Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Herzl's lone grandson to be reinterred today

The tragic life of Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl's lone grandson comes full circle today with his burial at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl cemetery.

Stephen Norman, who committed suicide in Washington, D.C. 61 years ago after learning of his parents' death in the Holocaust, will be reinterred alongside his grandfather, uncle and aunt.

Norman, who was born Stephen Neumann to Herzl's daughter Trude, failed to escape the depression that plagued his aunt Pauline, who died from an apparent drug overdose and uncle Hans, who committed suicide.

In 1933 he received special funding from the World Zionist Organization to attend an exclusive boarding school in England and later to study law at the University of Cambridge.

Norman did his utmost during this period to become a regular Englishman, even changing his name. However, the 1938 annexation of Austria, where his parents were living, brought out his Jewish roots.

"I can't say I received an especially Jewish or Orthodox education," he wrote seven years later describing how he felt at the time. "The Zionist idea, despite my family connection to it, was never forced into me - not at home nor later in school or university.

"But, I found my grandfather's letters and read them and I feel they comprise fascinating reading for anyone who has even the scantiness tie to Judaism."

Norman tried in vain to arrange immigration visas to Palestine for his parents. He was drafted to the Royal Artillery, where he eventually became a captain, and war broke out. Losing contact, he assumed his parents were dead but was never sure.

After the war he visited Palestine for the first time on a three-day visit. Later, he joined a British scientific delegation to Washington. In November 1946 he was informed that his parents had indeed perished in Teresienstadt in 1943. For three weeks he wandered the capital a broken man, feeling guilty for not having saved his parents.

On November 20, he jumped to his death from the Massachusetts Avenue bridge.

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