A story about a claim by a number of Jewish families in Austria, Czecho-Slovakia, and other countries, to a vast fortune estimated at about 42 million pounds, said to have been loft by the Jewish banker, Baron Moses d’Aquilar, or d’Aguilar, who fled from Spain, where he had been a Bishop in the Catholic church, while secretly practising Judaism, and went to London, where he died in 1759, is the sensation of the day here.
A meeting has been held at the Czecho-Slovakian health resort, Pistyan, of members of the claimant families, who trace their descent from Baron d’Aquilar, in order to draw up plans for a campaign to obtain their share in the legacy, which is said to be at present in the possession of the British Treasury.
Dr. Joseph Feuer, who was in the chair, stated that there are also members of the family in America, especially in New York and Chicago. There are members of the family even in Australia, he said, and the claimants include several famous people, notably Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, the founder and head of the Pan-European movement, and Baron Groedel. Count Couden-hove’s mother and Baron Groedel’s grandmother are said to have been descended from Baron d’Aquilar.
The Vienna claimants have put their case in the hands of Dr. Presburger (a prominent Vienna Attorney, who acted as Counsel for Philip Halsmann), and Dr. Pressburger is proceeding shortly to London, in order to search the records and to proceed with the claim.
The “Wiener Sonn-und-Montags-Zeitung” states, however, that on enquiry in London it has been informed that the legacy in question is only a small sum, and that the British Treasury is of the opinion that the costs of an action to recover the amount would exceed the figure of the legacy itself.
The British Government is said to have the matter in hand, and notes are stated to have passed on the subject between the British Government and the Austrian and Czecho-Slovakian Foreign Ministries, and an official statement is expected shortly, which will clear up the whole affair, and give the exact amount of the legacy.
THE CLAIMANT FAMILIES
The claimant families, who trace their descent from the d’Aquilar family are stated to be named Mahler, Goldstein, Roth, Kohn, Aquelar, Weiner, and Wohryzek.
According to the police headquarters here, there are in Vienna 2,000 Roths, 1,500 Kohns, 700 Weiners, 300 Goldsteins and 200 Mahlers, all officially registered with the police. There are also a number of Aquelars. A Vienna dentist named Otto Aguelar, speaking with a representative of the paper, said that he had been receiving communications daily dealing with this immense inheritance and people came to claim relationship with him. I know that my father often told us when we were children, he said, about the adventurous life of the banker d’Aquelar, and that we are his descendants, but he never spoke to us about this huge legacy left by Baron d’Aquelar in London. That has become known only now, that the British banks have notified us of the fact, and public appeals have been made for his heirs.
THE LIFE OF THE BARON
The d’Aquelar family is stated to have owned enormous estates in Spain. At the time of the Inquisition, they outwardly adopted Christianity, but continued secretly true to the Jewish faith. The Baron in question became a priest and after-wards a Bishop. The Empress Maria Theresa, who had interests in Spain, entrusted her diplomatic missions to him, but when it was discovered in Spain that he was acting for Austrian interests, he had to fly. He went to Vienna, where he obtained admission to the Royal Court, and in Vienna he again became a Jew. He lent the Empress 300,000 Taler, and applied the rest of the huge fortune he brought from Spain to speculation and it grew enormously. He then settled in London, where he became
The brother had his wine distillery in Kosteletz, on the estate of Count Sternberg. His grave has been located in Wamberg, in Bohemia.
The Spanish Synagogue in the Zirkus Strasse, in the Vienna Jewish quarter known as Leopoldstadt, has a memorial slab on the front of the building, with a gold inscription reading: Turkish-Israelite Community, founded in Vienna, in 1737-5497 by Moses Lopez Perera Diego d’Aquelar. The first Temple was erected in 1868-5628.
JEWISH ENCYCLOPAEDIA’S VERSION OF BARON D’AQUELAR’S LIFE
Moses Lopz Diego Pereira d’Aquelar was a Marrano who flourished in the 18th. century, born probably in Spain, died in London in 1759, the “Jewish Encyclopaedia” says. (The biography is by Rabbi Dr. Moritz Kayserling, of Budapest, author of “The History of the Jews in Portugal”). In 1722 he went from Lisbon to London and then to Vienna. From 1725 to 1747 he besought the Government to return to him a part of the money that he had deposited on account of the revenues, the Empress Maria Theresa replied: “This appears to me just. I owe him much more, therefore return it to him”. Aquelar was a great favourite with the Empress, who commissioned him to rebuild and enlarge the Imperial Palace at Schoenbrunn, and he advanced 300,000 florins for the work. In recognition of his services Maria Theresa created him a baron and Privy Councillor to the Crown of the Netherlands and Italy. Aquelar, who together with his family enjoyed the greatest freedom of belief, was the founder of the Spanish or Turko-Jewish Community in Vienna, and succeeded in obtaining many concessions for the relief of his oppressed co-religionists. As a result of his efforts, the Jews of Moravia were protected from pillage in 1742, and the intention of Maria, Theresa to expel the Jews from the whole of the Austrian Empire in 1748 or 1749 was abandoned owing to his efforts. He left Vienna suddenly in 1749, because the Spanish Government demanded his extradition. He went to London, where he had a brother, who, like himself, was reputed to be very wealthy (Baron Ephraim Lopez Pereira d’Aguilar). Before leaving Vienna he presented the Community, which he had founded, as well as the Spanish-Jewish Community of Temesvar, with beautiful silver crowns for the Scrolls of the Law, upon which his name was inscribed. On the Day of Atonement, a prayer is still said for the repose of his sould by the Turco-Jewish Community of Vienna.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.