The Skowronek Bankers

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Pablo Edronkin

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The Skowronek Bankers

Skowronek Genealogy

The Skowronek Bankers in the XIV Century

The Skowronek Bankers in the XV Century

The Skowronek Bankers in the XVI Century

The Skowronek Bankers in the XVII Century

The Skowronek Bankers in the XVIII Century

The Skowronek Bankers in the XIX Century

The Skowronek Bankers in the XX Century

The Skowronek Bankers in the XXI Century

The Story of Things

The Skowronek Bankers - Sources and references

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The Skowronek family of bankers, industrialists and rabbis from Warsaw.

"Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the Right Honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon." - Benjamin Disraeli[249].

Skowronek means "Skylark" in Polish. It is a surname, still in use today in the country, but before WWII there was a Skowronek family that was unlike others: They were Jewish bankers with a Davidic tradition[1].

The Skowronek family of bankers lived and thrived in a number of cities in Poland, but they were concentrated in Warsaw, from where they supervised their investments and assets. The name emerged during the first years of the nineteenth century as authorities began demanding that people should adopt family names.

At the time, most people just received names which were combinations extracted by public servants from a list of words to be mixed more or less randomly. So, Rosenstein was the often the result of combining the German words "Rosen" and "Stein", another combination was Rosenberg, from "Rosen" and "Berg", and then, Bergstein and Steinberg. It was an easy system, used by German and Austrian authorities.

In some cases, those public servants, being sarcastic or mean, gave some people -especially Jews – rather offensive surnames such as "Rindkopf", while in others, people with money to pay – again, often Jews – would get some names selected because they were attractive or portrayed a certain image. Skowronek was one of such ornamental family names.

An ornamental name of that time can be compared to the special license plates that some people get for their cars today.

The main reason behind the fact that many Askhenazi Jews carry typically German names is because this system was applied especially in their case since many lived within the territories of what is now Germany but so far had no family names in the modern sense. Traditionally, most Jews did not adopt surnames until the nineteenth century; they kept using patronymics but the authorities across Europe began requesting people to adopt actual surnames in all cases, mostly for identification and tax reasons and hence, where they were more numerous they received family names according to the norms and regulations of that region.

However, not in all cases names were adopted then; rabbinical, rich and noble families sometimes had surnames of their own. In post-war documents, Skowronek is sometimes written as Effron or Effroni, which is the Hebrew translation of Skowronek and it is a name that existed before the wholesale adoption of family names.

Of course, while disorder is probable, complete disorder is impossible, as a mathematician would argue, and also you can think of an instance of the Ramsey theory acting here, but that would be irrelevant because of the nature of patterns occurring. The fact is that you can find patters at all because these families are connected and the details of those connections are know, unlike those cases usually explained by Ramsey, in which patters emerge no matter what, without knowing their nature. That's the difference here, so we can't say that it just a series of coincidences caused by the sheer number of ancestors documented.

Changing surnames or varying them was pretty common among those Jews that actually had family names. In some cases the reason was to hide from persecuting authorities, while in others, it was to remember some old ancestor and to keep a name alive, or perhaps, just not to appear as Jews in front of other people[24.4].

Hence, it is likely that the name Skowronek was adopted by the banking family in question during the early years of the nineteenth century as an alternative to Effron, which is indeed older.

The name Effron is now relatively common, albeit some of the people bearing it – not all – descend from the Gaon of Vilna[1.19][17]. These are related to the Soloveitchik family of rabbis[14]. Something similar happens in the case of surnames such as Cohen, which is widespread and typically rabbinical. However, not all Cohens - by far – have anything to do with the Cohen rabbis. One of the reasons why many people adopted rabbinical surnames was to hide from recruiting authorities of the Tzarist Army, in Russia: every town and village was obliged to deliver some of its young people to the army, where they would spend at least 25 years. Since religious people and their families were exempt from this rule, many, unrelated individuals began forging documents and calling themselves Cohen, Ginsburg and so on, which are names from rabbinical families and hence bought them some degree of immunity from relatively ignorant public officials.

The Skowroneks in Warsaw married with several other families; such marriages were seen as contractual transactions furthered in order to promote their commercial activities. More often than not, banking families married with other banking families in order to merge their operations, or with well-know industrialists in order to increase their capital. And in order to bring more respectability, such families often married with rabbinical families, while rabbis and their relatives improved their financial standing, or so it might seem.

In reality, most of these families have been together by repeated intermarriage for centuries. For example, the Skowroneks married repeatedly with the Schoenberg family[26], which in turn was directly related to the Soloveitchiks and other family names known to be related to the Vilna Gaon[1.19], such as Blat, which, in turn, was a name married to Skowronek as well[1.13]. So, it is the case that the Warsaw Skowroneks belong to the Effron branch related to the Vilna Gaon, since both names were used by its members. Another such name is Borenstein, which corresponds to the dynasty of Sochachtover rebbes. They were related to the Skowronek family and also to the Alter - Rotenberg family which in turn, was related to Blat, Schoenberg and Halpern, among others, which were related to the Skowronek family.

And there is more, since the names associated by marriage to the Skowronek family have long histories of their own. For example, Katzenellenbogen is a name related to Skowronek, and it is an ancient family of rabbis with dozens of stories and of course, links to other families related to Skowronek. Thus, in reality, when speaking about the Skowronek bankers – which is my family – I really mean something broader than the history of the banking clan that exists in Warsaw between since the year 1800, I call the whole mega – family "Skowronek" for a lack of any other way to describe it.

The last – or latest – Skowroneks are still alive today: The close family of my grandmother survived the war (including my grandfather, mother and uncle) and one brother, the wife and two daughters of one of my grandmother's uncle survived too, and one cousin of her survived as well. Most, however, were murdered by the Nazis and Soviets during WWII; about a hundred people between ages two and ninety one. Properties were looted, banks sacked, but still, one house remained and it is still in our possession, in Nowy Dwór, near Warsaw. We are now in the process of tracking and claiming back other assets.

The exact details of the beginnings of the Skowroneks as bankers in the city are not know to us, at least at this moment. It is very likely that the Israel Skowronek, the first financier bearing that name, learned his trade in some bank, possibly in one of the families to which the Skowroneks were attached. He appears listed in 1870 as "faktor" and a member of the board of directors of the Warsaw Stock exchange.

His father appears on record as a "School teacher" and a religious HaLevi. Since Leviim families were often associated with the Kohanim, and in Warsaw in particular, the Skowroneks were indeed associated by marriage to other Levi or Kohan families which, in turn, are know to have been associated together by centuries[22], I think that the Skowronek family, under the name Effron, or others, had been associated to the same other families for more time, only that there are still no records to prove that. However, not only Skowronek is an ornamental name that corresponds to the name of a bird: Other surnames related by marriage to the Skowronek family go along the same theme, such as Effron, Soloveitchik, Sokolow and Przepiórki. All of these are also ornamental and related to birds.

Since the Vilna Gaon, Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, was born in 1720 and died in 1797, if and one Effron branch descends from him, then, assuming that the pre - banking Skowroneks belong to that Effron branch, they would have been around in the clan since about 1750, or some of them, from an older family, married into the Effron family and took the name.

Most likely, the first Skowronek financier in Warsaw would have been working with the Kronenberg, Bergsohn or Schoenberg families. These were, of course, related to the Skowronek family, and had been quite successful in the world of banking and finances at the time, and it was common that people who later rose to relevant positions in that activity among Jewish bankers, at one point started working in relatively minor positions in the banks of some relatives.

For example, August Belmont, who represented the Rothschild family in the United States, started working in the floor mopping department of the Rothschild's Frankfurt bank. He was already a relative of the Rothschilds, and over a few years escalated positions on his own. By the way, August Belmont[26] was in reality Aaron Schoenberg[1.30]. The Schoenbergs used indistinctly the names Schoenberg, von Schoenberg, van Schonenberg, Belmont and Belmonte at different times.

Just to add some complication to the story, the Kronenbergs[28] often appear listed as Fiszsohn[32], or even Blat[33] – the family names of some of their cousins -[1.31], then, Blat also appears as Goedel[34]. Blat is the surname of my grandmother, her mother was a Skowronek, whose mother was a Schoenberg, and in turn, her mother was from the Rotenberg family.

The idea was to hide themselves and operate in secrecy. That's why the Rothschild family made so much money: The operated in the same way to hide their intentions from governments and competitors. Aside from that, the Skowronek family and the Schoenbergs were particularly keen on secrecy: Authors of books describing this family, such as R. Gottheil even commented on that particular aspect[24]. Plus, the level of destruction endured by Poland, and especially Warsaw during WWII, erased most immediately visible traces of these families; only a few mentions in some books and some pictures[6] still exist.

Perhaps you already guessed it, but the Schoenbergs were directly married with the Rothschilds[1.35] and hence these, the Blats, Kronenbergs and Skowroneks were part of the same large, family of families. But unlike the common perception that distant relatives are really strangers to one another, in this particular clan they did knew each other and did business together. Otherwise distant relatives, living in different countries, were not only in touch but also linked again by marriage with their cousins, keeping everyone relatively close to the others.

This allowed them to keep their fortunes and do business together. Some family names such as Schoenberg, Rothschild and Schiff were well-known among non-Jewish bankers, and much feared, up to the point that whenever they appeared in the horizon, attempts to block their entrance in any given market began to urgently emerge. The Schoenbergs in particular, were quite adept at negotiating in secrecy with government officials - they knew the trade since they were related to royalty. That's why Aaron Schoenberg changed his name to August Belmont, because otherwise, the Rothschilds would have found it impossible to land in the USA.

The "clanishness" of these families allowed them to react very quickly to any sort of market challenge. It is well-known how one of the Rothschilds speculated with the result of the Waterloo battle based on the fact that they knew its result hours before the British government. These families and their banks were able – for example – to pool their assets in order to influence whole markets or make winning investments. And that's why they were so feared by their competitors and hated by many anti – Semitic types.

Jewish bankers were always at the forefront of the development of the financial industry: The invented the concept of the commercial bank during the middle ages, and then, around the end of the eighteenth century, they develop the idea of companies based on stocks – the modern corporation. The relative importance of actual banking families decreased significantly after that – around 1950 – because as corporations, their own banks became much larger than their personal fortunes, much like Microsoft Corporation grew larger than Bill Gates' personal assets. But the history of our ancestors includes other things as well, from the creation of artwork and music, to dealings with cartographers such as Fra Mauro, historical battles like Ceuta, the Warsaw uprising and Monte Cassino, ships sailing around the world, and even the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires.

There are two more characteristics of these families: First, many belonged to the European nobility, and some were even royalty. For example, several branches of the Rothschilds, Oppenheimers, Wertheimers – all relatives, of course – were ennobled or married with noble families in need of capital in exchange for a title. On the other hand, the Schoenberg family in question descends from the dynasty of Avis, the Kings of Portugal, Spain and England and ultimately, Charlemagne, and is also of Kohanim nature. Some of the surnames directly related to Skowronek and its variants (Skowronak, Efron, Efroni) are:

A: Adaszko, Aronovich, Auerbach.

B: Bergman, Biberfeld, Birenbaum, Blankstein, Blat, Borenstein, Brand, Brender, Broida, Bronatowski.

C: Chlawnow, Chororszcz, Cisinski, Collins, Cyryng.

D: Dembowitz, Dmuchowski, Dorn, Dylewski.

E: Eisenstadt.

F: Fischer, Friedman, Friher.

G: Gefen, Gelfand, Gestern, Gleichaisen, Golda, Goldin, Goldman, Goldstein, Gottfried, Granek, Gros, Grundland, Horowitz, Gutheim, Guzik.

H: Helmer, Hollander, Hirsch.

I: Israelski.

J: Jablonki, Jakubcyner, Jedlinski.

K: Kalinski, Kamieni, Kaplan, Katzenellenbogen, Kokocinski, Kostrzewki, Krakowski, Krigsman.

L: Lew, Lewin, Lewinson, Lewkowicz, Lichtenstein, Lishner.

M: Manszoster, Mass, Meker.

P: Pachciarski, Podolier.

R: Rabinovich, Radzilowski, Rawicz, Rechtman, Reich, Rosochocki, Rosenthal, Rothschild, Rothstein, Rozentzveig, Rubin, Rybak.

S: Salomon, Sandler, Sendyk, Siekierki, Schiff, Schoenberg, Shenkman, Slomski, Sofer, Sojka, Sokol, Soloveitchik, Spektor, Swerczewski, Szerman, Szlamow, Szpancer.

T: Tsinowitz.

V: Vormund.

W: Wajnreich, Wajsfelner, Wagman, Winiarz, Wolberg.

Z: Zachariasz, Zieleniewski, Zilberman, Zlotniski, Zochovicz.

Aside from this, these families were closely related to important rabbis, meaning that thorough them, many of them can be considered of Davidic lineage[18][19]. So we are Jews, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists, in various flavours; thus, please, don't think that we are in to dominate the world as part of some Zionist conspiracy!

Since other names applicable to all of them as a mega family are a little bit presumptuous or cryptic, I chose to call them collectively "The Skowronek Bankers."[1] Below you will find several different articles dealing with specific topics about this family; it is a very, very long history - 3.500 years since the first HaCohen walked the Earth:

Skowronek Genealogy - How the Skowronek family from Warsaw came into existence; the history of the name and its associated families.

The Skowronek Bankers in the XIV Century - A compendium of short family stories from the banking family of Warsaw and its ancestors that took place during the XV century.

The Skowronek Bankers in the XV Century - A compendium of short family stories from the banking family of Warsaw and its ancestors that took place during the XV century.

The Skowronek Bankers in the XVI Century - A compendium of short family stories from the banking family of Warsaw and its ancestors that took place during the XVI century.

The Skowronek Bankers in the XVII Century - A compendium of short family stories from the banking family of Warsaw and its ancestors that took place during the XVII century.

The Skowronek Bankers in the XVIII Century - A compendium of short family stories from the banking family of Warsaw that took place during the XVIII century.

The Skowronek Bankers in the XIX Century - A compendium of short family stories from the banking family of Warsaw that took place during the XIX century.

The Skowronek Bankers in the XX Century - A compendium of short family stories from the Jewish family of Warsaw, based on descriptions of its surviving members.

The Skowronek Bankers in the XXI Century - Stories told by the members of the Skowronek family alive during the XXI century.

The Story of Things - Some artifacts, places and things that are related in one way or another to the Skowronek family have their own stories to be told.

The Skowronek Bankers - Sources and references - This page contains all the sources and references for the history of the Skowronek bankers and related articles.

Schloss Enzesfeld; pencil, 2012, by Pablo Edronkin.
Schloss Enzesfeld; pencil, 2012, by Pablo Edronkin. Schloss Enzesfeld belonged successively to the Braun, Eskeles,
von Schoenberg and Rothschild families, all of them related, many of them bankers. Most of the Jewish
banking families and many Christian nobles and royals were actually relatives.

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