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Herrmann, Hugo

(1887–1940), journalist and Zionist activist. Although known primarily for his political activism, Hugo Herrmann was also an outstanding analyst of German and Italian literature. He was born in Mährisch-Trübau (Moravská Trěbově) and raised in an assimilated German-speaking home. He studied German and Romance philology at universities in Prague and Vienna, and during his student days became interested in Zionism.

From 1909 through 1912, Herrmann served as secretary of the Zionist Organization of Bohemia, and from 1909 to 1910, he was chairman of the Bar Kochba Association (a Zionist society in Prague). After completing his studies with a dissertation on the novella in the Italian Renaissance, he taught briefly at a gymnasium and then held the post of editor of Selbstwehr (Self-Defense), Prague’s Zionist political and literary weekly. From 1913 until the outbreak of World War I, he was editor in chief of the Jüdische Rundschau (Jewish Review), the central newspaper of the German Zionist Organization.

Herrmann was greatly committed to Jewish education, a field that he felt should emphasize moral purity, unselfishness, and the rejection of materialism. According to him, the means of this education was the beautiful “folkish” idealism that he felt established an elevated, shining goal for the community, to which every individual was linked. It was in this spirit that Herrmann wrote books for children celebrating Hanukkah and Purim. He also wrote songs for the Jewish holidays and descriptions of landscapes in Palestine.

In 1925, following his first trip to Palestine, he wrote Eine werdende Welt (An Emerging World), describing his first impressions. The brochure “Die Araberfrage Palästinas” (The Arab Question in Palestine) appeared in 1932. His Palästina wie es wirklich ist (Palestine as It Really Is) came out in 1933 and was translated into Hebrew. It was followed by Palästinakunde (A Textbook about Palestine), which appeared in installments in 1934 and 1935. In 1934, the year he moved to Palestine, he published a new map of the land. His last book about Palestine was published in 1935 under the title Das neue Palästina Handbuch (The New Palestine Handbook), the fruit of many years of work. With his final publication, In jenen Tagen (In Those Days), which appeared in 1938, he returned to his Bohemian Jewish roots. Semiautobiographical in nature, it deals with the history of his own family and remains one of the best sources for the study of recent generations of rural Jews in Bohemia and Moravia. He died in Jerusalem.

Suggested Reading

Hugo Bergman, “Hugo Herrmann,” Bulletin des Leo Baeck Instituts 7.27 (1964): 253–255; Hugo Hermann, “Ein Brief aus dem Jahre 1911,” Bulletin des Leo Baeck Instituts 7.27 (1964): 256–262.