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Guenzburg

GUENZBURG

GUENZBURG , distinguished Russian family of bankers, philanthropists, and communal workers, of whom three generations were active during the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries in Russia and Paris. They gained a place in modern Jewish history for their efforts on behalf of Russian Jewry as semiofficial representatives before the czarist authorities as well as for their Jewish and general philanthropic activities. horace guenzburg was granted a baronetcy in 1871 by the archduke of Hesse-Darmstadt. In 1874 this title was also awarded to his father, joseph yozel guenzburg. The title was made hereditary by Czar Alexander ii. The most outstanding members of the family were: baron joseph yozel (yevsel) guenzburg (1812–1878), son of gabriel jacob (1793–1853), who, according to the family genealogists, was of the 15th generation of the Guenzburg family. Born in Vitebsk, he received a traditional education, and acquired wealth in the 1840s as a lessee of the liquor monopoly and later as an army contractor. In 1857 he settled with his family in Paris but retained his enterprises in Russia. In 1859 he founded the Joseph Yevsel Guenzburg Bank, in St. Petersburg, which rapidly became one of the chief financial institutions in Russia and contributed significantly to the development of credit financing in that country. He participated in financing railroad construction and the development of gold mines in the Urals, Altai, and Trans-Baikal Siberia.

Guenzburg tried to utilize his contacts with influential Russian circles to improve the situation of the Jews, and especially to win rights of permanent Jewish residence outside the *Pale of Settlement for specific categories of Jews, such as merchants, craftsmen, or demobilized soldiers. In this he was successful. The first synagogue in St. Petersburg was built as a result of his efforts. He was one of the founders of the *Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia in 1863 and supported its activities. Guenzburg provided scholarships for Jewish youth to encourage higher education, especially in medicine, and donated substantial sums to encourage Jews to engage in agriculture, which he regarded as an important step toward improving their situation. In addition to awarding prizes for agriculture, he devoted the income from his extensive estates in southern Russia to settling Jews on these lands. He died in Paris and was buried in the family sepulcher there. He had one daughter and four sons, some of whom engaged in his enterprises.

His second son, the best known, was baron horace (naphtali herz) guenzburg (1833–1909), born in Zvenigorodka, in the province of Kiev. In addition to a general education, Horace received a Jewish education in his father's house. Among his teachers was the Hebrew writer Mordecai Sukhostaver, who for many years served as Joseph Yozel Guenzburg's secretary. Through him Horace became closely acquainted with the Hebrew poet Jacob *Eichenbaum who profoundly influenced him. While still a young man, Horace became his father's aide and principal partner in his financial enterprises as well as in his public activities. When his father established his bank in St. Petersburg, Horace became its acting director. His talents as well as his manners contributed to its success as one of the central financial institutions of Russia. His personal qualities gained him the respect and confidence of court circles. Among other activities he managed the financial affairs of the archduke of Hesse-Darmstadt, who appointed him consul-general in Russia (1868–72), the only instance when the Russian government consented to the appointment of a Jew as consul in its domains. The Russian government also showed its appreciation of Guenzburg's services by appointing him state councilor and awarding him orders of merit. Until 1892 he served as alderman in the St. Petersburg municipality. He was director of financial institutions, as well as a supporter and member of many non-Jewish social welfare institutions. In 1892 the Guenzburg bank suspended operations as a result of a crisis that was brought about by the suspension of credits by the Russian government.

Guenzburg's home in St. Petersburg was a meeting place for liberal scholars, authors, artists, and other intellectuals in the Russian capital. As well as a philanthropist, Horace was a generous patron of scientific, cultural, and social institutions, and of promising writers, artists, and musicians. Among others the sculptor Mark *Antokolski benefited from Guenzburg's assistance early in his career.

In Russian society Horace's position and his contacts with the authorities helped him continue with greater effect the activities of his father on behalf of Russian Jewry and as patron of its communal affairs. During the period of reaction in Russia, he had to keep vigilant watch to prevent the promulgation of an ever-increasing number of anti-Jewish decrees and to counteract the accusations against the Jews. When the new military service law was about to be passed in 1874, he succeeded in preventing the inclusion of special provisions directed against Jews. During the blood libel case in Kutais in 1878 he encouraged the celebrated scholar, the convert Daniel *Chwolson, to write a book tracing the history of the blood libel, which he subsidized. In 1881–82 he attempted to establish a countrywide organization of Russian Jews, and he convened and headed conferences of representatives of Jewish communities in St. Petersburg to plan action against the pogroms then taking place in southern Russia. Guenzburg also urged the government to rescind the "Temporary Regulations" of 1882 (*May Laws), which had been promulgated by the minister of the interior, *Ignatyev, and he actively participated in the work of the Pahlen Commission (1883–88) which had been empowered to review the laws pertaining to Jews.

After his father's death, Horace headed the Jewish community in St. Petersburg, and also the Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia. After the 1905 pogroms he organized and headed a committee to aid the victims. He opposed the emigration of Jews from Russia, and as chairman of the ica (*Jewish Colonization Association) committee in Russia, he urged that the funds donated by Baron Hirsch be spent in Russia to encourage agriculture and crafts among Jews. He supported publications of historical interest, including the collection of Russian laws pertaining to Jews edited by V. Levanda, and other studies. Horace had 11 children.

His son, baron david guenzburg (1857–1910), was born in Kamenets-Podolski. He continued the family tradition of public and communal activity and philanthropy, but is mainly noted for his scholarly work in Judaic and Oriental studies. He specialized in Oriental subjects and linguistics, and medieval Arabic poetry, in the universities of St. Petersburg, Greifswald (Germany; 1879–80), and in Paris, and was a pupil of the Hebrew writer Ẓ. ha-Cohen *Rabinowitz, of A. *Neubauer, and of Senior *Sachs. The last, who was a tutor in the Guenzburg home in Paris, influenced David to study medieval Hebrew poetry. David gained a knowledge of most Semitic languages, and published a number of works. These include: the physician Isaac b. Todros of Avignon's Be'er le-Ḥai from the sole manuscript (1884); the first edition of Sefer ha-Anak (Ha-Tarshish) of Moses Ibn Ezra (1886); the diwan of the Spanish-Arab poet, Ibn Guzman (1896); studies of the foundations of Arabic poetry (in publications of the Oriental department of the Royal Archeological Society, 1892–97); a comprehensive work on ancient Jewish ornamentation, L'Ornement Hébreu, in collaboration with the Russian art critic, V.V. Stasov (1903), which contained examples of Jewish illuminations from medieval Hebrew manuscripts, among them illuminated Bible manuscripts of Oriental origin in a style which combined Byzantine and Arabic elements; a catalog and description of Arabic, Greek, and Coptic manuscripts in the Institute of Oriental Languages of the Russian Foreign Office; a book on the poetry of Lermontov (published posthumously in 1915; as a connoisseur of Russian poetry, Guenzburg was especially attracted by the Jewish and Oriental elements in Lermontov's works); a number of studies published in Russian, French, German, and Hebrew periodicals and in jubilee volumes honoring scholars of his day. He also coedited the jubilee volume honoring A. *Harkavy. His library, which had one of the most important collections of Judaica, was one of the largest in private ownership in the world, and contained a valuable collection of manuscripts and books, including incunabula (presently in the Lenin State Library in Moscow).

Although more interested in scholarly than public activity, David was active in the St. Petersburg community, which he headed after his father's death, in the Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews in Russia, in ica, and in the society to encourage crafts and agriculture among Russian Jews. In 1910 he headed a conference of Russian Jews to solve religious problems. He was also active in areas that related to his academic interests, and was chairman of the Hovevei Sefat Ever ("Society of Lovers of Hebrew"), a member of the committee of *Mekize Nirdamim, a founder of the Society for Oriental Studies, a member of the scientific council of the Ministry of Education, as well as a Founder member of other academic institutions in Russia and abroad, including the Société Asiatique of Paris. With Judah Leib Benjamin *Katzenelson (Buki ben Yogli) he was one of the editors in chief of the Yevreyskaya Entsiklopediya (Russian Jewish Encyclopedia), and responsible for the section dealing with geonic literature and the Arab period in Jewish history. The crowning achievement of his academic work was the creation of the Jewish Academy, officially named Higher Courses on Oriental Studies, which he established in St. Petersburg in 1908. This was a oneman project, for Guenzburg not only supported these courses with his funds, but was also its rector and lectured on Talmud, rabbinic literature, Semitic languages, Arabic literature, and medieval Jewish philosophy. Its lecturers included S. *Dubnow and J.L.B. Katzenelson, who headed it after Guenzburg's death. The academy, which continued until 1916, created a Russian school of Judaic scholarship, and was attended by Z. *Shazar, Joshua *Guttman, Y. *Kaufmann, and S. *Zeitlin, among other distinguished scholars and writers.

David's brother pierre (d. 1948), an industrialist living in Paris, left for the United States in 1940. His wife Yvonne de la Meurthe (d. 1969) served for 20 years as honorary president of ORT. Their daughter married Sir Isaiah *Berlin.

bibliography:

D. Maggid, Sefer Toledot Mishpeḥot Ginzburg (1899); G.B. Slioberg, Baron G.O. Guenzburg (Rus., 1933); He-Avar, 6 (1958), 77–178.

[Simha Katz]

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