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May 06, 1977 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1977-05-06

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64 Friday, May 6, 1977


Gerson Bleichroeder-Bismarck's Jewish Banker

Gerson Bleichroeder was
born in Berlin in 1822, the
son of the founder of the
banking firm of Samuel
Bleichroeder. In 1837 the
Rothschild banking house of
Frankfort appointed him
their representative in Ber-
lin, where they had no
house of their own. He en-
tered his father's firm at
.age 17, and became its
head upon his father's
death. Under his direction
the bank developed into one
of the leading financial
houses in Germany, mainly
engaged in issuing, under-
writing and financing rail-
road loans.
During the 1860s
Bleichroeder became finan-
cial adviser and private
banker to Otto von Bis-
marck, Prussian prince,
who in 1870 became the
first chancellor of the Ger-
man Empire.
Beyond these and few
other facts, little has been
known of Bleichroeder or of
the intimate details of his
elaborate financial relation-
ship to Bismfirck. Recently
however, researchers and
historians David S. Landes
and Fritz Stern uncovered a
vast amount of material in
the private archives of the
Bleichroeder firm in New
They went to Bismarck's
estate at Friedrichsruh,
Germany, and there they
found in a loft above the
stables over a thousand let-
ters from Bleichroeder to
Bismarck and members of
his family, dealing with
everything from private fi-
nance to state policy.
Other sources were dis-
covered: police records; re-
ports by the French am-
bassador in Berlin; corre-
spondence with Disraeli;
the files of the Alliance Is-
raelite in Paris.
Stern, professor of history
at Columbia University,
used this new material to
produce an in-depth study
of Bleichroeder, entitled,
"Gold and Iron," (Alfred A.
Knopf), where he unfolds

the complex story of
Bleichroeder and Bismarck.
Professor Stern has
shown that largely as a re-
sult of Bleichroeder's ef-
forts Bismarck was able to
start and win the 1864 war
against Dehmark. In 1866
as war against Austria ap-
proached, Prussia needed
money and because of inter-
nal political conflict, could
raise none by borrowing.
Bleichroeder provided the
money and made war
against Austria possible.
At the end of the Franco-
Prussian war of 1870-71, it
was Bleichroeder who, in a
meeting at the headquar-
ters of the German military
staff, determined the
amount of the indemnity to
be paid by the French, a
service for which he re-
ceived the Iron Cross. He
also made the secret pay-
ments which induced Lud-
wig II of Bavaria to press
the imperial position on Wil-
helm I. With this Bleichroe-
der's fortunes were made.
In 1867 Bleichroeder was
appointed privy councillor .
of commerce, and in 1872,
on Bismarck's personal rec-
ommendation, he was
raised to the hereditary
nobility, thus adding "von"
to his name.

Although Bleichroeder
helped Bismarck amass a
large personal fortune, his
value to Bismarck in both
his private and public ca-
pacities was not only as a
financier. He had a network
of contacts and agents all
over Europe through which
Bismarck received political
news days earlier than
through the ambassadors.
Although Bleichroeder
rarely tried to influence gov-
ernment policy, Romanian
affairs were the great ex-
ception. During the Con-
gress of Berlin (1878), he co-
operated closely with Sir
Moses Montefiore and
Adolph Crernieux who im-
pressed upon him the pre-
carious state of Romanian
Jews. He appealed to Bis-
marck who acquiesced, and
made the improvement of
Jewish conditions a prereq-
uisite for the international
recognition of Romania, but
he required Bleichroeder to
clear up the mess of Roma-
nian finances created by
German financiers.
Bismarck then used the
Jewish question to secure a
favorable settlement in re-
gard to the railroad. Once
the Romanian state took
over the responsibility for
the railroad finances, the

treatment of Jews was for-
Bleichroeder gave huge
sums to charity, among
these one million marks
(about $250,000) for building
a hospital. He was a stead-
fast Jew, but he was also
Gerson "von" Bleichroeder
who walked oil the western
side of the Sieges-Allee
away from the Jews "be-
cause the eastern side
smelled too much of gar-
lic"—a typically anti-Semi-
tic remark.
Bismarck and Bleichroe-
der served -each other, be-
cause the chancellor re-
quired influence for politi-
cal and personal ends, and
the Jewish banker wanted
public stature to crown his
wealth. Yet despite all of
Bleichroeder's glory he be-
came a principal target for
anti-Semitism. Every set-
back in German prosperity,
beginning with the great
crash of 1873, was attri-
buted to him.


Bleichroeder's close rela-
tions with Bismarck were
made the excuse for the
anti-Semitic agitation, tak-
ing the form of articles
which Bismarck later char-
acterized as one of the
meanest and most spiteful

attacks he had ever encoun-
In the period just before
Bismarck's fall, Bleichroe-
der had for once gone
against Bismarck's direc-
tion and prompted a Rus-
sian loan. Herbert, Bis-
marck's son, wrote in-
dignanatly, "When this
money-grubbing Semite can
earn a few million, then he
could not care less what
happened to Papa or the Fa-
therland." Bismarck
scribbled in the margin,
"Who would?"

However, Bismarck was
not so kind when he came
to write his memoirs. There
is no mention of Bleichroe-
der in the two volumes of
memoirs which were pub-
lished during Bismarck's
lifetime and only a single
casual one in the volume
published after his death.

Bleichroeder was one of
the most successful men of
his generation. He was the
first Prussian Jew to be-
come a member of the no-
bility without conversion to
Christianity. He was second
only to the Rothschilds in
his wealth and political in-
fluence as a Jew, and in
Germany his wealth was

Poet's 30 Years of Writing for Justice

Dating back to the/
struggle for national
sovereignty in what was Pa-
lestine and now is the state
of Israel, Paul Eldridge has
been in the front ranks of -
ideological interpreters of
the • Zionist ideal.
For some 30 years, his ap-
peals for justice, written in
verse, have been published
in The Detroit Jewish News
and were acclaimed in peri-
odicals circulated among
non-Jews as well as the
Jewish press.
Now approaching his 90th
birthday, Paul Eldridge con-
tinues to express his ideal-
ism, and some of his most
powerful poems appeared
in The Jewish- News in re-
cent months.
On the eve of his 90th
birthday he tells his own
Up to my 15th year I was
a total, implacable inter-
nationalist. I became a mas-
ter of Esperanto, the univer-
sal tongue. Not that I wish-
ed to eradicate the lan-
guages of the world, but
that wherever people met
there should be a language
which showed that they
were indeed members- of
the same grand family.
Then it happened—the
horrible deeds of the mon-
strous Teutons. And
something strange hap-
pened to me—a second
birth. From the depths of
my guts there surged so
great a love for my people
that I wandered about dizzy
with joy and an uncon-
trolable urge to fight to get
back their Land. A man
like me—inactive except
for scribbling—how could I
Fate favored me—the Ir-
gunists published here a rev-
olutionary magazine—"The
Answer." They welcomed
me—and I soon became one

of their contributing edi-
All the nations that I once
prized, now I scorned and
despised—nations equally
guilty with the Barbarians,
for they locked their gates
and the millions knocked in
vain. Even the Nation that
vaunted its humanity and
freedom, the United States
of America, whose head
was a good and great Presi-
dent, Franklin D. Roose-
velt, who smiled cunningly
and said: "Who needs
Only one people and one
nation with its own Land ex-
isted for me. And that love
and that urge has never di-
minished. Whether I agree
or disagree with what is
going on among them, my
love never wavers.
Every issue of "The An-
swer" had something by
me—generally a poem,
always welcomed by the edi-
tors and the readers. It
stiffened their will to fight
and promised them
triumph. Some of the
poems they translated,
others they set to music.
On occasions, they called
me the New Prophet in Is-
rael, and if Israel was born
again, I will have helped in
the delivery.
Here is the first poem
which appeared in "The An-

To the beasts preying upon
my people
To the hyenas mocking their
To the hounds barring their
To the ostriches burying
their heads
To the crocodiles shedding
To the snakes hissing
To the monkeys chattering
To the asses braying
To the cocks crowing
To the owls hooting defeat:—

And nearly forty years

This is your day,
0 Israel,
From the unyielding fist
Of time
From the myriad days
Of torment
And of crime!

This is your day
From the ocean
Of blood,
From the forest
Of fears
From the wild rainstorm
Of your martyrs' tears!

This is your day
Of your prayer
Of your dream
Of prophets: _
"Your country redeem!"
This is your day
Let not
The foe
Crush it
Under treacherous boot
Let not the bigot
Stifle it

In foolish dispute
Let not the coward
Whimper and whine
Is the better pursuit;"
This is your day,
0 Israel,

second only to Alfred
Yet, after his death in
1893, leaving a flourishing
bank and a fortune of be-
tween 36 and 40 million
marks, his three sons pro-
ved incompetent and in-
capable of carrying on the
firm. It was taken over by
his friend Julius Schwa-
bach, and in 1937 a succes-
sor firm was formed in
New York, still in exist-
ence, but without any
Bleichroeder's sons even-
tually abandoned Judaism
and in January, 1942 his
grandson Curt applied for
exemption from deportp'M
and for "a chance th
Arisierung (exemptiorrituth
the Nuremburg race laws)
to find a useful place again
as an officer." -
Curt cited as justification
of his plea his war wounds
in the first World War. The
letter was signed, "Heil Hit-
ler!" Edgar, another grand-
son, also applied for Arisie-
rung because of his serv-
ices to the Nazi movement.
Adolf Eichmann turned
down both requests. How-
ever because of their in-
juries in the first World
War the two Bleichroeders
would be exempted from de-
portation, "but it is in-
tended that in the process
of finally clearing up the
Jewish question in the
Reich territory they will be
put in a ghetto for old
people (Altersghetto) within
the Reich."
The two brothers escaped
to Switzerland where Curt,
being penniless, was given
a coat by the Red Cross.

Diplomat's Boo k to Be Printed

"Questions and Answers
About Arabs an d Jews," a
comprehensive examination
of the crisis in the Middle
East, will be published in
July by Bantam Books as a
paperback original. More
than two years in prepara-
tion, it is written by Ira
Hirschmann, author and for-
mer envoy to Turkey, who,
in his last book, "Red Star
Over Bethlehem," predict-
ed the 1973 oil crisis and
the October War—three
years before they hap-
Organized in a highly
readable question and an-
swer format, "Questions
and Answers About Arabs
and Jews" surveys the
Middle East conflict, the
events leading up to it,
some of the specific prob-
lems involved in it, and pos-
sible solutions.
A new and significant
way towards peace put
forth by Hirschmann is the
dramatic progress Israel
has made in research of
solar heat to alleviate the
water shortage in the
Middle East through desali-
Other chapters in the
book survey topics such as:
"Palestine—To Whom does
the Land Belong?", "Who
Made Arabs Refugees?",
"The UNRWA Scandal",
"The Specter of Inter-
national Terrorism", "Arab
Terrorists Exposed",
"Soviet Gains and Setbacks


in the Middle East",
"Inter-Arab Rivalry", and
"Israel as Neighbor and
Since 1944, under aus-
pices of the United Nations
and the U.S. Department of
State, Hirschmann has been
involved in on-going diplo-
matic activities in the Arab
capitals, Israel, and in the
general Mediterranean
During World War II he
was sent by President
Roosevelt as a special
envoy to Turkey to speed
the passage of Jews from
Nazi-occupied territories,
and was successful in sav-
ing 100,000 Romanian Jews
from a death camp.
Hirschmann was the
guest speaker April 24 at
the second report meeting
of Detroit's Allied Jewish


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