Behrends (Behrens), Leffmann

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BEHRENDS (Behrens), LEFFMANN (1634–1714), Hanover Court Jew. Behrends, who began as a small merchant supplying luxuries to the court, gradually established himself as moneylender, diplomatic mediator, and coin minter. His position was strengthened under Duke Ernest Augustus (1679–98), for whom he procured the title of elector, and under George, elector of Hanover (1698–1727), the future George i of England. He established business and marital connections with the *Oppenheimers and *Wertheimers of Vienna and stationed his agents, usually his relatives, in the main German cities. An ardent talmudist, and father-in-law of David b. Abraham *Oppenheim, he supported talmudic studies. For many years he was head (Vorsteher) of the community of Hanover-Neustadt, the majority of whose members were connected with his household. In 1673 he acquired the right to open a cemetery, and in 1703 built a synagogue and presented it to the community. In 1687 at his request the duke agreed to permit the Jews of Hanover to appoint a Landesrabbiner. In 1700 he obtained the support of the elector in suppressing the writings of Johann *Eisenmenger. Behrends attempted to murder a relative of his who became an apostate, but he was able to use his influence to evade being brought to trial. His sons and grandsons, also Court Jews, carried on the family firm; their bankruptcy in 1721 shook the European financial world and took more than a century to settle legally. The trial revealed that Behrends had left his estate in a sorry condition. His descendants settled in Copenhagen.


S. Stern, The Court Jew (1950), index; H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 2 (1954), 13–67; 5 (1965), 54–81.