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The Warburg family is a prominent American family and financial dynasty of German Jewish descent, noted for their varied accomplishments in investment banking, law, physics, classical music, art history, pharmacology, physiology, finance, private equity and philanthropy.
They originated as the Venetian Jewish del Banco family, one of the wealthiest Venetian families in the early 1500s. Following restrictions imposed on banking and the Jewish community, they fled to Bologna, and thence to Warburg, in Germany, in the 16th century, after which they took their name.
The family re-established itself in Altona, near Hamburg in the 17th century, and it was there that M. M. Warburg & Co. was established in 1798, among the oldest still existing investment banks in the world. Other banks created by members of the family include: M.M.Warburg & Co., Warburg Pincus, S. G. Warburg & Co. (becoming UBS Warburg).
The family is traditionally divided into two prominent lines, the Alsterufer Warburgs and the Mittelweg Warburgs. The Alsterufer Warburgs descended from Siegmund Warburg (1835–1889) and the Mittelweg Warburgs descended from his brother Moritz M. Warburg (1838–1910). They took their nicknames from the brothers' respective addresses in Hamburg. The brothers were grandsons of Moses Marcus Warburg.
Siegmund George Warburg was of the Alsterufer line; the five brothers Abraham (Aby) M., Max M., Paul M., Felix M. and Fritz Moritz Warburg were of the Mittelweg line.
The brothers Moses Marcus Warburg (1763–1830) and Gerson Warburg (1765–1826) founded the M. M. Warburg & Co. banking company in 1798. Moses Warburg's great-great grandson, Siegmund George Warburg, founded the investment bank S. G. Warburg & Co in London in 1946. Siegmund's second cousin, Eric Warburg, founded Warburg Pincus in New York in 1938. Eric Warburg's son Max Warburg (not to be confused with Eric's father Max Warburg) is currently one of the three partners of M.M.Warburg & Co., Warburg. Max Warburg's elder brother Aby Warburg used his money to establish the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg in Hamburg, since 1934 The Warburg Institute in London. Paul Warburg is most famous an advocate of the US Federal Reserve System, established in 1913.
Felix and Paul Warburg emigrated to the United States. Felix Warburg married Frieda Schiff, daughter of Jacob H. Schiff, a banker and philanthropist. Felix Warburg's house in New York City is now the Jewish Museum. His brother Paul married Nina Loeb, daughter of Solomon Loeb. He was an advocate for the U.S. Federal Reserve System.
Before World War two, Max Warburg served on the board of directors of Interessen Gemeinschaft Farben or I.G. Farben, the giant German chemical firm that produced Zyklon B gas used in Nazi extermination camps. His brother Paul Warburg served on the board of directors of I.G. Farben's wholly owned American subsidiary. (However, Paul Warburg died in January 1932, before Hitler was elected Chancellor.) I.G. Auschwitz, founded in Kattowicz (33 km northwest of Auschwitz town) had its own corporate concentration camp called Buna/Monowitz, where prisoners from Auschwitz were put to work. The Kilgore Committee Report of 1942 indicated that all I.G. Farben board members had precise and prior knowledge that Zyklon B was being used to murder civilians in concentration camps, with no attempt made to halt production of the gas after such murders were understood. I.G. Farben was crucially instrumental in funding the rise to power of the Nazi Party, and also in building up the industrial and war-making capabilities of Germany once the Nazis were in power while simultaneously attempting to restrict industrial production materials to countries marked for invasion by Nazi Germany, all of this to such a degree that all German board members other than Max Warburg were charged after World War II as war criminals.
Virtually all members of the German Warburg family had fled to the United States or Great Britain by 1938. However, two cousins, mother and daughter Gerta and Betty Warburg, stayed in Altona. They were murdered in the Sobibor extermination camp in 1940. Eric Warburg, son of Max Warburg, returned to Germany and was influential in restoring Germany's reputation after the Second World War. Eric's son, also called Max, is currently a partner in M.M. Warburg & CO. in Hamburg.
The Warburg family had settled in Venice, at which point they bore the surname del-Banco. The historical documents describe Anselmo del Banco as Jewish and as having been one of the wealthiest residents of Venice in the early 1500s. In 1513, del Banco was granted a charter by the Venetian government permitting the lending of money with interest. Del Banco left with his family after new restrictions were placed upon the Jewish community coinciding with the establishment of a Ghetto. The family settled in Bologna, and from there to the German town of Warburg, and adopted that town's name as their own surname.