Today we're going to point our skeptical eye at the famous Rothschild banking family, and the multitudinous conspiracy theories surrounding them. Just about every conspiracy theory website that presumes the world's governments act in willing concert under the guidance of some secret council points the finger at the Rothschilds. We're going to take a modern-day look at this mysterious family, see who they really are and what they really do, and see exactly what evidence there is that shows that they are actually directing world affairs. Why would superpowers such as the United States, Russia, and China willing give up their sovereignty, conducting wars and exerting control over markets according to instructions from above? The answer, according to the believers, is money.
Driven by their quest for money, the Rothschilds have been said to assassinate US Presidents, and to create virtually every war since the 1800s in order to finance both sides. Some say the Rothschilds (who are Jewish) caused the Holocaust, while others say they were the true power behind the creation of Israel. They would, and continue, to do anything for money. In fact one of the earliest and most influential Rothschilds, Nathan, is claimed to have said:
The greatest of these financial adepts was Mayer Amschel Rothschild, born in 1744 in a Jewish slum of Frankfurt. Not much is known about his early life, as his was one of tens of thousands of marginalized, outcast families. But once he came of age he became an apprentice at a small bank in Hamburg, where he learned the trade. Returning to Frankfurt at the age of 19, he offered his own banking services in a modest way, beginning with trading of rare coins and related investments. He was energetic, clever, and most of all he was charismatic. And he was smart, seeking out wealthy clientele, and associating with nobility whenever he could. By the age of 40, he had consolidated his most important business contact: the Landgrave William, the Elector of Hesse, one of only a tiny number of nobles empowered to elect the Holy Roman Emperor. When William was younger, he had engaged in the trading of rare coins with Mayer's father, and so the two had always known one another. When William inherited his own father's massive fortune, his friendship with Mayer Rothschild gave Mayer the ability to begin conducting larger international transactions.
This was the point at which the Rothschild name became first involved with the manipulation of money behind the scenes of wars. Mayer was a firm believer in family business, and insisted on using his own sons — by then he had five — as his business partners. What he did next became the model for many powerful Jewish financiers who followed: He installed each of his five sons as his agents in the five major financial centers of Europe: the eldest Amschel Mayer Rothschild in Frankfurt, Salomon Mayer Rothschild in Vienna, Nathan Mayer Rothschild in London, Calmann Mayer Rothschild in Naples, and the youngest Jakob Mayer Rothschild in Paris.
One of Mayer's earliest transactions was the start of the pseudohistory and hyperbole surrounding everything Rothschild. Napoleon was on the march through Europe, and the popular version of the story claims that William gave the entirety of his fortune to Mayer to protect it from being seized by Napoleon. Mayer was able to hide the money by sending it to his son Nathan in London. The London Rothschild office had to spend it somewhere, and loaned it to the British crown, in order to finance the British armies fighting Napoleon in Spain and Portugal in the Peninsular War. In fact, all William gave to Mayer were some important papers. Nathan had already long managed the bulk of William's money, and much of it was already invested with the British Crown. William was no stranger to such transactions; his father had gained much of that wealth in the first place through the financing of Britain's war on the American colonies, a few decades earlier.
Nevertheless, the Rothschilds' savvy investments of William's money paid off handsomely, netting sufficient interest that their own wealth eventually exceeded that of their original nest-egg client. This marked the birth of the Rothschild banking dynasty.
Four of Mayer's five sons had sons of their own, most of whom were sent to other financial centers to head new offices. By Mayer's edict, family members intermarried with first and second cousins, keeping the company sealed tight against outsiders. At their height, the Rothschilds' wealth, if it had been pooled, would have been the largest single fortune in world history. Europe was littered with dozens of staggering mansions owned by family members. Throughout the 19th century, N M Rothschild and Sons in London filled the role now held by the International Monetary Fund, stabilizing the currencies of major world governments. They profited heavily, but they also provided a crucial international service.
World Wars I and II, the costs of which exceeded the abilities of either the Rothschilds or any other banks to finance, and resulted in the creation of the International Monetary Fund, marked the end of this part of the Rothschilds' business. In addition, Nazi Germany devastated the Austrian Rothschilds and seized all of their assets. The family members escaped to the United States, but lost their entire fortunes to the Nazis, including a number of palaces and a huge amount of artwork. The banks' sizable assets became the property of Nazi Germany, and this is the only seed of truth to the claim that the Rothschilds "funded the Holocaust".
By the time of the state of Israel's creation in the late 1940s, there were hundreds of Rothschild descendants, many still in banking or asset management, many in philanthropy, and many in unrelated businesses. Some Rothschilds supported Israel; some were passionately opposed. The idea of a single unified Rothschild establishment was long gone. No doubt many financial institutions were involved in Israel's early days, some were Rothschild banks, many more were not. It is this twisting and spinning of ordinary events into dark powerful deeds that characterizes much of the Rothschild conspiracy claims.
Case in point: At the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, Rothschild couriers were able to deliver news of the British victory to Nathan a full day ahead of government messengers. Nathan bought bonds at a low price that was fluctuating with uncertainty, and did very well the next day when official news came and prices rose. The conspiracy theory version states that Nathan first dumped bonds on the market to fool other investors into thinking he had news that the battle was lost, and through this ruse, multiplied the family fortune. In fact there is no historical record of this prior to a 1940 German movie called Die Rothschilds Aktien auf Waterloo, described as "the Third Reich's first anti-Semitic manifesto on film." The truth is that the Rothschild bank was already heavily invested betting on a protracted war, and this short-term gain on bonds merely offset a long-term loss.
One of their most famous transactions came in 1825, when England's unregulated banks all went into crisis due to poor management of interest rates. Nathan Rothschild had earlier bought huge amounts of gold from the struggling Bank of England at a fire sale price and sold it to the French national bank. When the Bank of England suffered a liquidity crisis as depositors clamored for their funds, the bank was able to borrow that same money back from Nathan, and thus averted disaster. Virtually every conspiracy website claims that this is how the Rothschilds "took over the Bank of England". No. They gave them a loan, which was paid back. In later years one Rothschild descendant sat on the Bank of England's board for a time, but by no logic can it be defended that their 1825 transaction constituted "taking them over".
But the quote doesn't appear to be completely made up by the conspiracy theorists. It's most likely a revised and restyled version of this quote attributed to Nathan's father, the original Mayer Rothschild:
Give me control of a Nation's money supply, and I care not who makes its laws.
But like the longer, more specific quote from Nathan, even this one turns out to be apocryphal. Author G. Edward Griffin did manage to track it down, though. He found that this saying was:
Quoted by Senator Robert L. Owen, former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency and one of the sponsors of the Federal Reserve Act, National Economy and the Banking System, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1939), p. 99. This quotation could not be verified in a primary reference work. However, when one considers the life and accomplishments of the elder Rothschild, there can be little doubt that this sentiment was, in fact, his outlook and guiding principle.
And this is certainly true. In Rothschild's day, before banking regulation and antitrust laws existed, it was indeed possible for small groups to gain controlling interests in enough financial institutions that it could be argued that they "controlled" a nation's money supply. Evidently the Senator made up the quote to support whatever speech he was making, and attributed it to a famous name to give it some clout.
Some claim the Rothschilds own half the world's wealth. If they do, it's only in the same way that you do. Anyone with an interest-bearing bank account owns shares in whatever funds their bank invests in. Those funds own shares in other funds and public companies, and so on. At some level, virtually every financial entity owns, and is owned by, any other entity, in every country. It's exactly like the degrees of Kevin Bacon. The notion that anyone could "control the world's finances" is ludicrous.
There is no longer any such thing as a monolithic House of Rothschild with connections to any significant number of all the scores of today's independent Rothschild business ventures. The closest thing is Rothschilds Continuation Holdings AG, a Swiss company that manages interests in many Rothschild-founded institutions. There are no longer any Rothschild family members on its board (the last having retired in 2011), though about eight Rothschilds are believed to own stakes in it (like many holding companies, it's privately held, so its records are not public). Its other owners include Rabobank and Hong Kong based Jardine Matheson Holdings. The Rothschild funds it manages now focus on mergers and acquisitions. Make no mistake, it's a large and successful company; but with billions in assets, it's a relatively small fish in the sea of world financial institutions with trillions in assets, including Deutsche Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, HSBC Holdings, BNP Paribas, Japan Post Bank, Crédit Agricole Group, Barclays PLC, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and many others. Anyone trying to point the finger at the scattered Rothschilds as "controlling" world banks has an awfully tall order. That little factoid is about 100 years out of date.
By my analysis, the Rothschilds are best thought of not as an evil shadow conspiracy, but as a great success story of rags to riches, Jewish slum to financing the defeat of Napoleon. The price of gold is fixed twice a day by five members of the London Bullion Association: Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank, Scotiabank, HSBC, and Societe Generale, and they conduct their twice-daily meeting over the telephone. Today this is mere financial necessity, but until 2004, it was also a century-old tradition as great as the ringing of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. The five distinguished representatives included a Rothschild, and they met in person in a paneled room at the London office of N M Rothschild & Sons. That ritual is now a thing of the past, as is the power of the world's greatest financial dynasty.