View of the Untermainkai Frankfurt with the Rothschild Palais to the left, around 1840.

History of the Rothschild Palais

A neo-classical treasure at the bank of the Main river

Our main building is the museum’s first exhibit. This historical building once belonged to Baron Mayer Carl von Rothschild. Later it housed a public library. Since 1988 it has been home to the Jewish Museum.

View of the Untermainkai in Frankfurt with the Rothschild Palais to the left, around 1840
View of the Untermainkai in Frankfurt with the Rothschild Palais to the left, around 1840

In 1820/21, municipal architect Friedrich Christian Hess designed this and the neighbouring building in the classicist style, based on Classical Antiquity. Today the two buildings are linked and as of 2019 will house the new permanent exhibition.

Simon Moritz von Bethmann, from an important Frankfurt family of councillors and bankers, bought the house at Untermainkai 14. The neighbouring building, later called Rothschild Palais, was built for the banker Joseph Isaak Speyer, who belonged to a large and respected family who had lived in the Judengasse since the 17th century.

 

Home of the Rothschilds

In 1846 Baron Mayer Carl von Rothschild bought house number 15 and substantially had it refurbished and extended by the architect Friedrich Rumpf, thus giving it its current appearance.

Some of the historical rooms from that era have been preserved. These include the staircase with mirrors and colourful marble panelling in the Renaissance style and three prestigious salons with their original features. Baron Mayer Carl exhibited parts of his legendary gold collection here. From 2019, these rooms can be viewed as part of the new permanent exhibition.

Baronial Carl von Rothschild Public Library

After the death of Baron von Rothschild, the public library called "Freiherrlich Carl von Rothschild'sche öffentliche Bibliothek" was moved into the Palais in 1895. Mayer Carl’s daughter Hannah Louise von Rothschild (1850–1892) had already inaugurated the library at Bethmannstraße 1 in 1887. After her death, the library was made into a foundation and in 1905 extended to include the neighbouring building. Because inflation after the First World War devalued the foundation’s assets, the city took over the library. From 1933 onwards, the National Socialists erased the memory of all Jewish donors and renamed the library "Bibliothek für neuere Sprachen und Musik" (library for modern languages and music). The Palais survived the Second World War undamaged, unlike many other buildings in Frankfurt.

After the Second World War

After 1945 the library in the Rothschild Palais became part of the Municipal and University Library and the Palais itself the head office of the library administration. Later the building was used as a branch of the History Museum. After the decree of the City Council Assembly of 1980 to re-establish a Jewish Museum in Frankfurt, both houses were refurbished and converted by the architects Ante Josip von Kostelac. Whereas house no. 15, with the historical rooms, has been largely preserved, the neighbouring building was given a completely new interior design.

In summer 2019 we will reopen our new permanent exhibition here which highlights Jewish history in Frankfurtfrom 1800 until today.