Elsa Frank

Nashville, Tennessee

Born: 1911 Hochst im Odenwald, Germany

Refugee: Hochst im Odenwald, Germany

“We were Germans in the true sense of the word. Our heart was in our country but we were rejected because of our religion,” reflected Elsa Herzfeld Frank. It hadn’t always been that way. Elsa grew up in a small town and attended synagogue with twenty other Jewish families. They were integrated into town life with neighbors of other faiths: her Hebrew teacher was also the town’s choir director; her mother was in a social club; her father was in a bridge club; and Elsa led a youth club. Elsa furthered her education and became an accountant in Frankfurt. She was happy.”

In 1930 Elsa’s best friend, Kada, told her they could no longer be friends; Kada’s brother was in the Nazi party now. Even when Elsa’s mother died in 1936, Kada dared not speak to her; lifelong neighbors and friends crossed streets to avoid Jews. Elsa found it “unbelievable” because she knew these people so well.

Elsa’s cousin, Jacob May of Nashville, often visited his brother in Hochst. He invited Elsa to Nashville, and leaving her fiancé, she came to Nashville in 1937. Mortimer May assisted her boyfriend in emigrating the next year. The couple married, eventually having two sons and their own small business.

In 1942 Elsa’s father was killed at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.

In 1962, she apprehensively traveled back to her hometown in Germany. It was a very difficult trip for Elsa to make. Elsa was met by the townspeople who remembered her and asked about the other Jews who had lived there. Unexpectedly, the Mayor and her old friend Kada apologized and expressed deep guilt for their actions during the Third Reich.

After her husband died in 1956, Elsa worked at Kroger for twenty years.