An Unknown Hungarian Dropped from the Skies by William Philpott
ACT 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
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
(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
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
A KILBURN WANDERER
NOVEMBER 1895. KILBURN, NORTH LONDON
ISRAEL ZANGWILL IS AT HOME SITTING AT A DESK IN HIS STUDY HOLDING A
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.
(HE PUTS DOWN THE LETTER.
THE SOUND OF A CARRIAGE OUTSIDE CAN BE HEARD. IT STOPS AND THERE IS A
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
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.
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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'!
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
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]