Emil Jellinek was born in Leipzig on 6 April 1853. As a schoolboy, he brought his parents anything but joy. An initial period of private tuition until 1863 was followed by a chequered school career. Young Emil completely rejected all aspects of school work.
At the age of 17, he started work as a civil servant with the Rot-Kostelec North-Western Railway Company in Böhmen but had to leave again only two years later.
Emil Jellinek then moved to France and from there, at the request of the Austro-Hungarian Consul, he went to Tangiers. A year later, he went to Tetuan as a Consular Agent, married a Frenchwoman and built up a successful business trading North African products.
In 1881, Jellinek returned to Vienna to take over the agency for an insurance company. He was eventually appointed inspector – yet something drew him back to North Africa. His two sons, Adolph and Fernand, were born in Algiers. Emil Jellinek moved back to Vienna with his family in 1889.