When Herzl died, penniless, his wife and
children appealed to the Zionist Organization for money on which
to live. The leaders of the movement asked their membership for
funds and in a very short time, three million dollars were
raised. The Zionist leadership selected the 4 percent, 30-year
bonds of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, at that time the safest
and most secure paper in central Europe. In l906, this assured
the family members a substantial income for the rest of their
lives. Eight years and one world war later, the Austro-Hungarian
Empire had ceased to exist. The bonds which were supposed to
support Herzl's children became worthless.
Herzl's second child, Hans, studied philosophy
and languages at Cambridge University in England. He too was
mentally ill. In an effort to escape being merely his father's son,
he became in turn a Baptist, a Roman Catholic, and again a Jew. A
few hours before the funeral of his sister, he committed suicide
in a rented room. He wished to be buried in Paulina's coffin
"where there is plenty of space for both." Before his suicide, he
wrote: "My situation is that of a dead man. When God wants to
destroy a person, he first converts him into a mad man." The
youngest sister, Trude, who was also mentally ill, died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Because of their troubled lives, the
governments of Israel chose to ignore Herzl's will and not
bring his children's bodies to Jerusalem. Six years ago, Dr. Ariel Feldstein, a historian and the director of the Sapir College in the Negev, noticed that next to Herzl's grave
only his mother and father are buried. Diving with a passion
into the material, he found out about the unfulfilled will and
started a campaign to fulfill Herzl's last wishes.
Feldstein prompted the government to establish
a committee to deal with the matter in 2001. Headed by minister Danny Naveh, the committee buried the issue. In 2003, the
centenary of Herzl's death, Feldstein raised the issue again.
This time, the result was the Herzl law (2004), which ensured the
fulfillment of Herzl's heritage. As a result, in 2005, the Herzl museum was
re-inaugurated - but the issue of Herzl's children was still
Feldstein's persistence seemed to have paid
off a year ago when he was
notified that prime minister Ariel Sharon was about to announce that
the bones of Herzl's children would be brought to Israel. The
announcement was planned for November 21 - but then, on that
same date, Sharon declared the creation of his new party - Kadima.
Feldstein did not give up. He brought the
matter to the attention of the next prime minister, Ehud Olmert,
who rose to the cause. One of the biggest obstacles over
the years had been the objection of the religious establishment
to bringing the children's remains to Israel. Hans, for example,
had not only converted to Christianity, but had also committed
Feldstein now started to work with Chief
Sepharadi Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar. After proving that
the children were mentally ill - and therefore not responsible for their
actions - and that Hans had converted back to Judaism before his
death, Feldstein managed to get the rabbi's approval.
Finally, 76 years after their death, on Wednesday, September 20, Herzl's children will
finally join their father in the family plot on Mount Herzl.