Below is a debate between contributors about the answer to this question. One argument is that the Bethmann family is a dynasty dating back to the 15th century and that they have always been Christian, while the second argument is that they were indeed a family of Sephadic heritage in origins.
The Bethmann banking dynasty goes all the way back to the northern German town of Goslar and the 15th century. In all this time, the Bethmanns were Christians, not Jews.
After they moved to Frankfurt, one Bethmann banker (Simon Moritz) became so powerful, he was considered Frankfurt's "premier citizen"; the French nicknamed him le roi de Francfort.
The Bethmann banking family were on a par with the Rothschilds (who were Jewish). Like the Rothschilds, the Bethmanns gave generously to philanthropic causes.
Such an egregious inaccuracy more or less discredits its author, Kimberley Cornish, who apparently has a very dubious axe to grind. (For more detail, see the "Discussion" tab on the relevant article at the Wikipedia website.) Answers.com should consider withdrawing the article "The Jew of Linz" or, at the least, include a correction, a disclaimer, and a link to the Wikipedia discussion at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:The_Jew_of_Linz .
The Bethmanns were originally Sephardic Jews who moved to Amsterdam, Nassau and then Goslar. (1492 was a fateful year for Sephardim.) This issue was thoroughly thrashed out (with full references) years ago in threads on the Richard Wagner discussion page: http://groups.google.com/group/humanities.music.composers.wagner/browse_thread/thread/a0b339556a428ae9/0bba33393d08456b?lnk=gst&q=bethmann#0bba33393d08456b. Some of the standard historical studies explicitly referring to the Bethmanns' Jewishness (and unearthed by Laon Shelley, then a doctoral student at Sydney University) include: Gutman, Robert W. "Richard Wagner: The Man, his Mind and his Music", Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, New York, London, 1968, 1990, pp.210 - 211. Pereny, Eleanor. "Liszt", Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1974, pp.90-91. Stock-Morton, Phyllis. "The Life of Marie d'Agoult, alias Daniel Stern", John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 2000, p.8. Vier, Jacques. "La Comptesse d'Agoult et son Temps", Paris, five vols, 1955 - 1962, volume 1, p.326. Watson, Derek. "Liszt", J. M. Dent & Sons, London, 1989, pp.30 - 31. I also adduce the 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia entry on Moritz Wilhelm August Breidenbach, who was the grandfather of the German Chancellor Bethmann-Holweg. The text (viewable on the (June 8th 2008) Wikipedia entry on Breidenbach, reads" he was the son of Wolf Breidenbach and an offspring of the Jewish banking family of von Bethmann from Frankfurt. Cosima Wagner was his relative from the von Bethmanns side". The Bethmanns, that is to say, were halachically Jewish, whatever might have been their public profession of faith.
The complainant is welcome to email me at kimberley.cornish @ arts.monash.edu.au (minus the spaces) should he wish to discuss the matter further. In the meantime, he might like (should he be a gentleman) to add a short apology for accusing me of "ëgregious inaccuracy". If not, we are owed reasons for why he chooses so cavalierly to ignore both the historians and the Jewish Encyclopedia. The matter is historically important because it puts Hitler's deprecating references (in "Mein Kampf") to the WWI German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, in the context of full Hitlerian anti-Semitism, rather than to a mere disenchantment with German policy. The additional connection to Cosima Wagner, descended from the Bethmanns on the female line, makes both her and her children by the arch anti-Semite Richard Wagner, to have been halachically Jewish. The background to how Cosims'a father, the pianist Franz Liszt, placed her in the care of his paramour Carolyne Wittgenstein - whom Cosima hated - is detailed in "The Jew of Linz". The Bethmann family go back to the year 1416, in the northern German town of Goslar. Like all Christians then, they were Catholics. Later, together with most Germans, they became Protestants. There is no record of them before the year 1416.
It should be obvious, but apparently is not to you, that they could not have been expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492 and then have settled in Goslar in 1416... unless they had a time machine! See this German Wikipedia page, with references at the bottom: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethmann_%28Familie%29 In response to the six references I presented to standard texts by reputable authors who quote French diplomatic correspondence on this issue going back to before the Napoleonic wars, our unsigned contributor offers us an unsigned Wikipedia entry (put there within the last 18 months, one trusts not by him) that includes endnote references to German texts in which I have not been able to find the date 1416. Could we have specific page references please, in the same manner that I provided them, and perhaps the actual German text in question, so as not to waste any more time? In the meantime, readers might like to view the website: http://www.aviewoncities.com/frankfurt/vonbethmannpark.htm with pictures of Frankfurt's Bethmann Park, confiscated by the Nazis from the Bethmann family in 1941 as Jewish property. It notes of the park that it was: "created in 1783 by the wealthy Jewish banker Moritz von Bethmann (1768-1826)."
Wow, an obscure tourist web site as "proof"! At least now we see the "quality of scholarship" that Herr Kornisch engages in... Yes, Simon Moritz von Bethmann (b. 1786 - d. 1826) was a major benefactor to the city and people of Frankfurt, and by the way, he was enlightened enough to share some of his wealth with the Jewish community, as co-financier of the Jewish school of Frankfurt. However, he was not a Jew. The Rothschild family, on the other hand, gave to Christian causes, but they were Jewish.
My dear Herr Kornisch, I have lived in Frankfurt all my life, and people here do know their history. I had the great privilege of meeting Johann Philip Freiherr von Bethmann, the last of the Bethmann bankers (the family sold their remaining shares in the Bethmann Bank and it is now part of a Dutch bank). A kindly old gentleman, he was a great patron of the arts and loved to publish somewhat idiosyncratic articles on the international banking and finance system. He died last year and lies buried in Frankfurt's principal cemetery (NOT IN THE JEWISH CEMETERY!). A picture of the grave site can be found here: http://www.knerger.de/Die_Personen/unternehmer_40/bethmannunternehmer_40.html You will not believe me, of course, but Simon Moritz von Bethmann (d. 1826) also was not buried in a Jewish cemetery. His grave is in the (Christian) cemetery of the Peterskirche church, a few steps from Frankfurt's shopping area. The reason that you find it impossible to revise your erroneous opinion is that you are so heavily invested in making the Bethmann family Jews. It is central to your highly dubious argument that "The occasion for Adolf Hitler becoming anti-Semitic was a schoolboy interaction in Linz, circa 1904, with Ludwig Wittgenstein". As you write, "It is of enormous parenthetical interest for the study of Wagner's anti-Semitism and the Wittgensteins that Cosima Wagner's mother Marie d'Agoult (whom Franz Liszt abandoned for Carolyne Wittgenstein) was descended through her maternal line from a German Jewish banking family named Bethmann and that Cosima Wagner was thus halachically Jewish, as were any Wagner children sired through her. (The Bethmanns were sephardic Jews from Amsterdam who had found refuge in Goslar.)."
Your flimsy argument, however, becomes even flimsier when such important "supporting evidence" collapses. However, let us assume, just for the sake of argument, that the ancestors of the Bethmanns had indeed been Jewish, centuries before the Bethmanns ended up in Frankfurt. The Simon Moritz von Bethmann born in 1786 would then have been ten generations removed from those putative Jewish forebears. Maybe you hold to some bizarre "one drop of blood" theory of racial genetics under which anyone with a Jewish ancestor, no matter how many centuries back, and no matter how many generations ago conversion to Christianity occurred, is a Jew?
If so, Herr Kornisch, you are welcome and entitled to your odd opinion. However, it is in no way consistent with Jewish law ("halakha"). === === === === 1. Jewish law on who is Jewish is encapsulated in Israels' Law of Return, of which section 4B defines as Jewish anyone who is born of a Jewish mother. (It also allows for converts, a la the story of Ruth and Naomi, but that is not relevant here.) Any girl born to a Jewish mother is therefore Jewish, and there is no limitation on any number of ancestral generations: the relation, is, as logicians might say, recursive. So in answer to your question "Maybe you hold to some bizarre "one drop of blood" theory of racial genetics under which anyone with a Jewish ancestor, no matter how many centuries back, and no matter how many generations ago conversion to Christianity occurred, is a Jew?". The answer is simply that, provided the ancestry runs through the female line, I do hold this, as does any orthodox rabbi. Profession of another faith, regrettable as it might be, is irrelevant to Jewishness, provided this matrilineal link exists. This Jewishness is not overridden by either conversion or ignorance of matrilineal ancestry or by the fact of where someone's body is buried. Should you know better, please ignore me and simply inform the Israeli authorities that they made a mistake. 2. Perenyi's book (already referenced, with page numbers) covers how the Bethmann family suffered from anti-Semitism in the nineteenth century. Derek Watson's book "Richard Wagner: A Biography" ( J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd, London, 1979, pp.150-151.) reads as follows:
"Cosima's childhood and her marriage to Bülow afforded her little happiness. After Liszt's separation from Marie d'Agoult, the three children were placed in the care of Liszt's mother in Paris. In 1850, when Cosima was not quite thirteen, the Princess Wittgenstein persuaded Liszt to hand the children over to her own governess from St Petersburg, Madame Patersi, a tyrannical septuagenarian who travelled to Paris and at once submitted them to her strict regime. This background, lacking the love and normal joys of childhood explains much of Cosima's later personality. She was ever-conscious of being Liszt's bastard child and spent much of her life attempting to create a mask of frigid respectability which deceived few people. Her maternal grandmother had a Jewish father and so all her life Cosima sheltered behind a vicious anti-Semitism." Cosims'a mother was Marie d'Agoult, whose mother was Maria de Flavigny, whose mother was the "Jewish father" Simon Bethmann's wife. Should you think I based my work on "flimsy evidence", please attack the authorities I cited who support the Bethmann Jewishness, not me. That Richard Wagner's wife Cosima was halachically Jewish is of enormous interest to anyone interested in German anti-Semitism. 3. In connection with the confiscation from the Bethmanns of Frankfurt's Bethmann garden as Jewish property by the Nazi government, are you actually saying that this did not happen, or that it did happen but was done in error? 4. The Bethmann Jewishness is of no relevance whatever to the Hitler/Wittgenstein thesis of "The Jew of Linz". It is certainly not "central" in any sense at all. That is why I stated that it is of "PARENTHETICAL interest" in connection with Wagner's anti-Semitism. It is not connected with the central thesis that the Jewish boy whom Hitler refers to in connection with the origins of his anti-Semitism in "Mein Kampf" was Wittgenstein. My reference to the Bethmanns occurs in one sentence on page 91 of "The Jew of Linz" (a book of 298 pages.) And yet you write, "The reason that you find it impossible to revise your erroneous opinion is that you are so heavily invested in making the Bethmann family Jews." Have you actually read my book? 5. In discussion of these very serious Holocaust-related matters, nothing is gained by referring to me as "Herr Kornisch". I spelled out my name correctly in reply to your first post. Were you to sign your own name to your posts, I would certainly not dream of insulting you. Perhaps something might emerge from this exchange of views, or perhaps not, but let us stick to issues and facts. You are mixing up things that do not belong together. In its Law of Return, the state of Israel offers citizenship in principle to citizens of other nations who are Jewish, that is, either they converted to Judaism (but there can be problems if the conversion was performed by a Reform or Reconstructionist rabbi) OR they were born of a Jewish mother OR they can claim at least one Jewish GRANDPARENT. A Jewish ancestor more than two generations ago does NOT suffice under Israel's law of return. Separate from the Law of Return is halakha, the body of Jewish law. Apparently (this was new to me) matrilineal descent, in theory, can indeed go on and on, even if a descendant breaks with the Jewish faith. However, I have never heard of such a case in actual practice. In the real world, a Jewish great-great-great-grandmother is eventually forgotten, or female matrilineal descentends because it is interrupted, i.e., no daughter in a particular generation or the daughter does not procreate. You have already been informed by me that the Simon Moritz von Bethmann born in 1768 was not a Jew according to himself, his family, or the community in which he lived. Your task, then, is to prove that unbeknownst to anyone at the time, he was a matrilineal descendant of a Jewish mother however many generations ago. However, even if you could do so, that would only provide proof of such descent for Simon Moritz himself, not for the four sons that he fathered with Louise Friederike Boode, who was not Jewish. But, you are claiming that Franz Liszt's daughter Cosima Wagner descended from a Jewish Bethmann family member. It is true that Simon Moritz von Bethmann (b. 1768) had three sisters, one of whom was Susanna Elisabeth (b. 1763 d. 1831), who married one Johann Jakob Hollweg in 1780; their only child was Moritz August von Bethmann Hollweg (b. 1795), whose grandson was the Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg who became German chancellor in 1909.
So, there is indeed a genealogical connection from the 18th century Bethmanns to the 20th century German chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg. However, even a (theoretical) matrilineal Jewish descent is impossible because Susanna Elisabeth's only child was male. But wait! The aforementioned Simon Moritz had another sister: Maria Elisabeth (b. 1772 d. 1847), whose second marriage was to Alexandre Victor Francois Vicomte de Flavigny. Their daughter was Marie d'Agoult, whose daughter by Franz Liszt was the Cosima who later married Richard Wagner. So, if you can prove that there is an unbroken line of matrilineal descent going back from Cosima Wagner, past Marie d'Agoult, past Maria Elisabeth von Bethmann, to a known Jewish ancestor, then yes, Richard Wagner's wife would have been technically Jewish, bizarre as that notion would seem. Unfortunately for you, that is not possible. The parents of Simon Moritz von Bethmann and his sisters Susanna Elisabeth and Maria Elisabeth were Johann Philipp Bethmann (b. 1715 d. 1793) and Katharina Margarete Schaaf (b. 1741 d. 1822). Katharina Margarete Schaaf was not Jewish, therefore Simon Moritz and his sisters were not Jewish. Johann Philipp Bethmann was not Jewish, but even if he had been, that would not have made Simon Moritz and his sisters Jewish.
Hence your attempt to claim Jewish descent for Cosima Wagner via the Bethmann family collapses into nothingness. Now for a closer look at the source you cite, a book by someone named Perenyi. You quote, "Her maternal grandmother had a Jewish father and so all her life Cosima sheltered behind a vicious anti-Semitism." Apparently you do not realize that this very quote exposes your claim as false. If we are to believe the quote, then Cosima's maternal grandmother (that would be Maria Elisabeth Bethmann) had a Jewish father (that would be Johann Philip Bethmann). However, as already pointed out above, Johann Philipp Bethmann was not a Jew. Even assuming, just for the sake of argument, that Johann Philipp was in fact secretly Jewish (by clandestine conversion?) and deceived everyone around him, his wife was not: therefore their offspring, all the way down to Cosima Wagner, was not Jewish.
I have no idea whether the Bethmann gardens were confiscated by the Nazi authorities, but if so, the Nazis would never have justified this with a supposed Jewish descent of the Bethmanns, for the Bethmanns never have been considered Jewish by anyone, outside of cranks, the misguided and poorly informed, or people for whom "banker" is synonymous with "Jewish". Thank you for your reply. Perhaps we might yet learn something from each other. I have no wish to get into a side issue on the Law of Return. I read it as giving the right of return to anyone who is halachically Jewish (child of a Jewish mother or an Orthodox convert) without any restriction (where purely matrilineal descent is concerned) whatsoever. The relevant (English) text is viewable at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Immigration/Text_of_Law_of_Return.html But on this matter (whether the Israeli law differs from Halakha or not) let us just agree to differ, my own view being that it does not, since even a great-grandparent in the female line is sufficient to establish Jewishness (because her daughter, the maternal grandparent, would therefore also be Jewish). We are in any case agreed on the halachic principle of Jewishness as involving maternal descent; that is to say, a Jewish female CANNOT have a non-Jewish child, though a Jewish male can. On the Bethmann genealogy, some of the names you provided were new to me. As in any matter likely to prove highly contentious, it would help were you to provide a source for your material, as I have. (The original material in the German Wikipedia entry on "Bethmann" that you cited - and which was placed there 11th February, 2007 - is signed by "Flibbertigibbet", which is unlikely to convince an acerbic British reviewer that the source is academically kosher.) I am not, by the way, doubting that your names in the genealogy are correct, since they fit with my own researches where I have a match. It is just that expressions such as "I have informed you that ..." count for nothing where historical research is concerned. So again, some source references, please. The Bethmanns (and I cited the sources) were subject to anti-Semitic vilification in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. You claim that the Bethmanns were not Jewish and that such vilification was in factual error. (Anti-Semites, of course, need no justification, but they often claim to have some in order to, as it were, excuse themselves.) Anyway, the issue of Cosima's halachic Jewishness is settled if the answer to the following question is affirmative: Was Maria Elisabeth Bethmann (Cosima's maternal line ancestor) Jewish? Here then, is a quote from a paper by the Professor of Music at the University of New York, E. Brody ("The Jewish Wagnerites", Opera Quarterly, 1983, 1: p.68) referring to Richard Wagner and Cosima: "As for his beloved helpmate, suspicion and speculation were both unnecessary. Cosima, the second child of Liszt and the Countess Marie d'Agoult, would not have passed muster under Germany's racial laws. Her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Bethmann, daughter of Simon Moritz Bethmann and descendant of Schimsche Naphtali Bethmann, was Jewish, a member of the prominent banking family of Frankfurt am Main." Professor Brodie explicitly states here that Elizabeth Bethmann was Jewish, from which it follows that the whole chain of her female descendants, not only down to Cosima, but also to her (and Richard Wagner's) son, Siegfried Wagner, were also Jewish. Going back the other way, if Elizabeth Bethmann were Jewish, then so was her mother, which means that Simon Moritz Bethmann (her brother) was also Jewish, which suffices to establish my point. The only way around this for you, is to chase up the references Professor Brodie provides and argue that they are unreliable or perhaps just not conclusive. Her peer-reviewed paper is downloadable as a PDF for a small fee from Oxford University Press Journals (http://www.oxfordjournals.org/.) Until you can establish this, we can all rest reasonably confident that the Bethmanns were Jewish. (It is, of course, perfectly possible that they professed another faith publicly - the issue here is Halakha.) Good luck with your endeavours - the implications of this issue are enormous - but I think the upshot is that the "egregious inaccuracies" you attributed to me are not so at all. You get one credit for sheer doggedness, but I'll have to charge you with one demerit for intellectual dishonesty. Changing your erroneous statement about Maria Elisabeth Bethmann being the GREAT GRANDMOTHER rather than the GRANDMOTHER of Cosima Liszt AFTER I CALLED YOU ON IT and NOT ACKNOWLEDGING MY CORRECTION is a mark of dishonesty. It took me less than a minute, only by googling, to find the likely source of the canard about the Bethmanns being Jewish. It is a biography of Franz Liszt by one August Göllerich, where writes that, " I had hoped to avoid insults. Everything I have written here is available to anyone to peruse by clicking "History of past edits", which is precisely why WikiAnswers provides the facility. A correction is perfectly legitimate. There is no dishonesty involved at all and so I would rather prefer not to be abused. The matter of Marie de Flavigny being Cosima's grandmother as opposed to being her great-grandmother is in any case irrelevant to Cosima's or the Bethmann's Jewishness, since the maternal line link is unaffected either way. I note you have not discussed any of the references I have provided yet. Perhaps you might complete your own quotation from Gollerich, so that we can read it and then we can discuss the matter? Gollerich, by the way, was Liszt's own student, and knew Cosima personally. He became the opera director in Linz, where both Hitler (and likely Wittgenstein) saw Wagnerian operas. (The reference is somewhere in Hanfstaegl's book on Hitler, which I do not have to hand.) It is even possible - indeed, likely - that the young Hitler spoke to him personally. Of course the references I provided earlier show that the Bethmann's Jewishness was being raised in the literature at a time long pre-dating Gollerich, but your quotation, when completed, might well prove interesting anyway. My apologies for hitting the "Save" button too quickly, both because I thereby uploaded an incomplete post and because I issued a much too strongly worded condemnation of Mr. Cornish's editing change. August Göllerich (ironically, a native of Linz) authored a biography of Franz Liszt in 1887, according to the Austrian Encyclopedia at the Technical University of Graz website: http://aeiou.iicm.tugraz.at/aeiou.encyclop.g/g551413.htm I quote from Amazon.com's PDF facsimile of the 1908 edition. On page 89 of the book, we find this: "Marie, Vicomtesse de Flavigny, wurde am 15. August 1805 als Kind eines Emigranten geboren, der nach Frankfurt a.M. gezogen war, um dort Soldaten für die französische Armee zu werben, wofür er ins Gefängnis geworfen wurde.
Derselbe hatte die glühende Liebe einer achtzehnjährigen Witwe entfacht, die sich mit ihm so lange einsperren ließ, bis ihre Eltern seine Befreiung durchsetzten, und ihre Einwilligung gaben, ihn zum Schwiegersohne zu nehmen.
Der Vater dieser Romantikerin war der reiche Bankier Simon Moritz Bethmann, dessen Vorfahren nach den einen Berichten Schimon Naphtali Bethmann, ein Frankfurter Handelsmann, nach andern der Patrizier Bethmann-Hollweg gewesen, der zu Beginn des 18. Jahrhunderts seines protestantischen Glaubens wegen aus den Niederlanden vertrieben worden war." My translation: "Marie, the Vicomtesse de Flavigny, was born 15 August 1805 as the child of an expatriate [Frenchman] who had moved to Frankfurt-on-the-Main to recruit soldiers for the French army; for this, he was thrown into jail.
The [Viscompte] had inflamed the torrid love of an eighteen-year old widow, who managed to get herself incarcerated together with him until finally her parents relented, made the authorities set him free, and consented to him becoming their son in law.
The father of this romantic lass was the rich banker Simon Moritz Bethmann, whose ancestors, by some accounts, included Schimon Naphtali Bethmann, a Frankfurt merchant; by other accounts the Patrizier [a German term denoting an upper-tier bourgeois, i.e., not a member of the nobility] Bethmann-Hollweg, who had been driven out from the Netherlands due to his Protestant faith early in the 18th century." End of translation. I included the first two paragraphs for context; I have not checked whether the portrayal of the Viscomte de Flavigny as a swashbuckler, or the even more dramatic account of how he met and married his wife, Maria Elisabeth Bethmann (not named by Göllerich), is accurate. On to the third paragraph. It is amazing how much misinformation can be packed into such a short paragraph: First, Cosima's grandmother and Marie's mother, the aforementioned Maria Elisabeth Bethmann, was NOT the daughter of a Simon Moritz Bethmann; in fact, her father was a Johann Philipp Bethmann. Second, her brother Simon Moritz had been elevated to the status of a nobleman, therefore his name should have been given correctly as Simon Moritz VON Bethmann. Third, there appears to be nothing more than rumor ("by some accounts") behind the "merchant Schimon Naphtali Bethmann" with the Jewish sounding name; no such person is found in the Bethmann family tree, in any case not after the family's move to Frankfurt. Fourth, the Bethmann-Hollweg family line starts only in 1795, when Moritz August, the only child of Susanna Elisabeth Bethmann and Johann Jakob Hollweg is born, therefore Cosima could not have been a descendant of a Hollweg. This amusingly slapdash piece of writing, then, appears to be the wellspring of the "Jewish Bethmanns" canard -- unless an earlier published source than 1887 can be found. === === More: Earlier Mr. Cornish questioned the reliabity of the German Wikipedia entry on the Bethmanns. I can supply a source reference situating the roots of the Bethmann family in the town of Goslar, all the way back to the year 1416: it is the Brockhaus Encyclopedia, 14th edition, 1894-1896, available on the web at http://www.retrobibliothek.de/retrobib/seite.html?id=122213 (link goes to a page of text OCR'ed from the printed encyclopdia, contains typos.) The Brockhaus entry continues: "Dort gehörte die Familie seit dem Beginn des 16. Jahrh. zu den ratsfähigen Geschlechtern und zu den Mitgliedern der ersten Gilde". My translation: "There [in Goslar] the family, since early in the 16th century, was among the families entitled to delegate representatives to the town's council, as well as being members of the first guild." I hope can be forgiven for rubbing it in some more... Paul Johnson, a reputable historian if ever there was one, writes (in A History of the Jews, Harper Perennial, published in 1988, page 314): "What happened was this. Until the beginning of the revolutionary wars in France, in the mid-1790s, European merchant banking was dominated by non-Jews: the Barings of London, the Hopes of Amsterdam and the Gebrüder Bethmann of Frankfurt." It keeps getting better! As everyone knows, many family names had their origins in occupations, hence names such as Cartwright, Baker, Miller, ... . In German, the equivalent "occupational surnames" are Wagner, Bäcker, Müller, ... . Turns out that Bethmann, too, was such a family name! In Deutsche Namenskunde by Max Gottschald, published by Walter de Gruyter, 6th revised edition 2006, we find the surname Bethmann cross referenced to Bedenknecht, i.e., the person who would collect the "bede" (that which is requested -- a tax) from freemen. In Middle High German, a Knecht was the equivalent of a squire in medieval usage, i.e., a person above commoner status who could aspire to becoming a knight. (Product description from Amazon.com: "Gottschald's book is the standard German work on onomastics. It explains every German surname and its parts, and cross-referencing relates one name to another.") Other surnames ending in -knecht were Schildknecht (a man-at-arms in the service of a knight), Bauknecht (a builder's scribe, an administrator's helper), or Windeknecht (the man responsible for dogs used in hunting). So, it is probably literally true when we say that the Bethmanns "come from money"... and go back to the Middle Ages! All right, that last bit was rather tangential (onomastics? sounds like chewing gum techniques... and Richard Wagner was not a cartwright...) but I felt that I was entitled to it. I am afraid that Mr. Cornish has bitten off more than he can chew but will check back next week to find out what he has come up with. Remember: Göllerich cannot be taken seriously, hence all who cite Göllerich directly or via intermediate citations are likewise suspect. One last web reference, and then I'll sign off. Bankiers im Kaiserreich: Sozialprofil und Habitus der deutschen Hochfinanz, by Morten Reitmayer. Searchable online at amazon.com. Mr. Reitmayer employs an extremely broad scope in defining who among the high-powered bankers of the era should be considered Jewish. For example, the Oppenheimer family, who had converted to Christianity in 1807, is still considered Jewish by him. (I am not saying that his broad scope is necessarily wrong, only that it is unusually broad.) However, even the meticulous Reitmayer never considers the Bethmanns to fall within his broad definition of Jewishness.
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