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I have found this paragraph in the diary of Theodore Herzl (12 June 1895):

It would be an excellent idea to call in respectable, accredited anti-Semites as liquidators of property. To the people they would vouch for the fact that we do not wish to bring about the impoverishment of the countries that we leave. At first they must not be given large fees for this; otherwise we shall spoil our instruments and make them despicable as 'stooges of the Jews'.

Later their fees will increase, and in the end we shall have only Gentile officials in the countries from which we have emigrated. The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as respected people.

The Complete Diaries Of Theodor Herzl, Volume 1, pages 83-84

The second last sentence is often quoted alone.

It is not very clear to me in which context these sentences have been written. Some specific things that confuse me is that it seems strange to me that a Hebrew would call the anti-Semites "our most dependable friends", furthermore I do not understand to who exactly the author is referring to when saying "liquidators of property.”

Could somebody provide the context in which these sentences were written?

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  • I voted to close as needs more focus because this asks two questions. Why a Jew would call anti-semites or most dependable friends, and what they mean by liquidators of property. The first question is on topic (I think) for politics SE, while the second one isn’t (and might be a better fit for something like English language&usage or English language learners). May 21 at 15:19
  • @EkadhSingh the second part of the question is asking not the meaning of the words "liquidators of property" while to which "liquidators of property" he is referring to.
    – pinpon
    May 21 at 15:24
  • @pinpon well then that might be on topic here, but it should still go in a different question May 21 at 15:25
  • @EkadhSingh I have edited the question to avoid misunderstanding
    – pinpon
    May 21 at 15:25
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    @Obie2.0, "original work with page numbers" is not the complete context for a statement. You also need to take into account the larger cultural situation in which the work was written.
    – Mark
    May 22 at 2:46
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The context is, unsurprisingly, Zionism. Through his own rejection by German elites, Herzl became convinced that battling anti-Semitism was pointless, since to a large part it was a reaction to the status of the Jewish diaspora (i.e. a people trying to ingratiate itself into different host countries). So his idea was that Jews should have their own state, which would make anti-Semitism disappear by turning the Jews into a "normal" people with a national state. Anti-Semites would be more reliable allies to bring this about, since removing Jews from their respective national states is what they wanted all along.

A liquidator is somebody who sells of the property of a company that has closed down. If Jews were to "close shop" and emigrate to their own state, they would need to sell off everything they couldn't take with them (real estate etc.). To dispel all notions of Jewish greed in advance, Herzl wanted middleman to sell off Jewish property, and who better for the purpose than the anti-Semites who could not be reasonably accused of wanting to do Jews a favour.

In the end, so he imagined, there would be a win-win situation. Jews would finally be respected as citizens of their own nation-state, and anti-Semites would have their wish fulfilled by having Jews removed from their respective nations. In that sense their would be more dependable than philo-Semites or people indifferent to the Jewish diaspora (the latter wouldn't care either way, and the former might try to compel Jews to stay).

There are a few flaws to that idea (e.g. there is a brand of anti-Semitism that would rather kill Jews than resettle them), and there were religious objections to that sort of political Zionism (i.e. some Jews thought it was gods prerogative to create the new Jewish nation), but that, at least according to my secondary school education, is basically Herzl's thought process here.

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Essentially, Herzl believed that Zionism and anti-Semitism had the same goal; to get the Jews out of Europe. Thus, Herzl thought that Zionists should befriend and cooperate with anti-Semites. Indeed, he executed on this strategy himself and spent many years touring Europe, enlisting the support of powerful anti-Semites for Zionism.

Why did Herzl want anti-Semites to sell-off (liquidate) Jewish property? A common idea at the time was that rich "Börsenjuden" (stock-exchange Jews) caused grief by buying and selling stock. Herzl didn't want the Jews leaving Europe to be accused of being Börsenjuden.

Here is the full diary entry from June 12, 1895:

On my main tour I shall everywhere invite a small number of the most respectable (not the wealthiest) men to come to see me, make them take an oath of secrecy, and reveal to them the plan which I am going to announce to the Family Council. Then will follow a second, bigger meeting, the composition of which will be suggested to me by the first group. To this meeting I shall announce the "outflow" plan — there is no mention in it as yet of the State — , telling them only that we are seeking security for our capital and new soil for our labor. But I must take care in every country not to get involved in any "secret society" business. Perhaps I shall call in the first confidants one by one and have them take oaths individually.

Carefully avoid the danger of "secret societies" everywhere. That is why our official propaganda must be made by the most circumspect people. We shall cover ourselves by submitting our "secret instructions" to the governments for their approval.

After all, we want to proceed with the consent of the governments, but undisturbed by the mobs of parliament and press.

It will, incidentally, spread like wildfire. One of my dreams during the period of uncertainty was to force Alois Lichtenstein, Schonerer or Lueger to a duel. If I had been shot, a letter left behind by me would have told the world that I fell a victim to this most unjust movement. Thus my death might at least have improved the heads and hearts of men. But if I had shot my opponent, I wanted to make a magnificent speech before the assize court, first expressing my regrets at “the death of an honorable man,” like Mores who had stabbed Captain Mayer to death. Then I would have gone into the Jewish Question, making a powerful, Lassalle-like speech which would have shaken and moved the jury and inspired respect from the court, leading to my acquittal. Thereupon the Jews would have offered to make me a member of parliament. But I would have been obliged to decline that, because I did not want to become a representative of the people over the dead body of a human being. — And now! I find that the anti-Semites are fully within their rights.

It would be an excellent idea to call in respectable, accredited anti-Semites as liquidators of property. To the people they would vouch for the fact that we do not wish to bring about the impoverishment of the countries that we leave. At first they must not be given large fees for this; otherwise we shall spoil our instruments and make them despicable as 'stooges of the Jews'.

Later their fees will increase, and in the end we shall have only Gentile officials in the countries from which we have emigrated. The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as respected people.

The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl

Herzl discusses how they, the Zionists, shall win the support of non-Jews for Zionism. The entry is from June 12, 1895, before the Dreyfuss affair, which supposedly had a deep impact of Herzl,4 and before Herzl founded the World Zionist Organization in 1897. Herzl's manic-depression may explain why the entry is incoherent and borderline rambling.1 For example, you can't really avoid the danger of "secret societies" if you also ask people to take an oath of secrecy before revealing your plans to them!

Note the paragraph about duelling right before the paragraph about calling in "respectable, accredited anti-Semites". Duels were common among European aristocracy and was a means to defend one's honour. Herzl was somewhat obsessed with the topic and the related shame in declining duels.

At about the same time as this diary entry was written, Herzl wrote the play the New Ghetto, a scathing critique of Jewish bourgeois life in Vienna.5 In it, the Jewish protagonist Jacob Samuel shamefully walks away from a duel with a non-Jew. Many years later, the non-Jew continues to bother Jacob, who finally snaps and challenges the non-Jew to a duel. Jacob is mortally wounded, but has apparently redeemed himself in Herzl's eyes as his final words are: "Jews, my brothers, they won't let you live unless you learn to die!"3 In one of the acts in the New Ghetto, one of the rabbis even expresses the virtues of anti-Semitism to Jacob: "Anti-Semitism isn't all bad. As the movement gains force, I witness a return to religion. Anti-Semitism is a warning to us to stand together, not to abandon the God of our fathers, as many have done."2

This explains why he fantasizes about duelling famous anti-Semites, such as Alois Lichtenstein. He imagines himself restoring Jewish pride to the Jewish people.2 Note the reference "like Mores who had stabbed Captain Mayer to death". It refers to a recent duel in which Mores, a non-Jew, challenged and killed Mayer, a Jew, in the subsequent duel. In the ensuing court proceedings (duelling was outlawed at the time), Mores expresses regrets at the "the death of an honorable man".

My point is that Herzl's relationships with anti-Semites makes more sense if one understands his infatuation with honour. Herzl's goal wasn't only to create a safe haven for Jews to escape anti-Semitism, but also to restore Jewish honor which he believed had been lost. Herzl appears to have seen anti-Semitism as both justified and unjust at the same time and his writings are full of negative remarks and stereotypes about Jews. He even referred to his Jewish detractors as "Jewish vermin".5 Of course it is hard to make sense of this; why did Herzl so passionately want to help the Jews if he despised them? I have no good answer.

Remember that most Jews weren't fond of Herzl either. They saw his ideas as dangerous lunacy, preferred integration, and wanted to be seen as equal citizens of the countries they lived in. They rejected the view, advanced by both Zionists and anti-Semites, that the Jews were an alien nation embedded among European nations.

This is why Herzl sought alliances powerful anti-Semites. To them he spun Zionism as a solution to their problem with the Jews and to the Zionists he spun anti-Semites as useful allies. Furthermore, he calculated that more anti-Semitism would result in more adherents to Zionism.

  1. Famous People with Bipolar Disorder
  2. Vienna is Different: Jewish Writers in Austria from the Fin-de-Siecle to the Present (p. 66-70)
  3. Herzl's psychodrama
  4. However, the view that the Dreyfuss affair made Herzl a Zionist is now mostly discarded, see 5.
  5. Theodore Herzl: A Reevaluation.

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