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Aaron Schoenberg, the son of Shimon Schoenberg and Frederika Elsass was a Christian-Jewish banker also known as August Belmont; his work in the United States of America was fundamental for the interests of the Rothschild banking family there.
Aaron was born in 1813 in Alzey, Germany; he died in Ohio in 1890 after becoming one of the wealthiest persons in the United States. His life is shrouded in mystery and myth, mainly for two reasons: First of all and as Gottheil pointed out and we know from our own sources, the Schoenberg family and the ones related to it have always been rather discrete. On the other hand, a lot of anti- Semitic conspiracy theories and accusations grew around the figure of Aaron Schoenberg[1.30], mainly due to his involvement in politics and the prevalent nature of capitalism at the time, and also because of long-held cultural and religious ideas, as Henry Charles Lea explains:
"A more practical and far-reaching cause of enmity was the usury, through which a great portion of their wealth was acquired. The money-lender has everywhere been an unpopular character and, in the Middle Ages, he was especially so. When the Church pronounced any interest or any advantage, direct or indirect, derived from loans to be a sin for which the sinner could not be admitted to penance without making restitution; when the justification of taking interest was regarded as a heresy to be punished as such by the Inquisition, a stigma was placed on the money-lender, his gains were rendered hazardous, and his calling became one which an honorable Christian could not follow.
Mercantile Italy early outgrew these dogmas which retarded so greatly all material development and it managed to reconcile, per fas et nefas, the canons with the practical necessities of business, but elsewhere throughout Europe, wherever Jews were allowed to exist, the lending of money or goods on interest inevitably fell, for the most part, into their hands, for they were governed by their own moral code and were not subject to the Church. It exhausted all devices to coerce them through their rulers, but the object aimed at was too incompatible with the necessities of advancing civilization to have any influence save the indefinite postponement of relief to the borrower.
The unsavoriness of the calling, its risks and the scarcity of coin during the Middle Ages, conspired to render the current rates of interest exorbitantly oppressive."[235.2].
Aaron Schoenberg belongs to the Alzey branch of the Schoenberg family that originated in Portugal, migrated to the Netherlands and then split into two parts, going to Germany and Poland (see Schoenberg, Skowronek Genealogy and The Schoenbergs from Holland to Germany and Poland). There were some doubts about the Alzey Schoenberg family as related to the Amsterdam Schoenbergs, but since both the Amsterdam and Warsaw Schoenbergs had Kohanim status, there are common surnames and links between the Alzey, Warsaw and Amsterdam branches, and there is a common trade to all of them, which is banking, there can be little or no doubt about the connection.
In the German branch, the family name Belmont was seemingly used often because the names of Aaron's ancestors are interchangeably listed either as Schoenberg or Belmont. In our Polish branch, that was not the case. In the original Amsterdam family that changed the name from Belmonte to Schoenenberg, which later evolved into Schoenberg, there was a kind of split: Some of its members - probably the main or direct branch - continued to use the German version, while others returned to the Portuguese Belmonte or adopted the names Joseph, Raphael and Emmanuel. A later branch adopted the name Brandon (see Sephardim and Aszkhenazim in a Nutshell).
His parents were merchants; some sources say that they were very prosperous while others point to the contrary but nevertheless, as Gottheil pointed out, the Schoenberg / Belmont family of Alzey was of some standing in the community. Another thing to consider regarding the wealth of Jewish banking families is that it is almost impossible to really know it prima facie because of the secrecy involved in the activities of such families. In general, Jewish bankers opted for confidentiality in order to avoid persecution and confiscation of assets (see Myths About the Rich Jewish Bankers and Gesinde - Organizational Learning (PDF)) and this practice was well in place by the time Aaron was born.
Aaron began working as an apprentice with the Rothschilds in Frankfurt (see Rothschild). His first assignments were menial, related to mopping and cleaning, and slowly he was given further tasks. While this might indicate that he was a completely self-made man that had the fortune of getting a job in the right place and that he had poor origins, that was not the case: Aaron Schoenberg was part of the extended family of the Rothschilds, since both surnames are linked directly and indirectly by several marriages (see Guttle Schnapper), and so he is linked to the Rothschilds and us, the Schoenbergs from Warsaw. Just consider one case: Guttle Schnapper herself was part of the Ganz family and in turn, Rabbi Akiwa Eger - Ganz - directly related to the Warsaw Schoenbergs and ancestor to many of them (see Eger) - was part of the same family.
Mixing in such a way was a common practice among Jewish banking families. Employees were in many cases relatives of the directors - albeit distant ones in some cases - or later were turned into relatives by means of marriages, and they almost always began working at the lowest ranks. In other words, no matter how rich these families were, children were never spoiled because they were seen as the produce of investments: Marriages were almost never done for reasons that were not commercial, so spoiling children was seen as destroying one's own invested time and money. The purpose of all this was to further the business connections and wealth of the coalition formed by those banking families (see Gesinde - A Coalition of Banking Families (PDF) and Gesinde - An Intelligent Social Neural Network (PDF)) as a measure not only to gain more power but also to protect themselves and their communities from persecution. More than once pogroms were averted or stopped by the pressure that Jewish bankers could place on local authorities and governments. And as the case of Guttle Schnapper shows (see the link above) and also that of August Belmont, Jewish bankers had enough clout to avert and stop wars between nations as well.
Indeed, they were also in a position to provoke them but in reality that was not the case as often as the contrary, since while selling weapons or financing confrontations might be profitable, once that stocks and bonds markets were developed as part of the general evolution of the international banking system, Jewish bankers had more to lose with wars than with peace: Indeed, defeated nations go broke and do not pay they sovereign debts mostly comprised by those bonds that were in the possession of investors all over the world, including Jewish banks and bankers (see In the Business of Armies).
And since at the time formal education systems were not as developed as in the XX century and beyond, modern sciences like economics were just being developed and there were real commercial and business needs to satisfy, it was obvious and natural that soon-to-be-bankers were educated and trained starting in the mopping and cleaning department. That someone inherited a bank from his parents to do as he pleased was almost never the case: Heirs had to work and perform like any other worker before getting their hands in the family business with any degree of authority, and lack of compliance with familiar and business rules often meant being sidetracked (see Outcasting Those Unsuitably Married).
And indeed, Aaron was given more important tasks around the capitals of Europe, and then, he was sent to Cuba as the envoy of the Rothschild enterprises. However, on its way and due to a financial crisis, he had to stop over in New York in order to protect the interests of the Rothschilds in the United States. He succeeded and so, it was decided that he should stay there.
It is not clear when Aaron Schoenberg became August Belmont. Probably - knowing familiar traditions - he always was both, as it is common in these families to have an alter ego. This is particularly noticeable in the case of the Schoenberg family (see Dom Iago de Sampayo y Belmonte). He also became a catholic along the way in order to hide his true identity. Most probably he would have departed from Europe already as August Belmont and a ostensible catholic because had he been identified in the United States of that time as Aaron Schoenberg, he would probably not have been allowed to develop his business there, since local bankers were very worried about their Jewish counterparts in Europe, whom - they feared - would overtake their business in the New World.
After settling in the U.S. he married Caroline Slidell MacKenzie Perry, daughter of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, and had six sons and daughters:
Jane Pauline Belmont.
Oliver Hazard Belmont - Perry.
Oliver later married Alva Erskine Smith - Vanderbilt. This led to one of the two familiar connections between the Schoenbergs and Vanderbilts (see Vanderbilt).
Being a wealthy man he also entered into politics and diplomacy; he was a man of his time, dealing with those similar to him like J.P Morgan. During the U.S. civil war we strongly supported the Union army and was one of the decisive figures that blocked European loans to the Confederacy, thus lethally crippling its war effort. After the civil war he continued in politics, and died in 1890.
He despised the Vanderbilt family, seeing them as little more than peasants transformed into nouveaux riches despite the clear merits of the Vanderbilt fortune; there are a number of stories related to this particular feeling. Nevertheless, upon his death, his son Oliver married Alva Erskine Smith - Vanderbilt and later on, a second link was established between the Schoenberg and Vanderbilt families, albeit indirectly and in a rather convoluted way (see Vanderbilt). At this time in New York, rich people sought to attain social status by any way imaginable: Some married with noble families from Europe while others fell into typically snob attitudes. Aside from the fact that some of those families from the U.S. were truly aristocratic in origin, most were not, and they were seeking desperately to attain a social level that equalled their material fortunes. That explains why August Belmont looked at the Vanderbilts in contempt.
On the other hand, the mid-to-late XIX century U.S. self-made aristocracy became the prototype of capitalism that was anything but popular. Indeed, capitalists from that era and place made enormous achievements but at the same time applied practices that were very questionable. The policies of the U.S. government in Latin America - in many cases promoted by people like Belmont, Vanderbilt or Morgan - turned the U.S.A. into a rather unpopular neighbour, and this feeling among Latin Americans still lingers on, fuelled by populist regimes like that of Fidel Castro. August Belmont, for example, was one of the most enthusiastic promoters of the annexation of Cuba by the United States.
The Cuban communist regime is a dictatorship by any sensible standards but just a cursory study of Cuban history between 1850 and 1950, and the way in which the U.S.A. intervened into the internal affairs of the island, can clearly explain the anti - U.S.A. sentiment in the rest of the continent. Similar policies in places like Nicaragua and Panama contributed to solidify the negative image of the United States there and eventually, of the capitalists ideas that Belmont and his likes represented.
Even the U.S. government of F.D. Roosevelt recognized that a change was needed so that capitalism may survive - that was what the "New Deal" policy essentially was about. Capitalism needed to become a society of owners, and not just a society of the super rich, and while not denying the right of entrepreneurs to become someone like August Belmont, the U.S. in particular and western societies in general eventually began promoting a different sort of economic, social and political capitalism. So it is almost sure that the world will not see many tycoons like August Belmont again, with his good and bad sides.
However, such philosophical and practical changes do not change minds easily and many among those that began protesting against the kind of savage capitalism that Belmont represented, acquired traits that are very questionable in themselves. After all, communism surged as a response to the bleak living conditions of the era, and only could provide its citizens with dictatorship and yet more bleak living conditions. And in the same direction go the bunch of conspiracy theories constructed around August Belmont and rich people in general, and as probably you guessed, also against Jews, seen as rich and greedy people due to ancient stereotypes. Ironically, the menace of communism induced changes in capitalism but communism could not change itself and became trapped in its own contradictions.
So we can say that conspiracy theories having Belmont and other bankers as participants in planetary conquest plans are nonsensical (see Myths About the Rich Jewish Bankers), but neither Belmont nor his contemporary businessmen, bankers and politicians - like J.P. Morgan and Theodore Roosevelt - were innocent children by contemporary standards: They were part of a variant of capitalism that became a justifiable and understandable reason for the rise of socialism.
Aaron Schoenberg, also known as August Belmont..
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