Contact Us

The Father of The Rothschilds

The Father of The Rothschilds

(1812)

 Email

It was on the first night of Succos in the year 1812 that Mayer Anschel Rothschild passed away in Frankfurt, Germany. He was the father of the famous Rothschild family. Jews, and many non-Jews, mourned the loss of this great Jewish banker and legendary personality. Mayer Anschel was greatly respected for his complete honesty and pride in his Jewishness. He was admired even by kings and princes and the nobility.

The Jews of Frankfurt told many many interesting stories about this unique gentleman. Among these was a story which caused a stir in the highest circles of the non-Jewish world. We bring you here this story.

One spring day, an elegant carriage rode up to the iron gate of the Frankfurt ghetto. An old man and a boy, aged about ten, emerged from the carriage. They entered the ghetto and began to thread their way through the narrow, winding streets.

"Why have you brought me here?" the boy asked the old man, who was his teacher and guardian.

"The future ruler of this land should get to know all the residents and citizens, and the Jews have an important part in the economy of the land," answered the old man.

"I have heard some stories, which are not so nice, about these wandering Jews. Didn't they refuse to follow our faith, and so were punished for their obstinacy in keeping to their own ancient religion?" the young prince said, questioningly.

"My son, not everything you hear is true. One must see with one's own eyes what is true and what is not true. That is the reason I have brought you here today, so that you will personally become acquainted with these people," said the old man.

"Yes, indeed! Many false stories have been spread about us, and we are often persecuted cruelly for no reason," a strange young voice unexpectedly broke into their conversation.

The two visitors to the ghetto turned around to see from where the voice came. They were astonished to see a small Jewish boy who seemed to have appeared from nowhere. He was dressed in plain but clean clothes, with a yarmulka on his head, and with curly payot creeping out near his ears. He had bright, sparkling eyes, which now gazed at the visitors challengingly.

"And who invited you to join in our company and conversation?" the old man demanded, pretending to be annoyed.

"Well, I just couldn't help hearing what you both were saying," the boy explained earnestly.

The young prince took out a silver coin and gave it to the boy. The prince looked up, expecting the boy to thank him and put the coin in his pocket. But, to his surprise, the boy just looked with interest at the coin in his hand, then threw it to some poor people who had gathered nearby.

"I have done nothing to earn this silver coin," said the boy, "and the need of these poor people is greater than mine," he said simply. "I hope you don't mind what I have done."

"On the contrary," answered the prince. "Although you appear somewhat 'fresh,' I rather like you. Tell me, what is your name?"

"My name is Mayer Anschel Rothschild. What is your name?"

"Wilhelm."

"Oh! Wilhelm of Hesse Castle? Glad to know you! Would you like me to show you around? You really could get lost in our ghetto."

The prince and his companion accepted the offer readily.

Mayer Anschel took the visitors under his wing, so to speak. He showed them the old Shul (synagogue), the big Yeshiva, the Orphan Home, the hospital and many other institutions. At each place he had something to say and to explain. He took the opportunity to tell the visitors about the many fires which had plagued the Jews of the ghetto. Also about the troubles they had suffered at the hands of the notorious anti-Semite Vincent Fettmilch, before he was hanged.

The young Jewish boy saw the interest with which the young prince and his old companion listened to all he had to say, so was encouraged to make the most of the moment. He pointed out the exceptionally high taxes the Jews of the ghetto were expected to pay, despite their great contribution to the city of Frankfurt and to the entire country.

After his "Guided Tour," Mayer Anschel escorted the visitors to the gate of the ghetto.

Deeply moved by all they heard from the young Jewish boy, the old man took out three golden coins from his pocket, and handed the money to him.

"Thank you," said Mayer Anschel, accepting the coins. "This time I shall keep the money, as I feel I have earned it," and put the coins in his pocket.

The young prince stretched out his hand to the Jewish boy, saying:

"Mayer Anschel, if you would accept my religion I would gladly appoint you to a high position in my government when I become Ruler."

"That is out of the question," answered Mayer Anschel. "I will never give up my faith for anything in the world," he concluded proudly.

"Let it be so," said the prince, "but should you ever need any favor, you are welcome to come to see me in my castle, and I will gladly help you."

"And should you need a favor from me, you are also welcome to ask me. Remember my name: Mayer Anschel Rothschild of the Judengasse (Jews' St.) in the Frankfurt Ghetto." He spoke so earnestly, that the prince stopped in the act of laughing at what, he considered, was a very amusing and unlikely possibility.

Smiling, the prince and his teacher took leave of their young guide, and stepped into their luxurious carriage.

Many years passed after the aforementioned happening. There were great upheavals in different countries of Europe, including a seven-year war.

Life in the Frankfurt Jewish Ghetto also experienced various changes. But, in the main, it became an important center of finance.

Mayer Anschel had married a fine Jewish girl, Gitele, who conducted a truly Jewish home. He was employed in one of the Jewish banks in Frankfurt, and, later, he opened a bank in his own name. He also engaged in big business ventures, acquiring a name for honest dealing, and for being an expert merchant and banker.

Prince Wilhelm appointed Mayer Anschel to be his Financial Advisor (accepting the fact that Mayer Anschel remained a loyal Jew).

The fame of Mayer Anschel Rothschild's bank grew from day to day, reaching out to different government circles.

The government of Denmark asked him to arrange a loan for them of ten million Taler!

Despite his great wealth, Mayer Anschel and his wife Gitele, with their five gifted sons, continued to live in their modest home in the Judengasse of the Frankfurt Ghetto.

With the outbreak of the Napoleonic war, the whole of Europe was shaken up. The Emperor Napoleon won many victories, and his armies reached right up to the gates of Frankfurt.

One evening during this time, Mayer Anschel returned home completely worn out after a particularly hard day. But before be had time even to catch his breath, a servant came in to tell him that a stranger was waiting to see him on an urgent matter.

Mayer Anschel's plan for the evening, after davening Maariv and eating supper, was to relax by studying some Gemora. So be asked the servant to tell the stranger to come to see him in his office the following day, as he had no time now.

The servant left the room but returned almost immediately, saying: "The stranger told me to remind you of a promise you made to him many years ago, that, should he ever need a favor of Mayer Anschel Rothschild, he was to come to him in the Judengasse in the Frankfurt Ghetto and he would help him."

Hearing this, Mayer Anschel sprang up from his seat, forgetting his tiredness, and told the servant to bring in the stranger at once, and to keep the door of the room closed; they were not to be disturbed.

When Prince Wilhelm entered the room (and, of course, you guessed that he was "the stranger"), he threw off his large cloak and hat which had helped to disguise him, and greeted his Financial Advisor warmly. It was obvious that he was very troubled, as a deep sigh escaped his lips.

"What happened?" Mayer Anschel asked the prince sympathetically. "But first, you must have something to refresh you. The talk can come later."

Gitele personally brought in some home-baked cake and served it to the men, who took a drink of whiskey with it and wished each other well.

Meanwhile, Gitele busied herself preparing a meal for their unexpected guest.

When the prince had refreshed himself and recovered somewhat from his weariness, be told Mayer Anschel that be was lucky to be alive. He had just managed to escape from the battlefield, and must not delay, but run further. But, before doing so, be had come to ask Mayer Anschel a very great favor indeed, which might even endanger his life. Mayer Anschel was the only one of his many friends whom he felt he could really trust.

"It is more than fifty years since we met in the ghetto the very first time. You said then that, should I ever need a favor, I should come to you. At that time I thought it was a big joke. I -- the Grand Duke of Hesse-Kassel -- should ever need a favor of a Jew? Preposterous! But Fate has brought me to this very position. I have many friends, but you are the only one I feel I can trust in this difficult, dangerous situation.

"I have lost my country, and Napoleon has put a price on my head. Fortunately, I managed to send my wife and children to a safe refuge in Denmark, and I hope to be able to join them there.

"Meanwhile, here I am, asking you to help me," continued the prince humbly.

"How can I help you, dear Prince?" asked Meyer Anschel.

"I have managed to save the gold, silver and other valuables from my castle. I have it all packed in plain flour sacks, and they are in the peasant's cart outside in which I traveled here, to help protect my disguise.

"Maybe a time will come when I will be fortunate enough to be able to return and reclaim it all. I know I can trust you. I have complete faith in your honesty and goodness."

"I shall do all I can to guard your treasures, and may G‑d help that I be able to return it to you personally," said Mayer Anschel, knowing full well the extreme danger he was letting himself in for.

When Mayer Anschel had assured himself that his entire household had retired for the night, he helped the prince and his servant bring in the sacks of gold, silver, and other precious articles -- twelve heavy sacks -- into Mayer Anschel's private room.

The prince -- full of gratitude -- thanked Mayer Anschel, and set off in the middle of the night, for safety's sake.

Meanwhile Mayer Anschel did not go to sleep at all. He spent the whole night attending to the prince's treasures. He moved the table aside, removed several floor-boards underneath, and there was the secret cellar Mayer Anschel had hidden away from prying eyes. With a superhuman effort he managed, on his own, to lower the sacks one by one and, when they were all safely deposited, he replaced the loose boards and nailed them down. He then put the table back in its place, and nobody would have been able to notice that anything unusual had taken place in that room.

Only then did Mayer Anschel realize bow very tired he was. He settled down in his comfortable easy chair and promptly fell asleep.

In the following days the French occupied the town, and the government of the city was taken over by them. They at once issued a proclamation stating that a huge reward would be given to anyone helping to locate the missing princely fortune and, on the other hand, a severe punishment awaited anyone found hiding it.

Rumors flew all over the city about the missing royal fortune. Suspicion readily fell on Mayer Anschel Rothschild who had been the royal treasurer. More so when it became known that a suspicious looking carriage had been seen one night in front of the house of the Jewish banker in the Judengasse (Jews' Street).

One morning, sure enough, Mayer Anschel's house was surrounded by French soldiers. An officer knocked on the door, and Mayer Anschel appeared and coolly asked the officer what he wanted.

"in the name of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, I demand that you hand over the royal fortune that Prince Wilhelm left in your care!" he answered sharply.

"I do not know who could have so misled you and told you such a thing," replied Mayer Anschel, but you are welcome to search my house."

"I warn you," continued the officer, "that should we indeed find the royal fortune here, you will be arrested and tried for treason!" Saying which, he ordered the soldiers to make a thorough search of the house from the cellar right up to the roof. They even dug up the garden, but finally gave up, having found nothing, and no trace of the missing valuables.

The officer in charge, however, was not satisfied, and again began warning the Jewish banker:

"We have reason to believe that the royal fortune is in your care. Remember, we have the means to force you to reveal where you have hidden it. You are now under arrest and being charged as a traitor. And not only you, but all the leaders of the Frankfurt Jewish community will have to pay dearly for your act."

Mayer Anschel was then led away under heavy guard.

His wife, Gitele, who had until then remained composed, sprang after him, and broke into sobs, crying:

"My dear husband, have pity on me and on our children! And why should the innocent community leaders also have to suffer on account of the prince's wealth!"

"My dear Gitele, it is not a matter of the prince's fortune alone, but I gave the prince my word; that is what troubles me. However, I see I have no choice any more, under the circumstances..."

The officer led Mayer Anschel back to the house. They entered a room. Mayer Anschel then went over to a large picture which was hanging on the wall and took it down. A secret door was revealed. Mayer Anschel took a small key from his golden watch-chain and opened the door. A huge iron safe came into view. Mayer Anschel opened it, showing shelf upon shelf of bags of gold and all kinds of valuables. Turning to the officer in charge, Mayer Anschel said:

"Here you will find about three million gulden. This is the treasure you are seeking. Take it all and go in peace."

The French soldiers, delighted with their success, took everything and left.

'When they had gone, Mayer Anschel called together his wife and their five sons and said to them:

"We must thank the Al-mighty that we are alive. I want you to know and to remember that a Jew in general, and a Rothschild in particular, must always be honest and keep his word. I promised Prince Wilhelm that I would guard his fortune more than my own, and so I have readily given away my entire wealth in order to safeguard his. The time will come when Prince Wilhelm or his heirs will come to claim their fortune that was left in my care. I want you all to know where it is hidden. You will then return it to them. But, until that time, nobody must know anything about the whole matter. Mayer Anschel then told them where the secret biding place was located.

The news spread throughout Frankfurt and beyond, that Prince Wilhelm's fortune had been found by the French soldiers in the home of Mayer Anschel Rothschild. This in no way harmed the Rothschild banking business. On the contrary, it was felt to be to the credit of Mayer Anschel Rothschild that the prince had trusted him to so great an extent as to leave the royal fortune in his care.

Thus, the Rothschild firm prospered greatly.

Several years passed. Napoleon suffered a severe defeat in his war against Russia, and his power was broken. Various countries in Europe regained their freedom, and kings and princes began to return to their former royal rule. Prince Wilhelm was one of these.

Soon after the prince had brought some order into his country, he lost no time in sending an invitation to Mayer Anschel to come and visit him. He was anxious to meet again with his trusted friend and advisor.

However, Mayer Anschel had meanwhile become ill. He still managed to fast on the last Yom Kippur of his life, and stayed in Shul the whole day. But, on the following day, he felt too ill to get up out of bed and, on the first night of Succos, at the age of sixty-eight, Mayer Anschel Rothschild passed away. So, when the invitation from the prince arrived, it was the eldest son who made the trip in place of his dearly beloved father.

When the prince heard of the passing of his dear, old friend, he exclaimed:

"A terrible loss indeed! He was such a wonderful person! Such an honest man!" And, sighing deeply, he continued:

"I trusted no one else to take care of the royal fortune, only my good friend, your father. I know full well that it was not his fault that the French found it in his house. I wanted to tell him personally of my feelings in the matter. I also wanted to assure him that I wanted him to continue taking care of my finances. What a pity! The loss of the treasure is nothing to me as compared with the loss of my very dear, trusted friend," said the prince feelingly.

"But the royal fortune is not lost," said the young Rothschild.

"What do you mean - 'not lost'? I don't understand! The French took it away, didn't they?"

"It is true that the French took money away, but it was the wealth of my dear father, of blessed memory, not yours. He was determined to keep his word to you that he would guard your fortune above his own. And so your treasures are safe, unharmed."

The young Rothschild then told the prince all that had happened since he had left Frankfurt so hurriedly, in order to save his life. He also told the prince that a sizable amount of interest had accumulated on the prince's money in the course of the years, as the Rothschilds had used some of the capital in their own banking ventures. Now, the firm was ready to return the capital plus the interest to the prince.

"But your father paid with his own capital to protect mine! You owe me nothing!" exclaimed the prince.

"The Al-mighty has compensated us for our monetary loss, and your fortune remains intact, whole. We have to carry out my father's wishes which, unfortunately, he could not do in person. He had always hoped to be able to return your fortune to you himself, but it was not to be. All we can do now is to carry out his instructions."

The Rothschild brothers lost no time in attending to the matter, and the prince's gratitude was boundless.

The story and reputation of the Rothschilds' honesty spread far and wide, in royal courts and other circles. Thus did Mayer Anschel Rothschild leave as a heritage to his sons not only a great fortune, but, what is even more precious, the value of a good name.

 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
5 Comments
1000 characters remaining
PATRICIA ARKANSAS April 27, 2017

Thank you for sharing. Reply

G Australia October 8, 2016

A man stong in Has faith. So sad that the name has now been sunk low by those who wish to gain in vain. I have enjoyed reading up on the history of this name. Reply

Anonymous January 9, 2014

Unbelievable! Reply

bobby london January 4, 2013

What a story! Reply

Tungamirai James Maroodza Harare, Zimbabwe May 21, 2012

The House of Rothschild Thanx for the insight its very enlightening. Reply

Related Topics