An Unknown Hungarian Dropped from the Skies by William Philpott


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ACT 1 - SCENE 1

    SCENE 1

      A PRODUCT OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT

      ELECTION DAY. SPRING 1895. OUTSIDE VIENNA CITY HALL

      DR KARL LUEGER IS ADDRESSING A CROWD OF SUPPORTERS OF THE CHRISTIAN
      SOCIAL PARTY

      OBSERVING IN THE BACKGROUND IS DR THEODOR HERZL

    ————————————————————————————————————————————-

      LUEGER (ADDRESSING THE AUDIENCE): Citizens of our great city. Today,
      you are speaking with such force and sending an uncompromising message
      to the Emperor, Franz Joseph.

      You are doing a great service to our great city. Today I believe we
      shall secure an overwhelming majority of seats on the city council.

      We, the Christian Social Party now have the power to do what is
      necessary ...

      (RAISING HIS VOICE)

      ... greater Vienna, will never become greater Jerusalem!

      HERZL (TALKING TO HIMSELF): The Jewish quetion still exists. It is
      impossible and foolish to deny it …

      (SLOWLY SHAKING HIS HEAD)

      … this remnant of the Middle Ages remains a phenomenon which even
      civilised nations seem unable to rid themselves of, try as they may.

      LUEGER: And now it is time to act against those forces who are our
      enemy.  Yes, you know it… (RAISING HIS VOICE)… The Jews!

      In the struggle against corruption, we come up against the Jews at
      every step, for even a Jew turned Christian, stays the same.

      HERZL: Wherever Jews live in any perceptible numbers, the question
      remains. Where it does not exist, it is carried by Jews in the course
      of their move to places of safety, for even then our very presence
      produces persecution…

      (PAUSING)

      … and so it starts all over again.

      LUEGER: The Jewish press is against the clergy and against religion.
      Therefore, I believe the Jews have no right to become judges, to
      become political officials or to become officers, and they must be
      pushed back from whence they came.

      HERZL (SPREADING HIS ARMS): What is this emancipation, this
      enlightenment, this false secular messiah which has promised so much
      and now seems to steer us towards an enormous chasm into which the
      Jewish people will be forced to drop.

      LUEGER: I shall simply say that the liberal press, or as we all know
      it, the (EMPHASIS) ‘Jewish’ press, is the most impudent press on
      earth. It was and remains the ally and accomplice of all robberies and
      thefts that have been committed against the Christian people.

      HERZL: Surely only a fool would mistake this modern anti-Semitism for
      an exact repetition of the age old Jew-baiting.

      The most terrifying aspect of this new form is that it has emerged now
      even in those nations that recognised the inhumanity of the exclusive
      legislation imposed on us for almost two millennia.

      Those places chose to emancipate us, but it comes too late and has
      merely unleashed a new more dangerous form of anti-Semitism.

      LUEGER: We will not rest with merely breaking down their Jewish pride,
      we will push them out of our life. It is time to address what some
      call the ‘Jewish Question’. But….

      (WAVING HIS OUTSTRETCHED ARM TO THE CROWD)

      … I say this… (EMPHASIS)… it is the ‘Jewish Problem!’

      (LUEGER NODS AND REACHES OUT WITH BOTH ARMS TO THE AUDIENCE)

      MAN IN CROWD (SHOUTING): Fuehrer! You are our Fuehrer!

      HERZL: If the so-called enlightened nations still regard us with such
      hatred, then I fear we are on the brink of a disaster. A disaster on a
      scale never before seen or experienced by the Jewish people.

      And yes, this rabid anti-Semite is correct. We can at least agree on
      one thing. We need a solution. But where shall we find that solution?
      Can such a thing be found in time? And who will provide it?

      END OF SCENE 1

    ————————————————————————————————-

      SCENE 2

      A KILBURN WANDERER

      NOVEMBER 1895. KILBURN, NORTH LONDON

      ISRAEL ZANGWILL IS AT HOME SITTING AT A DESK IN HIS STUDY HOLDING A
      GLASS OF
      BRANDY IN ONE HAND AND A LETTER IN THE OTHER WHICH HE READS OUT LOUD

    ———————————————————————————————————

      ZANGWILL: November 1895. Thursday, there will be a call upon you from
      an intimate friend of mine, Dr Herzl, L.L.D sub editor of the Vienna
      ‘Neue Freie Presse’, which as I dare say you know, is one of the
      leading newspapers on our continent. Besides, Dr Herzl is a great
      scholar, and an author of renown in Germany. He has written several
      plays that have achieved considerable success.

      (ZANGWILL TAKES A SIP FROM THE GLASS AND CONTINUES READING ALOUD)

      So much for the author. The man is a thorough gentleman and has a
      serious, if somewhat enthusiastic, mind. He has worked out a scheme
      for resolving the anti-Semitic question and is coming to London for
      the purpose of trying to secure moral support for his plan from leading Jews.

      Respectfully yours
      Max Nordau

      (HE PUTS DOWN THE LETTER.

      THE SOUND OF A CARRIAGE OUTSIDE CAN BE HEARD. IT STOPS AND THERE IS A
      MUFFLED CONVERSATION.

      ZANGWILL TAKES ANOTHER SIP FROM THE BRANDY GLASS

      THERE IS A KNOCK AT THE DOOR.

      ZANGWILL STANDS UP, WALKS TO THE DOOR AND OPENS IT)

      HERZL: Good evening Sir. Do I have the honour of addressing Mr Israel Zangwill?

      ZANGWILL: I am he and you Sir, are Dr Herzl I presume. Please, do come
      in
      from the cold …

      (THEY SHAKE HANDS. ZANGWILL BECKONS HERZL INTO THE ROOM AND HIS
      OUTSTRETCHED ARM POINTS TOWARD A SEAT AND HERZL SITS DOWN)

      … please, take a seat by the fire and allow me to offer you a glass
      of brandy to warm you on this miserable evening.

      HERZL: The fire, and the brandy would be most welcome Sir.

      (ZANGWILL POURS A GLASS AND HANDS IT TO HERZL)

      HERZL: Thank you Mr Zangwill.

      ZANGWILL: Please, do call me Israel.

      HERZL: And I am Theodor. Please allow me to express my gratitude to
      you for agreeing to Nordau’s request to meet with me. But I am
      afraid that I know only a little about you and your books.

      However, I have heard you described as (FLATTERINGLY) ‘the Jewish
      Dickens’. A compliment indeed.

      ZANGWILL (SHRUGS): Perhaps, but I would have preferred Mr Charles
      Dickens to have been referred to as (EMPHASIS) the gentile Zangwill.

      (BOTH LAUGH)

      Alas, he has now departed this world and we will never know how he
      might have reacted.

      As for the letter, yes, I must admit its content stirred my curiosity.
      When I received it, I could not help but wonder who this stranger was
      who would drop from the skies, or appear through the London fog and
      what was it that Nordau felt must be shared with me and so urgently.

      HERZL: Perhaps you would find it helpful if I explained something of
      myself.

      (ZANGWILL NODS AND EXTENDS AN INVITING ARM)

      I was born in Budapest of a family not steeped in Judaism. We had
      relocated to Vienna shortly after the early death of my sister and it
      was there that I studied law, and then, secured a post in Salzburg.

      ZANGWILL: Ah, another Jew made good.

      HERZL: You might think so. But there were still restrictions imposed
      on Jews which meant that my legal career could not proceed too far,
      and certainly prevented me from becoming a Judge. Something at the
      time that was not possible due to the simple fact that I was a Jew.

      ZANGWILL: Yes, there are still many barriers in so many places, even
      as the twentieth century is just a handful of years away.

      HERZL: Despite the restrictions still enforced against Jews within the
      Hapsburg Empire, I had always regarded myself as assimilated into
      liberal society.

      And yet, throughout my life there was always someone, somewhere, who
      felt the need to remind me that even as a citizen, above all else, I
      was a Jew and because of that I must be treated differently and often
      less favourably than my fellow citizens.

      ZANGWILL: Sadly what you describe is still all too common, but at
      least we, both me here in England, and you in Vienna, do not live
      under the terrible oppression of the Czar.

      The situation of the Jews in Russia remains a grave concern after the
      pogroms, indeed state inspired pogroms which broke out following the
      assassination of Czar Alexander II.

      HERZL: I am afraid that such events are just the latest in a long line
      of atrocities inflicted upon Jews, wherever they live.

      ZANGWILL: It makes me feel good to be an Englishman.

      HERZL: As the Jews emerged from the ghettos, we became potential
      competition for the bourgeoisie as well as for the masses.

      Eventually our numbers generate a reaction and the Jew is once again
      seen as the problem, the cause of all society’s evils.

      Incredible though it may seem, the liberalisation of societies in
      western and central Europe have unleashed a new threat to us all. A
      threat I see as more terrifying than anything that has gone before.

      ZANGWILL: I suspect you are not just referring to the trial of Captain
      Dreyfus in Paris. I have been following the military court case
      through the pages of The Times.

      HERZL: No I am not but it is important to know that despite his
      conviction for an act of treason….

      ZANGWILL (INTERRUPTING): His passing of military secrets to the
      Germans.

      HERZL: Some doubt began to emerge about the evidence available, or
      more accurately, not provided, at least not to the court.

      ZANGWILL: Every guilty man proclaims his innocence.

      HERZL: Indeed. But, do you know what really disturbed me most about
      that whole affair? It was the reaction of the crowds that had gathered
      to watch the ceremony of degradation.

      Cries of ‘death to the traitor’ were quickly replaced with
      ‘death to the Jew’ and more sobering ‘death to the Jews.’

      ZANGWILL: Speaking of sobering, allow me to pour you another brandy

      (ZANGWILL PICKS UP BOTH GLASSES, WALKS ACROSS TO THE DRINKS CABINET,
      REFILLS THE GLASSES, HANDS ONE TO HERZL AND RETURNS TO HIS SEAT)

      HERZL: But it is always the same story. In this case, Dreyfus, even if
      guilty was not so much a traitor who was a Jew, but a traitor (EMPHASIS) ‘because’ he
      was a Jew.

      ZANGWILL: The age old derogatory label is never far from the surface.

      HERZL: But as you so astutely say, even the Dreyfus case was not the
      final act which convinced me that a solution must be found.

      ZANGWILL (PICKING UP HIS GLASS): You must be referring to Dr
      Lueger’s election victory in Vienna last spring.

      HERZL: Yes, but more than that. It is the general rising popularity of
      the anti-Semitic parties in both Germany and Austria. The victory of
      the Christian Social Party was the final straw.

      ZANGWILL: Is it not correct to say that the Emperor, no anti-Semite,
      must approve the result in order for it to become legal?

      HERZL: Yes that is so, but I fear that even a re-run of the election
      which has been ordered by the Emperor shall simply produce the same
      result and eventually even Franz Joseph will have no alternative but
      to accede.

      ZANGWILL: I see, then I think we are agreed on one thing at least. A
      solution must be found to the Jewish Question…

      (LOOKING AT THE GLASS IN HIS HAND)

      … if only there were such a thing …

      (PICKING UP THE LETTER AND LOOKING UP AT HERZL IN EXPECTATION)

      HERZL: Identifying a problem is only part of the matter. Finding an
      effective solution is quite something else.

      ZANGWILL: I sense you are about to explain that you believe you have
      found that solution.

      HERZL: After wrestling with the issue I have developed a plan. A plan
      which is simple, that is to say, simple in design but if successful we
      shall yet rid the world of the disease of anti-Semitism.

      ZANGWILL: A simple plan you say.

      HERZL: In essence yes. First, we identify an area of land sufficient
      to accommodate the millions of Jews who wish to escape the
      discrimination and worse in those countries where they live and have
      lived for centuries.

      ZANGWILL: Despite a growing world, there is certainly land enough
      available that may become a home for people who need one.

      HERZL: Second, we must gain sovereignty over that land to enable its
      secure defence and to have that sovereignty guaranteed by
      international treaty so that we may, once again, take our place among
      the nations of the world.

      ZANGWILL: What incentive would any leader of a nation or empire have
      that could result in handing over a portion of it to another people?

      HERZL: I believe that the Jewish world possesses both the financial
      resources and the human material to achieve what is needed.

      ZANGWILL: So, you want to buy a country? Well that’s certainly a
      radical idea. Tell me, where did you have in mind?

      HERZL: I am not fixed on the location. Palestine is, of course, the
      historic homeland from where the Jewish people had mostly been ejected
      so long ago.

      ZANGWILL: Ah, Palestine. A wretched place so I believe. According to
      Mark Twain, an unloved, uncared for land. Even the holy places stand
      in distress.

      HERZL: Then perhaps Argentina might be considered, a country of large
      space and little population.

      ZANGWILL: Baron von Hirsch purchased land and has already settled a
      few thousand agricultural Jews. He claims to eventually settle two
      hundred thousand there.

      HERZL: I am convinced that such well-intentioned efforts alone cannot
      resolve the fundamental problem.

      ZANGWILL: I can safely say that your concern about the future for the
      Jewish people particularly in the east is one I share and I agree that
      a solution must be found quickly…

      (TAKING A SIP FROM HIS GLASS)

      …tell me, how might I help you? Perhaps I could put my contacts such
      as they are at your disposal.

      HERZL: I thank you for your offer. Alas, there is, I regret to say,
      some urgency since my visit to England is to last for only a few days
      before I must return to Paris.

      ZANGWILL (THOUGHTFULLY PLACING A FINGER ON HIS CHIN): I see. In that
      case, I suggest I seek to arrange as soon as possible a gathering of the Maccabean
      which would provide a forum for you to set out your analysis and prognosis of the Jewish
      Question.

      HERZL: Ah, an ancient Jewish name. The Maccabean. Please tell me a
      little more about this group.

      ZANGWILL: It is made up of authors, journalists and other
      professionals. We like to think of ourselves as men (EMPHASIS)
      ‘untainted by commerce.’

      Once a month we meet and over dinner discuss matters considered
      important to the Jewish world. Until a couple of years ago, we had
      been known as ‘The Wanderers of Kilburn’.

      HERZL: The classic description of the history of our people who have
      wandered everywhere for almost two thousand years.

      ZANGWILL(SMILING): I’m afraid that the origin of the name was in our
      case rather more mundane, but I can assure you (LAUGHING) that we, the
      Kilburn Wanderers are not one of those newly formed and increasingly
      popular football clubs!.....

      (HERZL LOOKS PUZZLED)

      … I am sorry Theodor, I make light of it. Forgive me. Allow me to
      explain.

      We had been meeting at the home of the Schetchers one evening when Mrs
      Schechter, the wife of Solomon, a tutor of Rabbinic Judaism, suggested
      rather caustically, though I feel with great clarity of observation,
      that we were drifting from subject to subject (EMPHASIS) ‘like a lot
      of wandering Jews’!

      (BOTH LAUGH)

      With that we immediately agreed that our gatherings would, from then
      on, meet under the name of ‘The Wanderers’ and added, ‘of Kilburn’ to reflect
      the area within which we did indeed wander from house to house for our dinners
      and discussions.

      HERZL: Nevertheless, I see a parallel in that the Jewish people, just
      like the Wanderers, failed to find a permanent home in which to
      conduct there business and live out our lives in peace.

      ZANGWILL: I shall make the necessary arrangements for a meeting with
      all haste. I would however, caution you that I could not guarantee
      which of the Maccabean, or indeed how many, would be able to attend
      the meeting given such short notice. But I assure you that I shall do
      my best to encourage as many people as possible to join us.

      HERZL: I am very encouraged by kind offer.

      ZANGWILL: I shall also invite individuals who, whilst not Maccabean,
      might be encouraged to attend. I am thinking of Colonel Albert
      Goldsmid, a serving officer in the British Army, and Sir Samuel
      Montagu, a banker and Member of Parliament.

      HERZL: This is excellent news. These men sound exactly the sort of
      individuals I need to speak with. I shall look forward to meeting them
      and for now will leave you in peace for the rest of the evening. I
      shall secure a carriage and return to my hotel.

      (BOTH STAND UP)

      ZANGWILL: I will contact you tomorrow.

      HERZL: I will be available at any time. Thank you for what you are
      doing, and thank you for the excellent brandy.

      (THEY SHAKE HANDS AND HERZL LEAVES THE ROOM.

      ZANGWILL PICKS UP HIS GLASS AND SITS DOWN THOUGHTFULLY)

      ZANGWILL (TALKING TO HIMSELF): Well what an evening that turned out to
      be. Nordau was certainly correct in suggesting this meeting would be intriguing.

      Have I witnessed, indeed have I been part of something that will
      change the Jewish world, and perhaps the whole world, forever?

      (HE LOOKS DOWN AT THE GLASS IN HIS HAND)

      But then again, has this very enjoyable brandy somewhat over
      embellished the importance of the evening’s discussion.

      (HE FINISHES OFF THE REST OF HIS BRANDY)

      END OF SCENE 2

 

[end of extract]


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