Polish bankers and industrialists, active in Warsaw in the nineteenth century. Samuel Eleazar Kronenberg (Lejzor Hirszowicz Kronenberg; 1773–1826), the patriarch of the family, had 13 children and founded the S. L. Kronenberg Bank. Originally from Wyszogród, Kronenberg was influenced by the Haskalah and attended the “German” synagogue on Warsaw’s Daniłowiczowska Street. In 1808, however, he broke with Jewish tradition, shaved his beard, and began to wear European-style clothing. On friendly terms with Poles from aristocratic families, he was allowed to live outside the Jewish district and belonged to the Masonic lodge, Bouclier du Nord. Eight of Kronenberg’s children survived, including five sons, but only the eldest, Ludwik (1783–1882), remained Jewish and was committed to his father’s synagogue. Ludwik Kronenberg worked as a banker and agent for the stock exchange.
Several of Samuel Kronenberg’s descendants played important roles in Poland’s economic and social development. The most powerful member of the family was another of Samuel’s sons, the financier and industrialist Leopold Kronenberg (1812–1878), who in 1870 founded the Commercial Bank of Warsaw, an institute that expanded and opened a branch in Saint Petersburg called the Petersburg Lending and Discount Bank. Leopold Kronenberg attended a Piarist gymnasium and the Warsaw Lyceum, and then studied in Germany from 1829 through 1832. Away from Poland during the insurrection of November 1831, he acquired shares in a tobacco company and turned the business into a major enterprise. In 1832 he began to run the operations of the S. L. Kronenberg Widow and Sons Bank. Business pressures led him to convert to Calvinism in 1845, and in 1868 he was awarded a hereditary noble title.
Leopold invested his huge tobacco profits into agriculture, the sugar trade, banking, and railroad construction. When he went into competition with the Epstein family over the management of the Warsaw–Vienna Railway Company in 1869, he capitalized upon Polish prejudices against German financial transactions and was able to Polonize the company. By the mid-1870s, however, Jan Bloch’s ventures surpassed Kronenberg’s in the railroad industry.
In the early 1860s, Kronenberg helped to instigate the 1863 uprising against Russian rule. In danger of arrest, he fled to Dresden in June of that year. After his return the following year, he abandoned politics and paid substantial bribes as retribution for his actions. In 1875, he established a business school in Warsaw (the institute, later named in his honor, still exists as the Warsaw School of Economics), and founded the journal Ekonomista. With other members of the Kronenberg family, he continued to support Jewish charitable institutions and took action against antisemitism during the so-called “Polish–Jewish war” in 1859 by purchasing the liberal Gazeta Codzienna (after 1861, renamed the Gazeta Polska). He also encouraged Jewish assimilation through his sponsorship of the weekly Polish-language Jewish publication Jutrzenka.
Leopold Kronenberg had three sons, none of whom maintained ties with the Jewish community. Stanisław Leopold (1840–1894) worked as an industrialist and financier; Władysław Edward (1848–1892) was a musician and philanthropist; and Leopold Julian (1849–1937; granted the title of baron after 1898) was a businessman, composer, and chairman of the board of the Warsaw Philharmonic. Although members of the family continued to be active in Polish economic life, none was as successful as the earlier financiers.
Szymon Askenazy, ed., Leopold Kronenberg: Monografia zbiorowa (Warsaw, 1922); Maria Dynowska, ed., Józef Ignacy Kraszewski–Leopold Kronenberg: Korespondencja 1859–1876 (Kraków, 1929); Ryszard Kołodziejczyk, Portret warszawskiego milionera (Warsaw, 1968); Leopold Kronenberg, Wspomnienia (Warsaw, 1933); Kazimierz Reychman, Szkice genealogiczne, series 1, pp. 111–115 (Warsaw, 1936).
Translated from Polish by Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov