A German family in a totalitarian state
Franz von Mendelssohn II (1865 - 1935) was respected as the head of a bank, a patriotic monarchist and, later in his life, a loyal advocate of the new German Republic - and at all times, an impressive German industrialist. The racist Zeitgeist of their era forced him and his peers of the fifth generation of Mendelssohns to deal with their origins. A grandson of Felix, Albrecht Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1874 - 1936) gained a public profile during World War I as a pacifist legal scholar, founding the "Institute for Foreign Relations" in the Weimar Republic in Hamburg with the aid of the Warburg bank. The intention was to promote awareness in Germany of the unknown dimensions of the community of states and international law. He died in exile in Oxford, a year after the two heads of the Mendelssohn bank in Berlin had died, Franz von Mendelssohn II and Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1875 - 1935). Like many of their relatives, Eleonora (1900 - 1951) and Francesco von Mendelssohn (1901 - 1972) emigrated from Germany. She was an actress, he a cellist. As members of the sixth generation of the Mendelssohn family, they had partied through the roaring twenties as a wild and glamorous pair of enormously wealthy heirs, tragically losing their orientation while exiled in the United States. In 1938, Mendelssohn & Co. was liquidated at the behest of the National Socialists by Deutsche Bank. During World War II, two members of the family, Elisabeth Westphal (1865 - 1942) and Marie-Louise Hensel (1894 - 1942), decided to commit suicide rather than be deported or imprisoned by the Gestapo secret state police. Some of their relatives went into hiding, were robbed of their assets, changed their "Jewish" name, were able to emigrate at the last second after huge amounts of money were paid, or were released from a concentration camp due to interventions by a foreign government. Others died in combat, as soldiers of the Wehrmacht.