The Business of Emancipation

The German-Jewish struggle for legal equality and economic prosperity

Arnhold

Second half of the 19th century: From entrepreneurs to major businesses

The Arnhold family of Dresden was a German-Jewish family of prominent bankers – proprietors of one of the leading private banks in Germany – and philanthropists who supported German art, as well as  social and cultural institutions. In 1864, their firm, Gebrüder Arnhold, was founded by Max Arnhold (1845-1908) and his partner Ludwig Philippson. After Philippson left the firm in 1875, Max's brother Georg (1859-1926) took his place. Part of their success derived from their investments in growing industries such as including brewing, ceramics, electronics, and machinery; they also were part of many supervisory boards related to their investments. Georg became the chairman of the Dresden stock exchange. In 1899, they opened the Braubank, which supported investment in Germany's brewing industry. By 1907, they had a branch in Berlin as well as Dresden.

Advertisement of Gebr. Arnhold Bank, 1906. Public domain.

From economic to political participation and power

After the death of Georg Arnhold in 1926, his eldest son Adolf Arnhold (1884-1950) took over as head of the Dresden stock exchange. Adolf's brother Heinrich (1885-1935) was also a member of the stock exchange, a member of the Commercial Court, and held a seat on on the Dresden committee of the Reichsbank. Hans Arnhold became consul general of Saxony in Prussia.

Dresden stock exchange. Public domain.

Heinrich Gustav Arnhold, 1908. Public domain.

1933 and beyond: From full-rights citizens to refugees and victims

The economic power and wealth of the Arnhold family initially cushioned it from the effects of antisemitism in Germany in the early 1930s. In 1934, Nazi officials began a long-term investigation into the financial practices of the bank and Arnhold family members, thereby damaging both the institution and the family’s reputations, causing them to lose customers and connections, include many of Adolf, Hans, Heinrich and Kurt Arnhold's placements on supervisory boards. Eventually, the seizure of Jewish properties and businesses reached the Gebr. Arnhold Bank in late 1935, marking the beginning of the “Aryanization” of major banks. The company was among the five largest private banks, all owned by Jews. A major portion of the German banking industry disappeared, along with these institutions’ assets. By 1938, most banks owned by Jews had been expropriated, and less than one-fifth continued operation – but only in non-Jewish hands.

 “A sign of thanks for loyal work.” Plaque from the Gebr. Arnhold Bank, 1935. Courtesy of Jewish Museum Berlin.

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