On Herzl´s birthday, grandson honored for 1st time (JERUSALEM POST) By MELANIE LIDMAN 05/02/12)
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Theodor Herzl is one of Israel’s most celebrated figures, and on
Wednesday the country celebrates everything that Herzl stood for on
the anniversary of his birthday: the inspiration for the Zionist
dream, the faith in a strong Jewish nation and the sheer force of
will toward realizing his dream, even at the cost of his life.
But as much as Herzl is renowned for the impact he had on the
country, the rest of his family slipped into utter oblivion. One
history buff from Washington is aiming to ensure that Herzl’s
grandson, the only Zionist in Herzl’s family, will not be swept into
the forgotten corners of history. On Herzl Day, he will join the
Jerusalem Foundation in dedicating a memorial garden at Mount Herzl
to Stephen Theodore Norman, who committed suicide at age 28.
To understand how the family of one of the country’s foremost heroes
has been forgotten by history, the story reaches back to the
tragedies surrounding all of Herzl’s children. The oldest, Pauline,
succumbed to heroin addiction at age 40.
The middle child, Hans, converted to Catholicism, then Protestantism
and a number of other religious ideologies as he searched for the
path to spiritual salvation, before committing suicide the day of
Pauline’s funeral. Only Herzl’s youngest daughter, Margaret,
or “Trude,” married and had a child, Stephen Theodore Norman (born
Nuemann, later Anglicized), who was born in Vienna in 1918.
But like her siblings, Trude suffered from mental illness and was
committed to a sanatorium soon after Stephen’s birth. All of Herzl’s
descendents are believed to have suffered from severe clinical
depression, a genetic disease that Herzl inherited from his
Herzl’s obsession with the creation of a Zionist Jewish state in
Israel ruined him financially, and his family considered him a
Growing up, Stephen never heard about his famous grandfather. He only
learned about Herzl while studying at an English boarding school in
1939, where his parents sent him to escape from the rise of the Nazis
After graduating, Norman joined the British Royal Artillery and
served in India and Ceylon.
Due to the war, he lost contact with his parents. In 1945, while
being discharged from the army, Norman passed through the Middle East
and had an opportunity to take a multi-day tour of Israel. He was the
only Herzl descendant to visit Israel, where he was feted by the
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) and the Jewish
Service Corps. KKLJNF showed Norman his grandfather’s Vienna study,
which had been moved in its entirety to their Jerusalem office.
“It is difficult for me to describe my feeling as I entered that room
and saw, for the first time, all those belongings of which I had
heard so much,” Norman wrote in his diary of visiting his
grandfather’s study, according to documents from the Central Zionist
“Loving hands had arranged everything in the precise way it had been
in Vienna, forty-one years ago: The pens, the rulers, the blotting
paper on the desk were exactly as they had been left.” Norman was
deeply moved by his visit to Israel, and longed to return.
“Throughout the centuries of the Diaspora, Jews had had that vision:
It was given to a few to express the prayer and the dream that had
been in the heart of every Jew, if not in his mind,” he wrote in his
“And now the dream was coming true. Daily, hourly, it was becoming
more of a reality. A new land was growing out of this old, old
country, and it would continue to grow, as surely and irresistibly as
the passing of time. Wenn ihr wollt, ist es kein Märchen – if you
will it, it will be no fairy tale. You willed it, Jews, with your
hearts and with your souls, with your minds and with your bodies,
with your work, with your sweat and with your blood, with all the
sorrow in your hearts – yes, and with your gladness too. And see, it
is no fairy tale.”
But the British, aware of Norman’s ties to a celebrated Jewish
leader, refused to grant him a permit to visit or immigrate to
Palestine. Discouraged, Norman took a minor position in the British
Embassy in Washington.
There, he finally reestablished contact with his childhood nanny, who
gave him the terrible news: his entire family had perished in the
In November 1946, forbidden from entering Israel and helping create
the state as his grandfather would have wanted, and bereft of any
family, Norman walked to the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge in
Washington, which spans Rock Creek Park, and leapt to his death. He
“Here he was, a Herzl, and he couldn’t do anything to help [the
Jews], because he was a Herzl,” said Jerry Klinger, a Washington
native who has made it one of his life missions to ensure that Norman
is not forgotten.
Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic
Preservation, an organization that identifies and recognizes sites of
American Jewish Historical interest, spent five years lobbying to
have Norman’s remains reburied next to his family on Jerusalem’s
During the long struggle, Klinger convinced Chief Rabbi of Israel
Shlomo Amar that the suicide stemmed from Norman’s clinical
depression, and that because his death was caused by an illness he
should be allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, which normally
prohibits suicide victims. Norman was reburied next to his aunt and
uncle on December 5, 2007, in the plot for Zionist leaders.
Wednesday’s dedication of the Stephen Theodore Norman garden will
mark the first time that one of Herzl’s descendents is honored with a
memorial. The estate of Viennese Jews Saul and Lucia Spechter funded
the creation of the memorial garden.
Klinger was friendly with Lucia, who died in 2009 at age 100.
Klinger said he was inspired to work for the past decade in Norman’s
memory due to his service in the Israeli army in the 1970s.
“They always taught you, you don’t leave anyone behind,” he said. “I
was injured in the West Bank [during an operation] and someone picked
me up and wouldn’t leave me behind... We do not abandon our own.”
For Klinger, Herzl’s only descendant was left behind in a barely
marked grave, forgotten in a Washington cemetery that turned into a
dangerous haven for drug dealers.
“I became involved with this odyssey, I thought everyone would have
wanted to do the right thing to bring Stephan home to his family,”
said Klinger, a former Merrill Lynch senior vice president, who even
named his dog Norman in honor of his quest. “I didn’t believe I would
have a five-year battle [to rebury him]... and another four and a
half years to create this memorial.”
A sentence from Norman’s diary adorns one wall of the garden: “You
would be amazed at the Jewish youth in Palestine – they have the mark
of freedom,” he wrote in 1945, as skeletal images of Jewish survivors
of the Holocaust circulated the globe.
The new garden memorial, tucked between the Herzl Museum and the
Stella and Alexander Margulies Education Center, will provide a
resting point and quiet spot for tour guides to give explanations,
especially to thousands of students who visit Mount Herzl each year.
“You can give a lecture for an hour and a half, and the kids will
maybe pick up 30 seconds or a minute,” said Klinger. “All of these
young people sitting in a garden area between two museums, most of
them are daydreaming. But if they’re looking around and they see that
quote, and they see that Israel is for the freedom of the Jewish
people, and if they walk away with that understanding, then I did my
job, and Stephen did his job, and Herzl did his job.” (© 1995-2011,
The Jerusalem Post 05/02/12)
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