2015 Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture Series Guest, George Kronenberg
George Kronenberg was born in the small town of Warburg, Germany, in 1928. By all accounts, he had a normal childhood. His father was a salesman and his mother was a housewife. Until the mid-1930s, George and his twin sister, Marion, attended public schools when Jewish children were banned. Following that, he was tutored by a rabbi. At that time, George believed that the Nazi marches in the streets and the restrictive laws were just normal occurrences.
George remembers Kristallnacht, often referred to as the “Night of Broken Glass.” The name refers to the wave of violent anti-Jewish attacks which took place in late 1938. As a 10-year-old boy, he recalls the broken glass from windows of synagogues, homes and Jewish-owned businesses destroyed during the violence. George’s father was arrested during the Kristallnacht violence and released the next day. For their safety, the family departed for Hannover, Germany, where his mother was visiting relatives at the time. When they returned home days later, they discovered their family home had been destroyed and their possessions stolen.
With relatives in Hamburg, George and his sister were sent there under the pretext that they were on “vacation” and their parents would soon follow them there. From there, the children traveled to England, on the second wave that sent some 10,000 children there in the Kindertransport movement to flee Nazi Germany. They would never return to Warburg. Each child was allowed one small suitcase and valuable items were prohibited. George was able to smuggle out a pocket watch that belonged to his grandfather, a family heirloom that he still treasures today.
Arriving in England, many of the children were assigned to large “huts” that George described as very cold. Believing their parents would be coming for them, George and his sister often hid to avoid being taken in by English families. Later, they were separated when they were sent to live in hostels in England. George was taken in by a relatively affluent family, who enrolled him in a boarding school in the resort town of Margate, where he began to study the English language. He learned later that Marion’s situation was much different; she suffered from abused and beaten.
Initially, the children were allowed to briefly correspond with their parents, exchanging letters that were limited to 25 words. One day the letters stopped. Five years later, George learned through the Red Cross that his parents had been sent to Auschwitz, where they perished.
At war’s end, George had planned to go to Israel. It was then that he was reunited with his sister. Eventually, the Kronenberg children immigrated to the United States to live with an aunt and uncle. George went to college and settled in the Cleveland area. He worked at American Greetings, married and adopted a daughter. His wife passed away four years ago. Despite early struggles and a delicate health condition, George maintains a positive outlook on life. He frequently shares his childhood experiences, including the message to remember the Holocaust with the hope that its atrocities will not be repeated.
The Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture Series allows Heidelberg University to continue to develop responses to the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.
Alumnus Donald Behm, a World War II veteran who helped liberate the Mauthausen concentration camp, was later united with Holocaust survivor Jimmy Lichtman. In 2010, the university formed a relationship with the Lichtman family, and as a result, established the Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture Series.
The mission of the series is to bring to light the human tragedy of genocide for the campus, local school children and the community at large. Through special programming each fall, we are reminded that we are all connected to the past. The series reminds us to never forget and encourages us to work toward a world where these atrocities will not occur.
*Film, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
*Remembrance Ceremony for Don Behm, ’51,
co-founder of the Lichtman-Behm Genocide Lecture Series
*General Keynote Address, Mr. George Kronenberg
Wickham Great Hall
Keynote Address for schoolchildren
*Presentation, Turning Activism into Action: The Coalition for Preserving Memory with David Estrin, grandson of Jimmy Lichtman
*Art, Music, and Recovering from Trauma
Dr. Carol Dusdieker and Dr. Traci Stark
Ohl Concert Hall