Kristian Hvidt: ”Det mousserende element”

One thing is to get a glimpse of life ‘within the walls’ in the wellknown play by Henri Nathansen. It is quite a different matter to go back to the persecution of Jews, that came in the wake of the Moorish retreat from the Iberian Peninsula, to follow a Jewish Henriques family from the time of the terrible auto-da-fés in Lissabon and more than 350 years into the future.

With ”Det mousserende element”, the former librarian of the Danish parliament, Kristian Hvidt, has written the remarkable story of the familie behind the stock exchange company R. Henriques. You will be witnessing an often highly dramatic flow of events extending from avoiding persecution by choosing Glückstadt as a new place of residence, later leaving again for Hamburg, later Nakskov and finally settling in Copenhagen in 1752.

At the same time, the story of the Henriques family deals with the challenges and tension in Denmark between Ashkenazi and Sefardic Jews, with the tension between the purity of orthodoxy and the urge and efforts to achieve recognition as citizens and especially the right to practice a profession – on equal footing with other citizens.

The story is also looks ’within the walls’ at a family life where perseverance and strive eventually earned the Henriques family the position of a leading stock exchange company. A position, that was upheld through to the 1970s where banks gained access to trades on the stock exchange – in order to avoid paying the brokerage, that up to that time constituted the revenue base of the stock brokers.

Kristian Hvidt’s book is is characterized by accuracy and thoroughness, both in terms of documentation and details from life in the Henriques family. The reader can’t help but wonder about the title. It actually comes from a quotation by the German ‘Iron Chancellor’, Otto von Bismarck: “Modern Jew is the sparkling element in the sluggish lot of bourgeoisy”.

All in all it is an engaging and easily read book, that is based on an important piece of Jewish history in Denmark.

Book review by Carsten Skov

Kristian Hvidt: ”Det mousserende element”
Forlaget Vandkunsten
232 sider
Pris: 289,00 kroner
ISBN 978-87-7695-406-2