Ostensibly the study of a remarkable, wealthy dynasty, The Warburgs is a monumental history of Europe, the United States, Israel and even Africa. The author manages to faithfully document the lives of these international bankers, nobel prize winning scientists, explorers and philanthropists against some of the most haunting events in human history.
That the Warburg family loved their German homeland is indisputable. Even after WWII, some descendents could not resist returning to Hamburg, to see the old estates, to embrace old nannies, employees and to on one occassion, steal back a valuable vase that the Nazi’s had appropriated elsewhere. They were passionate German citizens later of course spurned and victimized.
From Imperial and then Weimar Germany, the Warburgs were integral to achieving the ends of their leaders; Max Warburg worked tirelessly up until the very end, to secure a peaceful neutralization of Hitler’s intention for the Jews. He was involved in assuring a Dutch purchase of Nyassaland in Northern Mozambique which ultimately played a significant role for Rommel’s troops.
The family with connections to the Rothschilds, Loebs, Kuhns and others had solid foundations in the U.S. with one Warburg advising Theodore Roosevelt and later, of course, FDR. And logically, from this family where ambivalence toward Judaeism was an on-going theme, there were inevitable struggles and betrayals during the seeding and conceptualization of an Israeli sovereign state.
The book has many levels of interest- it involves a history of culture and the arts, of Jewish European exodus to the U.S and to Israel, it presents scenes of wealthy Jews celebrating with Christmas trees, of kids attending Anglican schools, and even flirtations with far left and deeply conservative politics.
The book is a meditation on the nature of wealth and being Jewish, the insoluble interactions of the two and the frequently unintentional social responsibilities carried within those elements.
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