It was a number of years ago, whilst reading at least one of the later biographies of Herzl, that I read that these biographers had questioned the Jewishness of Herzl’s wife. I decided that this was an interesting subject for further research and that I would investigate this matter.
In his biography of Herzl, Avner Falk quoted from four official Austrian documents on the marriages of Herzl and of his sister-in-law. I decided that the first place to search for these documents would be the Herzl papers in the Central Zionist Archives (CZA) in Jerusalem. At the end of October 2007, I went there and spoke to Gitta Bar Tikva who was in charge of these papers but she informed me that they were being digitalised at that period and it was therefore impossible to retrieve the files. She hoped that in about three month’s time this work would be completed. She however looked at the catalogue on the computer and found that they had two of these documents and she gave me the file numbers of them.
In January 2008 I returned but the person doing the digitalisation had gone on maternity leave and so the work had not progressed. However Gitta managed to dig out these two files from the archives for me to examine. In one of them I found one of these documents and it was beautifully clear. In the other file, there was a very poor quality and barely readable photograph – not photocopy – of the second document. Gitta then made photocopies of these two documents for me.
My next attempt to track down these documents was in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP). I looked up their website and saw that the extensive papers from the archives of the Jewish community in Vienna had been transferred to the CAHJP. They also had on the Internet a detailed catalogue in German of these papers and I tried with my almost non-existent German to identify the call-numbers of the documents I wanted, but as I discovered later many of my identifications were incorrect due to my non-knowledge of German!
The CAHJP is now situated at the High Tech village which is at the far end of the campus of the Hebrew University in Givat Ram Jerusalem. I had never realised how vast this campus was. It takes over quarter of an hour on foot to go from one end to the other! I went to these archives, and filled up a registration form. Then together with their staff member, who needless to say, is fluent in German, went over the catalogue to determine which files might be relevant to my research. I put in my orders but since the files were not stored there, they had to be ordered and I was told to return a few days later.
When I returned, the files were awaiting me. On studying them I saw that they were not relevant. In the one case where a file might have been relevant, they had sent the wrong file by mistake and I had a return again after they had re-ordered it. When I examined it – a ledger whose contents is a whole collection of wedding tax payments - I saw that it marginally helped my research and I photocopied the appropriate pages. However none of the documents quoted by Falk in his biography were there and I learned that they were to be found in Vienna.
I therefore decided to contact Falk, who I discovered lived in Jerusalem, and ask him whether he had photocopies of these documents. He suggested that I come to his apartment in North Talpiot and look at his “Herzl file.” As I usually do when I travel to a location I don’t know, I take along a detailed map of the area. Aided by this I soon found Falk’s apartment. He put the Herzl file in front of me, and to the background of classical music which was already playing when I arrived there, I went through his file. In this file I found three of the four documents referred to in his biography. I also found various items of correspondence with people mainly in Austria, which I thought might be helpful for my research. Falk very obliging made photocopies of all these papers I required. One of the documents – the page from the marriage register containing Herzl’s marriage – was a photograph which was not very clear, but better than the photograph at the CZA. Falk spent some time trying to get the clearest photocopy of it.
When I was carefully analysing this material when writing up my paper, I saw that it would be useful to also have the letters Falk had written to Vienna in addition to their replies which were in his Herzl file. These had not been in his file and I assumed were stored in his computer. At the end of April 2008, I sent him an e-mail with a detailed list of the letters I required, but he replied, “I am sorry, but I have not kept any of my letters to these organizations.”
Another of Herzl’s biographers who had discussed Herzl’s marriage was Desmond Stewart. Whilst Stewart was researching this biography during the early 1970s, he had been in extensive correspondence with Mark Braham. In May 1973, which was during the course of this correspondence, Braham moved from London to Australia. About twenty years ago, I was writing my book on the various proposals to transfer Arabs, the first of which having been made by Herzl. In his biography of Herzl, Stewart had written about Herzl’s transfer proposals. At that period, I was in contact with Braham and he then sent me copies of the correspondence between him and Stewart which was relevant to this transfer proposal of Herzl’s. Braham had deposited all this correspondence with the University of Sydney Judaica Archives and he went specially there for me to make these photocopies.
I thought that it was likely that there would also be correspondence on the subject of Herzl’s marriage and the religion of his wife. I looked up Braham’s telephone number on the Internet and in mid-January 2008 telephoned him. He informed me that unfortunately he had just got up from Shiva after terrible traffic fatalities in his immediate family and he also mentioned that his was already in his mid 80s. I therefore did not ask him if he could make me photocopies of the relevant correspondence, as he had done twenty years earlier.
Instead I looked up the catalogue of the “Archive of Australian Judaica” at the University of Sydney, and succeeded in identifying the exact file containing the potential correspondence I required. I then sent an e-mail to the archivist requesting photocopies of “the section of the Braham-Stewart correspondence dealing with Herzl’s marriage.” The archivist there was extremely helpful, went through the extensive correspondence in this file, extracted the relevant letters, photocopied them and sent them to me by post, without any charge. On going through them, I found that a page from one of the letters, (which I could see from the rest of the letter was very relevant) was missing. I contacted the archivist and this page was scanned and sent to me by e-mail.
Stewart, in his biography had referred to an article in the London “Jewish Chronicle” by Gerald Abrahams in which he stated that Herzl’s descendants were non-Jewish, but Abrahams had not stated a source for this statement. Gerald Abrahams had lived in Liverpool, where I had also lived in the 1970s, and I accordingly knew him. I also know that there are archives in the Liverpool Central Library – I myself have sent material to them. I therefore looked up their catalogue on the Internet and saw that they had a small archive of Gerald Abrahams’ papers. They also stated that their staff will perform research taking less than quarter of an hour free of charge. Above this time there was a charge scale. I sent them an e-mail asking them to verify if in Abrahams’ file there was a source for this information on the religion of Herzl’s descendants, pointing out that it would take less than quarter of an hour to do so, and also mentioning that in the past I had photocopied for them at my expense my book on my reminiscences at the Jewish school in Liverpool - a total of 261 pages. They asked one of their researchers to look in Abrahams’ papers for me which he did. It appears that first he did not understand my request but with the exchange of a few e-mails between us, I got the information I had requested, although it was negative.
From the above mentioned biographies of Herzl, I learned that Rabbi Dr. Moritz Gudemann, the Chief Rabbi of Vienna, had first agreed to a request to conduct Herzl’s wedding, but later withdrew the request for “family reasons.” These biographers had taken this information from a second hand source who had believed that the original memoirs of this Rabbi had been destroyed during the Second World War.
I decided to investigate whether in fact these memoirs were still extant and from the Internet learned that the handwritten original memoirs of Rabbi Gudemann, and also a typewritten copy were in the Leo Baeck Institute Archives in New York. I telephoned them and asked whether there was a copy in Israel. They answered in the negative but said there was a copy in Berlin! They added that one could order it on microfilm. The Jewish National Library has a policy to obtain anything of Jewish interest and so I sent them in September 2007 an e-mail suggesting they purchase this microfilm, adding the necessary details for purchase. They immediately did this and a few months later this microfilm arrived. They had some internal discussions on where to place it in the Library, but finally it reached the Microfilm Department.
This microfilm includes some musical scores (I don’t know details about them!), the handwritten original of these memoirs and two copies of the typewritten copy. I assume they included it twice, because one of the copies (the one which appeared last!) was difficult to read.
I went through the typewritten copy to try and find what Rabbi Gudemann had said about Herzl’s marriage. Since my German is almost non-existent, I looked for keywords such as Herzl in close proximity to Trauung (which means marriage). When I eventually found them, I reasonably assumed that I had found the correct place and ordered a photocopy of that page. I also looked for the equivalent place in the handwritten original, (I always believe in going to a primary source), and soon found it and at a later date ordered a photocopy.
I felt that it was important for the readers of my paper to understand the background, namely the standard of Jewish religious observance of the Vienna community at the period of Herzl’s marriage, especially with regard to marriages and conversion to Judaism. For this, I searched for books and scholarly papers on this subject and I found a number of such items. One of them spoke of the marriage of the neurologist Dr. Moritz Benedikt which had been conducted in a Vienna Temple by a Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Adolf Jellinek, where the bride was a “Reform convert.” However no source was given for this piece of information. Towards the end of October 2007, I decided to contact the author of this book, a University Professor, and ask him. The answer I received was that he was abroad on Sabbatical but he would be in Israel at the end of November. At the end of November 2007 I managed to speak to him and when I asked for the source of the information he answered that he had written the book nearly 20 years earlier and was therefore unable to assist me.
I therefore decided to try and find out more information about this Benedikt marriage and to do this I asked a question on the Wikipedia Reference Desk. I received an answer quoting from Benedikt’s autobiography in German with another person obligingly translating the passage into English. I should mention here that in the course of the research for this paper I came across a number of passages in German which I needed translated. Also here, I submitted them to the Wikipedia Reference Desk and in every case I received an English translation within just a few hours.
There was a further problem which I sometimes encountered with the German. From the 16th century until 1940, it was sometimes written in a different script, known as Fraktur, which if one does not know is very difficult to read. Some of the material I used in this research was written in this script. I therefore downloaded the German alphabet in the Fraktur script together with the conventional style alphabet in order to assist me read any material written in this script.
As I have already stated, I could not obtain all the marriage registrations I required from the various archives in Jerusalem. I therefore wrote at the beginning of February 2008 to the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (Jewish Religious Community) in Vienna who have the vital records of the Jewish community for about the last two hundred years, requesting copies of various marriage registrations. They first sent them to me by post but added that if I desired, they could send better quality copies by e-mail. I accordingly requested them and a few days later they arrived. I was able to transfer them to a “Word file” and was then able to improve their quality. A few months later, I requested from them the marriage registrations of other members of Herzl’s wife’s family, which they speedily sent me by e-mail. In appreciation, I sent them a donation.
In February 2000, the Archivist of this above organisation, had written on the Internet that he was searching for information about Herzl’s wife. In March 2008 I wrote to him and asked whether he had assembled further information and if so the sources of such information. He replied giving me a considerable amount of information on the genealogy of Herzl’s wife’s family together with the sources of this information. I also obtained information on the deaths and burials of the family members of Herzl’s wife from the website of the Jewish burials in Vienna up to 1945. This website has 153,000 records of burials in the various Jewish cemeteries in Vienna.
In October 2007, I read an article on the Internet written by a Jerry Klinger, President of the “Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation” that “the Rabbis [in Bordeaux] did not want the Herzl children in their cemetery.” Klinger had not given a source for this information. I myself could understand their reluctance to bury Hans – he had committed suicide, but why also Pauline? I thus wondered whether it might be that they Rabbis questioned the Jewishness of Herzl’s children. I therefore made a search on the Internet for the telephone numbers in Rockville Maryland, (the area of Klinger’s Society), for the name “Klinger.” I found a J. Klinger and on telephoning the number found that it was the correct one! Klinger could not recollect the source for his information – he had written his article a number of years earlier. Despite an exchange of e-mails and a further telephone call in the spring of 2008, nothing further emerged on this question. I could not therefore derive any conclusions from his article which were relevant to my paper and so did not even refer to it.
Having assembled a large amount of information on the subject of Herzl’s marriage, I was able to write up a paper. My conclusion was that one could not come to a definite conclusion as to whether Herzl’s wife was or was not Jewish, although there were several indications indicating she might have been non-Jewish.
Assistance to prepare this paper had come from almost every continent in the world, even as far away as Australia. There was therefore a fairly long list of acknowledgments at the end of the paper. All those appearing in this list received in appreciation a copy of the paper. It was also put on my site on the Internet.
One of those who received such a copy was Wolf–Erich Eckstein, the archivist at the Jewish centre in Vienna. Following his receipt of a copy of my paper there was an exchange of e-mails between us. Because of the important points raised in them, I shall now reproduce their texts.
On 8 July 2008 Eckstein wrote:
Thank for your paper.
There are some mistakes:
On page 5 you wrote “In all countries there is a civil registration of marriages. …”
That’s not right for Austria until 1938 – civil registration of birth and death started in January 1939, of marriages in August 1938.
The last sentence “… a marriage registered … by the Jewish Community of Vienna … would not prove that there had been a Jewish religious marriage ceremony.”
Sorry, but this is wrong except marriages between a Jewish and a non-Jewish (konfessionlos) partner – these marriages were registered civil and reported to the Jewish Community, but these marriages were marked as “Magistrats-Trauungen”.
On page 8 you wrote, that Steward or his researcher found no religious inscription on tombstone of Franziska Kollinsky nee Goldstein – of course she has!
You wrote about Herzl’s marriage “… no Rabbi conducted the ceremony. … signature of the registrar … it was Jellinek.
You are right – it was Dr. Adolf Jellinek, chief Rabbi of Vienna for many years.
There is no reason to say that one of the Naschauers or Kollinskys were non-Jewish.
I answered this e-mail on the following day:
Thank you for reading my paper and giving your comments.
As promised, here are my answers to your comments:
• The ONLY religious document in a Jewish marriage is the Kesuba. The marriage register kept by a community, which contains the names of the bride and bridegroom, details concerning them and their parents, a variety of dates ALL GIVEN ACCORDING TO THE CIVIL CALENDAR (and none in the Jewish calendar!) is a register required by the CIVIL authorities.
• We can see from the marriage of Dr. Moritz Benedikt that Jellinek would conduct marriages when one of the partners had had a “Reform conversion.” Such a marriage is in fact a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, even if the civil authorities considered the “Reform convert” as a Jew. For this reason Benedikt’s marriage did not come into the category of “Magistrats-Trauungen” and therefore his entry is not marked as “Magistrats-Trauungen” in the Community Marriage Register. It seems very possible that this was not an isolated case. Thus a registration in the Vienna Community Marriage Register, even if not marked “Magistrats-Trauungen,” does not prove that a Halachically accepted Jewish marriage took place.
• As I indicated in my paper, I do not have in my possession a photograph of Franziska Kollinsky’s tombstone and could therefore only base my comments on what Desmond Stewart, the author of a biography on Herzl, had written.
• There are several problems regarding Herzl’s marriage registration. Here are the main ones: In the entries directly above and below Herzl’s entries, the name of the Rabbi conducting the marriage ceremony was clearly stated. In the case of Herzl, the space for the Rabbi WAS LEFT BLANK! Why?! And why did Herzl’s marriage take place in Reichenau and not in a Temple in Vienna as would be expected for members of the Naschauer and Herzl families? There were similar problems with the marriages of Julie’s sisters, especially Helene.
• I clearly stated in my paper that there is no concrete evidence on whether Julie Naschauer was or was not Jewish. It has been suggested by Mark Braham, an author of a book on Herzl, that a member of the female line of the Kollinsky family had had a “Reform conversion” and if this fact is correct, Jellinek would have still been prepared to conduct a marriage ceremony and Herzl’s entry in the Vienna Community Marriage Register would thus not include the words “Magistrats-Trauungen.”
On the same day, Eckstein replied:
As far as I know in 1867 until 1938 there was no “reform convert” in Vienna – conversions to Judaism in general were controlled and proved by a Rabbi.
In your letter you wrote: “In the entries directly above and below Herzl’s entries, the name of the Rabbi … was clearly stated…”
You are right, but the reason why is, that these marriages were conducted by Rabbis not connected to the Tempelgasse Synagogue, i.e. Jacob Fleissig in Untere Viaduktgasse, Dr. Placzek in Bruenn, Dr. A. Schmiedl in Fünfhaus. A page before you would see other marriages signed by Dr. Guedemann in the same manner like Dr. Jellinek did at Herzl’s marriage.
Sorry, there was a mistake (misread) when the extract of marriage record of Helene Naschauer was issued 1990: The rabbi wasn’t Dr. Guren but Dr. Guedemann.
That very same day I replied to Eckstein:
Thank you for your e-mail.
In it you wrote:
“As far as I know in 1867 until 1938 there was no ‘reform convert’ in Vienna – conversions to Judaism in general were controlled and proved by a Rabbi.”
Let us look at this statement for the period from the mid-1860s until the early 1890s, the period when Jellinek was the Chief Rabbi of Vienna.
• Jellinek was in fact a Reform rabbi. He did not require converts to Judaism to immerse in the Mikva. This in itself would completely invalidate any conversion. He dispensed with the Halitzah ceremony. His marriage ceremonies in his Temple considerably deviated from the traditional ceremony. He was personally not particular in observing the Jewish dietary laws and other Jewish ritual observances. One could hardly expect him to require his converts to be more observant than he was, and acceptance of ALL the commandments incumbent on a Jew is a prerequisite for conversion.
• In 1868 Jellinek performed the marriage of Dr. Moritz Benedikt with a “reform convert” in a Vienna Temple.
• What do you mean by the expression “controlled and proved by a Rabbi”? Who was this Rabbi during this period and did he have the right to disqualify conversions performed by Chief Rabbi Jellinek?
• What about people who had been converted by Reform rabbis in Germany or by Neolog rabbis in Budapest and came to Vienna to get married in one of the Temples? Were their conversions also scrutinised?
I never received a reply from Eckstein to this e-mail of mine.
A further question which can be asked is why if Jellinek or Gudemann conducted a marriage, they didn’t sign their name as the Rabbi conducting the wedding but only signed the certificate in their position as the registrar. On the face of it, this seems rather sloppy! However, maybe some of the marriages were not in accordance with the Halachah and therefore it was more diplomatic to always leave this space blank.
Another person I sent a copy of my book to was Jerry Klinger, President of the “Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation”. On 13 July 2008, he sent me an e-mail:
Thank you very much for your excellent article "Was Theodor Herzl's Wife Jewish?" It is by far the best I have seen on the subject.
Though I doubt it will be received well but you might want to add it to the archives at the Herzl Museum, Motti Friedman is the director. When I brought the subject up with him he bristled at the suggestion that there was any question and Julia being Jewish. He strongly argued that the children, and hence Stephen Norman, Jewishness was investigated by the Chief Rabbi of Vienna. The Chief Rabbi's ruling was that Julia was Jewish and the children were Jewish. He dismissed any argument to the contrary.
I immediately sent a copy to Motti Friedman and duly notified Jerry of this. I have received no comments whatsoever from Motti Friedman.