Who was John Kronberg?

A couple of years ago, the local paper in Szolnok marked the 90th anniversary of the "Arsenic Trials" by running a full-page feature on John (János) Kronberg, the celebrated attorney who lead the investigation and prosecution of the women. The case would define his career.

Kronberg’s backstory is at once fascinating and heartbreaking to me. He fled to Szolnok from his home in Transylvania when the region fell to Romanian invaders in a post-war land grab (WWI). He, his wife, and their two very young sons had to escape--the Romanians had installed their own men in the courts, and Kronberg faced certain imprisonment if he stayed (for refusing an oath to the king).

He forfeited not only the legal career he had built there, but likely his home, as well. It would have torn him up to think of occupiers setting up house in his house—preparing meals in his kitchen, sleeping in his bedroom.

In Szolnok, he never really felt truly at home. It was a smaller city than the one he had left, and the landscape of the flat-as-a-penny Plains depressed him. You bloom where you're planted, and he had been planted in mountainous Transylvania.* People who knew him in Szolnok described him as very refined, but very reserved. Exceedingly private. His housekeeper was sworn to secrecy, instructed never to utter a word about his homelife. But one story that was passed down through the family was how he once found an injured deer who had suffered a broken leg. Kronberg brought the deer home and spent months nursing the darling animal back to health. I love him for this.

*Transylvania became part of Hungary in 1002, under the rule of King Stephen. It has been part of Romania since the end of WWI. Kronberg was living in a city now known as Sibiu.