Kronenberg Family Documents

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Most of the Holocaust-related translations I have done are the result of my intensive involvement in German-Jewish dialogue. This letter is one of many documents I have received from my correspondents in Geseke relating to my grandparents and translated so that they may be of use to current residents and Jewish descendants of the town as well as students everywhere.

Der Bürgermeister
den 15. Juli 1940



Es ist mir mitgeteilt, daß der Jude Kronenberg, bezw. dessen Frau bei Ihnen ein- und ausgehen, und der begründete Verdacht besteht, daß die Besuche die Hamsterung zwangsbewirtschafteter Lebensmittel bezwecken.

Ich mache Sie darauf aufmerksam, daß jede unberechtigte Abgabe von Lebensmitteln unter schwere Strafe gestellt ist und daß die Strafe besonders hart sein wird, wenn die Abgabe an Juden erfolgt ist. Außerdem ist der Umgang mit Juden eines Deutschen unwürdig und ich erwarte, daß Sie dies in Zukunft beherzigen werden.

Herrn Johannes Nolte
[unterzeichnet] Reckhard
The Mayor
July 15, 1940



I have been informed that the Jew Kronenberg and/or his wife have been going in and out of your place. There is a well- founded suspicion that the visits are for the purpose of hoarding rationed foodstuffs.

I draw your attention to the fact that all unauthorized distribution of foodstuffs carries severe penalties and that the penalty will be particularly harsh if distribution is made to Jews. Furthermore, consorting with Jews is unworthy of a German, and I expect that you will bear this in mind in the future.

Herrn Johannes Nolte
[signed] Reckhard

The following is my translation of an account written by a Elisabeth Rohde in Geseke, Westphalia, who in the early 1940s as a 13-year old girl brought food to my grandparents, the last Jews in Geseke. The article appeared originally in the Geseker Heimatblätter, a supplement to the town newspaper, in July 1994. The people involved are not the same as those above.

Text auf Deutsch

The Last Jews in Geseke

The following is an account of my experiences during the years of National Socialism when many people, particularly Jews, were despised and destroyed. They were allowed to starve and were exterminated in the most merciless fashion. As a young girl I was powerfully affected by this, and I think it is especially important to talk and write about these horrible deeds today and not keep them secret.

As a young girl I became acquainted with Jewish people who often visited my parents' home. My parents raised poultry, and since Jews may not eat pork on account of their religious beliefs, they often bought poultry from us. In this way I had early contact with Herr and Frau Kronenberg.

Ferdinand and Ida Kronenberg had once run a thriving business in Geseke. After Hitler's seizure of power, they gradually had to sell all of their possessions just to be able to live. They became poorer and poorer until there was hardly enough for their daily bread. Herr Kronenberg was made to clean out the sewers, certainly not fit work for a man of his age. My mother told them that they could come get what they needed to live. So Frau Kronenberg would come and get vegetables, eggs, butter, and bread from my parents.

One day Frau Kronenberg came again and picked up a few things. My uncle Wilhelm, who was disabled, was alone in the house with us children while my parents were working out in the field. I went and got lettuce and carrots from the garden and packed together everything that they might need. Many people went hungry during those years, including our soldiers who were fighting in the war. Wasn't it also our duty to help the Jews? When Frau Kronenberg came she never asked for much and was grateful for whatever she received.

After I had picked the carrots, I cut off the greens and then packed everything up. Frau Kronenberg had just left when our neighbor, who was a hard-core Nazi, came over and said to my uncle in a very angry voice: "Wilhelm, what did that old Jew woman get here again?" My uncle said to him, "Heinrich, she just got a few carrots. Look, you can see the cut greens on the ground!" Our neighbor, however, claimed that she had gotten much more, and then he threatened, "If I ever see that old Jew woman here again, I'll make sure you end up where you won't like it." At this moment, my little brother came out of the kitchen, where he had been doing his homework. He had heard everything that this man had ranted. Quietly and with all the innocence of childhood he said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Our neighbor left the house in a blind rage. However, after a short time he returned and asserted that my brother could not possibly have said that on his own but had been put up to it. He was angered even further when my uncle apologized and asked him to please let the matter drop.

That night we talked about how we could best continue to help the Kronenbergs. We came to the conclusion that we would have to bring food to them in such a way that our neighbor would not find out. My mother then said to me: "Listen, you still have young legs. You bring the old people what they need." Together we figured out what route I should take so there would be no suspicion, because the Kronenbergs lived on the other end of town.

That is how it happened that I brought the old people what they needed. We told them that everything would continue as before. I would start out at night when it was dark. It was a long distance, so I would run part of the way. When I arrived at the apartment and rang the bell, Frau Kronenberg would open the door and look out carefully to see who it might be. When she recognized me, she would quickly take me by the hand and lock the door behind us. Quietly we would tiptoe up the stairs because she didn't want to disturb the owner, who was still willing to rent them rooms. She kept saying, "We are Jews and don't want to burden anybody with it."

I went this route often. Because I was still young, I hardly comprehended the poverty. The Kronenbergs had almost no furniture left in their apartment: a table, two stools, a cabinet, an oven. Two empty orange crates stood upright against the wall topped by an unfinished board. That was where we often sat. One day they told me about their sons who had emigrated a while ago and lived in the United States. They said that when their sons returned to Geseke, I should give them their greetings and tell them how their parents had lived in their old age.

And so we often sat on that board which served as a bench. One evening the poor woman stood up, went to the cabinet, and took out a cup. The cup was cracked and was missing the handle. She took a medallion from this cup and said, "I want to give this to you as a memento. We don't have very much left." Then she asked her husband, "Don't you have a little something as well?" Herr Kronenberg thought it over and said, "If they come to get us one of these days and don't find anything here, they'll beat us on the spot." Frau Kronenberg looked sad and replied, "What is our life still worth?" He then came to a decision and removed a compass from his watch chain. Looking at me he said firmly, "Keep this to remember us Jews. If you come here one of these days and nobody answers the door, you will know that they have taken us away."

I kept going to the Kronenbergs' until one day the door remained locked. Lost in thought I walked back home with my bag of food. I never saw them again. Only the medallion and the compass remain, a constant reminder.

NOTE: Ferdinand and Ida Kronenberg were deported to Theresienstadt on July 29, 1942; their final destination was Auschwitz. In October 1995 I met the woman who wrote this article. I brought my grandfather's pocket watch to our meeting. My one remaining uncle, Gerhard, is now also in contact with Frau Rohde, and so his father's request has been honored.

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I have translated a series of documents and photos, some of which deal directly with my grandparents, that chronicle the period from 1914 to July 21, 1942. To read them, please click below:


Hier können Sie Dokumente und Aufnahmen lesen und sehen, die eine Art Familienchronik der Jahre zwischen 1914-1942 bilden:


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The Reich Association of Jews in Germany

After sitting on them for almost 3 years, I have finally translated documents relating to the role played by the Reich Association of Jews in Germany in the Holocaust. The story is so troubling and difficult that I still do not know where I stand. Nevertheless, I feel that this information should be made fully public.

Die Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland

Nach fast drei Jahren, habe ich mich entschlossen, diese schwierigen Dokumente über die Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland zu veröffentlichen. Ich hoffe, daß ich hiermit einen Beitrag zur öffentlichen Diskussion mache.


I have written several essays concerning my trip to Germany. If you would like read them, please click below:

A Few Thoughts on the Rails

Gedanken über die Eisenbahn

My Trip to Auschwitz

Please be patient: this essay now has 5 photographs.

Meine Reise nach Auschwitz

Bitte Geduld: Dieser Essay hat 5 Aufnahmen.

Taking the Night Train

Der Nachtzug

A Letter from My Cousin

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