Martin Schoenberg

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Pablo Edronkin

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The oldest ancestor known of Prof. Alexander Julius Wilhelm Schoenberg, who was persecuted by the Nazis for being a Jew, was Martin Schoenberg, born in 1600; was he also of Jewish origin and related to the Belmonte / Schoenberg family?

Martin Schönberg was born in 1600 and died in 1650, in Magdeburg[1.223]; he was a Christian and a priest, and there are no known surviving documents about his origins. He was also an ancestor of Alexander Julius Wilhelm Schoenberg (1892-1985)[1.224] who was a German organic chemist. From 1927 to 1934 he was professor of organic chemistry at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Polytechnicum. Then he was forced to leave Germany as the Nazis came to power and began with their anti - Semitic policies. Prof. Schönberg then spent three years in the department of Medical Chemistry of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and after that became professor of chemistry at the University of Cairo until 1957 and director of its chemical institute. Returning to Berlin, he was made professor emeritus at the Polytechnicum in 1958[194].

According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica, which lists Jewish biographies[195], Prof. Alexander Schoenberg was a Jew. Thus, unless there were two different Schoenberg families with no connection whatsoever between them, the conclusion is that he might be a relative - probably distant and provided that his father's family was of Jewish origin - of the other Schoenberg families found in Germany, Poland, etc. which are related to one another. Both are certainly possible.

Other sources cite that at least Alexander Schoenberg's mother was Jewish[195]:

"Schönbergwurde 1892 als einziges Kind eines preußischen Landrichters in Berlin geboren. Seine Mutter entstammte einer alteingesessenen jüdischen Bürgerfamilie aus Berlin."

This means that Alexander Schoenberg was in fact Jewish but says nothing about his father and he might have not been Jewish; however, that a fact that might or might not exclude Jewish ancestry, nevertheless. Since the family name of the professor was the same of us, it became necessary to research a little bit into the matter to find out the truth of the matter because the obvious conclusion is that "our" Schoenbergs and "the other" Schoenbergs might have a common ancestor,

This is enough to admit the possibility; however, it cannot be taken as a conclusion but just a hypothesis, which faced by the complete absence of documents and clear proof, can only be understood and its degree credibility analysed taking into account the historical and social context. In other words, the possibility exists, but due to a lack of hard evidence we can only assign a probability, based on interpretation of circumstances and context.

The value and validity of interpretation in lieu of hard proof:

In this regard I will start with a few examples from outside the field of history and then go into the rationale behind them: One topic that is currently (year 2013) under discussion in the scientific community is the high probability of finding life outside planet Earth; up to this point none has been found for certain, much less intelligent life, according to scientific standards. Myths about UFOs abound indeed, but from a strictly scientific point of view, none of those arguments qualifies as a demonstrated thesis and not even as a fairly good hypothesis. However, does that fact prevent scientists from discussing the odds of finding life in exoplanets? Would it be good to keep that discussion private or confidential? Is there any hard evidence about exolife? Certainly not, but the debate goes on. Of course no responsible scientist would say at this point that exolife has been found without any doubt, but at the same kind, no one of them would deny the high probability of its existence, or would suggest that the topic should be discussed privately or be held completely separated from astronomy or biology.

Would it be sensible to say that the topic cannot be discussed since no one has found "ANY" hard evidence about life outside Earth? Or it would be more reasonable to say that while not proven yet, the hypothesis is based on some solid grounds and merits further investigation?[51.1]

Many sciences are based on interpretation and that is perfectly acceptable. We do not know all the details about the lives of the Mayas yet that doesn't stop historians from publishing their hypotheses and theories about them. Palaeontology and archaeology depend almost exclusively on interpretation: In both cases, remains found, surviving artifacts, fossils and so on are very rarely complete. It is not common to find a complete skeleton of a human who died two thousand years ago, and much less frequent to unearth the complete remains of an animal that died ninety million years ago. nevertheless, researchers somehow manage to reconstruct those skeletons and what you see in museums are very rarely completely original specimens yet, they are completely reconstructed.

Not only museums will frequently show just copies of what they have in store so that nobody steals or damages the samples, but several times - if not most - in many skeletons shown have not really been found but were really created in a workshop using resins, plastic and other materials, based on evidence gathered elsewhere and inferences on that matter.

There are species that are, for example, smaller that similar animals - pygmies, for all purposes, like the Nanotyrannus in relation to the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The knowledge that has been gathered by such, more recently found species is to a great extent inferred from what was known before about their relatives. In the case of the Nanotyrannus, so was almost the complete skeleton, anatomy, behaviour, size, etc. studied. In reality, very few samples of bones of Nanotyrannus specimens have been found so far, and the whole evolutionary tree of plants and animals is sketchy at best. So, how does science fill in the gaps: By interpretation of circumstances.

Of course, new knowledge might come up that could disprove what has been assumed; this is something that anyone doing an interpretation should keep in mind, but as long as this is so, interpreting is a perfectly acceptable method far removed from speculation jumps to conclusions on one side, and uneducated, or even prejudice-laden denial on the other.

So, the same applies in this case: What objective, rational reason could be to hide from public discussion facts that took place more than four centuries ago? There is nothing to be worried or ashamed about the possibility, but quite on the contrary: If some day it is proven that the family of Prof. Schoenberg is in fact related to the Schoenberg bankers (see Dom Iago de Sampayo y Belmonte), it would also mean that he came from quite a high ranking echelon - higher, highest - of European and Jewish society.

Under special circumstances it is understandable to keep things secret: My own family has done so for survival reasons, since during the XX century at least, the main cause of death among us has been murder for the sole reason of being party of Jewish origins and over the centuries, in general, our dealings have been kept quite private, and even Gottheil in his book comments on that[24.1]. You can be forced to hide or even lie in order to survive or escape from danger, but the life of Martin Schönberg took place in the XVII century, so there is no harm in studying it and bringing forward reasonable hypotheses as to really why there are no records about his origins, especially considering that he might have had an enlightening past.

Interpretation is a totally acceptable methodology in social sciences and history within certain boundaries, provided that it remains clear that inferences cannot provide the same level of reliability as hard evidence. It would be to jump to conclusions to assume that because some facts suggest something that particular hypothesis becomes equalized to proven facts, but on the other hand, it would be equally incompetent to deny what the context and circumstances are telling, thus jumping to the exact opposite conclusions. So, it would be wrong to say that something is definitively so because there are suggestions that it might be so, and it would be equally wrong, false, misleading and even intellectually dishonest to pretend to deny a possibility suggested by contextual evidence.

Historical facts do not depend on formulae; they cannot be established clearly using equations like a theorem, and often establishing what happened depends on testimonies and opinions that might be biased, and also on little hints, characteristics of the context in which events took place and so on. Any degree of faithful representation of the past can only be achieved, thus by assigning probabilities of truth to different hypotheses and these might change as new facts become available.

One of the ancestors of the family of Prof. Alexander Schoenberg, was August Leberecht Schönberg (1761-1825)[1.225] and is cited on his occupation as

"Lehrzeit: Magdeburg, Firmenteilhaber: London, Geschäftshaus Bach: St. Petersburg, Kaufmann, Bankier?, Rittergutsbesitzer".

This relates - at least commercially - him to the name Bach, which is known to be linked to the Jewish Schoenberg family, plus, as a stockholder of a company and probably a banker, August fits the profile of the Jewish Schoenbergs.

We have to remember that in Warsaw, the Schoenbergs were bankers, traders, government contractors, landlords and married to similar families, and in Germany, the Jewish Schoenbergs, with the name changed to Belmont sometimes were associated and married to the Rothschilds who, in fact, were cousins of the Warsaw Schoenbergs.

Credibility of sources:

Existing genealogies of the family of Prof. Schönberg and his ancestors cannot be considered completely reliable either. One of them made between 1900 and 1950[197] has to be place within the context of a time in which anti - Semitism was rather popular. This particular genealogy does not mention its author so there is really no way to verify its statements, methods or intentions. Normally, research projects designed to attain any level of credibility would include citations of sources, references and of course, the author.

While this could be an innocent omission or the result of modesty, a mistake or the result of loss of data, it also means that verification of sources should come from elsewhere and that there could have been some degree of tampering for whatever reason. Even Gottheil describes in his book about the Belmonte / Schoenberg family how in Portugal and Spain, within the context of repression by the Inquisition, genealogies were made to cover and uncover facts, modify information, hide and survive. In other words: Tampering with genealogies has been quite a frequent occurrence both to hide facts as well as to invent them, mostly when reputation was at stake.

If information on the parents and family of Martin Schönberg was lost during the 30-year war and we consider the level of destruction of that conflict and the religious intolerance within Christianity that fuelled it, it also becomes understandable why Martin would keep silent on his origins had he been of Jewish origin, for his fate would almost certainly have been a horrible death. This is more so after the destruction of war, he or at least his closer descendants could have easily have reconstructed, documented or commented on those facts, had they been willing to.

The XVIII and XIX centuries were not much better and even very wealthy people and problems with that (see François de Schoenenberg and the Intrigues of Louis XIV, Samuel Oppenheimer, the Oberfaktor and The real Jud Süss) and also, during the first part of the XX century there were very good reasons to hide a Jewish connection (see Albert Ballin) in peacetime, and even more during war (see The Skowronek Bank Robbery and Józef Skowronek).

In other words, the fact that the existing genealogy of the person in question[197] does not describe Jewish connections, does not necessarily represent the true facts because there would have been many reasons to hide such a connection in the years between 1900 and 1950 in Europe and particularly in Germany, and for the same reasons, also hide the name of the researcher. Genealogies done for people of Jewish origin would tend to minimize the fact for fear of persecution, and genealogies elsewhere would probably minimize the same facts in order to avoid that families for which the research was made were labelled as Jewish, but more often than not, Christian aristocrats had, thorough the history of Europe, Jewish relatives simply because political power sooner or later marriages economic power24.40 but often that had to be kept in secret because lying about any Jewish connection was often a matter of survival.

Should unproven hypotheses be published?

As we previously discussed, hypotheses merit publication by the very fact that they are useful; but this deserves further discussion. The idea that Martin Schoenberg was a descendant of the Belmonte / Schoenberg family is a fact unproven by hard evidence, so indeed it cannot be equated with purely proven facts; however, it does constitute a valid hypothesis and not simply pure speculation since there are contextual grounds to suspect that relationship. Rambling and speculating are one thing with no ties with proper methodology, but suggesting an explanation for an otherwise unexplained fact using contextual analysis does not violate any natural or human law.

Keeping private and so as a secret a hypothesis that is not hence published or released to those who might provide further clues is as good as nothing; science and in general knowledge wouldn't advance if secrecy of ideas were the rule, and there are many historical examples of that: In repressive societies is where someone - the state, prevalent religion, an ideology, etc. - becomes the sole owner of knowledge and the judge of opinions.

Free speech is the cornerstone of Western civilisation, but of course, there is a clear distinction between pure speculation and educated guesses which, if properly structured, constitute hypotheses. If anyone has the right to speak its mind in a free society, even more so if that opinion is based on some sort of evidence and precisely, making it public is what ultimately prove or disprove such a hypothesis. Keeping them private or secret goes against common sense.

So, in short, keeping hypothesis secret for no reason or misrepresenting them by depriving them of their context just for the sake of political correctness goes against knowledge and advancement. Hence, hypothesis should be published, but one important thing is that something that still remains as a hypothesis should not be presented as final, proven facts because while it might be, it still isn't. So the proper thing to do is to provide a valid hypothesis to the public, making it clear that it is just a hypothesis.

Lack of conflicting evidence or hypotheses:

The aforementioned genealogies studied and published before do not give a description about the origins of Martin Schönberg, they don't name any sure, possible or probable parents and in fact, do not provide any evidence about them. So our own hypothesis about a probable Jewish origin of Martin, based on the factors described in this text, is not in conflict with any other hypothesis and should be considered, for all practical matters, the most acceptable one simply because there is no alternative hypothesis so far.

We are so, not discussing or rejecting what that has been said so far about Martin Schönberg, but only extending it by adding this hypothesis which again, does not mean at this point that it has been certifiably verified, but also, that it has not been demonstrated false either.

Similar social standing and activities:

Another argument to consider is that all the known-to-be-Jewish Schoenberg families of the time were linked to the same origin and belonged to the high aristocracy:

In Germany, the Schoenberg - Belmont family owned wineyards and were bankers associated and familiarly related to the Rothschilds (see Guttle Schnapper.)

In Great Britain, they were often knighted or ennobled dignataries, such as ambassadors. barons, etc. (see The Skowronek Bankers in the XVII Century.)

In the Netherlands, they acted as ambassadors, plenipotentiaries, were linked to naval industries, trading, there was a baron, a count and a marquis (see The Skowronek Bankers in the XVII Century.)

In Poland they were military contractors, financiers and married with various banking and rabbinical families.

In Portugal - their country of origin - and according to the works of Prof. Gottheil and available evidence, they were related to the royal family (see Skowronek Genealogy and Dom Iago de Sampayo y Belmonte.)

Further details about the familiar links of the Jewish von Schönberg family (de Belmonte) can be found here as well.

So, having a Christian, Prussian family of Schoenbergs who were also related to nobility as from what can be extracted from the names of various spouses, plus the fact that one was a finacier or banker, at the time in which the Jewish Schoenbergs were already active as bankers elsewhere, and that they were horse breeders, etc. suggests a common social origin.

The marriage of Prof. Alexander's parents is also intriguing: From what we know from other cases, mixed marriages were totally frowned upon and discouraged unless there were common economic interests or the Christian family was of Jewish origins (like in the case of the Braun - Blatt marriage in Warsaw). Inter-faith marriages were discouraged in general, both by Jews as well as Christians, and more so among the Prussian aristocracy. However, Jewish Sephardic families belonging to the high aristocracy sometimes allowed for that and the Schoenbergs were no exception[24.39]:

"The Sephardim never engaged in chaffering occupations nor in usury, and they did not mingle with the lower classes. With their social equals they associated freely, without regard to creed, and in the presence of their superiors they displayed neither shyness nor servility. They were received at the courts of sultans, kings, and princes, and often were employed as ambassadors, envoys, or agents. The number of Sephardim who have rendered important services to different countries is considerable, from Samuel Abravanel (financial councilor to the viceroy of Naples) to Benjamin Disraeli. Among other names mentioned are those of Belmonte, Nasi, Pacheco, Palache, Azevedo, Sasportas, Costa, Curiel, Cansino, Schonenberg, Toledo, Toledano, and Teixeira."[63.3] (sic).

Note that Schoenenberg is the same family as Schoenberg and Belmonte (see The Skowronek Bankers' Family Tree and Dom Iago de Sampayo y Belmonte.)

The names of the Prussian Schoenbergs that are descendants of Martin Schönberg are typically Christian and one of them was a Dr. in Theology, but that does not exclude a possible Jewish origin either for the stated reasons. Moreover: At that time, almost every banker in Germany, Poland, etc. was of Jewish origin. Christians were generally prohibited or frowned-upon becoming money lenders of any kind since the middle ages and this more or less in practice until the mid XX century in which almost purely Jewish banking was replaced by corporate financial institutions based on the stock market which, by the way, was largely developed with the help of Jewish financiers, especially since the XVIII century because among other things, it helped them protect their fortunes from the rapacity of governments and states (see The Story of Things).

Similar surnames associated to various Schoenberg families:

Weil, Weiler, Weilert: Surnames Weil and Weiler are associated to various branches of the Jewish Schoenberg family and to the Christian Schoenberg family from the UK that has been demonstrated to originate from the German Jewish Schoenbergs. Weilert, on the other hand, is a surname related to the German Christian Schoenbergs.

Adler, Edler: Adler is a well-know rabbinical name also associated to the Jewish Schoenbergs in Germany and Poland. Edler is a surname associated to the German Christian Schoenbergs (see more on the surname Adler).

Variations in surnames were more common in the past than today; now even a slight change in a name or surname means a change in identity, but in the past, since writing rules were not so strict or completely non-existent in certain languages, names were frequently modified.


All this circumstantial evidence suggests that Martin Schönberg might have been related to the Jewish Schoenberg family descended from the de Belmontes, but does not prove it beyond doubt. Surviving evidence from the origins of Martin Schönberg cannot disprove this suggestion either so we will consider for now that Martin, the first reported member of the Prussian Schoenbergs only as possibly or perhaps probably related to the Jewish banking Schoenbergs and as Gottheil said, perhaps in the future someone will find out for sure.

Auth: P. Edronkin.
Heretyk, Pablo Edronkin.

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