Baron Edmond de Rothschild - Biography

Baron Edmond James de Rothschild (August 19, 1845 - November 2, 1934) was a philanthropist and activist for Jewish affairs and a member of the prominent Rothschild family.

A member of the French branch of the Rothschild banking dynasty, he was born in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-sur-Seine, the youngest child of James Mayer Rothschild and Betty von Rothschild. He grew up in the world of the Second Republic and the Second Empire and was a soldier ("Garde Nationale") in the first Franco-Prussian War. In 1877, he married his cousin Adelheid, the daughter of Wilhelm Karl Rothschild of Frankfurt-am-Main with whom he had the following children:

James A. de Rothschild (1878-1957)
Maurice de Rothschild (1881-1957)
Miriam de Rothschild (1884-1965)
Edmond took little active part in banking but pursued artistic and philanthropic interests, helping to found scientific research institutions such as the Institut Henri Poincaré, the Institut de Biologie physico-chimique, the pre-Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the Casa Velázquez in Madrid, Spain and the French Institute in London. He served as a member of the French Academy of Fine Arts and through it sponsored the archaeological digs of Charles-Simon Clermont-Ganneau in Egypt, Eustache de Lorey in Syria, and Raymond Weyl in Palestine.

As well, Edmond de Rothschild acquired an important collection of drawings and engravings that he bequeathed to the Louvre. A portion of his art collection was bequeathed to his son James A. de Rothschild and is now part of the National Trust collection at Waddesdon Manor. However, in 1882 Edmond cut back on his purchases of art and began to buy land in Palestine. He became a leading proponent of the Zionist movement, financing the first site at Rishon LeZion. In his goal for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, he eventually chose to defend an alternative policy to that of the Zionists, promoting industrialization and respect for Arabic neighborhoods. In 1924, he established the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA), which acquired more than 125,000 acres (506 km²) of land and set up business ventures.

Edmond de Rothschild was also involved in the founding of Israel's wine industry when he helped Russian Jews flee pogroms in the 1880s and plant vineyards in their Palestine settlements.

It is estimated that Edmond de Rothschild spent over 50 Million dollars in supporting the settlements, and backed research in electricity by engineers and financed development of an electric generating station.

In April of 1954, the remains of Edmond de Rothschild and his wife were removed from the French cemetery where they had been buried twenty years earlier and transported to Israel aboard a naval frigate. At the port of Haifa, the ship was met with sirens and a nineteen-gun salute. A State funeral was held with former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion giving the eulogy following which Edmond de Rothschild and his wife were re-interred in Ramat Hanadiv Memorial Gardens.

For his Jewish philanthropy Baron Edmond became known as "HaNadiv HaYdu'a", (The Known Benefactor) and in his memory his son bequeathed the funds to construct the building for the Knesset. Israel's 1982/5742 Independence Day coin is dedicated to the memory of Edmond de Rothschild and marks the centenary of his first projects in Israel.

External links
Rothschild Archive
Waddesdon Manor