The Franks: Edmond’s First Holocaust Survivors

Alex, Fannia, Jay (kneeling), Harry, and Leon Frank, 1960.

Leon Kobrowski was born January 18, 1914 in Minsk, Russia, today part of Belarus. As a member of the Jewish community he was confined to the Marcinkance (Poland) Ghetto in 1941. The creation of these segregated areas, known as Ghettos, enabled the Nazis to systematically deport Jewish people and others confined to the ghettos to extermination camps. Leon escaped the Marcinkance Ghetto during an uprising in 1942, possibly incited by his older brother Aaron, and joined the Polish underground resistance. Forty-five of the estimated 100 people who escaped from the Marcinkance Ghetto during the 1942 uprising survived World War II.

Fannia Galpern Kobrowski was born December 23, 1923 in Grodno, Poland, which was home to a well-known Jewish community of approximately 25,000 people at the start of the war. Fannia and her extended family, more than 80 people, were confined to the Grodno Ghetto in 1941 when the Germans invaded Russian-occupied Poland. In 1942, the German occupiers began clearing out the Grodno Ghetto, transporting the residents to Auschwitz where nearly 85% of them were killed rather than being admitted to the camp. At the liberation of Grodno in July 1944, there were less than 200 Jewish people still alive in the city. Fannia, who had been hidden for two years by a Catholic family, was one of them. She was the only member of her family to survive.

Leon and Fannia were married on July 17, 1945 in Łódź, Poland. Their oldest son, Alex, was born in the Displaced Persons Camp in Ulm, Germany on October 31, 1946. Presumably this was their home until 1949 when they were able to immigrate to the United States with the support and sponsorship of Leon’s first cousin, Harry Frank. Upon their immigration to American Leon and Fannia changed their family name to Frank, as Harry had done when he arrived in 1913.

Leon and Fannia Frank pose for a photo with an unidentified man (right), circa 1960.

Harry Frank, born Herschel Ben Kobrowski, immigrated to America at the age of 20.  Harry settled in Cordell, Oklahoma where he was employed as a clerk at the Dixie Store. The Dixie Store became known in small communities throughout Oklahoma, including Erick and Sentinel, each reportedly owned by members of the Jewish community as they immigrated to the United States.  Harry became a United States citizen in 1919 and was the owner of the Dixie Store in Erick until 1948 when he and his wife, Pearl, moved to Oklahoma City. Harry made Leon and Fannia partners in the Dixie Store when it opened at 113 South Broadway in Edmond in 1949. After Harry passed away in 1953, his wife Pearl continued as a partner in the Edmond Dixie Store.

Pearl Frank, no date.
Harry Frank, no date.

Leon and Fannia Frank were the first holocaust survivors to live in Edmond, their sons Jay and Harry were born here. Their eldest son, Alex, graduated from Edmond High School in 1964 where he was active in many academic groups and was a national champion on the debate team with his partner Danny Goble. Alex graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, later moving to New York City and then Irvine, California, where he continued to work in the apparel industry until his death in 2013. Leon passed away at the age of 50 in 1964. Fannia, with sons Jay and Harry, relocated to Houston, Texas after closing the Dixie Store in 1967.  Jay and Harry currently reside in Houston and New York, respectively, with their families. Fannia passed away in 2003 and is buried with Leon in Fairlawn Cemetery in Oklahoma City. Harry shared with museum staff that his mother felt that the “best years of her life were in Oklahoma” where “Edmond gave them an opportunity, a second chance, to live a full live once again.”

A downtown Edmond icon from 1949 through 1967, the Dixie Store provided clothing for the entire family and often advertised “better merchandise for less.” Nestled between Western Auto and Browne’s Dry Goods, the Dixie Store was part of a thriving and lively business district which included cafes, two movie houses and the town hospital among the variety of shops and professional offices along Broadway, Main, First and Second Streets.