During the 1890s reports began to emerge from Bosnia (at the time, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire) of peasants, innocent of any crime, surrendering themselves to the authorities with the request that they be beheaded. When the authorities investigated, they discovered that the peasants had heard a rumor alleging that the wealthy Austrian banker Albert Salomon von Rothschild had been sentenced to death for some crime and had offered a million florins to anyone willing to undergo the penalty for him.
Reportedly, syndicates had been formed throughout rural Bosnia for the purpose of sharing the potential prize. Each member promised to sacrifice his life, should his lot be chosen, for the benefit of the other members.
In reality, Albert von Rothschild had not been convicted of any crime, but the Bosnian authorities found it difficult to convince the volunteers of this, and new willing victims kept presenting themselves. In fact, not only had Rothschild not been sentenced to death, but in 1887 he and his wife had been granted the right to be presented at Court. It was the first time a Jewish person had been granted this honor. In 1893 he was awarded the Iron Cross of Merit for his role in Austro-Hungarian monetary reform.
Links and References
- Walsh, William. (1893). Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities. J.B. Lippincott Company. Philadelphia. 473-474.
- "A Rothschild Sentenced to Death." (Oct 25, 1890). Lowell Sun.
- Albert Salomon von Rothschild. Wikipedia.