THE WARBURGS by Ron Chernow

The_WarburgsRon Chernow’s THE WARBURGS is a long, 722-page book, about a family of bankers, who originated in Venice with the name of del Banco. They fled Italy in the 16th century when Venetian Jews were herded into the ghetto, and went to Warburg, Germany. Taking the name of that town, they moved to Altona near Hamburg in the seventeenth century before moving to Hamburg itself in the eighteenth century, opening the still-privately-owned bank there in 1798.

 

As you would expect, this is a rich, sprawling history with many interesting characters. But Mr. Chernow does a fine job of delineating the various family members with their quirks, oddities, charms and selfishnesses, not to mention all the innumerable family feuds. There are a great many characters to take in, and I would have been lost without the excellent family trees placed at the beginning of the book.

 

This book also traces the tragic fall of the Warburgs during the Nazi regime, as well as their astonishing comeback in the latter half of the twentieth century. Today, the family bank M. M. Warburg that was started in 1798 is still there, in its historic location on Ferdinandstrasse in Hamburg. Five stars. A bookclub recommendation.

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