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Hechler, William Henry°


HECHLER, WILLIAM HENRY ° (1845–1931), Christian Zionist. Hechler was born in Benares, India, where his father served as a missionary of the Evangelical Church. His father was of German origin and his mother was English, and as a result Hechler spoke both languages equally well. In 1871 he served as a missionary in Lagos, Nigeria, and in 1874 became the tutor of the children of *Frederick the grand duke of Baden, an uncle of Kaiser William ii. When he failed in his attempts to be appointed Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, he became the chaplain of the British embassy in Vienna and served in that post from 1885 to 1910. He spent the rest of his life in London. Throughout his life, Hechler was engaged in mystical and messianic calculations, and when he became interested in the Jewish problem he sought its solution by calculating the date of the return of the Jewish people to Ereẓ Israel. After the pogroms in Russia in the early 1880s, he visited Odessa, where he met L. *Pinsker. From there he proceeded to Constantinople, bearing a letter to the sultan from Queen Victoria, in which the queen entreated the sultan to grant Russian Jews asylum in the Holy Land. The British embassy, however, refused to submit the letter. In his book Restoration of Jews (1884) Hechler traced the link between his mystical calculations and the Return of the Jews; his conclusion was that the redemption of the Jewish people would occur in the years 1897–98. When Theodor *Herzl's Der Judenstaat was published, Hechler dispatched a letter to the grand duke of Baden, dated March 26, 1896, to draw his attention to Herzl's work, "the first serious, quiet and practical attempt to show the Jews how they can reunite and form a nation of their own in the Land of Promise, given them by God." Thereafter Hechler devoted his efforts to establishing a close relationship between the grand duke and Herzl, and, through the help of the grand duke, between Herzl and William ii. Until recently, these efforts were known only from Herzl's diaries and letters and statements made by contemporaries; their full scope came to light, however, with the discovery of the original correspondence involving Hechler, the grand duke of Baden, Herzl, and the kaiser.

In the second issue of Die Welt, Hechler published a comprehensive article containing his conclusion that the time of redemption had come and stating his conviction that Zionism was the ultimate solution. He attended the First Zionist Congress (1897), for which Herzl expressed his public appreciation. Hechler accompanied Herzl on his trip to Ereẓ Israel in 1898, when he was to meet the kaiser, and it was he who welcomed the Jewish delegation that presented the kaiser with an album of photographs depicting scenes from the new Jewish settlements. Another noteworthy effort made by Hechler was his attempt to arrange a meeting between Herzl and the czar through the czar's brother-in-law, the grand duke of Hesse. He visited Herzl on his deathbed, and it was to him that Herzl whispered the words: "Give my regards to all of them and tell that I gave my heart's blood to my people." Hechler retained his interest in Zionism throughout his life and also met Martin *Buber. He had a museum in his house, which included Montefiore's famous carriage. In his last will, he left it to the "Ereẓ Israel Museum" (the carriage was restored and is displayed in Jerusalem, next to Montefiore's windmill). In 1928 Hechler published his memories of Herzl in Theodor Herzl, A Memorial (ed. by M. Weisgal (1929), 51–52). Herzl depicted Hechler in Altneuland, under the name of Rev. Hopkins.


Herzl Year Book, 4 (1962), 207–70; T. Herzl, Complete Diaries, 5 vols. (1960), index; S.R. Landau, Sturm und Drang im Zionismus (1937), 60–65, 193, 198–9; D. Pardo, Prêtres, rois et diplomates au service du sionisme politique (1933); H. and B. Ellern, Herzl, Hechler, The Grand Duke of Baden and The German Emperor (1961).

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