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Judengasse, Frankfurt

The Rothschild family can trace their origins back to the Frankfurt. Jews of Frankfurt were required to live apart from the Christians in a single narrow lane called the Judengasse, or Jews' Alley. 

The House of the Red Shield

Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), the son of Amschel Moses Rothschild and Schoenche Rothschild, was born in Frankfurt, the fourth of eight children. The family surname was derived from the house where a Rothschild ancestor, Isaac Elchanan (d. 1585) lived in Frankfurt. At the time, it was a common practice to give names to houses (such as White Tulip, Ship, Green Jar, etc.). Elchanan's house was called 'zum Roten Schild' (at the Red Shield), from which the name Rothschild was derived. 

The House of the Green Shield

Frankfurt was a major center of trade, with many bankers and wholesale merchants. At the end of his apprenticeship, Mayer Amschel returned home to Frankfurt. There he joined his brother Calmann's money-changing business. On August 29, 1770, Rothschild married Guttle Schnapper, the 17-year-old daughter of a bill broker, moneychanger and court factor to a small principality. The following year, she gave birth to Jeanette, the first of their ten children. By 1784, the family had grown to include Amschel, Salomon, Nathan, Isabella, Babette, Carl, Julie, Henriette and James, and, aged forty, Mayer was prospering. When a larger house became available in the Judengasse, he bought it. 

With the help of sons, Salomon and Amschel, the family became a major wholesaler of wool, cotton cloth and flour, and in the mid-1790s, Rothschild became a major importer of cotton cloth from England. In 1810, Mayer Amschel reorganized his business, making his grown sons full partners.

At the end of the 19th century, most of the buildings in the Judengasse were demolished, but the former Rothschild house of the Green Shield remained as a museum. The area suffered major destruction during the Second World War, and reconstruction has left no visible signs of the Judengasse and the historic Rothschild home in today's townscape of Frankfurt.

Estates: Judengasse, artefacts, n.d.

000/1202, 1 item

Small oil painting by Cornelius Wiedermann of the Frankfurt Judengasse with the new synagogue with label on reverse 'Alte Judengasse Frankfurt aM von Wiedermann Cornel.

Estates: Judengasse, photographs, c.1869

000/699, 1 item

Photograph of the Green Shield House, by C. Mylius, c.1869.

Estates: Judengasse, photographs, c.1900-1925

000/429/12, 000/1973, 000/87/1, 7 items

Five albumen prints showing various views of the Rothschild family houses in Frankfurt, taken from albums (provenance unknown): photograph of a postcard image 'No.1204 Frankfurt a.M.  Rothschilds Stammhaus in der Judengasse, C.Hertel, Mainz, c.1900; photograph, 'No.1204 Frankfurt a.M.  Das Rothschildische Stammhaus, Herrel, Mainz' c.1900; photograph of street scene, likely to be the Judengasse or a street nearby, c.1900; photograph of the Rothschild house in the Judengasse, after clearance of neighbouring properties and restoration of 'the house of the green shield', c.1925; photograph pasted onto card, with manuscript inscription 'Rothschilds House', showing view of the Judengasse, one side having been cleared, c.1915; mounted photograph of the Green Shield house, ‘Mo.1204 Frankfurt a.M,  M.Rothschild’s Stammhaus in der Judengasse printed by C.Hertel, Mainz, c.1910. 000/429/12 is a framed black and white photograph of the House of the Green Shield, in the Judengasse,  undated, framed for display at Old New Court.

Estates: Judengasse, postcards, c.1900-1910

000/2243 and 000/2311, 4 items

Postcards: colour view of Judengasse, c.1900; sepia view of the house of the Green shield ' 'Rotschilds Stammhaus in der Judengasse' c.1910; sepia view of Judengasse c.1910; colour postcard of Judengasse, c.1910.

Estates: Judengasse, postcards and photographs, c.1900-1930

000/805, 1 item

Album of four photographs and postcards of the Green Shield house, Frankfurt: c.1820, 1869, 1884 and 1930.