Herzl's children to be disinterred on Tuesday in Bordeaux, France
In keeping with the Zionist visionary's wishes, remains will be reburied on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem Wednesday.
For more than 70 years, almost in secret, the Jewish community of Bordeaux, France has tended the graves of two of Theodor Herzl's children. Many community members did not even know that two of the plots in the local Jewish cemetery belonged to Hans and Pauline Herzl, and few knew the tragic story that hid behind the simple headstone: Pauline's death from an overdose of drugs and her guilt-ridden brother's suicide two days later. And only a few were aware of the secret negotiations, which went on for more than half a century, to have their bodies reburied in Israel, in accordance with Herzl's last request.
But no longer. At noon on Tuesday, an official ceremony will take place in Bordeaux's Jewish cemetery, attended by senior officials of the local Jewish community as well as Israeli representatives, at which the bodies will be removed from the cemetery and taken to Israel for reburial. On Wednesday, the bodies will be interred beside Herzl's in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl cemetery, in an official ceremony attended by the prime minister.
And thus, an affair that has lasted 76 years - ever since the World Zionist Organization refused in 1930 to bury the two siblings beside their father, who was then interred in Austria, for fear of undermining the image of Zionism's founding father - will finally be brought to a close.
"There's been a very special feeling in our community in recent days," said the chief rabbi of Bordeaux, Chai Krief. "There's been great excitement among our members, and we are happy to be carrying out Herzl's will, delighted to be fulfilling his last request."
The head of Bordeaux's Jewish community, Erick Ouizarat, agreed. "For all these years, we thought that this was a dream," he said. "But now, it's coming true."
Wiezaret said that the Bordeaux Jewish community agreed to disinter the bodies only after the Israeli Prime Minister's Office sent it a copy of Herzl's original will, in which he requested that he be reburied in the Jewish state after one was founded, and that his children be buried alongside him there. "We are obligated to fulfill Herzl's last request," Wiezaret said.
The siblings' remains were disinterred over the weekend, and were held under guard overnight on Sunday in a room at the cemetery awaiting the ceremony. The burial society discovered that Hans was buried in a simple wooden coffin - a sign of the financial troubles that afflicted the siblings after their father's death in 1905 - and little therefore remains of his body.
Pauline, in contrast, was buried in an iron coffin.
Herzl's third child, Margarethe (Trude), was killed in the Holocaust, and her place of burial is unknown. All three children suffered throughout their lives from mental illness, inherited from their mother, as well as from the giant shadow cast by their father.
"This should have been done long ago," one member of the local Jewish community, who was standing guard over the remains, said of the reburial in Israel. "But in any case, it's better late than never."
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