Nietzsche and ZionismJacob Golomb observed, "Nietzsche's ideas were widely disseminated among and appropriated by the first Hebrew Zionist writers and leaders." According to Steven Aschheim, "Classical Zionism, that essentially secular and modernizing movement, was acutely aware of the crisis of Jewish tradition and its supporting institutions. Nietzsche was enlisted as an authority for articulating the movement's ruptured relationship with the past and a force in its drive to normalization and its activist ideal of self-creating Hebraic New Man."
Francis R. Nicosia notes, "At the height of his fame between 1895 and 1902, some of Nietzsche's ideas seemed to have a particular resonance for some Zionists, including Theodore Herzl." Among many other facts that show Herzl had a serious interest in Nietzsche, at least for a time (including the fact that under his editorship the Neue Freie Presse dedicated seven consecutive issues to Nietzsche obituaries), Golomb points out that Herzl's cousin Raoul Auernheimer claimed, in a memorial tribute, that Herzl was familiar with Nietzsche and had "absorbed his style".
On the other hand, Gabriel Sheffer suggests that Herzl was too bourgeois and too eager to be accepted into mainstream society to be much of a (even if "aristocratic") revolutionary, and hence could not have been strongly influenced by Nietzsche, but remarks, "Some East European Jewish intellectuals, such as the writers Yosef Hayyim Brenner and Micha Josef Berdyczewski, followed after Herzl because they thought that Zionism offered the chance for a Nietzschean 'transvaluation of values' within Jewry". Nietzsche also influenced Theodor Lessing.
Martin Buber was fascinated by Nietzsche, whom he praised as a heroic figure, and he strove to introduce "a Nietzschean perspective into Zionist affairs." In 1901, Buber, who had just been appointed the editor of Die Welt, the primary publication of the World Zionist Organization, published a poem in Zarathustrastil ( a style reminiscent of Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra) calling for the return of Jewish literature, art and scholarship.
However, praise for Nietzsche was not by any means universal among Zionists. Max Nordau, an early Zionist orator and controversial racial anthropologist, insisted that Nietzsche had been insane since birth, and advocated "branding his disciples [...] as hysterical and imbecile."