GOLD AND IRON: Bismarck, Bleichroeder, and the Building of the German Empire by Fritz Stern
Kirkus Star

GOLD AND IRON: Bismarck, Bleichroeder, and the Building of the German Empire

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This original, extensive work of scholarship drastically alters conventional notions of Bismarck and his Empire by examining the chancellor's 30-year partnership with his personal banker and all-round adviser, Berlin financier Gerson Bleichroeder. Bismarck, writes Stern, was a highly practical ruler deeply involved in economic matters; and since he chose to govern without parliamentary consent or budgetary sanction much of the time, he had a ""constant worry about money."" Enter Bleichroeder, who became a ""household word"" by the 1870s and '80s, but receives scarcely greater attention from historians than the two lines accorded him in Bismarck's memoirs. Bleichroeder enjoyed a rare access to both Bismarck and the continent-wide diplomatic channels of the Rothschilds; he not only supplied loans for Bismarck's wars but influenced German policy in the direction of economic growth. Known derisively among diehard Prussian aristocrats as ""the Chancellor's Jew,"" Bleichroeder's privy position nevertheless gave him exceptional social standing even before the Kaiser conferred a hereditary ""von""; Stern stresses his vanity and luxurious living, yet it becomes clear that the banker's greatest pleasure remained behind-the-scenes diplomacy. It was Bleichroeder's espousal of investment is Russia, apparently, that precipitated Bismarck's ouster by the new Kaiser in 1892. After archival research, Stern, a distinguished historian, has rendered the particulars of money supply, colonial ambitions, railroad speculation, and stock market manipulation into a vigorous and elegant narrative. He also presents the personal ordeal of a man who welded the modern Reich, then--despite all defense mechanisms--suffered its anti-Semitic byproducts. A magnificent re-entry to a period incomprehensible through Bismarck's feints and leaps alone.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Knopf