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The Vienna banking house

S M von Rothschild, Vienna

The House of Rothschild first became involved with Austrian finance through the handling of English subsidy payments to her allies during and directly after the Napoleonic wars. Prince Metternich, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs. In 1820, Metternich entered into negotiations with the House of Rothschild for a large loan that was to take the form of a lottery. The complicated arrangements for this enormous loan demanded the presence of a Rothschild in Vienna and thus Salomon Mayer (1774-1855), who had been handling Rothschild affairs with Austria, moved to the city and established a bank there. Rothschild operations in Vienna included investment in the country’s railway network, and the great ironworks at Witkowitz, the Austrian Empire's major centre for the production first of iron and later steel. 

The Viennese bank was directed by Salomon until the revolution of 1848. Thereafter, the firm was managed by his only son, Anselm (1803-1874). Anselm recognised that only one of his sons, Albert (1844-1911), would succeed him in the business. Three of Albert's sons, Alphonse (1878-1942), Louis (1882-1955) and Eugène (1884-1976) succeeded him on his death in 1911. S M von Rothschild remained in Vienna until the invasion of the Nazis in 1938; the Rothschilds left Vienna, and the business of the Viennese bank was eventually taken over by the firm S. Nicolai. After the war, no member of the family wished to return to Vienna to rebuild the business. For further information, see The Vienna house: history »  

Destruction of records of the Vienna banking house

The Viennese bank founded by Salomon von Rothschild in the 1820s was confiscated during the Second World War. In July 1938, the Österreichische Credit-Institut für öffentliche Unternehmungen und Arbeiten (Austrian Credit Institute for Public Enterprise and Works) appointed the banking house Merck, Finck & Co. in Munich as administrators of S M von Rothschild. Merck, Finck & Co. formally acquired the banking house of S M von Rothschild on 31 October 1939. By order of the ‘highest imperial authorities’, S M von Rothschild was taken over by a newly founded banking house, E. v. Nicolai & Co. in Vienna (over 70 percent owned by Merck, Finck & Co.), in March 1940. 

Regrettably, the vast majority of historical papers of the Viennese business would appear to have been lost. The Commission of Historians of the Republic of Austria (Der Österreichischen Historikerkommission) was established on 1 October 1998 with mandate "to research and report on the entire complex of asset deprivation on the territory of the Republic of Austria during the Nazi period as well as provisions or compensations (as well as economic or social benefits) of the Republic of Austria from 1945 onwards". By the end of 2004, all research results had been published in 49 volumes as Veröffentlichungen der Österreichischen Historikerkommission: Asset deprivation during the Nazi era as well as provisions and compensation since 1945 in Austria published by Oldenbourg Verlag. The reports would suggest that records of Jewish banks that had been Aryanised were retained by the Austrian government until at least the 1950s, but the location of such records (if they still survive) is now unknown. Reports of the The Commission of Historians of the Republic of Austria are available online here » 

Records that survive

Despite the loss of records of the Viennese business, The Rothschild Archive holds a small but significant collection of papers of the Viennese Bank. Important business and private papers of the Viennese Rothschild family were seized by the Nazis in 1938, and later taken by the Red Army to Moscow. These papers known as 'The Moscow Papers (637 series)'were deposited with the Rothschild Archive in 2001. Please see the 'The Return of the Austrian Rothschild Archive' in The Rothschild Archive Annual Review 2001-2002 for more information about the history of these records. For further information about this collection, please contact The Rothschild Archive

There are also some papers concerning the Viennese house which are held with the collections of de Rothschild Frères at the Archives Nationales du Monde du Travail, Roubaix, France. Go to the Guide to the collections of the Paris banking house