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Rothschild

The Rothschild family is the most famous of Frankfurt's Jewish families. The Rothschilds were active in moneylending and banking and in the 19th century became the largest and most powerful private bankers ever known. This rise has been made into a legend by plays, caricatures and also antisemitic propaganda, which often took the Rothschild family and individual family members as subjects.
In fact, the family's beginnings in Frankfurt's Judengasse were very modest. The Rothschilds were a branch of the older Hahn family which split off in the 16th century and settled in the house Rothes Schild. The house name then became the family name, and was retained when later generations left the house and moved to others in the Judengasse. In due course the great banking family came to regard the house Grünes Schild as its family home, although they did not moved here until 1785.
The Rothschild family had very modest means for centuries, and did not play any significant role in the Judengasse at first. The legendary rise to power began with Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744 1812) and his wife Gütle. Their five sons in particular acquired vast wealth and a dominant influence over European financial policy. The oldest son, Amschel Mayer (1773 1855), took over the Frankfurt banking house, and his brothers set up branches in London, Paris, Vienna and Naples, giving them bases in the key political centres of Europe. This enabled the brothers to exercise influence locally while coordinating their dealings with each other. When the Frankfurt Rothschild died childless in 1855, the two sons of his brother in Naples returned to continue the Frankfurt operation. However, they also died without sons, and the Frankfurt business closed in 1901 on the death of Wilhelm Carl Rothschild, known as Baron "Willi".
In the second half of the 19th century in particular the Rothschild family set up numerous large foundations for charitable, religious, cultural and scientific purposes in Frankfurt. Many of these were for Jewish citizens and institutions, for example for Jewish orphans or healthcare. Others were dedicated to the city as a whole and its development, such as the Rothschildsche library, whose collection has passed to the city and university library, and the "Carolinum", which is still a centre for teaching dental medicine at Frankfurt's university teaching hospital.




© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources