The Klabin Empire
by Guilherme Faiguenboim firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Egon and Frieda Wolff (Biographic Dictionary VI and Historical Guide of the Jewish Community in São Paulo), Manchete magazine and Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.
The name Klabin is often associated to wealth and power in Brazil. This is true but not entirely. The reader will learn on how the Klabins are also distinguished in the arts, culture, politics, philanthropy and benevolence, and how they are related to the Lafers, Kadischewitz, Segalls, Lorch, Warchavchik, Haas, Mindlin, etc.
The enclosed genealogical tree doesn't cover all the family, and not all the marriages shown there have lasted. We mentioned only the most important people (in our opinion).
Our history begins in the year of 1885, in the Russian Empire, Kovno Gubernya, Vilkomir District, in the village of Poselva (Zelwa). By that time, Moshe Elkhanan Lafer, 25, bachelor, son of the staroste (mayor of the village), was being persecuted by the Czar Alexander III and he decided to run away. He changed his name and walked for many days. He went to England and in 1889 he bought a 3rd class ticket to Brazil.
He arrived in São Paulo, then worked in a printing house which he bought right after that.
Moshe Elkhanan Lafer left behind a life without perspective in Russia and became the talented tycoon Mauricio Klabin, founder of a huge industrial, commercial, agricultural and real estate complex.
Bertha Osband, a 27 year-old young lady from Rezhitsa, beautiful and educated, was chosen by Mauricio's father to be his wife. After Bertha, Mauricio had his parents, brothers, uncles and cousins sent from Lithuania to work together in his flourishing business. Some of his relatives maintained the original Lafer as a family name, though others adopted Klabin.
His aunt Feiga Zlate (Lafer) Kadischewitz immigrated to Brazil as she became widow with five little children. One of those children, Wolf, then 9 or 10 years old, came to live at Mauricio's house, and in spite of being his cousin, was raised as if he were his son. Years later, Wolf Kadischewitz added the surname Klabin to his name becaming the famous Wolf K. Klabin.
The Klabin Brothers and Co. was established in 1895 as a stationary good commerce. A paper factory in Itú was leased in 1906 and in 1911 they founded the Ponte Grande Paper Industrial Co. In 1934, with Mauricio already dead, the giant Indústrias Klabin do Paraná, led by Wolf Klabin, heir of Mauricio's entrepreneur talents, started up. Till today it deals with reforestation, cellulose and paper. Besides this the Lafers and Klabins diversified: Metal Leve (car parts), Diner's credit card, Klabin Ceramics, and so on.
Mauricio had 3 daughters: Mina, married to the architect Gregori Warchavchik - the creator of the first modernistic house, adorned with works of other famous Brazilian artists (Lasar Segall, Di Cavalcanti, Tarsila do Amaral and Brecheret). The house was visited by 20.000 people in 1930! Warchavchik had a partner - Lucio Costa - and hired a young man with daring projects - Oscar Niemeyer. Years later, those two men built Brasília. The second daughter, Jenny, got married to Lasar Segall, a famous painter. She translated French and German classics to Portuguese. The third daughter, Luiza, married to Dr. Ludwig Lorch. They established the B'nai B'rith in Brazil.
As a matter of fact, the Jewish community owes a lot to the Klabin-Lafer militant generosity: the Chevra Kadishe of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the Renascença Hebrew School (Miguel Lafer), the Beth-El Temple (Mauricio Klabin and Miguel Lafer), the benevolent Ofidas (Bertha, Luba and Luiza Klabin), the Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital (Emma Klabin), among others.
In politics, the main personality was Horácio Lafer, co-founder of the first Brazilian major industrial and commercial syndicate (FIESP/CIESP), elected to the Parliament in 1934, 1954 and 1958, and Finance Minister of Getúlio Vargas and Foreign Affairs Minister of Juscelino Kubitschek. His cousin, prof. Celso Lafer, was also Foreign Affairs Minister in 1991. Arthur Dieudonné Haas, father-in-law to Wolf Klabin, co-founded the town of Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem do Curral d'El Rey, best known as Belo Horizonte, capital of the State of Minas Gerais.
Almost a century after Leon Lev Lafer-Klabin had been mayor of the little Pozelva, the firstborn son of Wolf Klabin - Israel Klabin - was mayor of the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. Both men also share the devotion to the study of the Talmud.