Litman Rosenthal reports Herzl's forecast, in 1897, of a coming Great War as an opportunity for Zionism

- Peter Myers, Augist 3, 2018.

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Articles by Litman Rosenthal in American Jewish News of 1919, in which he reports Herzl's forecast, in 1897, of a coming Great War among the European powers, and his plan to use it a means of gaining Palestine at the ensuing Peace Conference.

An image (pdf) version of these two articles is at AJN-190307-&-190919.pdf.

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Text scanned and transcribed by Peter Myers, July 31, 2018

(1) "The War is Imminent": Theodore Herzl's Prophecy of the Great War, Dec. 15, 1914 - American Jewish News, March 7, 1919
(2) When Prophets Speak: The Prophetic words of Dr. Nordau Grippingly Retold by an lntimate Friend - American Jewish News, September 19, 1919
(3) Comment on Litman Rosenthal - Peter Myers
(4) Herzl: we shall get [Palestine] not from the goodwill but from the jealousy of the Powers

(1) "The War is Imminent": Theodore Herzl's Prophecy of the Great War, Dec. 15, 1914

"The War is Imminent"

Theodore Herzl's Prophecy of the Great War (From My Siberian Diary)


American Jewish News, March 7, 1919

Litman Rosenthal, one of the pioneers of the Zionist movement, was a political prisoner in Siberia when the following article, which forms a part of a diary, was written. It is a striking proof of the wonderful political intuition of Dr. Herzl who, even at the time of the first Zionist Congress in Basle, foretold the climax of the European diplomatic game.

Mr. Rosenthal escaped from Siberia soon after the war began and is now in New York. His remarkable reminiscences of Herzl and other famous leaders of Zionism will appear in early issues of the American Jewish News. - Editor.

IT is now the third day. since they brought me here to Kuznetzk from the Moscow jail. I have been ill in bed. I was taken here in an open sleigh when the temperature was at 45 degrees below zero, and my foot was frozen.

Today I found the only Jewish family in this little town. They are the grandchildren of an old Cantonist long since dead. Half of the family, have become apostates. I asked the woman of the house if she could provide me with lodgings, and she replied that the only room she could rent me was already taken by one, a Finlander. At her words the Finlander came out of his room and introduced himself to me.

"You are from Finland?" I inquired.

"I am a Finnish Social-Democrat-Jewish Nationalist." he replied quizzically, and in lieu of further conversation he handed me a sheaf of Petrograd newspapers to read.

I was four months from home. Four months since 1 had been torn from my loved ones. It seems to me that wherever I go I see and hear only goyish. Goyish! The word haunts me. Will I ever again see that dear Bes Hamidrash street? Will I ever see my brothers? The terrible wound of longing tears my heart.

I have read today the newspapers which the Finn with the many isms gave me. It seems that Turkey is about to enter into the war. Strange thoughts this piece of news awakens in my mind. I think of a talk I had with Herzl just before the First Zionist Congress. After the publication of his "Jewish State," Herzl asked Reb Shmuhl Moliver, the leader at that time of the Chovevi Zion, to help him in the mighy task of calling together a Zionist Congress. In Bialistock where I lived, there was already organized a society which had undertaken to agitate for the convening of the Congress, and in one of his letters to me Dr. Herzl had bidden me use my influence with Reb Shmuhl in persuading him to attend this Congress, which, as president of the Chovevi Zion, he would open.

Opposition From Patriots

At this time. Herzl's troubles had already begun. From various factions - from the German Orthodox communal leaders and, it is regrettable to say, from the German Chovevi Zion, came pamphlets and speeches attacking Herzl and his Congress plan. In spite of the opposing sentiment. Reb Shmuhl Moliver decided to be present at the Congress, but to our great sorrow he was suddenly stricken with illness and his journey to Basle postponed. Anxious that Reb Shmuhl be represented at the Congress I went to his home before I left to attend the Congress - I had been appointed a delegate - and brought away with me a message from the Rabbi to Dr. Herzl. Reb Shmuhl also begged me to inquire of Dr. Herzl what the latter's plans were for the Zionist movement.

As soon as I arrived in Basle I saw Herzl and delivered to him the Rabbi's message. Herzl was living then at the "Three Kings" Hotel - an hotel that has now become familiar to Zionists.

We were sitting on the banks of the Rhine and Herzl gave me the answers to the questions which Reb Shmuhl had put to him through me. How strikingly he stands before my eyes now! With his wonderful, majestic head and with his magically penetrating eyes. "My first work," he told me "is to organize the Jewish people and to create a representative Congress. There has not yet been a Jewish representative body which could speak in the name of the Jewish people Every one, who had impudent forwardness, could proclaim that his voice was the voice of OUR people. Very often - I may say always - was the public opinion of the world powers misled by these self-appointed speakers. This must be put a stop to. Only those Jews who have a mandate from the people may speak in the name of the Jews. In our case, after we are empowered by the Congress - which will for the first tune be able to express to the world the wishes of the Jews - to act in its name, we will enter into political communication with Turkey. We will bring our claims to the Turkish government and we will show the Turk that as much as we demand from him yet more will we bring to him."

And so speaking. Herzl revealed what great prospects there lay before us and before Turkey. His eyes shone like the sun. In the enthusiasm for his plans he outgrew his stature and seemed taller than he was.

The Great War Is Imminent

For some moments he remained silent, then he continued "It may be that Turkey will refuse or will be unable to understand us. This will not discourage us. We will seek other means to accomplish our end. The Orient question is now a question of the day. Sooner or later it will bring about a conflict among the nations. A European War is imminent."

I allowed myself an ironic smile at Herzl's last words. He turned to me with his magic glance.

"I see you smile." he said. "You are skeptical of what I have told you. The great European War must come. With my watch in hand do I await this terrible moment. After the great European war is ended the Peace Conference will assemble. We must be ready for that time. We will assuredly be called to this great conference of the nations and we must prove to them the urgent importance of a Zionist solution of the Jewish Question. We must prove to them that the problem of the Orient and Palestine is one with the problems ot the Jews - both must be solved together. We must prove to them that the Jewish problem is a world problem and that a world problem must be solved by the world. And the solution must be the return of Palestine to the Jewish people."

These words of Dr. Herzl I will never forget. Seventeen years have now passed since those words were spoken and the great moment has come. The watch in Herzl's hand has reached the expected hour.

Will those who now represent us be able to use this great moment in the interests of our people? I would like to believe that they will, but doubts assail me. Sitting here, amid the snow and ice of Siberia, far away from my brothers, I remember that summer day on the banks of the Rhine wnen the great prophet foretold our future and, remembering that scene, the tears well into my eyes.

Kuznetsk. Siberia. December 15, 1914.


(2) When Prophets Speak: The Prophetic words of Dr. Nordau Grippingly Retold by an lntimate Friend

American Jewish News

September 19, 1919


by Litman Rosenthal

Balfour Declaration. Litman Rosenthal, his intimate friend, relates this incident in a fascinating memoir.

The Prophetic words of Dr. Nordau Grippingly Retold by an lntimate Friend

It was on a Saturday, the day after the closing of the Sixth Congress, when I received a telephone message from Dr. Herzl asking me to call on him. On entering the lobby of the hotel I met Herzl's mother who welcomed me with: her usual gracious friendliness, and asked me whether the feelings of the Russian Zionists were now calmer.

"Why just the Russian Zionists, Frau Herzl?" I asked. "Why do you only inquire about these?"

"Because my son," she explained, "is mostly interested in the Russian Zionists. He considers them the quintessence, the most vital part of the Jewish people. I know he has telephoned to you, and he will probably ask you the very same question I did. Naturally, I tremble lest your answer be one to shut him and to give him pain. Be careful, Herr Rosenthal, my poor child is very sick." And with a deep sigh she added: "At midnight he became suddenly so ill that the doctor had to make him an injection, and after this injection he was ordered to rest in absolute quiet. But what can one do with him? He neither listened to the doctor, nor to me nor to anyone else. He turned the light on and began to write, sitting up in his bed. I pleaded with him; I begged him to have mercy on me and to think a little of himself and his health. But he only answered: ÔMother dear, don't be angry. You know that I must not lose a minute. My time is almost over and my responsibility is so overwhelmingly great. Let me do my duty toward my people.' And so he continued to write."

At this moment the door of Herzl's room opened and Herzl himself came out and joined us. He had seen his mother talking to me and he looked at her with his wonderful, half sad and half wistful smile. "Mother," he said, "complains about me, but don't believe her, Herr Rosenthal. I am a good and obedient child." And he gave his mother such a look of indescribable love as if he were already a freed spirit looking tenderly and compassionately at the loved ones still burdened by mortal sorrows and cares. Then, he invited me into his room and began to speak in a weak and feeble voice.

"My opponents accuse me of having abandoned Palestine"

"Some of my opponents," he said, "accuse me of having abandoned Palestine. How short-sighted they are! Is not my whole heart, my whole soul bound up in the holy land of Israel? What sense would that great revival; that tremendous upheaval have that we witness now in the history of our people, if the final aim, the ultimate achievement were not Zion but Uganda. But there is a difference between the final aim and the ways we have to go to achieve this aim, and believe me, Herr Rosenthal, I am firmly convinced of it, .that just this congress has led us a big distance toward the holy land of Israel. It may sound strange and almost paradoxical to you, yet that is my deepest conviction." .

Then we talked about different Zionist leaders in Russia, and. I strongly advised him to confer wifh them personally. Suddenly Nordau came into the room. Feeling that my presence, during the conversation that ensued between them, was, perhaps, not wanted, I took leave of Herzl - for the last time on this earth - and went away.

On the evening of that day, when I came to my room, I found there a card left by Herzl with a few lines written on it, expressing his regret at not finding me at home. I have still this card and I shall keep it as a relic for all time to come.

About a month later I went on a business trip to France. On my way to Lyons I stopped in Paris and there I visited, as usual, our Zionists friends. One of them told me that this very same evening Dr. Nordau was scheduled to speak about the Sixth Congress, and I, naturally, interrupted my journey to be present at this meeting and to hear Dr. Nordau's report. When we reached the hall in the evening we found it filled to overflowing, and all were waiting impatiently for the great master, Nordau, who, on entering,: received a tremendous ovation. But Nordau, without paying heed to the applause showered upon him, began his speech immediately, and said:

"You all came here with a question burning in your hearts and trembling on your lips, and the question is, indeed, a great one and of vital importance. I am willing to answer it. What you want to ask is: How could I - I who was one of those who formulated the Basel program. How could I dare to speak in favor of the English proposition concerning Uganda, how could Herzl as well as I betray our ideal of Palestine, because you surely think that we have betrayed it and forgotten it? Yet listen to what I have to say to you. I spoke in favor of Uganda after long and careful consideration; deliberately I advised the congress to consider and to accept the proposal of the English government, a proposal made to the Jewish nation through the Zionist Congress, and my reasons - but instead of my reasons let me tell you a political story as a kind of allegory.

"I want to speak of a time which is now almost forgotten, a time when the European powers had decided to send a fleet against the fortress of Sebastopol. At this time Italy, the United Kingdom of Italy, did not exist. Italy was in reality only a little principality of Sardinia, and the great, free and united Italy was but a dream, a fervent wish, a far ideal of all Italian patriots. The leaders of Sardinia, who were fighting for and planning this free and united Italy, were the three great popular heroes: Garibaldi, Mazzini, and Cavour.

An Italian Patriot's Example

"The European powers invited Sardinia to join in the demonstration at Sebastopol and to send also a fleet to help in the siege of this fortress, and this proposal gave rise to a dissension among the leaders of Sardinia. Garibaldi and Mazzini did not want to send a fleet to the help of England and France and they said: 'Our program, the work to which we are pledged, is a free and united Italy. What have we to do with Sebastopol? Sebastopol is nothing to us, and we should concentrate all our energies on oar original program so that we may realize our ideal as soon as possible.'

"But Cavour, who even at this time was the most prominent, the most able, and the most far-sighted statesman of Sardinia, insisted that his country should send a fleet and beleaguer with the other powers Sebastopol, and, at last, he carried his point.

Perhaps it will interest you to know, that the right hand of Cavour, his friend and adviser, was his secretary Hartum, a Jew, and in these circles which were in opposition to the government, one spoke fulminantly of Jewish treason. And once at an assembly of Italian patriots one called wildly for Cavour's secretary Hartum, and demanded of him to defend his dangerous and treasonable political actions. And this is what he said: ÔOur dream, our fight, our ideal, an ideal for which we have paid already in blood and tears, in sorrow and despair, with the life of our sons and the anguish of our mothers, our one wish and one one aim is a free and united Italy. All means are sacred if they lead to this great and glorious goal. Cavour knows full well that after the fight before Sebastopol sooner or later a peace conference will have to be held, and at this peace conference those powers will participate who have joined in the fight. True, Sardinia has no immediate concern, no direct interest at Sebastopol, but if we will help now with our fleet, we will sit at the future peace conference, enjoying equal rights with the other powers, and at this peace conference Cavour, as the representative of Sardinia, will proclaim the free and independent, united Italy. Thus our dream for which we have suffered and died, will become, at last, a wonderful and happy reality. And if you now ask me again, what has Sardinia to do at Sebastopol, then let me tell you the following words, like the steps of a ladder: Cavour, Sardinia, the siege of Sabastopol, the future European peace conference, the proclamation of a free and united Italy.'"

Nordau's Oratory Intoxicates

The whole assembly was under the spell of Nordau's beautiful, truly poetic and exalted diction, and his exquisite, musical French delighted the hearers with an almost sensual pleasure. For a few seconds the speaker paused, and the public, absolutely intoxicated by his splendid oratory, applauded frantically. But soon Nordau asked for silence and continued:

"Like no one else Herzl felt at all times the tragic isolation of his beloved people, and he always tried to win for Israel the sympathy and the understanding of the great European powers. He was invited to attend, as an expert, the Royal Parliamentary Immigration Conference in England, and he not only succeeded in interesting English statesmen in the Zionistic idcar but he even arranged that the English government together with the Zionists send an expedition to El-Arish to establish there, near the mountain of Sinai, on the borderline of Palestine, a Jewish colony. Because of certain secret causes this plan did not materialize, but the principal aim of Herzl, the aim to win the sympathy and the interest of England - this aim he achieved.

Now this great progressive world-power, England, has after the pogroms of Kishineff, in token of her sympathy with our poor people, offered through the Zionist Congress the autonomous colony of Uganda to the Jewish nation. Of course, Uganda is in Africa, and Africa is not Zion and never will be Zion, to quote Herzl's own words. But Herzl knows full well that nothing is so valuable to the cause of Zionism as amicable political relations with such a power as England is, and so much more valuable as England's main interest is concentrated in the Orient. Nowhere else is precedent as powerful as in England, and so it is most important to accept a colony out of the hands of England and create thus a precedent in our favor. Sooner or later the oriental question will have to be solved, and the oriental question means, naturally, also the question of Palestine. England, who had addressed a formal, political note to the Zionist Congress - the Zionist Congress which is pledged to the Basle program, England will have the deciding voice in the final solution of the oriental question, and Herzl has considered it his duty to maintain valuable relations with this great and progressive power. Herzl knows that we stand before a tremendous upheaval of the whole world. Soon, perhaps, some kind of a world congress will have to be called, and England, the great, free and powerful England, will then continue the work it has begun with its generous offer to the Sixth Congress. And if you ask me now what has Israel to do in Uganda, then let me tell you as the answer the words of the statesmen of Sardinia, only applied to our case and given in our version; let me tell you the following words as if I were showing you the rungs of a ladder leading upward and upward: Herzl, the Zionistic Congress, the English Uganda proposition, the future world war, the peace conference where with the help of England a free and Jewish Palestine will be created."

Like a mighty thunder these last words came to us, and we all were trembling and awestruck as if we had seen a vision of old. And in my ears were sounding the words of our great brother Achad Haam, who said of Nordau's address at the First Congress:

"I felt that one of the great old prophets was speaking to us, that his voice came down from the free hills of Judea, and our hearts were burning in us when we heard his words, filled with wonder, wisdom and vision."


(3) Comment on Litman Rosenthal - Peter Myers, July 31, 2018

There are important differences between Cavour's strategy, as described by Litman Rosenthal, and that used by Herzl, Nordau and Weizmann.

(a) Sardinia's contributed in the Crimean War was minor, mainly symbolic, whereas the Balfour Declaration appears to have decided the fate of the First World War. It was a contract (a secret treaty) between the British Empire and World Jewry, represented by Lord Rothschild, whereby Jewry would get the United States into the war, in return for Palestine.

(b) Cavour's strategy is hardly controversial, whereas the Balfour Declaration is shrouded in secrecy. Only now, a century later, is a comprehensive account of how it came about reaching the public. But our history books still omit the pivotal role of the Balfour Declaration in deciding the outcome of World War One.

(c) Cavour did not play off all sides, whereas Zionist leaders did so. They courted both Germany and England, and were prepared to lend their weight to whoever promised what they sought. If Germany had promised Palestine, the Zionists would have kept the United States out of the war, ensuring German victory.

(4) Herzl: we shall get [Palestine] not from the goodwill but from the jealousy of the Powers

Leonard Stein writes in his book The Balfour Declaration (Vallentine-Mitchell, London, 1961):

"Herzl describes in his diaries an interview with Chamberlain in April 1903, when the El Arish scheme was again discussed. He told Chamberlain, he says, that 'we shall get [Palestine] not from the goodwill but from the jealousy of the Powers. And if we are in El Arish under the Union Jack, then our Palestine will likewise be in the British sphere of influence.' This suggestion, Herzl writes, was not at all ill-received.89" (p. 25)

An image of the above text is at Stein-p.25-Herzl-Jealousy40.tif.


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