Warburg, Max

(1867-1946)
   banker; a leader of Hamburg's Jewish com-munity who controlled one of Germany s oldest and most respected banking houses. Second son of Moritz Warburg and head of the family-owned Hamburg banking house M. M. Warburg, he apprenticed at banks in Frankfurt and Hol-land before studying in Paris and London. In 1892 he became Prokurist and a year later part owner of the family firm. From 1895 he ran the firm with his brother Paul, who relocated to New York in 1902. His annual business trips often resulted in transactions that transformed the bank into a worldwide enter-prise. Encouraged by his friend Albert Ballin, he became publicly active. He held a seat on the General Council of the Reichsbank and on the managing board of the Hamburg-Amerika Shipping Line. By World War I he was favored by the Kaiser and was active on behalf of the Foreign Office and the War Food Office. He was an advisor to Prinz Max* von Baden in October 1918 and accompanied the German delegation to Versailles. That M. M. Warburg pros-pered in postwar Germany was due to his international connections.
   Warburg was driven by his belief that Jews* would be fully assimilated into German society. He entered Hamburg's Burgerschaft (city council) in 1903, and in 1919 he joined the DVP. But he shunned public positions, in-cluding that of Ambassador to the United States. An anti-Semitic target, he played discreet roles—for example, as advisor to Walther Rathenau.* Yet he retained his council seat with the Reichsbank and formed a friendship with Hjalmar Schacht.* (His distinguished partner, Carl Melchior,* played a more prominent role.) In 1930, upon Schacht s resignation as Reichsbank President, he lobbied on behalf of Hans Luther s* appointment to the post. Because of his unique connections (his brother Paul was vice president of the American Federal Reserve), he played a crucial role in gaining Germany credit during the 1931 banking crisis.
   Warburg was not a practicing Jew; however, he embraced his religion for its social and ethical values. Whereas he feared the NSDAP, he falsely assumed that its success would be short-lived. Although his hopes were dashed by 1935, he still believed that Jews could weather the Third Reich (with tragic conse-quences, he convinced many friends to remain in Germany). Finally, he liqui-dated his holdings at less than 0.5 percent of their value and left for the United States in August 1938. He remained in New York until his death.
   REFERENCES:Chernow, Warburgs; Gombrich, Aby Warburg; Internationales Biogra-phisches Archiv; Karlauf, Deutsche Brüder; Niewyk, Jews in Weimar Germany.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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