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Mount Sinai Obituaries and Services » Frank Schiller

Frank Schiller

March 13, 1926 - June 6, 2020

Service Information Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills

Service Date: Monday June 8th, 2020

Service Time: 3:30 pm

Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills

5950 Forest Lawn Drive

Los Angeles, California 90068

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Frank Harry Schiller was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on 13 March 1926.  He and his brother Gustav grew up in the depression years amidst luxury, prosperity, and wealth acquired by their father, the business attorney Dr. Viktor Schiller, and their mother, the athletic and vivacious Lilly Schiller.  Childhood consisted of private English-language school in Prague with close friends, summers at the villa in Zelizy, a road trip to Aunt Annette and Uncle Hugo in Antibes, France, and loving grandmothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, and other close relatives who doted on the boys, especially their mischievous little one, Harry (later named Frank).  Of course, all this was to change in the spring of 1938 when the allied powers began negotiation over a part of Czechoslovakia demanded by Nazi Germany.  That summer, Frank, his brother, mother, and grandmother sought refuge in Zurich, Switzerland where there were some funds deposited over the years for the family survival.  Following the so-called Munich settlement, in which the allies announced “Peace in our Times,” the family was recalled by father Viktor back to Prague against the advice of several family members.  The frightening, circuitous journey back to Prague stayed in Frank’s mind for the rest of his life.  Six months later, on his 13th birthday, Nazi Germany occupied the rest of the country.  Transports of children were leaving daily for Britain, but Viktor preferred to send the kids to Uncle and Aunt in France.  Trunks were filled, but the travel visas came too late.  Those trunks remain in the family garage to this very day.

Initially deprived of schooling, Frank went to YMCA camp in the summer of 1939, before the camp directors would forbid attendance by Jewish children.  Soon, Jews were also forbidden to use city parks, and to ride on streetcars.  Vocational school still was permitted, but within a year or so, that stopped, and yellow stars were required for wear on their garments.  Finally, in October 1941, Frank, his brother Gustav, and their parents were deported to the ghetto in Lodz, Poland. After the war, Frank, the only survivor of that nuclear family, was told by his cousin Mila to sit down and write his memoirs before time and memory would alter them, and these documents written by a teenager serve as an important, almost contemporaneous document of the privations that followed.

In Lodz, confined to a single room over a barn for eight people that included his friends the Koretzes, one by one, people died, including Viktor on 1 June 1942 and Lilly a year later.  In March 1944, Frank said goodbye to his brother, whom he never saw again, and volunteered to be transferred to labor camp.  In that transport, he befriended three others, one of whom, Hanus Orlicky stayed close to Dad until his passing a few months ago.  For 14 months of slave labor, they remained together from camp to camp, including Dora, in the Harz mountains where they worked on the V2 rockets intended for destruction of London and Washington.  Finally, the two reached their last stop, the scene of a war crime later prosecuted by the Americans at Nuremberg, the town of Gardelegen where more than 1000 were burned to death.  There, among the handful liberated by First Lt. Malcolm Armstrong, Frank was able to serve as a translator since he had learned English at school, Czech and German at home.  After 43 months of captivity, Frank returned to an empty house in Prague, and began what he felt was the most difficult part of his life.

The next 11 years found Frank searching for a way to reconstruct his life.  He remained in Prague until the Communist takeover in 1948, and then moved to Southern France, London, New York, and finally, in 1956, to Los Angeles where he embraced a community of Czech immigrants, many of whom had been in the British army and remained his friends in LA for decades.  With training in Chemistry, he accepted a job in Los Angeles as the Quality Control director for the soft drink company, White Rock.  With the help of a Scottish-American, Arthur MacDonald, he got a management position when the company was bought by Coca Cola Bottling of Los Angeles.  In 1964, he became Vice-President, and four years later, oversaw the building of the new bottling plant next to the famous streamline-moderne headquarters on Central Avenue.  In the meantime, he met his future wife of 61 years, Liesa, herself a Viennese-born daughter of refugees.  Three generations of her family met him on their first date!  Married in 1957, they had two children, raising their family in a home they lived in for over 50 years.

From Coca Cola Los Angeles, Frank moved to take over operations at Arrowhead Water, happily retiring at age 60.  Frank and Liesa were gregarious, busy people.  They travelled until just four years ago, going to Palm Desert every other weekend, taking cruises summer, land journeys, and many times travelling back to Prague and Vienna, maintaining close contacts with the remnant of relatives and friends who survived and never left.  Their home on Mansfield Avenue was the scene of nearly all the great lifecycle events, birthdays, graduations, parties, and even a Brit Milah.  Frank served as a trustee of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, on the Board of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, and was affiliated with the USC Associates.  He served on the Southern California Council of Retired Executives for the Small Business Association, a job he loved.

Although he never concealed his wartime experiences, Frank would not allow those experiences to define him, at least not until old age.  He loved golf, tennis, bridge (just like his mother); he loved biographies, good writing and foreign language (like his father); he loved travel, finances, and investments, and always told his “advisors” what to do.  He rejected disability and sickness, so these last three months, when he suddenly confronted illness, were very difficult for him, and for us.  He refused to see himself as a victim, and the only thing that could bring him to weep was to consider how his brother, his cousins, and his parents never enjoyed the full measure of life.

Frank was predeceased by his wife Liesa in 2018.  He leaves a daughter Vicki (Christina), a son Gary (Maskit), and two grandsons Aiden Jacob and Adam Gustav.  May his memory be for a blessing.