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Strousberg, Bethel Henry

STROUSBERG, BETHEL HENRY

STROUSBERG, BETHEL HENRY (Baruch Hirsch Strausberg ; 1823–1884), German financier. Born in Neidenburg, East Prussia, he left Germany after his father's death, embraced Christianity, and went to England and the United States, where he worked as a journalist. He returned to Germany in 1855 and began his business career by forming railway companies on behalf of a group of English investors. The tracks eventually covered more than 1,500 miles (2,600 km.) through Prussia and Hungary. Strousberg undertook the construction of locomotive works, rolling mills, mines and collieries, sometimes using questionable business methods. At one time his concerns employed over 100,000 people and his speculations involved hundreds of millions of dollars, but when, in 1872, his public loan for railway construction in Romania was not granted, his empire collapsed overnight. Bankruptcy proceedings were begun against him in Germany, Austria, and Russia; his assets were sold at a fraction of their value, and he died impoverished in London, where he was earning a meager living as a journalist. The collapse had serious political and economic consequences. Public inquiries into the case showed that corruption connected with railway construction and financing had penetrated the highest and most respected circles in Germany; this contributed largely to the change in public opinion in favor of public control and ownership of railways.

bibliography:

K. Grunwald, in: ylbi, 12 (1967), 192–8; E. Achterberg, Berliner Hochfinanz, 2 vols. (1965). add. bibliography: M. Ohlsen, Der Eisenbahnkoenig Bethel Henry Strousberg (1987); J. Borchart, Der europäische Eisenbahnkönig Bethel Henry Strousberg (1991); R. Roth, in: Jahrbuch fuer Antisemitismusforschung 10 (2001) 86–111.

[Joachim O. Ronall]

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