Page 123 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

Basic HTML Version

a b in o w ic z
— H
e r zl
t h e
l a y w r ig h t
Any middle-class society ruled by money is doomed to decadence.
As far back as 1891 he had planned a novel,
Samuel Kohn ,
was intended to contrast the suffering and despised Jews with the
rich Jews.33 The novel was not written, but ten years later the
Loefflers, Laschners and their friends became in
A ltneu land
prototypes of this materialism. Schiffman, their mouthpiece, thus
voiced their philosophy: “Heaps of things and people are for
sale; that is to say, everything in the world can be bought for a
price; but one cannot always pay that price.”
Herzl inserted these characters into the novel as a warning
against the inevitable moral and social collapse their methods
and way of life must precipitate in the New Society in Palestine,
if permitted to take root. The glaring contrast between these
two worlds is graphically delineated in the scene where the
Loefflers and Leschners are arguing, during the solemn memorial
meeting for the deceased president of the Jewish State, about
the effect the election of a new president would have on the
stock exchange.
Herzl’s financial characters turned out to be more than a
literary device. They came to his aid when he sought to meet
the living rich Jews with a view to winning them over for
Zionism. Not all of them were evil or sinister in real life; neither,
for that matter, were the stage characters. Some rose above
their class and others did not, depending on what use they made
of money. “I am of the opinion,” Herzl said to the Maccabeans
in London, “that money is as good or as bad as the use we make
of it.”34 From this perspective, a Baron Hirsch and a Rothschild
were great men in his eyes. They personified integrity and sin-
cerity, and served their brethren constructively even if, in his
view, they had used their funds on a fundamentally wrong
and detrimental assumption. “You pursue a ghastly reactionary
policy,” Herzl wrote to Baron Hirsch, “worse than that of an
absolute autocracy.” “You breed beggars,” Herzl had previously
said to him. “It is significant that no other people shows so much
philanthropy and so much beggary as do the Jews. It impresses one
that there must be a close nexus between these two phenomena,
indicating that through philanthropy the character of our people
is debased.”35 The intimation was clear that Hirsch, through the
wrong use of his millions, had contaminated the people’s moral
fiber. In his article “Boersenelend” Herzl repeats this thesis as
follows: “One often hears it said that money corrupts people,
but the reverse is true; people corrupt money through the wrong
use they make of it.”36
I, p. 5.
34 The speech in
Zionistische Schriften, op. cit .,
p. 94.
I, p. 31, 23.
Zionistische Schr iften, op. cit .,
p. 178.