Frank Liebermann was about six years old when he began attending public school in Germany. Jewish students were segregated from the Christians, but there were times of the day when they could not escape their tormentors—Christian students who threatened them physically. Frank called recess “the most scary part of the day.” At the end of the day, teachers released the Jewish children early so that they had a head start leaving school before the other children were let out.
Frank Liebermann was born in 1929 to Dr. Hans and Lotte Liebermann in Gleiwitz, Germany (now Gliwice, Poland). At the time, Gleiwitz was an industrial city in Upper Silesia–a historically contested region that was then along the German-Polish border. Frank was an only child. Hans was a prominent surgeon in the city and the family lived a comfortable middle-class existence. The families of both of Frank’s parents had lived in the area for several generations.
In 1933, the Nazi regime began to enact antisemitic laws limiting the participation of Jews in German public life. At first these laws did not apply in Gleiwitz because a 1922 treaty protected minority rights in the region. Frank was about six years old when he began attending public school. Jewish students were segregated from the Christians, but the Christian students threatened them physically. At the end of the day, teachers released the Jewish children early so they had a head start leaving school before the other children were let out.
The treaty expired after 15 years and antisemitic laws took effect in Upper Silesia. These laws led to rapid changes in Gleiwitz. Denied hospital privileges and not allowed to accept insurance payments, Hans could no longer make a living. Playgrounds, swimming pools, and other venues were closed to Frank and other Jews.
Hans traveled to the United States in 1938 to explore the prospect of immigration. With the help of a cousin, he obtained an affidavit that enabled the Liebermanns to be placed on a waiting list for visas. He then returned to Lotte and Frank in Gleiwitz to wait for the visas they would need to immigrate to the United States.
The Liebermann family received their visas in June 1938. Hans immediately left for the United States to begin preparing for the State Medical Board examination in Ohio, since it was less difficult for him to obtain a medical license there than in other states. After passing the state examination, he set up a medical practice in Dayton.
Frank and Lotte stayed behind to settle household affairs and then purchased tickets for a ship bound for the United States that departed Germany on October 13, 1938, less than a month before Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), a night of state-sponsored targeted violence against Jews throughout Germany.
Hans managed to get a visa for his father, Frank’s paternal grandfather, Bernhard Liebermann. Unfortunately, Bernhard was too ill to travel and instead, he was hospitalized. In August 1942, he was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, where he died shortly afterwards.
Frank’s maternal grandparents, Alfred and Hedwig Orgler, were also unable to leave Germany. They were deported to Theresienstadt in April 1943, and then in October 1944 to Auschwitz, where they were killed. The exact fate of Lotte’s younger brothers, Walter, Heinz, and Helmuth, is unclear. None of them survived the Holocaust.
Frank graduated from Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) in 1950 with a degree in chemistry. He worked as a travel agent and volunteered at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.