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Theodore Herzl's bicycle in the Jewish Museum in Vienna
all photos by Rhonda Spivak

Photo of Herzl with his bike

Painting of Theodore Herzl in the Jewish Museum of Vienna

A Visionary on A Bike who Took a Hike: Theodore Herzl in Vienna –What would he tell European Jews to do today?

November 13, 2016



The image I remember most from my visit to the Jewish Museum in Vienna is that of the bicycle that belonged to Theodore Herzl, which is suspended from a rafter in the Museum’s lofty atrium.  The bicycle is one of the few traces which exist in Vienna of Herzl , the man who founded modern Zionism which led to the creation of Israel. 


Although Herzl was born in Budapest, in 1878, but studied law at the University of Vienna, , and then later worked as a journalist in Vienna. When I visited Vienna's Jewish Museum, I had no idea where in Vienna Herzl lived and  marvelled at the fact that  Museum actually had his bicycle, wondering how it had been found and preserved.


Without knowing it  I in fact probably walked by the building on  6 Bergasse St where Herzl lived  from around 1896 to 1898. During this time Herzl was a literary editor and Paris correspondent of the Neue  Freie Presse, Europe's main liberal newspaper at the time, and published his tract ''The Jewish State'' in 1896.  While I walked by this building I had no idea that Herzl had ever lived there since one would look in vain for any  marking  on the street mentioning this. In fact, the whole reason that I walked down Berggasse Street, which was once a Jewish middle class neighborhood, is that Sigmund Freud, the great psychoanalyst was Herzl’s neighbor and 19 Bergasse, where Freud lived and worked is today a Freud Museum, which I visited.


According to the New York Times, although Herzl and Freud were neighbors they never actually met:

“The two never met, although Freud dreamed of Herzl; and although Herzl ignored the copy of ''The Interpretation of Dreams'' Freud sent him, hoping for a review, Freud did psychoanalyze Herzl's son, Hans, years later, diagnosing the suicidal youth as suffering, not surprisingly, from a profound Oedipal conflict.”



Turning back to Herzl’s bike, I never learned at the Jewish Museum itself how Herzl’s bike was located but made a mental note to research this.  I subsequently read on the internet that the curator of the Museum had said that the bike was found at in the attic of a hotel in Altaussee some 300 kilometers west of Vienna where  Herzl was on summer holiday until 1902, which was only two years before he died.


As the Museum’s exhibit explains ,Herzl had been introduced to cycling by a well known Jewish author and playwright Arthur Schnitzler, whose novel “The Road into the Open" described not only the cycling boom in Vienna at the time  but also the insufferable anti-Semitism of the turn of the century.


Apparently Herzl loved riding around the Austrian countryside and

was once quoted as sayin

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.