Our story begins in Prussia, in the late 1700s, where Jews are confined to a ghetto and taxed heavily. Living there is a banker with wife and five sons, the Rothschild family. We see the oppression they’re under, having to hide their good things to look more poor than they are, just so the tax collector won’t take everything. After getting word that a great deal of money they were waiting for has been taken by the tax collectors, Father Rothschild seems to hit his deathbed and there he tells his sons to go out and start bank branches in the five capital of Europe: London, Paris, Naples, Frankfurt and Vienna. He believes that if his sons can be influential in Europe’s economy, they can help bring equality to all Jews in Europe.
So, thirty-two years later, the five branches of Rothschild open and Napoleon begins his war. The brothers provide aid to the allies, eventually defeating Napoleon. It seems that they really are making the world a better place for all. But when a huge investment opportunity comes along, the Rothschild’s bid is thrown out on “technicality.” Leader of the brothers, Nathan (George Arliss), who runs the London branch, understands that technicality is simply being a Jew. It seems that Europe has will only borrow money from them to end wars, but will not fully invest in them.
Well that’s just two steps back for everyone. Nathan’s daughter, Julie (Loretta Young) is awaiting approval from her father to marry Fritz (Robert Young), captain of the guard and a gentile. After that public slap in the face, Nathan won’t let her marry anyone but a Jew. Of course, with daddy saying no, that just means the young lovers want to be together even more, adding some romance to the otherwise very business and morals story.
So we’ve got a film about how a Jewish family helped better all of Europe and (not to give away the ending, but you can look it up in the history books) never turning their back, even when treated unfairly released in 1934. Sounds like director Alfred L. Werker had a mission here, and he gets his point across very well. He shows that the Nazi influence spreading around was only undoing what progress had been made and repeating dark times in history again.
Unfortunately, this film was used against itself. In 1940, pieces of this film were used in the Nazi propaganda film entitled The Eternal Jew. The film posed as a documentary, pushing racial tensions and depicting Jews in extremely negative ways. What a shame to have your work twisted around like that.