Rothschild banking family of Austria

This article is about the Rothschild banking family of Austria. For the family overview, see Rothschild family
Arms of the Rothschild family

The Rothschild banking family of Austria was founded by banker Salomon Mayer von Rothschild in 1820 in Vienna in what was then the Austrian Empire.


Salomon Mayer had been sent there from his home in Frankfurt, Germany by his father, Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812). Wanting his sons to succeed on their own and to expand the family business across Europe, Mayer Amschel Rothschild had his eldest son remain in Frankfurt, while his four other sons were sent to different European cities with the mission of establishing a financial institution to invest in business and provide banking services. Endogamy within the family was an essential part of the Rothschild strategy in order to ensure control of their wealth remained in family hands. Through their collaborative efforts, the Rothschilds rose to prominence in a variety of banking endeavours including loans, government bonds and trading in bullion. Their financing afforded investment opportunities and during the 19th century they became major stakeholders in large-scale mining and rail transport ventures that were fundamental to the rapidly expanding industrial economies of Europe.

Salomon von Rothschild established S M von Rothschild a banking and investment entity that would be highly successful, playing an integral role in the development of the Austrian economy. In 1836, the bank invested in, and financed the building of, the Kaiser Ferdinand's Nordbahn rail networks, Austria's first steam railway. As well, it financed various government undertakings where large amounts of capital had to be raised.

In 1822 Salomon von Rothschild was made part of the Austrian nobility when he was awarded the hereditary title of "Freiherr" (Baron) by Emperor Francis II. However, the interests of all Rothschild banking families across Europe were adversely impacted in a very major way by three historical events: 1) the Revolutions of 1848, 2) the Great Depression of the 1930s and 3) Nazism.

In 1929, the family's Creditanstalt was central to the banking collapse that rang in the Great Depression.[1]

The Rothschild business empire was passed down to ensuing generations until the March 13, 1938 Anschluss of Austria to Nazi Germany when the family was pressured to sell its banking operations at a fraction of its real worth. While other Rothschilds had escaped the Nazis, Baron Louis was imprisoned for a year and only released after a substantial ransom was paid by his family. After Louis was allowed to leave the country, in March 1939 the Nazis placed the firm of S M von Rothschild under compulsory administration. Nazi officers and senior staff from Austrian museums also emptied the Rothschild family estates of all their valuables. Post war, some of the family's assets were restored to the survivors, but others were not. In 1999, as a result of international Jewish pressure groups along with a determined personal effort by Bettina von Rothschild, the government of Austria returned some 250 Rothschild art treasures worth more than US$100 million. The artworks, which had been looted by the Nazis and placed in the Kunsthistorisches, the Albertina, the Leopold Museum and other state museums after World War II, were returned to the eldest surviving heir of two Vienna Rothschild brothers.

Further, in 2001, files involving more than 40,000 papers taken from the Rothschild family in Vienna by the Nazis were voluntarily returned by the Russian government to them from the State Military Archive in Moscow. The documents are now part of the Rothschild Archive in London.[2]


The Austrian Rothschilds and members of the other branches in Europe were all major contributors to causes in aid of the Jewish people. However, many of their philanthropic efforts extended far beyond Jewish ethnic or religious communities. They built hospitals and shelters for the needy, supported cultural institutions and were patrons of individual artists. Their donation of works of art to various galleries has been the largest of any family in history. At present, a research project is underway by The Rothschild Archive in London to document the family's philanthropic involvements.[3]

The business success of the Austrian Rothschilds allowed them to become great patrons of the arts and substantial contributors to philanthropic causes that include a major donation in 1844 to help build a polytechnic institution in Brno, the Rothschild Hospital built in 1869 by Anselm von Rothschild, the construction of a Vienna hospital for women in 1892, and the founding of psychiatric institutions in 1898 by Nathaniel Anselm von Rothschild.

Family members

For the family tree of the Rothschild family, see Genealogy of the Rothschild family.

Members of the Rothschild family of Austria include:

Rothschild properties

All branches of the Rothschild banking family are famous for their art collections and many for their palatial estates. Ferdinand James von Rothschild moved permanently to England to build Waddesdon Manor. In Austria-Hungary, the acquisition of property by branch founder Salomon Mayer Rothschild was especially significant because at the time Jews were barred from the purchase of real estate, except in designated areas. Among the Rothschild properties in Austria were:

See also


  1. "The Rothschild History from 1914 to 1945". Retrieved 2010-03-29. The crash of 1929 brought problems, not least in Austria where Louis von Rothschild struggled hard to shore up the Creditanstalt, Austria's largest bank, to prevent collapse.
  2. "The Rothschild Archive". Rothschild Archive. Retrieved 2010-03-29. The papers of the Viennese Rothschilds were seized by the Nazis in 1938, and later taken by the Red Army to Moscow. They were handed to the Rothschild Archive in 2001.
  3. "The Rothschild Archive". Rothschild Archive. Retrieved 2010-03-29.

Further reading

External links

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