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  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • Bleichröder, Gerson von

    lang=EN-US style='font-size:10.5pt;font-family:"Meridien-Medium","serif"; color:black'>(18221893)

    banker

    Gerson von Bleichröder, the head of a private

    bank, was one of the most successful of the German-

    Jewish bankers during the latter 19th century.

    At 49 he was Berlins most renowned

    private banker. Not only was he Otto von Bismarcks

    private banker, he also advised the German

    government on government policy and

    diplomatic matters. His bank had interests all

    over the world. He had been present at the creation

    of the Empire in Versailles in 1871 and had

    gained the respect of other bankers and his fellow

    Jews.

    Gerson was born to Jewish parents in BERLIN

    in 1822. Full emancipation had not yet taken

    place and would not until under Bismarcks government.

    Gerson was born into an oppressed

    social group popularly thought to be depraved.

    As a youth his life was circumscribed by his Jewish

    faith, filial piety, and hard work. The first

    Bleichröder to appear in the records was in the

    18th century, a Gerson Jacob, born in the 1740s,

    who was allowed to reside in Berlin as a

    gravedigger for the Jewish community. He married

    the daughter of a protected Jew who performed

    services for the state. One of Gerson

    Jacobs sons, Samuel, was Gerson Bleichröders

    father, who opened a money exchange office,

    and by the time Gerson was born became a merchant

    banker and late in the 1820s had established

    connections with the Rothschilds, who

    institutionalized international banking, and who

    raised Samuel and his son Gerson above most

    other Berlin bankers. Gerson entered the

    fathers business in 1839, in 1847 he became a

    partner, and in 1855 head of the firm when his

    father died. He made a lot of money in the economic

    expansion of the 1850s, and by 1861 Bleichröder

    had purchased an impressive mansion

    in the heart of Berlin. His Jewishness, however,

    made him vulnerable as he moved in the world

    of German high society. He lacked many of the

    qualities that were valued in the gentile world

    around him.

    Diplomacy was Bismarcks passion. With

    diplomacy and war Bismarck had built the Second

    Empire, but it took Bleichröders advice and

    money. He helped finance the wars of unification,

    money that was needed because the Prussian

    Parliament had refused funding during the

    constitutional conflict over the reform of the

    army. He continued to provide funds for domestic

    and foreign policy initiatives. When asked

    about what size of indemnity should be imposed

    on the French in 1871, he actually suggested a

    figure below the 5 billion francs that was

    imposed and which was paid off too quickly As

    a Jewish banker Bleichröder was accused by the

    conservatives of controlling German policy.

    Influential but not controlling, Bleichröders

    financial power supported Bismarcks antisocialist

    legislation, railway nationalization, protectionism,

    the campaign against the Liberals, and

    imperialism.

    As with Bismarck, foreign affairs was Bleichröders

    world, too, as he had interests in almost

    every country in the world. Foreign bankers

    needed his support, and he needed their business.

    His economic interests were connected

    with the political interests of Germany. As a

    banker Bleichröder was a man of peace, which

    he believed brought prosperity while war bred

    economic uncertainty. Information that he

    gained from his relationship with Bismarck and

    his connections with other bankers, especially

    the Rothschilds in Paris, provided Bleichröder

    278 Bleichröder, Gerson von

    with profits and honors. He was ambassador

    extraordinary in charge of relations with France.

    He had a major role in loans to Russia, was the

    czars banker and interceded for Russian Jews

    who were being seriously persecuted. His position

    in high political circles in Germany made

    him disliked, while anti-Semites slandered him.

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