Ephraim, Veitel Heine

views updated


EPHRAIM, VEITEL HEINE (1703–1775), court jeweler and head of the Berlin community. From 1730 he regularly attended the Leipzig fairs, and supplied jewels to the Prussian court and silver to the mint, strengthening his position by furnishing loans to the crown prince. The wedding of two orphans in his home in 1740 was attended by the court. In 1745 Ephraim was officially appointed court jeweler to the king of Prussia. After the death of his father in 1748 Ephraim was elected head of the Berlin Jewish community, continuing in this office until his death. He proved a benevolent though despotic leader, enjoying the continued support of *Frederick ii. In 1743 Ephraim appointed his brother-in-law, David *Fraenkel, the teacher of Moses *Mendelssohn, rabbi of Berlin. He also forced a personal enemy, Abraham Posner, a maskil, who wanted to shave off his beard in demonstration of his unorthodox convictions, to retain his beard. Ephraim built a school for the children employed in his factories and an educational foundation bearing his name. During the Seven Years' War (1756–63) Ephraim organized a consortium (including Daniel *Itzig and other financiers) for the mint farming rights in Prussia and the conquered territories, especially Saxony. The consortium bought up all the precious metals and good coinage and issued a series of debased coins, which became known as "Ephraimiten." Through these government-authorized inflationary measures about one-sixth of Prussia's war expenditures were defrayed, but the general populace became impoverished and Ephraim was attacked from the pulpit and in pamphlets. Frederick ii issued a formal discharge to Ephraim although refusing to have it made public. After the war Ephraim was active in measures taken to improve the coinage. Having amassed great wealth during the war, Ephraim invested it in building a castle-type residence and in manufacturing ventures. He leased the Potsdam orphanage factory for fine gold and silver thread, over which he was granted a monopoly, and owned a Brussels lace factory, employing 200 workers. He died one of the richest men in Berlin.


H. Rachel et al., Berliner Grosskaufleute, 2 (1938); H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 1 (1953), 145–68; 5 (1965), 25, 26; H. Rachel, in: zgjd, 2 (1930), 188ff; L. Geiger, Geschichte der Juden in Berlin, 1 (1871), 82, 84, 86f.; 2 (1871), 140ff.; M. Stern, Beitraege zur Geschichte der Juden in Berlin (1909); idem, in: Juedische Familien-Forschung, 1 (1925), 6, 82; J. Jacobson, Die Judenbuergerbuecher der Stadt Berlin 18091851 (1962), index; S. Stern, The Court Jew (1950), index.