Morak Opens New Herzl Museum in Jerusalem

Original Text Service (OTS) (05/20/05)

Ceremonial Act with Israeli President Katzav, Speaker of the Knesset Rivlin and Austrian State Secretary Morak

Jerusalem - "The new Theodor Herzl Museum should serve for all of us as a reminder and a mandate at the same time. It is a reminder not to forget our common historical roots, but above all, never to forget our history’s tragic mistakes. It is a mandate to remain alert to all forms of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, and to keep the vision alive to build together a better future in peace and happiness for all mankind," said State Secretary Franz Morak, at the opening of the new Herzl Museum at Herzlberg in Jerusalem in the presence of the Israeli President, Katzav, and the Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin. President Katzav greeted State Secretary Morak in his speech as "friend" and thanked him for Austria’s commitment and support, which he valued highly.

The enlargement and remodelling of the Herzl Museum has come about, among others, due to the support of the Republic of Austria. During the course of the festive opening with President Katzav and the Knesset Speaker Rivlin, State Secretary Morak laid a wreath on the grave of Theodor Herzl as well as on that of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The opening of the new museum took place on the birth date of Theodor Herzl. A decision made by the Knesset last year has officially designated May 20 as Herzl Day.

State Secretary Morak spoke about the life and work of Theodor Herzl, "who was a child of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, shaped by the short prime of Jewish life in Austria during the late 19th century." Herzl, however, experienced at the same time how "the fatal seeds of nationalism began to bear fruit and Austria’s multicultural character disappeared more and more into the background as the ugly baggage of anti-Semitism raised its head with evermore clearer contours," continued Morak. "The exhibition reveals in a comprehensive and impressive way to what extent the young Theodor Herzl, a journalist for the Monarchy’s most renowned daily newspaper, Neue Freie Presse, was anchored in Viennese society and how much it formed him," said Morak.

In his last will, Theodor Herzl wrote that he would like to be buried next to his father until "the Jewish people can bring my remains to Eretz in Israel," quoted Morak.

Between the two world wars, many Austrians left for Israel in the tracks of Theodor Herzl. There were the enthusiastic Zionists, such as the legendary Jerusalem Mayor and founder of the Jerusalem Foundation, Teddy Kollek. Others went to Israel as refugees and were literally able in the last minute to escape extermination by the National Socialists, among whom were also many Austrians. Theodor Herzl, who like Sigmund Freud lived in the Berggasse, contrasted "the evil dream of the anti-Semites with the good dream of the Jewish nation in many of his books and writings" said Morak.

"Only after the horrific experiences of the Shoa did this pleasant dream become a reality. Both dreams, the good one of a home for all Jews, as well as the bad one of anti-Semitism are vividly depicted in the exhibition which was exceedingly well conceived by the younger generation of the 21st century," concluded the State Secretary. He thanked those responsible for the initiative taken in creating the new museum, particularly the Jerusalem Foundation. Morak closed his speech with a quotation by Stefan Zweig, who at the death of Theodor Herzl in 1904 wrote: "Vienna was suddenly made aware of the fact that this was not a mere author or mediocre poet who had died but one of those creators of ideas such as emerge only at the rarest moments in the history of countries and peoples."