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The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  263 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Bankers, philanthropists, scholars, socialites, artists, and politicians, the Warburgs stood at the pinnacle of German (and, later, of German-American) Jewry. They forged economic dynasties, built mansions and estates, assembled libraries, endowed charities, and advised a German kaiser and two American presidents. But their very success made the Warburgs lightning rods for ...more
Paperback, 820 pages
Published August 23rd 1994 by Vintage (first published 1993)
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Jul 18, 2007 Kristen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: financial history
The negatives: hard to keep track of all the characters.
The positives: a remarkeable story, the family lived through important and interesting parts of US/European/World history. The most interesting parts were about the German Jewish families perspective on the rise of Nazism.
Overall: worth reading but definitely an investment.
The Warburg’s were a banking giant out of Hamburg Germany. They started in the 19th Century in the banking industry because of European anti-Semitism. Laws did not allow Jewish families to own land so Jews were diverted to occupations other than farming. The Warburg’s saw the fellow Jewish family Rothschild’s amass a fortune. They followed suit.

They became exports in international finance. This helped them avoid Nazi persecution. The Nazi’s were very naïve when it came to world finance. Hitler e
Cynthia Haggard
Ron Chernow’s THE WARBURGS is a long, 722-page book, about a family of bankers, who originated in Venice with the name of del Banco. They fled Italy in the 16th century when Venetian Jews were herded into the ghetto, and went to Warburg, Germany. Taking the name of that town, they moved to Altona near Hamburg in the seventeenth century before moving to Hamburg itself in the eighteenth century, opening the still-privately-owned bank there in 1798.

As you would expect, this is a rich, sprawling his
I loved Chernow's award National Book Award winning "The House of Morgans" some years back and have intended to read another Chernow for a while. One-third into "The Warburg", I'm impressed with the density of Chernow's historical references in detail. I'm almost wondering if he was conscripted (word choice: it's mostly about war times...) to produce this volume of facts to inspire future study, sort of like throwing down a gauntlet for any challenges to his thoroughness. At a minimum, many futu ...more
This is a very fascinating book. It gives a great foundation to the history of finance and the role of international finance in the World Wars. I do not have a background in finance and my history knowledge is about high school level, but Chernow packs a lot of info into a text that is accessible to readers like me.
This is one of Ron Chernow's excellent biographies of guilded age plutocrats. Unlike his other exceptional on Morgan and Rockefeller, this is a biography of a very distinguished that included important bankers, politicians, and even an important art historian. Chernow is really good at providing a critical biography that also is a good story and one well tied in with the economics of the times. In this case, the times (Europe, especially Germany from WWI to WWII) are particularly interesting as ...more
It's a very good biography of a family as far as these things go, and remarkably clear when dealing with the history of banking, for example. The pages devoted to the real genius of the family, Aby Warburg, are a bit lacking unfortunately, probably because the author isn't so familiar with the art historian's groundbreaking contributions to the discipline. A very enjoyable read overall, and the massive amount of research that must have lead to it doesn't make it boring or anything.
The three sta
I learned more about Jewish in Germany AND about the early Federal Reserve in the US.
Georgia Roybal
The Warburgs was quite a long book, but a very interesting one about a family which has contributed much to the economic and cultural systems both in United States and Europe. Mr. Chernow draws detailed character sketches of various family members. You really come to feel like they are your neighbors. One feeling I came away from this book feeling is that, no matter how rich or talented your family is, there are faults and foibles. Another feeling I had is the total stupidity of the Nazis. Forci ...more
Lauren Albert
Group biographies are difficult for writers to handle well, in my experience. Trying to smoothly move between subjects can still leave readers confused. Chernow handled it very elegantly--I never felt lost when he shifted between family members or branches of the family. I did sometimes get lost simply because there were so many people to remember and had to resort to peeking again at the family tree thoughtfully included at the beginning of the book.
This is a great story of the rise and fall and rise of a family of German Jewish bankers, as they found a bank in Hamburg, and then follow the thread of anti-Semitism through the end of the 19th century and then through World Wars I and II. Chernow does a great job of communicating the internal Warburg struggles in addition to painting the picture of their role in international banking and the support of displanted Jews throughout Europe.
A very interesting and detailed book on an important German -Jewish family that provides interesting perspectives on World War I, World War II, the Great Depression, world finance, and Jewish assimilation into Western society. There was a lot to like - but it would have been even better with 250 less pages. A lot of detail could have been cut without sacrificing the quality of the book.
Jean Adelson
Great research, very compelling but also sad.
This was an amazing look into a time that has changed history, through the history of a great family who survived, and the impossibly wrong-headed people who allowed millions of people to be massacred because of political expedience.
Kathleen Boozang
Not my favorite Chernow book. I am engrossed by any history of world war II and this is certainly different subject matter. It could have used one more aggressive edit as it was just this much too long.
Mar 17, 2011 Peg added it
I loved the generational span of the book. It give you as sense of history through the eyes of a single family. Some of the facts are fascinating, you just couldn't make this stuff up.
Jason Kruger
Great story of a remarkable family. It's a bit long winded through parts of the middle, but when it comes to showing this much detail about such an interesting topic, it's forgiven.
Very well done. Very interesting. Very detailed...almost too detailed. The book is long, but the accuracy about the characters in the Warburg family is amazing.
Tommy Powell
Great writing about an amazing family. For everyone who tends to look at the successful with envy this single biography is a must read.
A really amazing story of an extended family that subtley dominated a large part of the world financial systems for over a century
not usually my kind of book, but I liked it so much I htink I'll look for his other hard copy withhpefully a bit bigger print!
Kyna Dians
Sep 29, 2012 Kyna Dians is currently reading it
Excellent reading (so far)
Dean Brickland
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Ron Chernow was born in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating with honors from Yale College and Cambridge University with degrees in English Literature, he began a prolific career as a freelance journalist. Between 1973 and 1982, Chernow published over sixty articles in national publications, including numerous cover stories. In the mid-80s Chernow went to work at the Twentieth Century Fund ...more
More about Ron Chernow...
Alexander Hamilton Washington: A Life Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance The Death of the Banker: The Decline and Fall of the Great Financial Dynasties and the Triumph of the Small Investor

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