Frank Meisler was born in the Free City of Danzig on December 29, 1925. In 1939 he was living with his family in an apartment on the corner of what is today ul. Dluga and ul. Tkacka (then Langgasse and Große Wollwebergasse). Frank and his family were Jewish and the rise of the Nazis meant they found themselves in great danger as the 1930s progressed and war loomed. Frank escaped the city in late August 1939 on one of the trains that became known as a Kindertransport. This was the name given to the rescue mission that began nine months prior to the outbreak of World War II. The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and the Free City of Danzig. The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, and farms across the country. In total four Kindertransports left the Free City of Danzig between May and August with Frank leaving with fourteen other Jewish children on the final train just before the Germans invaded the city on September 1, 1939.
The children travelled by train via Berlin, the Netherlands and then by ferry to Harwich before reaching their destination – London’s Liverpool Street Station. Days after Frank left Danzig, Frank’s parents were rounded up and sent to the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw. They were eventually sent to Auschwitz.
Frank was settled with a family in London and later graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Manchester. In 1960 he moved to Israel and settled in Jaffa, where he made his home and opened a studio in the Artists’ Quarter in the Old City of Jaffa.
In 2006 his sculpture group ‘Children of the Kindertransport’ was unveiled at Liverpool Street Station by Prince Charles. Two other sculpture groups commemorating the departure and journey of the Kindertransport: ‘Trains to Life, Trains to Death’ and ‘Kindertransport – The Departure’ were erected in Berlin and Danzig (now Gdansk) in 2008 and 2009. In 2011, Frank unveiled a public sculpture in the port of Rotterdam, Holland called ‘Channel Crossing to Life’. The final piece, the fifth Kindertransport sculpture group ‘The Final Parting’ was unveiled in Hamburg, Germany in May 2015.
Frank’s sculptures were often commissioned by Israel’s Prime Ministers, as well as the heads of state of other countries as presentation gifts on state occasions, while his work is on permanent view in galleries in Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv, New York, Moscow and Kiev. He also designed the interior of the first synagogue built in Moscow this century, and sculptures displayed on the site of Russia’s National War Memorial.
Frank Meisler received many honours and awards during his life including the ‘Franz Kafka’ Gold Medal for Artistic Achievement from the Czech Republic; Honorary awards from the Russian and Ukrainian Academies of Art; the Order of Merit 1st Class of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Freedom of the City of London.
Frank died in Jaffa on March 24, 2018 at the age of 92. In July 2018, a plaque was unveiled on the wall of the building which today stands on the site of Frank’s home by the mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz and members of Frank Meisler’s family. It is hoped that the commemoration of Frank’s life will help to raise awareness of his story and his work in the city of his birth.