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JJ Initials


The Joachim family is said to have been happy. Joseph’s mother, Fanny (Franziska) Figdor Joachim, was the daughter of a prominent Kittsee wool wholesaler, then residing in Vienna. Joseph’s father, Julius Friedrich Joachim, born 20 miles to the south in the town of Frauenkirchen (Boldogasszony), on the eastern edge of the shallow, sprawling Lake Neusiedl, was also a wool merchant. Julius was a hard-working, serious and somewhat reserved father. His few surviving letters show him to be thoughtful and literate, a practical man concerned with his business and his family’s welfare. Fanny, we are told on Joachim’s own authority, was a “loving and tender mother, whose simplicity of character was an important factor in the harmony of the family circle.” 1

The fair-haired, blue-eyed Joseph — after the local fashion called “Pepi” — was the Joachims’ seventh child. Nineteen years separated him from his eldest sibling, Friedrich 2 As an infant, he survived troubled times. Beginning in July of 1831, the region was struck by the European cholera pandemic. Pressburg was placed under quarantine, and most travel in the region was halted until November. By year’s end, more than a thousand fell ill in Pressburg and its surrounds. Nearly 400 died. 3

Joseph was a delicate, anxious child, who held himself aloof from his brothers’ wild games. 4 Nevertheless, the Joachim children were an amicable company; despite the distances that would come to separate them, they would remain on intimate terms for life. In later years, Joseph grew particularly close to his older brother Heinrich, who entered the family wool trade, and, as “Henry” Joachim, settled in London. There, in 1863, Henry married the “kind and amiable” Ellen Margaret Smart, a member of one of Britain’s most prominent musical families. 5

Another of Joseph’s siblings, Johanna, married Lajos György Arányi (1812-1877), a prominent physician and university professor in Pest who, in 1844, founded one of the world’s first institutes of pathology. Their son, Taksony Arányi de Hunyadvar (1858-1930), was Budapest’s Superintendant of Police, and the father of the distinguished violinists Adila (Arányi) Fachiri (1886-1962) and Jelly d’Arányi (1893-1966). Both were violin students Joachim’s protégé, of the eminent Jenö Hubay. Adila could also claim to be a student of her great-uncle “Jo,” having taken some lessons with him shortly before his death.

The Joachims’ home was one of the largest, most attractive houses in Kittsee. By local standards, the Joachims were evidently well to do. 6 In the 1830’s the Hungarian wool business was flourishing. Since the late 18th-century, England had imported wool from Spain to feed the insatiable maw of her ever-expanding mills. Austrian and Hungarian merchants were quick to set up an effective competition with their Spanish rivals, however, and by the second quarter of the 19th-century they were providing fully two thirds of England’s wool imports. 7

Since there were no banks in Hungary at the time, prominent merchants like the Figdors also served as bankers, lending money and extending credit to producers. In pre-capitalist, agrarian Hungary, this practice was greeted with widespread misapprehension and resentment. “In Hungary,” wrote John Paget in 1835, “the greater part of the trade is carried on by means of Jews, who, from their command of ready money in a country where that commodity is scarce, enjoy peculiar facilities. The Jew early in spring makes his tour round the country, and bargains beforehand with the gentry for their wool, their wine, their corn, or whatever other produce they may have to dispose of. The temptation of a part, or sometimes the whole, of the cash down, to men who are ever ready to anticipate their incomes, generally assures the Jew an advantageous bargain.” 8 “We cannot feel astonished,” Paget continued, in a statement characteristic of the time, “at the sentiment of hatred and contempt with which the Hungarian, whether noble or peasant regards the Jew who fawns on him, submits to his insults, and panders to his vices, that he may the more securely make him his prey; but we cannot help feeling how richly the Christian has deserved this at the Hebrew’s hands; for, by depriving him of the right of citizenship, of the power of enjoying landed property, and even of the feeling of personal security, he has prevented his taking an interest in the welfare of the state he lives in, has obliged him to retain the fruits of his industry in a portable and easily convertible form, has forced, him, in short, to be a money-lender whose greatest profit springs from the misery of his neighbours,  a merciless oppression, and indeed a merciless retribution.” 9 The literature of the time is rife with anti-Semitic remarks concerning “Jewish nature.” So, for example, this 1832 reference to the Jews of Pressburg, Kittsee and neighboring communities: “Impatient with every heavy labor and every hard task, the Jew would rather go hungry and roam about in the dubious hope of momentary gain than to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. 10 Erratic of mind and ambition, rambling, wily, cunning, villainous and servile, he would sooner tolerate all insults and all misery than steady and hard work.” 11 Contrary to such commonly voiced stereotypes, an account by the prominent and respected Baron Frigyes Podmaniczky (1824-1907) 12 places a certain Figdor, likely Joseph’s grandfather, in a very different light: “While my father was still alive, Figdor was the wholesaler who regularly bought wool from us, and took upon himself the role of the house banker. In later times, I had the opportunity to come to know him better, and I can say this: he was the most honorable and decent man that I have ever known.” 13


Baron Frigyes Podmaniczky 14

© Robert W. Eshbach, 2013.

Next Post in Series: The Kittsee Kehilla

  1. Moser/JOACHIM 1901, p. 2. ↩︎
  2. The siblings were: 1. Friedrich (*ca. 1812 Kittsee — †1882 Vienna), m. Regine Just (*1825 Brno — †1883 Vienna); 2. M. Josephine (Pessel) (*1816 — †1883) m. Otto Naftali Rosenthal Thali Ronay (*1810 — †after 1866); 3. Julie (*1821 Kittsee — †1901 Vienna) m. Joseph Singer (*ca. 1818 — †1870); 4. Heinrich (*1825 Kittsee — †1897 London) m. Ellen Margaret Smart (*ca. 1844 — †1925), 5. Regina (*ca. 1827 Kittsee — †1862 Pest) m. William Östereicher (*ca. 1817), and later Wilhelm Joachim, (*ca. 1812 — †1858); 6. Johanna (*1829 Kittsee — †1883) m. Lajos György Arányi (*1812 — †1877), and later Dr. Johann W. Rechnitz (*ca. 1812); and 7. Joseph  (*1831 Kittsee — †1907 Berlin) m. Amalie Marie Schneeweiss (*1839 — †1899). An 1898 interview with Joachim [Musical Times, April 1, 1898, p. 225] claims that Joachim was “the youngest of seven children.” In his authorized biography, however, Moser claims that Joseph was “the seventh of Julius and Fanny Joachim’s eight children.” The name and fate of the eighth and last sibling is unknown. ↩︎
  3. Presburg und Seine Umgebung, Presburg: Wigand, 1865, pp. 65 ff. ↩︎
  4. Moser/NEUJAHRSBLATT, p. 5. ↩︎
  5. On their wedding certificate, Henry listed his father’s profession as “gentleman.” Henry and Ellen’ son, Harold Henry Joachim (1868-1938), Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford University until his retirement in 1935, eventually married Joseph’s youngest daughter Elizabeth (1881-1968). A leading Spinoza scholar, Harold Henry Joachim is remembered today for his A Study of the Ethics of Spinoza (1901), The Nature of Truth(1906), and for his translations of Aristotle’s De lineis insecabilibus and De generatione et corruptione. Harold Joachim was a talented amateur violinist and an eminent intellectual, educated at Harrow School and Balliol College, Oxford. In his distinguished academic career, he lectured on moral philosophy and logic at St. Andrews University and later Oxford. Shortly after his death, his student, T. S. Eliot, wrote: ‘to his criticism of my papers I owe an appreciation of the fact that good writing is impossible without clear and distinct ideas’ [letter in The Times, August 4, 1938]. Henry and Ellen Joachim’s daughter Gertrude married Francis Albert Rollo Russell, the son of British Prime Minister John Russell, and uncle of the philosopher Bertrand Russell. ↩︎
  6. According to the Hungarian census of 1821 (Köptseny, page 201), the Joachim household (household 40) employed a servant. Hungarian census records for 1830/31 (Köpcseny, page 249, record 73) list Julius Joachim (household 73) as having a wife, 3 sons (18 yrs. or younger) and 4 daughters (18 yrs. or younger). In the 1848 census, household 73, presumably the house currently at #7 Joseph Joachim Platz, was occupied by Henrik Figdor, 54, and his wife Juli, 50 (film # 719825) [JewishGen Hungary Database, http://, accessed November 4, 2010.]. ↩︎
  7. The Esterházy family maintained substantial flocks in Kittsee. Adam Liszt, the pianist’s father, was local to the area, and had lived as a child in Kittsee (several of Adam Liszt’s siblings were born there, including a brother named Franz). At the time of Franz Liszt’s birth, Adam was employed as intendant of the Esterházy sheepfolds (Ovium Rationista Principis Esterházy) in nearby Raiding. [Ludwig Ritter von Heufler, Österreich und Seine Kronländer, Vienna: Leopold Grund, 1854, p. 53; Walker/LISZT I, p. 55; Zaluski/LISZT, p. 15.] ↩︎
  8. Paget/HUNGARY I p. 132. ↩︎
  9. Paget/HUNGARY I, p. 135. ↩︎
  10. In these and numerous similar expressions, we hear a precursor of Wagner’s slanderous, anti-capitalist rants against Jewish musicians, as being both controlling of the professional network, and at the same time being themselves incapable of authentic production — a viewpoint concisely summed up by his disciple Hans von Bülow in an 1854 letter to Liszt, in which he referred to the powers-that-be at the Leipzig Gewandhaus as “bâtards de mercantilisme et de judaisme musical.” [Letter of Hans von Bülow to Franz Liszt, Hanover, 9 January 1854; original in Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv, Klassik Stiftung Weimar.] Wagner’s screed, Judaism in Music (1850), had a particularly noxious consequence, in that it applied such widely-voiced and apparently non-controversial bromides to the realm of creative endeavor. The Jew, it seems, was incapable of heavy-lifting, even when it came to the hard work of musical composition. “From that turning-point in our social evolution where Money, with less and less disguise, was raised to the virtual patent of nobility,” wrote Wagner, “the Jews — to whom money-making without actual labor, i.e. Usury, had been left as their only trade — the Jews not merely could no longer be denied the diploma of a new society that needed nothing but gold, but they brought it with them in their pockets.” In his article, Wagner portrayed Jews as facile imitators, incapable of authentic, productive creativity. For him, Jews were mere dealers in musical wares, trading in goods that others had created. In the end, he claimed, even Mendelssohn “lost all formalproductive-facility,” and “was obliged quite openly to snatch at every formal detail that had served as characteristic token of the individuality of this or that forerunner whom he chose for his model.” [Richard Wagner, Das Judenthum in der Musik, 1850] Joachim was clearly pained by Wagner’s attack, and by its implication that Jews qua Jews could not function as authentic creators. We have Wagner’s own word for it that Joachim, then a young composer in his twenties, “in presenting Bülow with one of his compositions for perusal… asked him whether I might possibly find anything “Jewish” in it.” Whether Joachim asked this sincerely or sarcastically cannot be known. Wagner took it as a sincere question. [Wagner/LIFE, pp. 500-502.] ↩︎
  11. Pál Magda, Neueste statistisch-geographische Beschreibung des Königreichs Ungarn, Croatien, Slavonien und der ungarischen Militär-Grenze, Leipzig: Weygand’sche Buchhandlung, 1832, pp. 51-52n. ↩︎
  12. Baron Frigyes Podmaniczky (*1824 — †1907) was a leading Hungarian magnate. In 1884, he was the first intendant of the newly-built Budapest Opera House — a building of such stunning beauty that it made the Austrian Emperor envious. Podmaniczky’s Budapest palace is currently the Azerbaijani embassy. ↩︎
  13. Frigyes Podmaniczky, Memoiren Eines Alten Kavaliers: Eine Auswahl aus den Tagebuchfragmente 1824-1844, Ferenc Tibor Tóth (ed.), unpub. p. 133. ↩︎
  14. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons. ↩︎