Yiddishist Jacob Kronhill (Kronzylber) was born in Lublin on 12 November 1907 into a comfortable, well respected family of religious printers. His education began at the age of three when he commenced studies at Cheder moving on to the Chachmei Yeshivah in Lublin before transferring to a Polish high school in his teens. He then went to Warsaw University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a post graduate qualification at the School of Journalism. Throughout his early years he was a member of the Bund and mixed in literary circles that included writers such as the Singer brothers. While at University he was a member of a Jewish Self Defence group that endeavoured to protect Jewish students from many hostile student groups.
On 6 September 1939 Jacob escaped from Warsaw and made his way to Vilna where he stayed until January 1941. In Vilna Jacob and his wife obtained a transit visa to Japan and made their way across the USSR via the Trans Siberian railroad to Vladivostok. From there they journeyed on to Kobe in Japan. They remained there until September 1941, when they were transferred to Shanghai where they stayed until 1946. With a desire to leave the horrors of the war and Europe and with assistance from the JOINT, they obtained visas to Australia. Jacob, his wife and daughter arrived in Melbourne in June 1946 aboard an Indian cargo ship called the Kafiristan.
Initially life in Australia was difficult for Jacob Kronhill (as he was now known) but he nevertheless retained his commitment to the Bund and his love of Yiddishkeit. Jacob became active in Jewish Welfare serving on its Board of Management for nearly forty years. He was a founder of the Sholem Aleichem College in 1975, was on the Board of Deputies, served the Bund, was active in the Kadimah, the Jewish Secular Humanist Society, the Jewish Democratic Society and the Australian Labour Party. Furthermore, he was a founding member of Amnesty International in Australia in 1962 and was very active in the effort to save Soviet Jewry. He also established a peer counselling service at Peter McCallum hospital in memory of his wife who died of cancer. According to his daughter Irene Pletka, Jacob’s sense of justice and his commitment to the Jewish people meant that he could always be counted upon to help those who were oppressed and in need anywhere in the world.
Jacob Kronhill passed away in 2000.
Source: Questionnaire completed by Irene Kronhill Pletka (daughter).