By 1939, Lotte Frank’s father was wearing his overcoat at all times, waiting to be picked up by the Germans. One day, terrified by a knock at the door, they encountered three soldiers. One immediately recognized her father, embraced him and shouted, “Ludwig!” Lotte’s father had in fact saved this fellow soldier’s life during World War I, and so he let them stay in their home. They had been living a happy life in Lackenbach, a town two hours from Vienna, where Jews had lived since 1582! But in a short time, Lotte, her sister Herta, and her parents were abruptly forced to leave their home and business with only two days’ notice.
Initially, they were able to stay with cousins in Vienna and eventually managed to get papers in order to leave for the United States. Their only way out was to board a freighter bound for San Francisco with a total of $80. Lotte was 13; her sister was 16. It took a month to reach the U.S. and upon arriving, they were detained on Angel Island, where Lotte, her sister and her mother were separated from their father. Then, with help from cousins in New York, they were able to settle in San Francisco around Webster and Fillmore Streets, renting a room from a Jewish family. Lotte recalls the Jewish community there taking care of each other: “A Mr. Pelzner, who owned clothing stores, brought us a turkey for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure we knew what it was for but we became lifelong friends.”
Lotte’s family opened a dry cleaning business. The girls attended school, learning English in night classes. Lotte attended Heald’s College, gaining secretarial skills, and got her first job at Bond’s Clothing Store. Visiting a friend in Los Angeles, Lotte met her future husband Alan on a double date. By the time she got back to San Francisco, Alan was already on the phone with Lotte’s mother! He wasted no time, moved up to San Francisco and married Lotte within a few short months.
Once Alan and Lotte moved to Marin, they opened a market in Mill Valley, providing their livelihood for 22 years. It was at that time that they joined Rodef Sholom so their children could have a Jewish education and they could be part of our Jewish community. They built their beautiful home in Greenbrae 50 years ago and Lotte still lives there today.
Lotte says she tries not to dwell on the past. She says she and her sister found strength through their close family and for that she is very grateful. When asked about her life here, she says proudly, “America is God’s country!”