Auction 91 Part 1 Jewish and Israeli History, Culture and Art

Lot 1

Theodor Herzl – Signed Letter – Vienna, 1901

Opening: $700
Sold for: $1,000
Including buyer's premium

Printed letter (mimeographed typescript), personally signed by Theodor (Binyamin Ze'ev) Herzl; invitation to a meeting of the supervisory board of the Jewish Colonial Trust. September 6, 1901, Vienna. German.

Letter of invitation to a meeting of the supervisory board of the Jewish Colonial Trust; hand signed by the board president, Theodor Herzl. The invitation is addressed to "Herr Gesinnungsgennose" (German: "Mr. Like-Minded Comrade"), which was a customary greeting or salutation among members of the Zionist movement.
According to the invitation, the meeting of the board was scheduled to take place at the offices of the Zionist Congress, located at No. 9 Türkenstraße in Vienna's 9th District, on October 9, 1901. Included among the issues on the agenda, listed at the bottom of the invitation: management policy of the Jewish Colonial Trust; purchase of a bank in Russia; establishment of a bank in Germany; possible appointments; and more.

From October 9-12, 1901, members of the Zionist leadership convened a number of gatherings: meetings of the board of directors and the supervisory board of the Jewish Colonial Trust, and a meeting of the Greater Executive Council (of the Zionist General Council). Feeling rather uncharacteristically pessimistic in light of what he heard and saw, Herzl wrote the following in his diary:
"The 'October Conferences, ' aimless babble are over. I was so disgusted that I made no entries in this book at all. With a doleful outcry the Bank was made 'capable of action, ' but it is not supposed to undertake anything. Actually, it is best this way, for we don't have any single capable businessman […]" ("The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, " edited by Raphael Patai, translated by Harry Zohn, Herzl Press and Thomas Yoseloff, New York and London, 1960; Vol. II, p. 1183).

In 1898, the Second Zionist Congress adopted a resolution to establish a Jewish bank which would provide the necessary financial support for translating the Zionist dream from theory to reality. Following this decision, a trust company known as the "Jewish Colonial Trust" was established. Theodor Herzl's main goal at the outset was to use the trust company to raise sufficient funds to enable the Zionist movement to purchase from the Ottoman Sultan, at the appropriate time, a charter for extensive Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. In a series of meetings that took place from the 9th through 12th of October, 1901 – meetings of the Greater Executive Council of the Zionist General Council, and meetings of the supervisory board and board of directors of the Jewish Colonial Trust – a dispute erupted between Herzl and the Russian Zionist leadership regarding the issue of the charter. Herzl insisted that without such a charter from the Sultan, and its realization in the form of extensive Jewish immigration, Zionism would remain, in effect, a "theoretical movement" – a movement having no material consequence. His opponents' counterargument was that even if such a charter were to be granted, the Jewish masses were woefully unprepared to bring about its fruition; the proper spirit had to be patiently instilled in them before the Zionist leadership could consider entering into negotiations with the Ottoman authorities on the subject of a charter. Eventually, over time, the Jewish Colonial Trust began functioning as the financial arm of the Zionist movement, providing credit to both businesses and individuals committed to the development of the Land of Israel and the Jewish settlement enterprise within its borders. Although in the end the Jews were never granted the type of charter Herzl had hoped to acquire, over a long period of time the capital at the Jewish Colonial Trust's disposal served to finance a steady stream of wide-ranging Zionist activity. It thus enabled a thriving Jewish settlement project in the Promised Land.

[1] f., 28 cm. Good condition. Fold lines and creases. Minor stains. Tears, including small open tears, mended. Punch holes, causing minor damage to text, mended with paper. Left margin of sheet cut, not affecting text.

Zionism, Theodor Herzl, JNF
Zionism, Theodor Herzl, JNF