Theodor Herzl, the Founder of Modern Zionism, Is Born in Hungary

May 2, 1860

On May 2, 1860, Theodor Herzl is born in Pest, Hungary (then a separate city from Buda which lay across the Danube River).  Named “Tivadar” in Hungarian, he is called “Dori,” a shortened version of his German name, “Wolf Theodor.”  After the death of his sister Pauline in 1878, the family will move to Vienna where Herzl will study law. He will earn his law degree and be admitted to the Bar in 1884. For the next decade, he will write articles, plays, and novels and travel through the major cities of Europe. In October 1891, he will become the Paris correspondent for the Viennese newspaper Neue Freie Presse, the most distinguished newspaper in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time.

In October 1894, an assimilated French Jewish military captain named Alfred Dreyfus will be arrested in Paris for allegedly passing military secrets to Germany.  Herzl will cover the trial for his newspaper.  This event will be pivotal in the development of Herzl’s Zionist ideology.

Sixteen months later, in February 1896, Herzl will publish “The Jewish State,” calling upon Jews to obtain their own territory, to create institutions and forums to oversee Jewish immigration to and settlement in this territory, and to ultimately create their own state.

The following year, in 1897, he will convene the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland. The 200 delegates to the Congress will adopt a resolution stating that “the aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a homeland in Palestine secured by public law.” Herzl will spend the remaining years of his short life traveling and meeting with various political leaders and heads of state in order to secure a charter for a Jewish national home.

In addition to creating the World Zionist Organization, Herzl will help found the Jewish Colonial Trust in 1899 and the Jewish National Fund in 1901.

The photo shows a young Herzl (seated with his chin on his hand) with his parents and sister in the late 1860s.