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Max Nordau

A Short Introduction


1849 - Born in Budapest, Hungary into rabbinical family. Jewish and scholarly education.

1873 - Completes medical studies - Tours Europe. Doctor and correspondent for Budapest newspaper "Pester Lloyd."

1880 - Doctor, correspondent, author in Paris.

1890's - Establishes friendship with Theodor Herzl. Controversial Author.

1897 - Elected First Vice-President of First Zionist Congress.

1900-1914 - Well known Speaker and Publicist of Zionist cause.

1914-1918 - Exiled to Madrid, Spain. 1896

1920 - Death in Paris.

1923 - Remains reburied in Tel Aviv.

Contributions to European Literature:

Conventional Lies of our Civilization - Analysis of European culture and attack on religion.

Degradation - Psychological analysis of literary creativity.

Dr. Kohn (Play) - Main theme is problem of intermarriage Jews and Christians. Question proposed in play is whether to accept Christianity without faith in its teachings.

From Nordau's Writings and Speeches

The western Jew has bread, but man does not live by bread alone. The life of the western Jew is no longer endangered by the hatred of the mob, but bodily wounds are not the only ones that cause pain, and from which one may bleed to death. The western Jew regarded emancipation as real liberation and hastened to draw final conclusions from it. But the nations of the world made him realize that he erred in being so thoughtlessly logical... I must express the painful thought - the nations which emancipated the Jews have deluded themselves as to their own feelings... For one or two generations the Jews were allowed to believe that they were Germans, Frenchmen, Italians, and so forth like all the rest of their countrymen... All at once anti-Semitism once more sprang out of the innermost depths of the nations of Western Europe. It revealed to a mortified Jew, who thought anti-Semitism had gone forever, the true picture of the situation. He was allowed to vote for members of Parliament, but everywhere he encountered the sign: "No Jews Admitted".

Fifth Zionist Congress, 1901


... Zionism is the result of two impulses which came from without; first, the principles of nationality, which dominated European thought and sentiment for half a century and determined the politics of the world; second, anti-Semitism from which the Jews of all countries suffer to some degree.

The principle of nationality has awakened a sense of their own destiny in all peoples; it has taught them to regard their own unique values and has given them a passionate desire for independence. It could not, therefore, pass by the educated Jew without leaving some trace. It induced them to remember who and what they are, to feel themselves a people once again, and to demand a normal national destiny for themselves... The one point which excludes, probably forever, the possibility of understanding between a Zionist and a non-Zionist is the question of Jewish nationality. Whoever maintains and believes that the Jews are not a nation cannot indeed be a Zionist; he cannot join a movement which has as its sole purpose the desire to normalize a people which is living and suffering under abnormal conditions. He who is convinced to the contrary that the Jews are a normal people must necessarily become a Zionist, as only the return to their own country can save the Jewish nation which is everywhere hated, persecuted, and oppressed, from physical and intellectual destruction...

Anti-Semitism has also taught many educated Jews the way back to their people. It has had the effect of a sharp trial which the weak cannot stand, but from which the strong emerge stronger and more confident in themselves...

What gives Zionists the courage to begin in their labor of Hercules is the conviction that they are performing a necessary and useful task, a work of love and civilization, a work of justice and wisdom. They wish to save eight to ten million of their kin from intolerable suffering... They wish to deprive anti-Semitism, which lowers the morals of the community everywhere and develops the very worst instincts, of its victim. They wish to make the Jews into a productive people. They desire to irrigate with their sweat and to till with their hands a country that is today desert, until it becomes the blooming garden in once was. Zionism will thus equally serve the unhappy Jews and Christian peoples, civilization and the economy of the world.

Zionism, 1902


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