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Having learned just three days earlier that the Jewish community in Munich did not want his first international Jewish congress to be held in Munich as he had just announced in his new weekly Zionist newspaper, ?Die Welt,? Theodor Herzl thanks his correspondent for asking him to serve as a prize judge, hoping that it will not take too much time because he is ?very busy? ? three days later he relocated the First Jewish Congress to Basle, Switzerland.
Vienna, June 14, 1897. 5.75" x 7.75". "Autograph Letter Signed ?Th Herzl,? one page, 5.75? x 7.75?. Vienna, June 14, 1897. On laid paper, imprinted letterhead of the ?New Free Press.? In German, not translated. Triangular portion in seemingly blank upper right cut away. Partial split at right edge of mid-horizontal fold strengthened on verso with archival tape. Fine condition. In full, ?Das mir freundlicht augetragens Preisrichteramt nehme ich mit besten danke an und hoffe mir, dass es mich nicht zu sehr in Ansprich nehmen wird, da ich ohnehin stark beschäftigt bin.? In 1891, Theodor Herzl was appointed the Paris correspondent for the influential liberal Viennese paper ?Neue Freie Presse.?The anti-Semitism he witnessed in Paris inspired him to write a play, ?The New Ghetto,? in October 1894. The main character is a Jewish lawyer who urges Jews to free themselves from their spiritual ghettos. On October 15, 1894, Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French military, was accused of treason. His court martial trial began in Paris on December 19, 1894. Only journalists who had received special permits and witnesses in the case were admitted to the court. As a representative of ?Neue Freie Presse,? Herzl attended the trial. On December 22, 1894, Dreyfus was found guilty of having sold plans of fortifications and other government secrets. Herzl heard the court?s presiding officer rule, ?The Court condemns Captain Alfred Dreyfus to deportation and internment for life in a fortified place and to deprivation of his military rank.? The French newspaper ?La Libre Parole? portrayed the incident as further evidence of Jewish treachery. The verdict strengthened Herzl?s conviction that there was only one way stop the Jewish population from being subjected to anti-Semitism. He began writing ?The Jewish State ?" A Modern Attempt to Solve the Jewish Question.? It was published on February 14, 1896. The book became the foundation of the Zionist movement. It outlined the economic, social, and governmental structures of a proposed Jewish state, and mentioned Palestine or Argentina as its location and that the spoken language would be German. Before its translation into Hebrew later that year, Herzl removed Argentina as an option and said Hebrew, not German, would be the dominant language. Herzl?s next step was to found his own newspaper and to organize a meeting of Jews from all over the world to hear his plans. On Friday, June 4, 1897, just ten days before he wrote this letter, Herzl published in Vienna the first issue of his new weekly periodical, ?Die Welt? (?The World?). In ?Die Welt? he publicized the convening of a Zionist Congress to be held in Munich. On June 11th, Munich?s Jewish community protested holding the meeting in their city. Three days later, Herzl wrote this letter advising the recipient that he is ?very busy.? On June 17th, he announced the congress would be held in Basle, Switzerland, publicizing the change in the third issue of ?Die Welt.? The First Zionist Congress was held in Basle, August 29-31, 1897. The entrance to the congress hall was decorated with a blue and white flag bearing the Star of David. Over 200 different groups from 16 countries arrived in Basle. Chaired by Herzl, the Congress adopted the program of the Zionist movement (the Basle Program) and declared, ?Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.? In his diary, Herzl wrote, ?In Basle I founded the Jewish state...Maybe in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will realize it.? The Jewish state, Israel, was founded on May 14, 1948, 50 years 8 months 15 days after Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress in Basle!"
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