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Notorious Knatz in History

Here are some intriquing stories about Knatz family members throughout history that might be worthly of further research. 

 Was a Knatz instrumental in protecting the wealth of the House of Rothschild?

 Mayer Amschel Rothschild was born in 1743 or 1744.  Little is known about the early Rothschild family.   It was probably Mayer Amschel who first used the surname Rothschild which means “red shield” as the family in the 1560’s had built a house known as the “house with the red shield.”  The early members of the family were small business men who primarily traded in cloth.   Mayer’s parents died when he was 12 years old and he was sent to Hanover  to work for one of his father’s business associates.  It was in Hanover that Mayer would learn a trade that helped established his business [ the trading of rare coins and metals.  That knowledge led him to develop a relationship with William, the Prince of Hesse-Kassel, a collector who became  Mayer’s most important clients.   William’s account record for June 1765 indicate transactions with the “Jew Mayer.”  Although it is believed many transactions were not recorded, in 1769, Mayer was granted the title of Court Agent.  The next year Mayer married the 16 year old daughter of a court agent to the Prince of Saxony, further solidifying his relationship with the aristocracy.  Throughout the 1770’s and early 1780’s, Mayer Rothchild established himself as a leading antique dealer. The coin and metal business has brought him into contact with the Hessian mint and Prince William would often commission him to strike new metals.   After 1790 records indicate that Prince William was a regular customer.  By 1797,  Mayer was the wealthiest Jew in the city of Frankfurt and as he accumulated wealth, his business shifted to banking.   

It is now believed that the relationship with Prince William was the real foundation of the Rothschild fortune.  Hesse-Kassel was a rich state and the wealth of the district was indistinguishable from the personal wealth of the prince.  The accumulation of capital was a result of selling the services of the Hessian army to the highest bidder, usually Great Britain.  The selling of mercenaries reached its zenith during the American Revolution.    Prince William made arrangements for the mercenary business even before he  succeeded his father’s as Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel.  William received  76 Gulden ( about 7 British pounds) fpr each soldier, with an additional 25 Gulden for each man wounded and an additional 76 Gulden for each man killed.  The money from  Britain was not paid in cash but in Bills of Exchange paid to William’s London account.   From the perspective of Mayer Amschel, there was money to be made by buying and selling the British bills.   The finances of the Hesse-Kassel resembled those of a bank and Mayer worked hard to gain the Senior position among the banks serving William.  In 1806, William, now William the First, Elector of Hesse, was disposed by Napoleon for his support of Prussia and he had to flee  to Austria. Even while in exile, William I needed the services of a banker.    Mayer corresponded regularly with one of William’s most senior officials, “Knatz.”.  Evidence of this correspondence still exists In the Rothschild archives.   To avoid notice by the French police, Mayer began to correspond in a crude code to keep information secret.  Knatz became known as “Johann Weber.”. Austrian police records note:

 “This Jew Amschel is at the head of an important propaganda scheme in favor of the Elector, whose branches extend throughout the former Hessian territories.  The suppositions are based on the facts : whenever I enter the Elector’s quarters, I always find Rothschild there and generally in the company of Army Councilor Schminke and War Secretary Knatz and they go into their own rooms and Rothschild generally has papers wih him.”

 So it appears that a Knatz was a confidant of William I of Hesse.  Whether this Knatz was in exile with William or whether he was a representative of the Prussian government is not known.  It would be interesting to learn if this Knatz also originated from the state of Hesse and whether as Secretary of War he was responsible for the sale of Hessian soldiers to the British.  If that were the case, he sold another Knatz as a mercernary soldier, Heinrich Knatz from Niedenstein.

For additional information please see the source:  The House of Rothschold, Money’s Prophets 1798-1848 by Niall Ferguson. 

Did a Knatz find evidence that the German’s were instrumental in the Russian Revolution?

At the end of World War II, files of the German Ministry of Foreigh Affairs came into the hands of the Allies which provided evidence of German involvement in the Russian Revolution.  Germany was fighting a war on two fronts in 1914.  One way to influence the outcome of that war was to support diruptive forces within Russia.  To do this, the German’s turned to Russian revoluntion emigrants  and other socialists such as Lenin and Dr. Alexander Helphand, a Russian Jew who had converted to socialism early in life.  Helphand used his knowledge of social and economic conditions in various parts of the world to his advantage and he was ultimately recommended to the German Foreign Ministry.  Helphand believed that Russian democrats could only achieve their goals with the total distruction of the Tsarist regime.  Helphand proposed instigating a series of strikes in Russia that would lead to the downfall of the Tsar.  The German’s were interested and provided funding to Helphand while Helphand sought out Lenin for collaboration.   The results of their meeting was secret and Lenin denounced the publication of Die Glocke by Helphand.  After the Tsar took control of the military, there were waves of unrest as industrial workers went on strike.  while the strikes began rooted in economic demands, they increasing took on a political agenda.   Helphand  had established trading companies that were prospering with astonishing speed.  Money was pouring into his pockets and funds were also staying in Russia, from an illicit trade with Russia in medical supplies, contraceptives, pencils and cosmetics.  As far a Helphand was concerned his trading activities and his journalism was all serving one purpose- the fall of the Tsarist regime.  The connection between the trading activities of Helphand was an auxiliary in achieving the  revoutionary unrest in Russia was confirmed by a report of a German auditor who investigated one of the Helphand’s subsidiary trading companies.  The auditor Knatz prepared the report on December 7, 1917.  According to George Katkov, author of Russian 1917, The February Revolution  “The auditor (Knatz) was very surprised at the unbelieveable transaactions carried out by Sklarz in violation of the German wartime trade regulations, but with the knowledge and consent of the German Foreign Ministry.  The auditor felt himself duty bound to ask whether such transactions were not condoned in order perhaps to facilitate the achievement of other aims for which Sklarz was being used by the Auswartiges Amt. “(the Federal Foreign Office).  Note Sklarz refers to Georg or Heinrich Sklarz, two brothers who worked for the German government and also Helphand). 

Reference for the report of the auditor Knatz, see Scharlau and Zeman, A Merchant of Revolution, Oxford University Press, 1965 and in Scharlau in his Oxford doctoral thesis.