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Of Mettle and Metal: From Court Jews to World-Wide Industrialists. By B. W. de Vries. Amsterdam: NEHA, 2000. Pp. 152. Euro 22.50.

By Avraham Barkai


This account of the rise of the Metallgesellschaft A.G., which in 1991 was one of Germany s largest enterprises with an annual turnover of DM 21 milliard billions and more than 38.000 employees (p. 110, n. 47) is not merely a lucid and readable mono-graph in business history. At least its first 72 pages are a case study in the history of the German Court Jews. The introduction and the following three chapters summarize the present state of research and enrich our knowledge about the various aspects of their role, not only in the sphere of economy but also that of Jewish emancipation, which some historians regard as that of harbingers or even promoters. Noting the extant division of opinions de Vries concludes that Behrens or his sons (only) in the long run furthered the emancipation process. Although socio-economic advancement as such did not result in overnight emancipation, it did promote contacts with gentile circles and thus brought about a measure of acculturation and assimilation (p. 44f.)

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