Cohen, Benjamin

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COHEN, BENJAMIN (1726–1800), Dutch financier and tobacco merchant. Taking over his father's tobacco company, he made it into one of the most prosperous and influential firms in Holland. Cohen conducted large-scale financial operations first in Amersfoort and from 1786 in Amsterdam. He owned tobacco plantations in Holland and exported to the Baltic area; in 1788 his firm contracted to import 40,000 carats of diamonds annually from Brazil. It was then probably the only Jewish firm in Amsterdam to issue loans, and in 1793 and 1796 made two loans to the Prussian government of five and three million guilders. Via his sister Cohen was related to the *Goldsmids in London, who opened their bank for new issues in this period. He acted as financial adviser to Prince William V of Orange, who was his guest in Amersfoort in 1787 during the Patriotic Revolt. A patron of Jewish letters, he sponsored the publication of Hebrew mathematical and philosophical works, such as works by Naftali Herz Ulman. As a parnas of the Ashkenazi community in Amsterdam, he was one of the leading Jews and at the same time a deeply committed member of the Orangist faction in Dutch politics.


J. Zwarts, Het verblijf van Prins Willem V in Amersfoort ten huize van den Joodschen tabaksplanter Benjamin Cohen (1921). add. bibliography: J. Michman, The History of Dutch Jewry during the Emancipation Period: Gothic Turrets on a Corinthian Building (1995), 15–16; J. Meijer, Zij lieten hun sporen na, joodse bijdragen aan tot Nederlandse beschaving (1964), 98–103.

[Frederik Jacob Hirsch /

Bart Wallet (2nd ed.)]