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Gomperz

GOMPERZ

GOMPERZ , name of a family widely dispersed throughout Central Europe. In records of the 14th century the old-German form of the name "Gundbert" began appearing as a surname for persons with the name Ephraim or Mordecai. Occurring in variant spellings as Gumpert, Gumpertz, Gomperts, Gumpel, etc., it became associated with a specific family prominent in the late 15th century, in the duchy of Juelich-Cleves, when solomon ben mordecai gumpel received the right of residence in Emmerich. His immediate descendants settled in nearby Cleves, Wesel, and Nijmegen; branches of the family were eventually found in England, Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt on the Main, Prague, and the United States (Samuel *Gompers). David *Kaufmann, who married into the Budapest branch, traced, in cooperation with Max Freudenthal, the genealogy of the family (see bibliography).

Solomon's grandson elijah (d. 1689) founded the family banking business in Wesel (Cleves) which soon became one of the largest in Prussia. His son reuben elias assisted in the rapid expansion of business. After moving to Berlin he became the first Jew to serve as a government official in Brandenburg; he subsequently became the chief inspector of taxes payable by the Jews in the duchies of Mark and Cleves (about 1700). He also acted as supplier to the army and to the court, and through these transactions came into contact with all the important Jewish court suppliers of his time, including Samuel *Oppenheimer, Leffmann *Behrends, and Behrend *Lehmann. Falsely accused of the attempted murder of Samson *Wertheimer, he was arrested by order of Frederick i and released a year later after payment of 20,000 talers.

Two members of the third generation of Court Jews in this family, moses levi and elijah, established a banking

and business house in Berlin at the beginning of the 18th century. In Prussia, members of the Gomperz family served as court purveyors to six rulers in the course of five generations. To Frederick i (1688–1713), the luxury-loving first king of Prussia, they supplied jewels, and to the soldier-king, Frederick William i (1713–1740), "tall fellows" for his guard. At the time of Frederick the Great (1740–1786), they changed their activities to minting. In conjunction with the Court Jew Daniel *Itzig they rented the minting monopoly. In Berlin, aaron elias gomperz, physician, writer, and teacher of Moses Mendelssohn, became celebrated. Members of the Gomperz family also served as Landesrabbiner (Cleves and Silesia) and Oberrabbiner (Ansbach). Many created influential positions for themselves, aided by their family relations with other Court Jews.

In Bohemia-Moravia a noteworthy member of the family was salomon (salman) emmerich (1662–1728), who studied medicine at Leiden and practiced in Metz and Soest before establishing himself in Prague. He was the first Prague Jew to be freed by imperial order from wearing the obligatory neck-frill. His son moses salomon gomperz (d. 1742) was permitted to practice medicine by Prague University after passing an examination, and was the first Jew to graduate from a German university, in Frankfurt on the Oder, in 1721.

The Bruenn (Brno) branch of the Gomperz family was founded by loeb ben bendit (leopold bendit or benedict) neumegen, from Nijmegen, Holland. His son phillip gomperz founded a successful bank. Three of his sons became celebrated: Theodor *Gomperz (1832–1912), classical philologist and historian of Greek philosophy; max von gomperz (1822–1913), industrialist, financier, and politician; julius von gomperz (1823–1909), president of the Jewish community from 1869, who initiated the Moravian communities organization and was active on behalf of the Jewish communities in Parliament. A hereditary title was conferred on him in 1879. Theodor's son heinrich gomperz (1873–1942) was also a classical philologist.

bibliography:

D. Kaufmann and M. Freudenthal, Familie Gompertz (1907); S. Stern, The Court Jew (1950), index; idem, Derpreussische Staat und die Juden (1962), index s.v.Gumperts; H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 3 (1955), index; G. Kisch, in: mgwj, 78 (1934), 350–63; idem, in: hj, 8 (1946), 169f., 175, 180; A. Shochat, Im Ḥillufei Tekufot (1960), index.

[Michael J. Graetz and

Henry Wasserman]

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