The progenitors of the House of Rothschild lived under conditions such as those in the ghetto of Frankfort. The earlier ancestors of Meyer Amschel Rothschild, who laid the foundations of the future greatness of the house, existed in the middle of the sixteenth century; we know their names, and their tombs have been preserved in the old Jewish cemetery at Frankfort. Formerly the houses in the Jewish quarter were not numbered, each house being distinguished by a shield of a particular color or by a sign. The house in which the members of the Rothschild family lived bore a small red shield. There is no doubt that it is to this fact that they owe their family name; it is first mentioned in 1585 in the name “Isaak Elchanan at the Red Shield”, his father’s tombstone simply bearing the name Elchanan. About a century later Naftali Hirz at the Red Shield left the ruinous old building from which the family had derived its name, and occupied the so-called Haus zur Hinterpfann, in which the Rothschilds were now domiciled as protected Jews.
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