1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hirsch, Maurice de

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HIRSCH, MAURICE DE, Baron Hirsch auf Gereuth, in the baronage of Bavaria (1831–1896), capitalist and philanthropist (German by birth, Austro-Hungarian by domicile), was born at Munich, 9th December 1831. His grandfather, the first Jewish landowner in Bavaria, was ennobled with the prädikat “auf Gereuth” in 1818; his father, who was banker to the Bavarian king, was created a baron in 1869. The family for generations has occupied a prominent position in the German Jewish community. At the age of thirteen young Hirsch was sent to Brussels to school, but when seventeen years old he went into business. In 1855 he became associated with the banking house of Bischoffsheim & Goldschmidt, of Brussels, London and Paris. He amassed a large fortune, which he increased by purchasing and working railway concessions in Austria, Turkey and the Balkans, and by speculations in sugar and copper. While living in great splendour in Paris and London and on his estates in Hungary, he devoted much of his time to schemes for the relief of his Hebrew co-religionists in lands where they were persecuted and oppressed. He took a deep interest in the educational work of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and on two occasions presented the society with gifts of a million francs. For some years he regularly paid the deficits in the accounts of the Alliance, amounting to several thousand pounds a year. In 1889 he capitalized his donations and presented the society with securities producing an annual income of £16,000. On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the emperor Francis Joseph’s accession to the Austrian throne he gave £500,000 for the establishment of primary and technical schools in Galicia and the Bukowina. The greatest charitable enterprise on which he embarked was in connexion with the persecution of the Jews in Russia (see Anti-Semitism). He gave £10,000 to the funds raised for the repatriation of the refugees in 1882, but, feeling that this was a very lame conclusion to the efforts made in western Europe for the relief of the Russian Jews, he offered the Russian Government £2,000,000 for the endowment of a system of secular education to be established in the Jewish pale of settlement. The Russian Government was willing to accept the money, but declined to allow any foreigner to be concerned in its control or administration. Thereupon Baron de Hirsch resolved to devote the money to an emigration and colonization scheme which should afford the persecuted Jews opportunities of establishing themselves in agricultural colonies outside Russia. He founded the Jewish Colonization Association as an English society, with a capital of £2,000,000, and in 1892 he presented to it a further sum of £7,000,000. On the death of his wife in 1899 the capital was increased to £11,000,000, of which £1,250,000 went to the Treasury, after some litigation, in death duties. This enormous fund, which is probably the greatest charitable trust in the world, is now managed by delegates of certain Jewish societies, chiefly the Anglo-Jewish Association of London and the Alliance Israélite Universelle of Paris, among whom the shares in the association have been divided. The association, which is prohibited from working for profit, possesses large colonies in South America, Canada and Asia Minor. In addition to its vast agricultural work it has a gigantic and complex machinery for dealing with the whole problem of Jewish persecution, including emigration and distributing agencies, technical schools, co-operative factories, savings and loan banks and model dwellings in the congested Russian jewries. It also subventions and assists a large number of societies all over the world whose work is connected with the relief and rehabilitation of Jewish refugees. Besides this great organization, Baron de Hirsch founded in 1891 a benevolent trust in the United States for the benefit of Jewish immigrants, which he endowed with £493,000. His minor charities were on a princely scale, and during his residence in London he distributed over £100,000 among the local hospitals. It was in this manner that he disposed of the whole gross proceeds derived from his successes on the English turf, of which he was a lavish patron. He raced, as he said himself, “for the London hospitals,” and in 1892, when his filly, La Flêche, won the Oaks, St Leger and One Thousand Guineas, his donations from this source amounted to about £40,000. Baron de Hirsch married on 28th June 1855 Clara, daughter of Senator Bischoffsheim of Brussels (b. 1833), by whom he had a son and daughter, both of whom predeceased him. He died at Ogyalla, near Komorn, in Hungary, 21st April 1896. The baroness, who seconded her husband’s charitable work with great munificence—their total benefactions have been estimated at £18,000,000,—died at Paris on the 1st of April 1899.

For details of Baron de Hirsch’s chief charities see the annual reports of the Alliance Israélite Universelle and of the “Administration Centrale” of the Jewish Colonization Association.  (L. W.)