Leopold Kronenberg

(1812-1878) The son of Eleazar Kronenberg (1772-1826), founder of a banking house (1820), which became the basis for the Kronenbergs' later wealth.

Leopold inherited a great deal, but also accumulated a great deal of wealth himself in the tobacco business. In 1845, he converted to Protestantism, thus avoiding the legal regulations that were disadvantageous for Jews; these were abolished after Poland regained its independence. He founded several sugar refineries and organized the Warsaw Association of Sugar Refineries. It was at his initiative, too, that the Association of Coal Mines and Steel Mills was created.

He was also one of the main share holders and moving forces behind the construction of the railway between Warsaw and Brzesc. In 1896, he leased the Warsaw-Vienna railway, thus saving it from bankruptcy. Firms Kronenberg founded were responsible for the construction of the Nadwislanska Railway in 1877 (from Lublin through Warsaw to Mława, which was on the Prussian border at that time). Kronenberg cooperated in his businesses with members of the Polish aristocracy: Count Andrzej Zamojski, August Potocki and Ksawery Puslowski, as well as the wealthy Jewish families, the Epsteins and the Loewensteins.
Despite the fact that he forsook Judaism, Kronenberg did not stop providing assistance to Jews, and granted Jewish firms a great deal of credit and subsidies, assisted Jewish hospitals and other charity programs.
During the January Uprising, Kronenberg was a leader of the White party. In danger of being arrested by the tsarist authorities, he left for France. He returned to Poland in 1864, but was not as successful as he had been earlier, because every Polish organization was considered by the Russians to be a potential source of rebellion. Wladyslaw Mickiewicz, the son of the Polish national bard, Adam Mickiewicz, said: "Kronenberg is very wise and stable in his views, though very prudent, as if he realized full well how pleased he would make the Russians if he gave them the opportunity to confiscate his property."

In 1868, he was ennobled. Leopold Kronenberg's family tomb is in Warsaw's Powazki cemetery.

His son Leopold Julian Kronenberg continued his father's broad range of activities, and was famous as a co-founder of the Warsaw Philharmonic; in 1897, he was made a baron.

In 1996, on the one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary of the opening of the Commerce Bank in Warsaw, the Leopold Kronenberg Bank Foundation was inaugurated. It is involved in activities aimed at supporting the public good, education, culture and art, as well as healthcare and social services. The Leopold Kronenberg Bank Foundation supports effective associations and foundations in specific fields that are of interest to the Foundation, as well as gifted young people; it also funds a yearly award for outstanding scholarly achievement in the fields of economics and finance.

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