Henry Arnhold, Patriarch of a Storied Banking Family, Dies at 96

Henry Arnhold, Patriarch of a Storied Banking Family, Dies at 96

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Henry Arnhold, the last member of a generation of prominent German Jewish bankers who escaped Nazi persecution, re-established their family business in the New World and later helped rebuild Dresden after the fall of the Iron Curtain, died on Aug. 23 at his home in Manhattan. He was 96.

The cause was a heart attack, his son, John, said.

Mr. Arnhold was the patriarch of the Arnhold family, which ran a boutique investment bank and brokerage firm and later an investment management company overseeing more than $100 billion in assets.

He was also a philanthropist who funded scholarships at the New School, underwrote programs for PBS and gave tens of millions of dollars each year to helping refugees, the environment and the arts.

Mr. Arnhold’s governing principle, according to his family and close friends, was to seek companionship and joy — through good food, tennis and art — while eschewing any dark view of humanity that might accompany his status as a Holocaust survivor. He did so, they said, despite having watched his father die under extreme stress in Nazi Germany and, soon after, losing his home and friends in Dresden.

Mr. Arnhold was chairman of the Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder bank and its successor businesses from 1960 to 2015, though he stepped away from active management in 1994. He later focused on managing specific client portfolios. He employed George Soros there for a decade beginning in the early 1960s, and after Mr. Soros began accumulating his billions the firm served as his prime broker.

“He was a giant,” the actor Harrison Ford said on Friday in an email to Mr. Arnhold’s nephew Peter Seligmann. Mr. Ford served with Mr. Arnhold on the board of Mr. Seligmann’s nonprofit advocacy organization Conservation International. “I had a great admiration for him.”

Heinrich-Hartmut Richard Gustav Arnhold was born on Sept. 15, 1921, in Dresden, the fourth child of Lisa and Heinrich Arnhold, whose regular salons in their spacious home were attended by famous figures in the arts and sciences, including Albert Einstein and Wassily Kandinsky.

Mr. Arnhold’s father and uncles ran Gebruder Arnhold, a bank the family founded in 1864. It served a special purpose, according to the historian Simone Lassig, director of the German Historical Institute in Washington: It lent money to industries that other, larger institutions had overlooked.

Through investments and loans, Gebruder Arnhold became one of the largest stakeholders in porcelain producers and breweries around Dresden.

In 1931 the bank bought S. Bleichroeder, a failing institution with a still-powerful name because it had provided financial backing to Otto von Bismarck, the 19th-century Prussian leader who became Germany’s first chancellor. Mr. Arnhold’s family business became Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder.

Just a few years later, Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder became the first major Jewish bank to be “Aryanized,” when the Nazis forced the Arnholds to sell it to the powerful Dresdner Bank at a severely depressed price.

Life in Dresden changed as well. In July 1935, Jews were banned from public swimming pools. That meant the Arnhold children were not allowed to swim in a pool named after Georg Arnhold, Mr. Arnhold’s grandfather. That October, Mr. Arnhold’s father died of a heart attack that his family attributed to stress. Henry, as he was called since he was a boy, was 14.

The family had by then begun to prepare to leave Germany. Mr. Arnhold’s uncles had opened bank offices in Paris, London and New York. They also bought a bank in Switzerland. Mr. Arnhold’s mother engineered a request from the de Young Museum in San Francisco to exhibit her extensive collection of Meissen porcelain, allowing her to send it out of the country.

Mr. Arnhold went to boarding school in Switzerland. His immediate family — his mother, brother and three sisters — moved to the United States. Aunts, uncles and cousins landed in France and Brazil. In 1940, Mr. Arnhold was in Norway with a friend when German security officers arrested him.

Mr. Arnhold wrote in a diary that a camp commander forced him and the other prisoners to sign a statement saying they understood that “we may be shot the moment we enter the death zone, marked with white stones, that trying to escape entails the death penalty and that the other prisoners will be punished with restrictions and special treatment.”

“Collective punishment is being used quite a lot,” he added.

Mr. Arnhold was let out of the camp in 1941 but told to stay in Norway. Instead, he sneaked across the border to Sweden using forged identification papers.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to get the better of the Germans just once,” he wrote.

From there, he caught a boat to Cuba, made his way to the United States and joined the Army. He became one of the Ritchie Boys, an elite military intelligence service group — they trained at Camp Ritchie, Md. — whose skills in German, Polish and other European languages made them valuable spies and interrogators during World War II. Thanks to his enlistment, he became the first member of his family to gain United States citizenship.

The Arnholds had lost their German bank, their stakes in German companies and numerous properties to the Nazis, but they had managed to get enough of their assets out of the country that Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder could continue to operate from headquarters opened in New York. Mr. Arnhold’s uncle, who was running the bank, brought him into the business.

In 1947, Mr. Arnhold met and married Clarisse Engel de Janosi, known to her friends and family as Sissy. A Hungarian Jew, she had escaped the Nazis with her family and come to the United States through Mexico.

Mr. Arnhold’s son said his mother had “a horrible experience in the war and never talked about it.”

Mr. Arnhold first oversaw the Arnholds’ industrial investments, then became chairman of the bank in 1960.

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