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Engraved wooden box presented to a Waffen SS general by his troops

Record Type:
1945-1946  (found)
1944  (commemoration)
Accession Number:
use : Yugoslavia
Brief Narrative:
Carved commemorative box that was given to SS Obergruppenfuhrer und General Der Polizei Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger in 1944 by his troops when he commanded the 5th Mountain Corps in German occupied Yugoslavia. It held Waffen SS labeled military photographs of the region. From 1939-1943, Kruger was the Higher SS and Police Leader for the Generalgouvernement in Poland, where he carried out Himmler’s killing operations for Jews in the region. In 1943, he was replaced due to a power struggle with Hans Frank, Governor General of Poland during the German occupation. He requested and was given the command of divisions in the field until the end of the war when he committed suicide on May 9, 1945 in Liepaja, Latvia. The box was acquired by Henry Birnbaum, a US soldier stationed in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1945-1946 where he served as a translator for the International Military Tribunal.
The box was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Irwin Birnbaum and Phillip Birnbaum.
Object Type:
Wooden boxes (lcsh)
overall : 8.750 x 12.380 x 8.880 in. (22.225 x 31.445 x 22.555 cm.)
exterior lid on left, carved : (SS double lightning bolt insignia) / GENERAL- / KOMMANDO / (oversized) V [(SS insignia) / GENERAL- / COMMAND / 5]
exterior lid on right, beneath carved flower, carved : (SS double lightning bolt insignia) SS-GEBIRGS- / KORPS [(SS insignia)-MOUNTAIN- / CORPS]
interior lid, etched : (SS double lightning bolt insignia) – OBERGRUPPENFŰHRER / UND GENERAL DER POLIZEI / (oversized) Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger / ZUR ERINNERUNG AN DAS V. (SS double lightning bolt insignia) / GEB. KORPS / UND ZUR BETRACHTUNG IN BESINNLICHEN STUNDEN [TOP COMMANDER AND GENERAL OF THE POLICE Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger TO REMEMBER THE 5TH MT. CORPS AND FOR STUDY AND CONTEMPLATION]
interior lid, etched beneath inscription : ABT. VI [DEPT.(?) 6]
overall : wood, stain, metal, string
Conditions on Access:
No restrictions on access
Conditions on Use:
No restrictions on use
Subject : Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger
Subject : Henry Birnbaum
Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger was born in Strasbourg, Germany, in the Alsace-Lorraine region, on February 27, 1894, into a family with a lengthy military tradition. His father, Alfred Kruger, was an Oberst [Colonel] in the German Army. Wilhelm was educated at the Karlsruhe Military Academy and the Prussian Main Military Academy.
He graduated in June 1914 and with the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant. He was wounded three times and awarded the Iron Cross 1st class. He returned to civilian life in 1922 and settled in Berlin. He married in 1922 and had two children and also raised three foster children. He became the director of a waste removal company from 1924-1928, when he left the company because he felt it was corrupt. He became a self-employed businessman. During these years he became friends with Kurt Daluege, commander of the SS in Berlin in 1929.
Kruger joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in November 1929 and entered the SS (Schutzstaffel [Protection Squadron]) in February 1931. The SS began as the security force for Nazi Party meetings. But after Heinrich Himmler became Reichsfuhrer SS, it began to transform into a large, lethal, well-organized paramilitary unit. Kruger transferred in April 1931 to the larger paramilitary SA (Sturmabteilung [Stormtrooper]). He received the rank of SA-Gruppenfuhrer (Major General) in 1932 and joined the personal staff of Ernst Rohm, head of the SA. In 1932, Kruger also became a Nazi Party Member of Parliament in Berlin, a position that he held until the end of the war. He continued to be promoted and by 1935 was an Oberabschnittsfuhrer [Senior Section Leader]. He was not a target during the Night of the Long Knives when Rohm and most of the SA leadership were arrested and executed for treason. Kruger rejoined the SS in 1935 and his career continued to flourish. He was rapidly promoted in the SS and came to the attention of Hitler, serving as his personal representative on several occasions.
After the invasion of Poland in 1939, Kruger was appointed as the Hohrer SS- und Polizeifuhere [Higher SS and Police Leader, HSSPF] for the Generalgouvernement [General Government] section of Poland, and a personal representative for Heinrich Himmler. Kruger was responsible for the liquidation of the Jewish ghettos as well as for the concentration camps in Poland. In 1943, Kruger was replaced as part of a long power struggle with Dr. Hans Frank, the Governor General of occupied Poland. Kruger requested a military command with the Army and was given divisional commands in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe for the rest of the war. Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, and Kruger, age 51, committed suicide on May 9 in Liepaja, Latvia. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg found the SS to be a criminal organization guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Henry Birnbaum was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland, on March 7, 1917. He was the son of Isaac Birnbaum, who was born in Poland in 1875. In April 1929, the Birnbaum family emigrated from Switzerland to the United States. In May 1941, Henry became a naturalized citizen, and joined the US Army. He served in an Army Intelligence Unit as a translator. From 1945-1946, Birnbaum was assigned as a translator for the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. After the war, Birnbaum worked as an academic library director, first with Brooklyn College, and then with Pace University, which named the library after him when he retired following 33 years of service. He died on July 21, 1999, at the age of 82.

Credit Line:
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Irwin Birnbaum and Phillip Birnbaum
Physical Description:
Rectangular, dark brown, wooden box with attached lid. The exterior lid has a carved relief design with a slightly pebbled background featuring German text in 2 outlined rectangles on the left and right; the right also has a carved edelweiss flower, the symbol of German mountain troops. The lid and the body have carved, outlined, rectangular border designs with the SS double lightning bolt insignia at each corner. The center front underside of the lid has a triangular metal latch that fits into a slot on the base. The lid is attached by 2 metal, rear butt hinges. On the left front is a round key hole. The interior of the lid has an etched German inscription of 5 lines. The inside compartment has a wooden partition. Each compartment has a circular, wooden seal carved with the SS lightning bolt insignia attached to a loop of blue string nailed in 2 places to the base to hold any contents in place.
Record last modified: 2014-07-30 16:10:02