born 21 March 1926 Berlin
died 5 September 2016 London
Hedy Franks (née Werner)
born 19 January 1928 Brno
died 15 July 2018 London
During the war
Felix and Hedy were both refugees but their paths to the UK and journeys throughout the war were very different. After Kristallnacht, Felix and his two sisters came to the UK from Berlin on the Kindertransport, reaching Southampton in April 1939. Remarkably, both his parents were able to escape Berlin and join them, just two days before the outbreak of World War II. The family resided together in Hampstead Heath, North London.
In 1943 Felix enrolled into the Army. During his time in the army he fought in the DD landings, witnessed the liberation of Belsen and even spent 2 years working undercover in Soviet East Germany from 1945, after responding to a note seeking fluent German speakers for ’interesting duties’.
Hedy and her parents were deported from Brno to Terezin in 1942. Hedy’s father Albert (who was a dentist) died in Dachau but she and her mother survived and were liberated on the final day of the war, May 9th 1945. Sadly, all of Hedy’s other relatives imprisoned in Terezin did not survive. After liberation, Hedy came to the UK in 1946 on a domestic visa.
After the war
In 1948 Felix began studying physical chemistry at London University. Upon graduation, he worked in both industry and as a lecturer, gaining his PhD at Birkbeck.
Felix and Hedy met at the B’nai Brith Youth group in London shortly after the end of the war. They were married in 1950 and they enjoyed sixty-six years together. Their enduring love for each other was a remarkable example of how it is possible to avoid letting your past define your future. Their marriage bought them two daughters, Suzanne and Carolyn by whom their plaque was donated. When their family grew they were the most devoted and loving Grandparents to their five grandchildren. Their daughters state that it is a testament to them both that in their final years the grandchildren were able to reciprocate the care they were shown, through visits, phone calls and texts and by their actions, demonstrating exactly how much they respected and loved them.
Works and Careers of Felix and Hedy
Felix had an optimistic, fun and outgoing nature. He was an outstanding scientist with global recognition and many opportunities to travel. The Royal Society of Chemistry is presenting a yearly medal in his memory. His work on freeze drying was widely disseminated and he published extensively including seven volumes of ‘Water. A Comprehensive Treatise’, which led to his nickname ‘Water Franks’. He was also a talented and active amateur musician throughout his life.
Hedy was quieter in nature, with a very quick sense of humour. Having missed many important years of her education, she quickly learned English when she arrived in the UK and found work in order to support herself. She also carried out important voluntary work at The Wiener Holocaust Library translating documents from Czech and working on the press archive. She gave a documented account of her experiences to the Shoah Foundation set up by Steve Spielberg.
They were both supporters of The Holocaust Memorial Centre Beth Shalom for many years.
Felix and Hedys Family
Felix and Hedy’s two daughters Suzanne and Carolyn donated the Plaque. Both Suzanne and Carolyn feel blessed to have had such amazing parents whose memory they keep very close, as do all who knew them.
Suzanne says, “at some point, we were told about their lives- and as a child that is a difficult concept to understand. On reflection as you grow older you come to appreciate even more how brave and generous they were in so many ways. Unless questioned they kept the early part of their lives to themselves, never making us share the burden.”
Carolyn mentions, “Suzanne and I are continuing to support some charities in their memory. We too feel it is so important to continue educating and working to help future generations be vigilant to all types of hatred towards others, just by being “different.”