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June 24, 1983 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-06-24

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24 Friday, June 24, 1983

Mack. Pitt

and his




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Anniversary of Zionist Pioneer Max Nordau

(Continued from Page 1)
One hundred years ago,
in 1883, Nordau's name be-
came known the world over
when he published his vol-
ume, "The Conventional
Lies of Our Civilization." A
thinker well ahead of his

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time, he criticized outworn
sexual mores, the so-called
"religious lie," the devious-
ness of the political and eco-
nomic establishment and
the dominant role of
monarchial and aristocratic
To counter these "lies"
Nordau propounded a "phi-
losophy of human solidar-
ity," emphasizing the
necessity of a close relation-
ship between free institu-
tions and free inquiry in all
areas of human concern.
Barred in Russia, the book
went through many edi- Japan and was available in
tions and was translated most public libraries there.
into 15 languages, includ-
Nordau followed up
ing Chinese and Japanese. this work with one
As late as 1946 the book was entitled "Paradox of Our
still being widely read in Conventional Lies" and


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then a third work entitled Congress Nordau served as
"Degeneration" (1892). In vice president under Herzl.
this book he took on the In the next four Congresses,
great writers and artists he served as president.
of his time, such as However, he refused to be
Nietzsche, Tolstoy, the president of the World
Wagner, Zola, Ibsen and Zionist Organization, even
subjected thieir work to though Herzl had named
severe criticism. He even him as the successor ("he
suggested that the civili- will lead the cause at least
zation of Western Europe as well as I did, or better").
had so degenerated that
It was he who drafted the
it might beget a hmnan famous Basle Program, the
catastrophe of unprece- first official Zionist plat-
dented proportions. form, at the first Congress
(George Bernard Shaw in 1897. To a friend who
was so angered by Nor- claimed Herzl was insane,
Nordau told Herzl: "If you
dau's work that he wrote
are insane, we are insane
an entire book in an-
together. Count on me!"
However, the tenor of
Nordau advocated sol-
the movement began to
idaritarian socialism but re-
jected Communism. In the change and Nordau's
1950s doctoral candidates emphasis on political ac-
in the U.S. were still writ- tion that would bring the
ing dissertations about ' Jews en masse back, to
the land was out of step
Nordau's "Degeneration."
Relating to the Jewish with the thinking of the
question, he wrote of "the leadership. Nordau fa-
existing situation of the _vored neither Ahad
emancipated Jew in West- Haam's spiritual nor
ern Europe. He has given up Weizmann's practical
Zionism. Too propheti-
his specifically Jewish
character; but the people let cally he warned in 1911
that six million Jews in
him feel that he has not ac-
quired their special char- Russia and in Eastern
acteristics. He has lost the Europe would perish be-
home of the Ghetto, but the cause of the political
land of his birth is denied to events there.
him as his home. He avoids •
In 1919 and 1920, after
his fellow Jew because thr tragedy of World War I,
anti-Semitism has made he suggested that in order to
him hateful. His country- protect Jews the world over
men repel him when he and insure Jewish political
wishes to associate with independence in Palestine,
them. He has no ground 600,000 Jews should be
under his feet and he has no transferred to Palestine
community to which he be- immediately. The Zionist
longs as a full member." leadership of that period re-
With "no ground" and jected his proposal as un-
"no community" Nordau realistic. Jabotinsky, how-
characterized the plight ever, did not forget and in
of the "emancipated" the late 1930s labeled his
Jew in his address to the own program for the speedy
First Zionist Congress in creation of a Jewish major,
1897. Dealing also with ity in Palestine the' "Max
the Jews in the ghetto Nordau Plan."
and the pitiless lot of the
Nordau retired from
poor Jews of Eastern active Zionist work in 192 1
Europe, Nordau wove a and died in Paris in 1923.
portrait of the Jewish His remains were reinter-
people all over the world red in Tel Aviv in 1926.
as he saw it.
"The Zionists know that
Against such a back- they have undertaken a
ground there was no ques- _ work of unparalleled di ffi
culty," Nordau wrote.
tion that only through
"Never before has the effort
Zionism could there be a re-
vitalization of the Jewish been made to transplant
people and a return to the several million people
Jewish homeland. Nordau's peacefully and in a short
opening address on the space of time, from various
Jewish- situation was to countries; never has the at-
tempt'been made to trans-
characterize the early Con-
gresses. At the 30th Con- form millions of physically
gress last December, one degenerate
delegate noted that the without trade or profession,
Congress needed a Nordau- into farmers and herdsmen;
like survey of the world to bring town-bred
Jewish situation side-by- hucksters and tradesmen,,
side with analyses of Is- clerks and men of sedentary
rael's problems. occupation, into contact
In 1892, Nordau and again with the plough and
Herzl first met and re- with mother earth.
Though Nordau died 60
mained firm friends and
years ago, the insight
close associates until
Herzl's death in 1904. From inherent in these words are
the first through the sixth
note: * The Nor-
dau legacies are continuing
in the activities of his daugh-
ter, Maxa Nordau, who lives
in Paris with .her daughter,
Claudy Gruenblat-Nordau.
Maxa Nordau has world fame
as an artist. She is a linguist
and for many years lectured
on art and Zionism in many
countries, including the
United States. Her daughter, Claudy, is a journalist
specializing in science and art.)

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