Benedikt, Moritz

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BENEDIKT, MORITZ (1849–1920), Austrian journalist and politician. Born into an acculturated German-Jewish trading family in Moravia, Benedikt was sent to Vienna to be educated at the Schottengymnasium and later studied at Vienna University, especially economics. His interest in politics was sparked by the battle of Koeniggraetz (1866). He soon turned to journalism, contributing to various economic newspapers, periodicals, and yearbooks. In 1872, like E. *Bacher, he joined the staff of the liberal Vienna daily Neue Freie Presse (est. 1864 by Max Friedlaender and Michael Etienne), then the most influential newspaper in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1879, after the death of Etienne, he was appointed editor of its economic section, publishing a widely read series of articles on financial, commercial, and economic affairs of Austria-Hungary. In 1881, he joined Bacher as editor-in-chief (and later part owner). Even before the death of his partner in 1908, he determined the editorial policy, trying to modernize the paper, from 1904 especially against the competing Vienna daily Zeit (est. 1896 as a weekly). With the financing of the Rothschild and Creditanstalt banks, he was able to engage prominent writers to contribute to the paper. Like Bacher, he made the Neue Freie Presse an organ of the German Liberal Party in Austria. He violently opposed the new Jewish national movement of Zionism, keeping *Herzl, then literary editor, from writing anything in support of Zionism in the paper. As stated in Herzl's diaries, Benedikt desperately tried to prevent him from publishing Der Judenstaat (1896) and later Die Welt (1897). Benedikt's fiercest Jewish opponent was K. *Kraus, regularly attacking him in his satirical magazine Die Fackel (from 1899). Through his editorials, Benedikt managed to achieve considerable influence in Austro-Hungarian politics, advocating peaceful solutions and a compromise between Austria and Hungary (cf. the "Benedikt formula"). His journalistic style was clear and precise. Though Benedikt served as a political adviser in financial affairs, as a Jew he never really succeeded in party politics. Only in May 1917, at the age of 68, was he appointed to the Upper House (Herrenhaus) of the Austrian parliament by Emperor Karl I. After 1918, with the end of World War i and the breakup of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, Benedikt's paper lost in importance. Dismayed by the deteriorating political, economic, and social situation in Austria and especially Vienna, he failed to accommodate himself to the new era. The Neue Freie Presse was carried on by his son Ernst Benedikt (1882–1957).


Neue Freie Presse (March 1920); Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums (Apr. 8, 1920), supplement Der Gemeindebote, 3–4; I. Walter, "Moriz Benedikt und die 'Neue Freie Presse'" (Ph.D. thesis, 1950); A. Wandruszka, Geschichte einer Zeitung. Das Schicksal der "Presse" und der "Neuen Freien Presse" von 1848 zur Zweiten Republik (1958); T. Herzl, Briefe und Tagebuecher (ed. A. Bein et al.), 7 vols. (1983–96), index; W.R. Langenbucher (ed.), Sensationen des Alltags. Meisterwerke des oesterreichischen Journalismus (1992), 27–37, 363–69, 402–3; H. Schmuck (ed.), Jewish Biographical Archive (1995), F. 46, 47–48 / 130, 93–109; Series ii (2003), F. ii/53, 90–96; S. Blumesberger et al. (eds.), Handbuch oesterreichischer Autorinnen und Autoren juedischer Herkunft, i, no. 79 (2002), 95.

[Johannes Valentin Schwarz (2nd ed.)]