A Theodor Herzl Pocketknife And Anti-Semitism

31 Dec

I have been thinking about Theodor Herzl lately.  I know it is because of the upswing in anti-Semitism and Herzl’s role in establishing the State of Israel, which now leads to anti-Zionism, which is finally being realized as just another name for anti-Semitism.

It was Herzl who, after the horrible affair of French anti-Semitism when an innocent Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was sent to prison despite his innocence, became an ardent Zionism.  Herzl campaigned for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people. He was a founder of the Zionist Organization, which encouraged Jewish immigration to what was then Palestine, to form a Jewish state.  I have visited Herzl’s grave in Jerusalem at the cemetery on Mt. Herzl. (See blog below.)

Perhaps I am thinking about Herzl because I am going to Budapest next fall.  Herzl was born there in 1860 on the Pest side of the river.  Herzl’s family lived next door to the famous Dohany Street Synagogue, which I am going to see when I am there. I will also see where Herzl spent his early years as I am also going to Vienna, where Herzl went to college.

But it is Herzl’s defense of the Jewish people against anti-Semitism and his desire for them to have a safe place to live reverberates with me.   I keep asking myself, is it true?  Do all Jews really need to move to Israel to escape the hatred that seems to be rising throughout the world?  There are days when I am just stunned by what is happening. And I consider this option.

However, I feel safe where I live. I know people of all religions are supportive of interfaith discussion and community. I belong to several groups, like the Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom, that work to create positive relationships.  But even here we have had a vicious anti-Semitic attack several years ago when three people were killed at the Jewish Community Campus and Village Shalom, the home for the elderly. The irony is that all three people murdered were not Jewish.  It was a raging anti-Semite who committed the crimes.

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It was a little bit of a shock when I found a Herzl penknife in a small drawer in my bedroom while on a recent cleaning binge.  It was a reinforcement of my feelings of dread. The little knife belonged to my husband’s father.  We have no idea where he got it, or why he had it.  But it shows age and use.

The pocketknife is slim.  About 3 inches by ½ inch by 1/3 inch deep.  Engraved on the front is a Star of David, with inlaid white and blue stones (a few pieces are missing or damaged) and an engraved portrait of Herzl with his name underneath it in Hebrew.

There are two blades, one is engraved on both sides.  On one side is a symbol of what looks like an ancient king or warrior holding two blades and underneath it is:  SMF Solingen.  The other side of the same blade has two lines of writing that is a bit worn.  The bottom word is Germany.  Above it are two words: perhaps, Leopold Borwitz.  Let me know what you think!?

I have found out that Solingen, Germany, where Adolf Eichmann was born, is known for its blades, it is the main industry of the region since the middle ages.  It is actually known as the “City of Blades.” Knifes and blades for all reasons, cooking, hunting, killing, protection, pocket-knives, cutlery, swords, scissors and razors and other items made of steel and silver are produced there. The city was bombed repeatedly by the British because of the many weapons companies.

I found this company mark that is similar to mine on Items from Solingen, Stocker & Company, SMF, Solingen.   Their mark has added lines in the clothes and sword, but otherwise it is the same mark. On the company website are many pocketknives/penknives that are similar in size to mine, some are vintage models, others are newer.

The painful part is that this company made knifes for the Nazis!  Among the vintage knifes are ‘rare’ German Nazi Luftwaffe paratrooper knives, World War 2 Nazi Gravity Knives, SS daggers, Hitler Youth daggers, and more.  Imagine my shock as I think about anti-Semitism, and I find a knife with Herzl and a Star of David, and then I find out that this company made knives for the Nazis. I believe this company went out of business in the early 1970s.

In 1932 the city of Solingen had only 265 Jewish residents before the war. By 1933 over one hundred had already left Germany by emigrating.  By 1938 the official Jewish population was only 89.  Some of these souls died in Dachau, some in Theresienstadt. A few survived the war. But the Jewish community along with its synagogue was destroyed.

I have been to Germany.  It actually now has a thriving Jewish community made up mainly of Jews from the former Soviet Union and Israelis who families were Germans before the war and can claim citizenship.

But this does not help to solve the mystery of this knife.  When was it made?  I am assuming it came after the Second World War. Perhaps to commemorate the establishment of Israel?  I am not sure I will ever know.  I looked on EBay and other websites to see if I could find another penknife like this. But there were none!

My little Herzl pocketknife takes on so many meanings in my mind.  Its history, its maker, why my husband’s father had it?  Many thoughts are going through my mind.  Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Nazis, Germany, Herzl, Israel.  They all seem to coalesce in this knife.

As the new year begins, I hope for a year of peace and civility.  I hope that as it says in the Torah, we will beat our swords into plowshares (Isiah 2:4).  And that is the message I will take from my knife.  A company that can make weapons for the Nazis, then can make a knife to commemorate Herzl and Israel.

I am hoping that 2019 was an aberration and that 2020 will bring light back to us all.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/05/remembering-those-who-passed-yom-hazikaron/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solingen

https://www.reference.com/history/history-rostfrei-knives-644fa4d4588eebbe

http://www.dg.de/en/maker/smf-solinger-metallwaffenfabrik-solingen-stoecker-rzm-m7-9

 

2 Responses to “A Theodor Herzl Pocketknife And Anti-Semitism”

  1. Amy December 31, 2019 at 9:32 am #

    What a fascinating object! I hope you can learn more about it. Leopold Borwitz looks right. Any idea who that could be?

    • zicharon December 31, 2019 at 10:02 am #

      No idea. Don’t know if it was made for him as a special order. Or maybe he did the engraving. I tried goggling the name. But nothing really fit.

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