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Engraved wooden box presented to a Lieutenant General of the SS by his troops

Object | Accession Number: 2005.525.2

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    Engraved wooden box presented to a Lieutenant General of the SS by his troops

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    Brief Narrative
    Engraved commemorative box presented to SS Obergruppenführer [Lieutenant general of the SS] Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger by the troops of the 5th Mountain Corps in German-occupied Yugoslavia, which he commanded from August 1944 to February 1945. The box was used to hold Waffen-SS labeled photographs of the region where Krüger’s troops had served. From October 1939 to October1943, Krüger served as Höherer SS und Polizeiführer [Supreme SS and Police Leader] for the Generalgouvernement in occupied Poland, where he carried out Heinrich Himmler’s killing operations for Jews in the region. In 1943, Krüger was replaced due to a power struggle with Hans Frank, Governor General of Poland during the German occupation. At Krüger’s request, he was given command of divisions in the field, and committed suicide after Germany's surrender in May 1945. After Krüger’s death, the box was acquired by Henry Birnbaum, a United States soldier who served as a translator for the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, from 1945-1946.
    found:  after 1945 May-1946
    commemoration:  1944 August-1945 February
    found: Europe
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Irwin Birnbaum and Phillip Birnbaum
    Subject: Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger
    Subject: Henry Birnbaum
    Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger (1894-1945) was born in Strasbourg, Germany (now France) to Alfred (? – 1914) and Helene Glünder Krüger (?-1930). Friedrich Wilhelm had two brothers, one of whom, Walter (1890-1945), had a career that paralleled his own. The second brother may have served in the military. His father, Alfred was an Oberst [Colonel] in the German Army. Friedrich Wilhelm was educated at the Karlsruhe and the Prussian Main Military Academies. Following the outbreak of World War I and his graduation in June 1914, Friedrich Wilhelm was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant in the German Army. In August 1914, his father, Alfred, was killed in action. Friedrich Wilhelm was wounded three times and awarded the Iron Cross, 1st class. In 1920, he returned to civilian life, and in 1922, Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger married Elisabeth Rasehorn (1896-?). The couple settled in Berlin and had two children, while also raising three foster children. He became the director of a waste removal company in 1924. Four years later, in 1928, he left the company because he felt it was corrupt and became a self-employed businessman. During these years, he became friends with Kurt Daluege, commander of the SS (Schutzstaffel [Protection Squadron]) in Berlin.

    Krüger joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in November 1929, and entered the SS in February 1931. Originally, the SS was subordinated to the leadership of the larger, paramilitary SA (Sturmabteilung [Assault Division also known as the Stormtroopers]). Initially, the SS was designed as a security force for protecting Adolf Hitler and members attending Nazi Party meetings. The group transformed into a large, lethal, well-organized paramilitary unit after Heinrich Himmler became Reichsführer SS. In April 1931, Krüger transferred to the SA. He attained the rank of SA-Gruppenführer [Lieutenant General] by 1932 and joined the personal staff of Ernst Röhm, head of the SA. In 1932, Krüger also became a Nazi Party Member of Parliament in Berlin, a position that he held until the end of the war. He was not a target during the Night of the Long Knives, during the summer of 1934, when Hitler ordered that Röhm and most of the SA leadership be arrested and executed for treason. Under Röhm’s leadership, the SA had become well organized, grown larger than the military, and escalated its violent actions against political opponents and undesirable elements of German society. SA leadership had sought to remove the elites from power and replace them with fanatical Nazis, as well as become the main military force in Germany. These goals threatened the Nazi Party and Hitler’s efforts to consolidate power, which required the cooperation of the traditional elites and army leaders, who promised to oust the Nazi government if the SA was not eliminated. The SS supported the dismantling of SA leadership, and was responsible for carrying out the purge. As a reward, the SS was made a separate organization. Krüger rejoined the SS at the rank of Obergruppenführer in January 1935. His career continued to flourish and included rapid promotions, bringing him to the attention of Hitler, for whom he served as a personal representative on several occasions.

    After the invasion of Poland in 1939, Krüger was appointed as the Höherer SS und Polizeiführer [Supreme SS and Police Leader, HSSPF] for the Generalgouvernement [General Government] section of Poland, and served as a personal representative for Heinrich Himmler. Krüger was responsible for the liquidation of the Jewish ghettos as well as for carrying out Heinrich Himmler’s killing operations for Jews in the concentration camps in occupied Poland. In 1943, Krüger was replaced as part of a long power struggle with Dr. Hans Frank, the Governor General of occupied Poland. Krüger requested a military command with the Army, and he was given command of divisions in the field. Following Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945, Krüger, committed suicide. Friedrich Wilhelm’s brother, Walter, had a less political career than Friedrich Wilhelm had, but attained the rank of Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS during World War II. He also committed suicide after Germany’s surrender, and before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg found the SS to be guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
    Heinrich Birnbaum (later Henry, 1917-1999) was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland. He was the son of Isaac (1874-1933) and Fannie Hauser Birnbaum. Isaac, a businessman by trade, was born near Warsaw, Poland. Henry had three siblings: Salo (later Sol, 1903-2001), Anna (Anne, 1906-?), and Asser (later Arthur, 1912-?). In 1923, Salo immigrated to the United States as a student. Henry’s mother passed away before the remaining members of the Birnbaum family immigrated to the US in April 1929. They settled in Brooklyn, New York, and Heinrich Americanized his name to Henry. His father, Isaac, ran a youth clothing business until his death, four years later. His brothers, Sol and Arthur, worked as clerks in a handkerchief company, and Anna was a bookkeeper at a silk company. Following graduation from high school, Henry became a clerk at Hoover Manufacturing and Sales Co. In May 1941, Henry became a naturalized US citizen, and joined the army. During World War II, he served in an Army intelligence unit as a translator. From 1945-1946, Birnbaum worked as a translator for the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. After the war, Birnbaum worked as the Chief Librarian at Brooklyn College from 1952-1961. He became University Librarian at Pace University in 1961, where he served for 33 years. Following his retirement, the University renamed the library on its New York City campus in his honor.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Wooden boxes (lcsh)
    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.
    overall: Height: 8.750 inches (22.225 cm) | Width: 12.380 inches (31.445 cm) | Depth: 8.880 inches (22.555 cm)
    overall : wood, stain, metal, string
    exterior lid on left, carved : (SS insignia) / GENERAL- / KOMMANDO / V
    exterior lid on right, beneath carved flower, carved : (SS insignia) SS-GEBIRGS- / KORPS [(SS insignia)-MOUNTAIN- / CORPS]
    interior lid, etched beneath inscription : ABT. VI [DEPT.(?) 6]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The box was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Irwin and Phillip Birnbaum, the nephews of Henry Birnbaum.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-28 07:51:56
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