The Gunzburgs: A Family Biography

The Gunzburgs: A Family Biography

by Lorraine de Meaux, Steven Rendall

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In 1857 the Gunzburgs arrived in Paris from Russia with their large family, a retinue of business staff and extensive domestic help: personal assistants, secretaries, tutors, wet-nurses and nannies, coachmen, ladies' companions, valets and maids, and even a kosher cook.

For the Gunzburgs were practising Jews who observed every religious law whilst also launching themselves into Parisian high society. Napoleon III was on a mission to modernise France and the Gunzburgs were quick to avail themselves of opportunities that were opening up – particularly in banking. The family fortunes prospered through hard work, foresight and marriage. Soon the family was playing a leading role in the Jewish communities of both Russia and France, alongside their contemporaries and relatives: the Ephrussis, the Rothschilds, the Brodskys, the Camondos and the Sassoons.

The family lived through the tumultuous events of the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 and, when personal tragedy struck, they returned their base back to Russia. There they worked tirelessly to develop their business interests and to improve the living conditions of Jews, but setbacks abounded: the advent of Alexander III, pogroms and the revolutions of 1905 and later of 1917. The outbreak of the First and Second World Wars saw some of the family once again on the road as refugees, while others fought in the Allied armies and in the Resistance in France.

In this lively and far-ranging family biography, Lorraine de Meaux discovers lost archives, letters, documents and paintings in her quest to piece together the little-known story of the Gunzburgs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781912600007
Publisher: Halban
Publication date: 10/31/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 512
File size: 11 MB
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About the Author

Lorraine de Meaux has a Ph.D in contemporary History from the Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris. She specialises in the history of Russia.
Steven Rendall has translated eighty-five books from French and German. He has won four awards, including the American Historical Association’s James Henry Breasted Prize for his translation of Alain Bresson’s The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy.

Table of Contents

Author's note xiii

Part I Dream World: Joseph Evzel in Paris

1 The Hôtel des Trois-Empereurs 3

2 Mathilde's Marriage 9

3 7 Rue de Tilsit 17

4 The J. E. Gunzburg Bank 25

5 High Society and the Demi-Monde 34

6 The Patriarch 48

Part II The Time of Battles: In Tsarist Russia

7 Rabbis in Swabia and Lithuania 61

8 Gabriel Yakov, kupets (merchant) 75

9 Kamenets-Podolsk and the Gunzburg Trading Agency 81

10 Joseph Evzel, Head of the St Petersburg Jewish Community 94

11 The Struggle for Civil Equality: Military Service 107

12 Hevra Mefitsei Haskalah: Society for the Promotion of Culture 115

13 Last Wishes 126

Part III Horace: Banker, Patron of the Arts and Philanthropist

14 A New Head of the Family 135

15 Turgenev and the Society of Russian Artists in Paris 146

16 Confronting the Pogroms 153

17 A Season at the Spas 165

18 Encouraging Crafts and Agricultural Work (ORT) 171

19 Louise, a Charming Girl 180

20 The Vestnik Evropy Group 193

Part IV Heralds of Jewish Culture

21 David, Bibliophile and Orientalist 199

22 L'Ornement hébreu 209

23 Antokolsky, the "First Jewish Sculptor" 216

24 Zionism: pro et contra 225

25 The Ordeal of Bankruptcy 233

26 Baron Horace Osipovich's Seventieth Birthday 241

Part V The Dark Years

27 1905 - A Tragic Year 251

28 The Union for Equal Rights: Horace's Last Battle 261

29 In the Age of the Russian Ballet 270

30 The Lena: From Gold to Massacre 279

31 Vladimir and the Ansky Expedition 287

32 Family Mobilisation 293

33 Revolutions, Departures and Deaths 302

Part VI From One Exile to Another

34 Stateless Persons 319

35 Bankers 331

36 Gunzburg Style 337

37 At War 349

38 Resistance Fighters 365

39 Spoils 374

Epilogue 381

Notes 383

Sources 437

Bibliography 449

Genealogical tables 455

Chronology 467

Acknowledgements 473

Index 475

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