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Guide Evaluate: ‘The Cash Kings,’ by Daniel Schulman


THE MONEY KINGS: The Epic Story of the Jewish Immigrants Who Remodeled Wall Road and Formed Trendy America, by Daniel Schulman


On Feb. 6, 1904, a bunch of highly effective Jewish males met on the Fifth Avenue mansion of Jacob Schiff. Largely forgotten at the moment (besides by antisemitic conspiracy theorists), Schiff was a German immigrant who turned one of the highly effective bankers on the planet, “a colossus in finance and Jewish life,” Daniel Schulman writes in “The Cash Kings.”

That night time, Schiff’s friends — who included Adolph Ochs, the writer of The New York Occasions, and Oscar Straus, President Theodore Roosevelt’s minister to The Hague — have been speaking concerning the looming warfare between Japan and Russia. Schiff knocked on the desk for silence and introduced that he had been approached about arranging a mortgage to the Japanese authorities to assist fund the warfare. Then he requested the identical query my grandfather used to ask: What does it imply for the Jews?

That query recurs all through “The Cash Kings,” a sprawling historical past of the German Jews who got here to america within the nineteenth century and helped create the fashionable financial system whereas navigating their very own identities as Jews, bankers and Individuals.

Schiff is the e book’s central determine, and by the early twentieth century, on the eve of the Russo-Japanese Warfare, his affect had unfold past Wall Road. On the time, Jews have been being raped and murdered in yet one more collection of pogroms in imperial Russia. These assaults burned such a long-lasting scar on the Jewish psyche that, earlier this yr, an Israeli main normal was moved to match the slaughter of Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 to “a pogrom from our grandparents’ time.”

Schiff thought financing Japan’s warfare effort may assist convey down the Russian czar and, hopefully, finish the pogroms going down beneath his rule. However, Schulman suggests, a Jewish banker taking sides within the warfare may also engender much more antisemitism in Russia.

Schiff determined it was a danger value taking. He organized the mortgage to Japan and wrote to the British banker Nathaniel Rothschild. He hoped that “Jewish bankers of affect” would “work with all their may in opposition to any Russian loans as long as current situations proceed.”

Rothschild replied to Schiff’s letter: “There may be completely no probability of Russia getting a mortgage in England.”

Japan gained the warfare. Russia misplaced. For Schiff, who additionally bankrolled anti-czarist propaganda aimed toward Russian P.O.W.s, it was a narrative of Jews rallying to oppose a brutally antisemitic Russian regime.

For antisemites, it shortly turned a narrative of Jewish bankers conspiring to form world occasions to the Jews’ benefit. Across the time the warfare ended, in 1905, the primary full model of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the canonical work of Jew-hating conspiracy principle, was revealed in Russia. It presupposed to reveal a Jewish plot to take over the world, and it could show to be a lethal e book.

“The Cash Kings” exhibits how antisemitism was additionally a drive that certain Schiff and his fellow Jewish bankers collectively. Shut out of a lot of society, they labored in the identical workplaces and summered in the identical cities and intermarried like European royalty.

Over the course of the e book, the relationships turn out to be increasingly more convoluted. In 1875, Schiff married Therese Loeb, the daughter of a accomplice at Kuhn Loeb, the funding agency he went on to run. (A Goldman was a bridesmaid on the wedding ceremony.) Their daughter Frieda married into the highly effective Warburg banking household in 1895. Later that yr, when yet one more Warburg married yet one more Loeb, Schulman dryly informs us, the groom “turned a brother-in-law to his brother’s father-in-law,” and “Frieda’s aunt now turned her sister-in-law.”

There are various heroes on this e book, and lots of journeys, and the journeys typically really feel fairly much like each other. It’s compelling the primary time an formidable younger man leaves Bavaria to turn out to be an itinerant peddler, carrying his wares on his again by means of rural America, bringing his brothers over to the New World and rising to turn out to be a well-known financier. It’s much less compelling the second time.

The e book sometimes drags, however Schulman, a senior editor at Mom Jones, is a radical reporter with a watch for pleasant particulars. The banker Solomon Loeb was so obsessive about work, Schulman writes, that he as soon as concluded a letter to his son with, “Your Loving Kuhn Loeb & Firm.” Lengthy earlier than Marcus Goldman went into enterprise with Samuel Sachs, he was so poor that he gave his bride-to-be a bouquet of radishes as a result of he couldn’t afford flowers.

There may be quite a lot of finance in “The Cash Kings.” Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers convey a brand new period of I.P.O.s to Wall Road within the early 1900s; across the similar time, Schiff and J.P. Morgan battle for management of the Northern Pacific railroad. (In the long run, they work it out like gents and engineer a monopolistic merger.) Maybe most importantly for the U.S. financial system, Paul Warburg helps create the Federal Reserve in 1913.

However such occasions play as remoted episodes, and the e book doesn’t ship a coherent narrative of the rising American financial system. As a substitute, the thread that binds is the Jewish expertise in America. It is a story about Jews who occur to be bankers, not about bankers who occur to be Jews.

Close to the top of the e book, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” re-emerges from the muck to encourage an American wave of antisemitic conspiracy theorizing bankrolled by Henry Ford, the good industrial innovator and traditional Jew hater.

In Could 1920, The Dearborn Unbiased, a newspaper that was owned by Ford and circulated by way of Ford sellers across the nation, launched a collection titled “The Worldwide Jew.” It cited “The Protocols,” and superior the plot: Schiff and the Warburgs, on this telling, had not simply introduced down the Russian Empire; they’d additionally conspired to convey the Bolsheviks to energy in 1917. (Unsurprisingly, these wealthy bankers didn’t in truth help the Bolsheviks.) Worldwide Jews, Ford’s paper mentioned, have been the “acutely aware enemies of all that Anglo-Saxons imply by civilization.”

The newspaper collection was a disaster for American Jews. However Schiff, uncharacteristically, suggested restraint. “If we get into an issue we will mild a hearth, which nobody can foretell the way it will turn out to be extinguished,” he wrote to a bunch of Jewish leaders in June. “I might strongly advise due to this fact that no discover be taken of those articles and the assault will quickly be forgotten.”

Schiff died that September, so he didn’t reside to see himself proved catastrophically improper.

Ford turned “The Worldwide Jew” right into a e book (subtitle: “The World’s Foremost Drawback”) and printed hundreds of thousands of copies. In 1922, The New York Occasions reported that Adolf Hitler, the chief of a rising group of Bavarian reactionaries, had a portrait of Ford on his workplace wall in Munich. On a desk in Hitler’s anteroom, Schulman writes, there was a stack of copies of “The Worldwide Jew,” translated into German.


THE MONEY KINGS: The Epic Story of the Jewish Immigrants Who Remodeled Wall Road and Formed Trendy America | By Daniel Schulman | Knopf | 570 pp. | $35

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