Judenfrage. It was by Theodor Herzl. The Jewish question had occupied Herzl with increasing intensity since reading Eugen Dühring's Die Judenfrage als Racen~, Sitten~ und Culturfrage in 1882. In France between 1891 and 1895 as Paris correspondent of the Neue Freie Presse, his experience of the mass hysteria surrounding the Dreyfus case had convinced him that legal emancipation had come too late for assimilation to be feasible. A healthy relationship between Jews and Gentiles could only be established through separation: the Jews of Europe needed a country of their own.
The 22 pages of notes which he made for his meeting with Baron de Hirsch on 2 June 1895, whose help he tried to enlist for the realization of his idea, formed the first draft of the Judenstaat. After the meeting he spent several days elaborating these ideas. But he was still unsure of the form: a programmatic novel (Alphons Daudet had mentioned the effectiveness of Uncle Tom's Cabin), play or political tract - he considered them all. From a 'Rede an die Rothschilds' in mid-June, by November the draft had become a 'Rede an die Juden', and his interlocutors in London and Paris, among them Max Nordau, now assumed that the pamphlet would be published. By mid-January it was complete. However, Siegfried Cronbach (Berlin), publisher of a Jewish weekly, rejected it, objecting to its content, as did the reputable firm of Duncker and Humblot (Leipzig), which had recently published his Palais Bourbon but insisted that they never produced anything on 'this question'. On 17January 1896 the London Jewish Chronicle carried a synopsis of the 'pamphlet: 'A Solution of the Jewish Question' by Dr. Theodor Herzl. This led to a meeting with a fairly obscure publisher, Breitenstein. Herzl noted that he was enthusiastic about certain passages, and a definitive title, Der Judenstaat, was decided upon then and there. The precise terms are not known, but later accounts show that Herzl received no royalties and that income from sales barely covered the publisher's costs. By February the proofs were ready, but Herzl was clearly disappointed that only 3,000 copies would be printed - Breitenstein did not expect a commercial success. A far cry from the euphoria of June 1895 when Herzl had dreamt of favouring Duncker and Humblot with the first five editions of the planned Lösung der Judenfrage.
Four so-called Auflagen appeared during 1896, no real distinction being made between Auflage, Edition and Druck. They were virtually identical, except for the vignettes on the soft cover and on the last page; those used for the first (unnumbered) edition differed from those used for the second, third and fourth editions. Moreover, the designations Dritte Auflage and Vierte Auflage were printed on small slips of paper which were pasted on the cover. In April 1896 another printing was under way, and Herzl was able to re-read the proofs. A proposal by Breitenstein, in May 1897, to use remaining copies of the Erste for a Fünfte Auflage, by incorporating them in an anthology on Jewish subjects, came to nothing, The market was saturated, although-undoubtedly in order to reach as wide a public as possible - Der Judenstaat was printed in Latin and not, like Herzl's other writings, in German type. A transcription of the German text into Hebrew characters and translations into English, Hebrew, Russian, Romanian and Bulgarian also, no doubt, reduced the demand for the Breitenstein editions.

Der Judenstaat is Herzl's only work on which he used his academic title. Obviously, he wished to appear as a sober man of affairs, not a utopian. The brochure contained the enthusiastic ideas of the previous summer, now marshalled in an orderly manner, avoiding exaggerations and exuding competence and authority. The division into parts and chapters recalls legal works, and the author appears as sociologist, political scientist and constitutional lawyer all in one.
Reactions to the Judenstaat were not long in corning. The well-to-do Jewish middle class of Vienna was aghast, as Hermann Bahr told Herzl at the time and Stefan Zweig recalled in his memoirs. The Neue Freie Presse kept silent; for the rest the liberal press rejected the scheme. Encouragement came from Zionist groups in Berlin and Sofia, and the Russian Hoveve Zion cautiously took note. Unreserved acclaim came from the Zionists on the margins of Viennese Jewish society. These were the people who catapulted Herzl to the leadership of the nascent movement. By the summer of 1896 Herzl was becoming a man of action: Zionism had acquired a leader. This was the most significant, immediate result of the publication of Der Judenstaat.



Theodor Herzl, Briefe Anfang Mai 1895 - Anfang Dezember 1898. Bearb. von Barbara Schäfer (Briefe und Tagebücher 4) (Frankfurt a. M. 1990) passim.