Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2021

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Where I Stand:

Henry’s recipe for a very long life

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Wade Vandervort

Ninety-nine-year-old Holocaust survivor Henry Kronberg gives a speech during the Touro University Nevada spring commencement ceremony at Westgate Monday, May 13, 2019. Twenty-one Holocaust survivors were awarded honorary degrees by the university.

I am told that a child born today has an excellent chance of living a good, healthy life past 100 years of age.

Henry Kronberg managed to live to be 101. But, he was born near the beginning of a prior century when there was no such expectation.

He passed away this week after living what can only be described as a remarkable life, defying the greatest of death threats and living joyously on the rebound.

The first part of his journey put him in the middle of Hitler’s murderous rage against the Jews. The part where I had the honor and privilege to know him encompassed the last 60 years right here in Las Vegas.

In the earlier days of our community, Henry and Lillian Kronberg were mainstays of Las Vegas life. They had met and married not long after being liberated by the Allies from the German concentration camps that defined their existence during the latter part of World War II.

I remember when Henry came to Las Vegas. He and Lillian moved into a home around the corner from us. In those days, around the corner encompassed practically the entire city, so everyone knew almost everyone else.

As a Holocaust survivor, he was a bit of an uncomfortable celebrity. He was an optimist by nature, so looking forward was his thing. That’s what he tried to teach the young people he met, even though he couldn’t escape the very personal and troubled memories of the Holocaust, which made his unbridled optimism that much more extraordinary.

Mike Mushkin, also a longtime Las Vegan, said Henry was like a second father. Mushkin remembered Henry as a “respected businessman who was quiet and reserved with a tremendous sense of humor. Except one day when he spoke to the congregation about the Holocaust. The theme was clear, ‘we must never forget!’

“To hear his story about being liberated from the concentration camp and brought back to health was amazing. But to hear him talk about recognizing the limp of a brutally murderous concentration camp guard, struggling to communicate this to the authorities and, ultimately, watching the arrest of that monstrous man brought all who heard him to tears. I will never forget that speech nor this man.”

I remember running into Henry at the Smith Center, shortly after his 96th birthday. Always full of life — he had that knowing appreciation that comes from almost losing it — he was practically skipping up the aisle during an intermission. And, as always, Henry was sartorially splendid.

He grabbed Myra and me and, as was always the case, started to reminisce. I noticed he was holding a Tesla car key in his hand.

“Brian, you will never guess what I bought myself for my 96th birthday.” He could hardly contain himself, smiling from ear to ear.

I took one guess.

“How did you know? And boy, is it fast!”

That did it for me. I feared for a 96-year-old man screaming down the road at Tesla speeds. And I feared for everyone else.

But I kept that part quiet. I shared in his joy.

It was, after all, the joy and thrill of living life to the fullest in his own quiet (electric car quiet) way.

Henry Kronberg defied all the odds living to an age that the newest generations will, hopefully, take for granted. He would wish for them that their 100-plus years would be far less eventful.

And now that he is at peace, we can learn from him, once again, during our own most challenging time.

Henry Kronberg would teach us to live life to the fullest. It should be a life defined by optimism and full of love. And it should be a life tempered by the wisdom of the past, which should allow us to appreciate all that we have today.

That’s what he would teach. And he would hope with all his being that we would learn.

Rest in peace, Henry Kronberg.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.