The Citi Handlowy Leopold Kronenberg Foundation

Leopold Kronenberg  (1812-1878), Founder of Bank Handlowy
w Warszawie S.A.

Leopold Kronenberg was born in Warsaw on March 24, 1812 to a wealthy Jewish family. He began his education at a Piarist high school in ¯oliborz, and went on to pursue studies in Hamburg and Berlin. In 1832 he returned to Poland and took over the running of his family's S.L. Kronenberg banking house. With his talents, knowledge and connections in Warsaw's business and government circles, he was able to build up a large fortune, becoming the richest man in Poland. The fact that he was out of the country during the November Uprising of 1830-31 and did not get involved in its politics made it significantly easier for him to get a start.

The source of Kronenberg's financial power was the administration of the tobacco monopoly in the Kingdom of Poland, which he reorganized, cutting down on smuggling and increasing its revenues. The money he earned this way enabled him to get involved in many of the Kingdom's industries, such as sugar refining, mining and iron and steel. One of the most important sources of Kronenberg's wealth was his involvement in railway expansion. To this day, we travel on rail lines that he built and managed.

But Leopold Kronenberg did not limit himself to business activities; he also played an active role in political life. He was a member of the City Delegation which was the leading force for public order following the bloody suppression by the Russian Army of demonstrations on Krakowskie Przedmie¶cie Street in 1861. He then joined the leadership of the "Whites", a moderate grouping opposed to insurrectionary activities and favoring constitutional reforms. However, when the January Uprising broke out, Kronenberg eventually supported it and also played a key role in financing the insurgent movement, providing funds for the purchase of weapons. Because of the threat of arrest by the Russians, he left for France with his family. After returning to Poland in 1864, he got even more involved in civic and political life. Despite the obstacles he continued his activities. In 1875, using his own funds, he founded the Commercial School of Warsaw (whose graduates later established today's Warsaw School of Economics).

The most important achievement of Leopold Kronenberg was the founding in 1870, along with other Warsaw financiers and members of the aristocracy and intelligentsia, of Bank Handlowy in Warsaw, operating at present under the name Citi Handlowy. It is the oldest continuously operating bank in Poland. Leopold Kronenberg died in 1878 in Nice. His engagement in community activities is being continued by the foundation named for him, established on the 125th anniversary of the founding of Bank Handlowy in Warsaw.