October 31, 1898
Theodor Herzl in Jerusalem, Just Prior to Meeting With German Emperor Wilhelm II, Sends a Postcard to Menachem Ussishkin
The idea of Herzl meeting with the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, in November 1898 was simple enough: Palestine was under Turkish control, and Germany was Turkey’s most influential ally – so if the Kaiser would only persuade the Sultan to allow for a creation of a “German protectorate” for world Jewry in Turkish-controlled Palestine, then the Jews might have a state in “Eretz Israel.” To that end, Herzl journeyed to Jerusalem to meet with the Kaiser; on October 18th, in Istanbul, Herzl argued the case for a Jewish state; on the 28th, they met briefly in Jerusalem, and then had a third, and final meeting, on November 2nd. But whereas the first meetings held out some hope, the last proved a failure. Meeting with the Zionist delegation of Herzl, David Wolffson (who would later become the head of the Zionist movement), lawyer Max Bodenheimer, engineer Joseph Seidener and Herzl’s doctor M.T. Schnirer, the Emperor declared that “the issue needs further examination and further discussion” – in other words, no help would be forthcoming. The delegation was downhearted, but not Herzl: “You see,” he explained, “I am a leader, not because I am intelligent or better than you, but because I am fearless… in difficult times, such as these, I remain optimistic.”
This historic association piece is indicative, too, of the tense relationship between Herzl and Ussishkin: on the one hand, the sending of the card was a definite courtesy; but that it said nothing, spoke of their estrangement.
Postcard Signed, being a highly decorative color depiction of Jerusalem scenes, co-signed by Joseph Seidener, David Wolffssohn, Max Bodenheimer and Moritz Schnirer; 2 page, duodecimo, Jerusalem, October 31, 1898. Addressed in German on verso to Menachem Ussishkin in Ekaterinoslau [Ekaterinoslav], Russia