Cousin Stefan Frank’s Life Story
My connection to the Midas family is twofold. My father, Julius Frank, was the brother of Bill’s grandmother Sofie Midas nee Frank. And my maternal great-grandmother Berta Mandelbaum, nee Midas was a sister to Adolf Midas, Bill’s great-grandfather. I am Stefan Frank.
I was ten when the Nazis came into power in Germany. Within 2 years I experienced discrimination from my teachers. By that time I was the only Jew in the Gymnasium. My same-age school mates, however, were very supportive. In 1935, after being forcibly retired from his job as a judge, my father decided that the situation looked very dangerous and he was afraid his 2 sons, Michael and myself, would be drafted into labor battalions. Consequently he took Michael, age 16, out of school and apprenticed him to a mechanic so he would have a trade upon leaving the country. Father managed to arrange passage for Michael to go Palestine in 1936. He was 17 and initially ended up in a children’s village in Nahalal. Later he attended the Technion in Haifa, became an engineer and made the Israeli army his career. The same year father took me out of school and found a job for me as apprentice cook in a sanatorium in Bad Kissingen. I was 14. For two years I did that, cutting trade school at the same time which was stupid but I was scared of going. Now Great Britain closed the borders to Palestine and I could not join my brother. Consequently father managed for me to get a visa to the US and at age 15 I went alone to New York City, where an aunt and cousins welcomed me.
I went to Food Trades Voc. High School until 1940 when my parents came and I needed a job to help support them. They had experienced “Crystal Night”. The Nazis destroyed the inside of their apartment and my father was arrested. Through the efforts of a friendly court physician he escaped being sent to concentration camp Dachau like the rest of the Schweinfurt Jewish men. He was released after 5 days. The rest of the Jewish men came home after 20 days in Dachau. He then moved to Munich where he headed the Jewish welfare organization, never knowing whether he would be arrested. He was threatened with that every day. His mother Pauline, Bill Mohr’s great-grandmother joined him there as both her other 2 children had left Germany. My parents managed to come to the US in April 1940 leaving Pauline in a senior home. She was later transported to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia where she starved to death, She was 84.
Because of economic needs I had to continue working as an assistant cook and could not continue my education. I was drafted in 1943. Spent time near the Italian front in Naples. After the war I re-enlisted and became a translator of captured German documents in Washington, DC. This gave me the opportunity to finish high school at night. Upon leaving the Army I entered Cornell University and graduated with a degree of Master of Food Science. Got married and started my last career as a Food Technologist.
What the Nazis did was to rend the family apart, killing a large number of relatives and interrupting my life in such a way that my progression was not normal for an average person. I felt kind of left out of life. I stayed with various family members at different times. I finally ended up in a boys home. There was little structure in my life at that time. When I finally lived with my parents again I became more focused, but not completely. Thank goodness life became better after marriage and satisfactory work.
My wife Suzanne Heidenheimer also experienced Nazi kindness. Her father was arrested and falsely charged with money smuggling early in 1937. He was given a choice of Dachau or immediate departure from the country. He managed to flee to England, leaving his wife and two children. It was Suzanne’s birthday when “Crystal Night” happened in their apartment. Later they had to vacate their apartment because an official wanted it and they were forced to live in a one-bedroom place. The synagogue was burned down and the children had to go to a so-called Jewish school. Through relatives in the States they were able to leave Germany in 1940 just before the borders closed. In New York her mother became a cleaning lady while the 3 of them were living in one room. Suzanne and her older brother Arnold started regular school. Her father came from England in 1944. He found a job as a packer for a dress company. We were married in 1955 after we both had finished college.