Bethel Henry Strousberg (1823–84)

Strousberg was a railway entrepreneur, born Baruch Hirsch Strousberg, to a Jewish family in Neidenburg (then in East Prussia but now Nidzica in Poland). He was educated in a secondary school at Kőnigsberg (then in East Prussia, but now Kaliningrad in Russia), and changed his name early in life.

He moved to London in 1839 and was married to an English wife six years later. In 1847 he stole money from a building society to buy a ticket hoping to get to the United States, but was arrested and served a six month prison sentence after his ship was forced by shortage of fuel to return to port. Eventually he went to the United States with his wife and family in 1849-50, later returning to England where he developed interests in publishing and insurance.

By the early 1860s he had moved back to Germany where he was responsible for building the East Prussian Southern Railway from Tilsit to Insterburg in 1862, and the Berlin-Gőrlitz Railway in 1865-67. The terminus of the latter was a notable building overlooking the Speewaldplatz which was designed by the architect August Orth (1828-1901). Orth also designed the Palais Strousberg in Wilhelmstrasse, which was said to be ‘the first modern palace to be built in Berlin’. Strousberg’s interests extended far beyond railways. He operated Berlin’s cattle markets, and purchased the engineering works of Georg Egestorff in Hanover, that subsequently became the Hanomag engineering company. He became involved in railway speculation in present-day Romania which led to financial ruin. His companies went into liquidation in 1872, he was declared bankrupt in 1875, and stood trial for fraud in St Petersburg in 1876.

The Palais Strousberg subsequently served as the British Embassy to the German Empire but was demolished as the result of bombing during the Second World War, as has the Gőrlitzer Bahnhof.