The Rothschild Family: History of the Wealthy German Jewish Family

rothschild family

People called him “Money Jew”: The History of the Rothschild Family

Who are the Rothschilds?

The Rothschild family is one of the wealthiest families on this planet. Probably never in the history of the world, only one family was in possession of such a large share of the entire world’s wealth such as the Rothschilds in the 19th century. How did they become so rich in such a short time?

The Rothschilds family history started in Frankfurt (Main) in the 18th century. Back in these days, Jewish people had to live in the suburb of the city in a Jewish ghetto. A maximum of a total of 500 inhabitants was allowed, Jewish people were not allowed to enter restaurants or parks and had to live a life under strict rules. Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) – founder of the Rothschild banking dynasty – was born here. After studying the Talmud in Fürth and monetary economy in a company in Hannover, he – according to these days existing housing laws – had to go back to Frankfurt.

The Rothschild Family Wealth

The ancestors of Amschel Rothschild traded with fabrics and worked as moneychangers in Frankfurt. After his return, he soon discovered an interest in old thalers (silver coins) for which someone could get nothing in exchange anymore. He was finding noble buyers such as count Wilhelm of Hanau and his friends. Wilhelm of Hanau was one of the richest men in Europe with low moral values, who let many of his staff members to Great Britain as soldiers and had at least 12 illegitimate children. In 1783, Amschel Rothschild got a special pass from him which allowed certain freedom to travel.

Wilhelm of Hanaus financial accountant was giving Rothschild access to the money flows in which his superior participated. In 1976, Rothschild was the 10th richest Jew in the ghetto of Frankfurt. Married to Gutle, 10 out of his 19 children survived. As teenagers, his sons started going on business trips in whole Europe: Nathan went to England, Carl to Italy, James to France, Salomon to Vienna and Amschel stayed in Frankfurt.

The distribution of the Rothschild family members in different countries and therefore their mobility was of great advantage when it came to money trading in Europe. When elector Wilhelm von Hessen-Kassel was forced to flee in the course of the subjugation of Europe by Napoleon, the Rothschild family managed his million dollar businesses. They persuade him to buy British government bonds and earned double-digit percentages during the transactions. From 1807 on, Mayer Amschel Rothschild was the only trustee of Wilhelm von Hessen-Kassel assets. The smart Rothschild brothers smuggled, negotiated and made friends to develop their business. Through their own messengers, the Rothschilds were collecting information about defeats, government crises and victories. In the first decades of the 19th century, the Rothschilds succeeded in uniting almost all the financial desires of the European great powers.

Still, their Jewish roots kept on being a stigma in getting aristocratic power. Since no one invited them to official dinners and more, the Rothschilds had to organize their own parties. As the family invested in many impressive buildings in different countries they were able to invite influential people as such as the Shah of Persia or Napoleon III. During that time, the German poet Heinrich Heine noticed that there were no bigger supporters of the revolution than the Rothschilds.

When the English queen offered Lionel the title of a baronet, the banker’s feet snubbed and rejected the alms. Shortly afterward, he tried to run for the House of Commons with the Liberal party. He was elected but didn’t want to say the oath with which he would have had to swear in the true faith of a Christian man. Lionel Rothschild won a total of four times in the following years until the compulsion to the Christian oath got finally dropped.

The Rothschild family followed one rule: only male family members are allowed to stem key position in their businesses. The family members became even so rich that it was getting hard to find an appropriate option to marry. That’s why James Rothschild tied the knot with his niece Betty. A total of ten out of 13 grandchildren of Mayer Amschel were marrying cousins or nieces to keep the money within the family.

Thanks to their persistence, the family survived two world wars almost undamaged. Louis Rothschild had to spend one year in prison when Nazi politician Heinrich Himmler finally accepted the families offer of 5 million Mark (around 2,5 million euros).

Until today, the banking family Rothschild is one of the richest families in the world.

Featured image (cropped): Nathan RothschildNikelaos Wikimedia – Public Domain/Lionel Nathan de Rothschild – Moritz Daniel Oppenheim Wikimedia (National Portrait Gallery) – Public Domain/
January 16, 2019
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