Text auf Deutsch

During World War I, my grandmother, Ida Jelinowski (née Kronenberg), wrote the following poem to her husband at the front. It is the poem of a patriotic wife and mother. I have tried to retain the feeling of the German original. The photo was probably taken in late 1914 or early 1915: Ferdinand and Ida Jelinowski, my father Werner (1909), his younger brother Norbert (1912). My uncle Gerhard was born in 1915.

The Soldier's Wife
Dearest: Recently I thought of you
As the rain beat down throughout the night;
Bereft of sleep I could only rue.
Which of us bears the harder plight?
If I were with you, I'd not fear,
But the nights alone are dark and drear.
Yes, it's hard to be a man, I know,
But hard is, too, the road I go.
The other day, your boy let out:
"Will Daddy be coming home real soon?
Why is there war? Why does he fight?"
Questions in which innocents delight.
Dearest: How would you have answered him?

You are a soldier, but I stand with others:
An army of loving wives and mothers
All working toward a future bright
When we will live in peace and light,
If all will do their share.
Dearest: This is how I thought of you
As the rain beat down throughout the night.
Bereft of sleep; still I knew in my heart
That each of us shoulders their part.

Official documents show that on October 19, 1929, Ferdinand changed the family's name from Jelinowski to Kronenberg, a German-sounding name. This was done for business reasons. The family was not only dealing with antisemitism, but also deep antislavic attitudes, and Jelinowski was an "eastern" name.

For his service in the war, my grandfather was awarded the Iron Cross. In accordance with Hindenberg's stipulations to Hitler, the new Nazi regime for a time allowed Jews to take part in ceremonies honoring the sacrifices of German soldiers. Ferdinand Kronenberg can be barely seen in this photograph on the right side below the escutcheon (shield), three heads down. Next to him stood an SA man in uniform. The photo was probably taken some time between 1933-35.

* * *

The following leaflet was given me by my friends in Geseke. It was saved by the mother of one of the members of the working group. She herself had been a founding member of the group and was active in it until her death. In the early 1930s, she worked as a secretary for the largest grain dealer in the area named Schild. After this leaflet came out, Nazis started taking photographs of farmers who still dealt with Schild. Eventually, he lost the business and had to sell to a "Volksgenosse," or national comrade. Take note of the final two paragraphs and particularly the last sentence; Dachau had just been opened.



August 12, 1933
Höxter District

Regional Farmers Organization in Westphalia
Paderborn Section

It has been learned that there are farmers who continue to sell their grain to Jews.

That is no longer permitted!
Each farmer is required, if possible, to work with cooperatives, grain houses and Christian

The necessity of this policy has become clear to all farmers and farmers' wives who have gradually gone along with it. Those who do not yet understand must be educated to this position.

Grain can easily be sold through cooperatives, grain houses and Christian dealers. Whoever has signed delivery contracts with Jews or owes money to Jewish firms must contact the cooperatives, grain houses or Christian dealers and work out with them how the obligations are to be settled.

Artificial fertilizer, feeds, and similar items may only be bought through cooperatives, grain houses and Christian dealers!

As far as the sale of fatted cattle is concerned, there are cattle sales cooperatives and Christian dealers everywhere. No farmer has the right to sell fatted cattle to Jews or to allow them to sell the cattle.

Soon, the sale of dairy cows and horses will be handled by cooperatives and Christian dealers as well. To this end, the cattle sales cooperatives must immediately make the necessary arrangements. Only as long as these arrangements have not been built will farmers be permitted to do business with their present dealers.

Naturally, the cooperatives, grain houses and Christian dealers must do everything to service you as well as possible. On the other hand, all means will be employed to assure that Jews no longer have any business being on a farmer's property and that no farmer of farm wife will do business with Jews in the future.

Local leaders and representatives - particularly representatives of the cooperative movement - are hereby required, and responsible to me for seeing to it that products and means of production for which the Jews are no longer necessary will under no circumstances be sold to or bought from Jews.

Any comrade who continues to work with Jews is to be reported to me immediately. His name will then be made public in the newspapers and later be placed on announcement boards that will be hung at an inn in each locality.

Those local leaders and representatives who do not use all means at their disposal to carry out my orders will be replaced. Whoever works against this policy will be treated as a saboteur. As of today, whoever continues selling his grain to Jews can count on landing in the concentration camp.

Heil Hitler!
Der Bezirksbauernführer

* * *

Kristallnacht took place during the night of November 9, 1938. During that night, synagogues and Jewish businesses throughout Germany were looted and set on fire. The report that follows, written by Mayor Reckhard, a Nazi appointee, is completely disingenuous. He knew what was going to happen, even if he did not take part himself. Far from preventing further damage, the SS had organized the entire riot. Language, such as "protective custody" was designed to give a legal gloss to summary arrests.

The Mayor
in His Police Capacity
Sect. IVb.

Geseke, November 10, 1938

1) To the district office of the Geheime Staatspolizei, Dortmund.

With regard to the events reported by telephone through my subordinate this morning at about 6:00, I make the following report:

Last night at about 3:30 there was a tumult in front of the local Jew houses, in particular buildings owned by the Jews Artur Steinberg and Max Abel. The former owns a larger building out of which he once operated a hardware store. For some time, however, it has been rented to an Aryan national comrade. While the store is on the ground floor and inventory is stored in the attic, Jew Steinberg has his apartment in the 1st floor. All of the windows there were smashed in. The demonstrators demanded loudly that Jew Steinberg should come down. When this did not happen and the front door was not opened, they used a ladder to climb through the window and forced the Jew to go downstairs with them. Apparently damage was limited to the windows of the floor occupied by Steinberg, while the other parts of the building that are rented were untouched.

In the meantime, several demonstrators moved on to the building owned by Jew Abel, the cattle dealer [lit. cattle-Jew Abel], who has rented to several Aryan national comrades, while he himself lives in the 1st floor. The people living downstairs opened the door for them, and they thus gained access to Abel's apartment. They demanded that Abel get up and come with them; they then smashed all the windows in his private apartment. In the meantime, the local SS commander, who had been informed of the events by someone per telephone, arrived on the scene with several SS men; in order to prevent further such actions, he placed the two Jews under his protection. The demonstrators then wanted to break into the Jewish synagogue, probably in order to continue destroying. For several weeks, unrestricted access to this synagogue has been granted to the local police and town administration by a written declaration signed by the local Jewish representatives of the synagogue. Because of this, the SS commander was able to prevent damage to the synagogue. He had both Jews brought into the synagogue and placed under SS guard there.

In the meantime, Jews Herz and Kronenberg, who are renters in Aryan houses, were also forced out of bed and brought to the synagogue.

There was no damage to apartments rented by Jews from Aryan national comrades. The SS then brought the 4 Jews to the police administration where they were temporarily placed in protective custody for their own safety as it was feared that there might be further actions taken against them. On orders from the responsible judge on duty there and in order to prevent further attacks should the Jews be set free, they remain in protective custody for the time being.

Personal documents concerning the Jews are enclosed.

2) Zd. B.

* * *

During this period, the Nazi's strategy was to get the Jews to emigrate. They had not yet formulated the Final Solution (not at Wannsee in 1942 as is often thought, but sometime during 1941). My grandfather had to sign the following document:

Geseke, December 6, 1938

The Jew Ferdinand Kronenberg, born on November 28, 1879 in Johannesburg in East Prussia and living in Geseke, Orth ab Hagenstr. 20, has been summoned and declares:

I have been notified that I am to actively pursue emigration for myself as well as my family, wife, and _____ children. Emigration is to occur within 14 days, at the most 3 weeks from the time of this notification. At the very least, by the time of this deadline, I must be able to show documents that demonstrate that my attempts to emigrate have taken tangible forms.

Should I be unable to produce such documents, and should I intentionally delay my emigration and that of my family, I may count on renewed imprisonment and/or other police measures.

v. g. u.

(signed) Ferdinand Kronenberg

g. w. o.

Pol. Sachb.

* * *

Like many other German Jews, my grandparents tried to leave Germany and join their son Werner, my father, in the U.S.

Form DC
811 . 11

American Consulate Stuttgart, P.O. Box 949


The consulate has received guaranties and/or other documents in connection with your intended immigration into the United States. The receipt of guaranties does not mean that a notification has been made. A notification is only made when the required notification form has been filled out and confirmed by kthe consulate. The notification number is not the same as the quota number.

Considering the large number of inquiries for immigration visas for the United States by persons who have a lower waiting number than yours, your case will not be acted on in the forseeable future. At this time it is not appropriate to try to determine whether the guaranties are sufficient, if only because in general, guaranties and connected documents become invalid after one year. You will be notified when your number comes up, and then you will be called upon to produce newly dated documentation certifying your livlihood in the Unioted States.

Affidavits should not be sent in for German notification numbers above 24,000. Photocopies will not be accepted.

Immigration visas will be granted strictly by numerical sequence, except in such cases in which immigration law expressly allows preferential treatment. Attempts at being processed out of sequence will not be considered nor answered. Exchanges on the waiting list, and/or the transfer of a notification number to another person will not be considered under any circumstances.

Only the following persons are eligible for preferential immigration according to the law:

A. Parents (not step-parents) of American citizens over the age of 21: Wives and husbands and unmarried minor children (not step-children) of American citizens. (In such cases, form 633 must be filled out by the applicable family members.)

B. Wives, whose husband and minor unmarried children, whose father and/or mother immigrated legally to the United States and are domiciled there. (In such cases, form 575 must be filled out by the applicable family members.)

Affidavits will not be released, not even for the purpose of making photocopies.

Please notify your guarantor in accordance with #1 laid out in this letter.

The American Consulate

* * *

Needless to say, my grandparents' numbers were much higher than 24,000. What follows is his last known written communication. Jews going to Theresienstadt had to pay in a 50 Reichsmark (RM) deposit per person, which was supposedly going to be returned to them. My grandparents no longer had that much, and so an agent of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany was supposed to try and get it for them. They could also apply to take special items. Since he was a tailor, he wanted to take his sewing machine so he could make a living at the "relocation site." That was how the Nazis conned people into going peacefully.

July 21, 1942

Dear Herr Schreiber:
I waited for the mail but have received nothing from you. Take it that the sewing machine and mattresses have been denied, that's why I have listed everything. Have you gotten the allowance (sum) of RM 50 for each of us, otherwise will have to get it myself. Please let me know immediately. Hope that have done everything right and remain with greetings

F. Kronenberg

Have included rental book [Sewing machine denied]
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

The Trip to Auschwitz

Please be patient: this essay now has 5 photographs.

Taking the Night Train

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