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GERMANY: Rothschild Ransomed

2 minute read

For more than a year Baron Louis Rothschild, sportsman, patron of art and science and once Austria’s greatest banker, has been a prisoner of the dread Nazi Gestapo in two rooms near that of Kurt von Schuschnigg, last Chancellor of Austria, on the top floor of Vienna’s Hotel Metropole. Aged by a year’s close confinement, the once dapper Baron last week stepped out of a plane in Zurich, Switzerland, a free man again, liberated for an unknown ransom.

Fourth-generation descendant of Mayer Amschel, founder of the Rothschild fortune, Louis was the only one of six children of the Vienna branch of the clan to be an active director of the family business, the Creditanstalt, State bank of the Habsburgs, of which he became president in 1911. The Rothschild bank survived the Austro-Hungarian collapse in 1918, remained Central Europe’s biggest financial house. In 1929, with a typical Rothschild gesture, Baron Louis rushed to Vienna from a hunting expedition, took over the insolvent Bodencreditanstalt, great Austrian bank, the failure of which threatened the nation’s ruin. Two years later the Creditanstalt, weakened by the merger, itself failed, plunging Europe into financial crisis. Prosecution of Baron Louis was dropped when he “voluntarily” handed over $10,000,000 of his private fortune to the Government and resigned as the bank’s president.

Last year, Baron Louis, not so nimble as Brothers Alphonse and Eugene, was caught by the Nazi invasion of Austria. His captors insisted that the Rothschild relatives ransom him by making good more of the bank’s losses. Original demand was rumored to be $10,000,000, but Rothschilds are hard bargainers, and the Nazis are lucky if they got half that.

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