Biographical summary written by Dr. Sibylle Quack, New York, 2008
Frank L. Herz (1908-2006) was born in 1908 in Heilbronn, a Swabian town in Germany, where his father was a merchant. Frank Herz grew up in a German-Jewish family. He had one brother, Kurt. His mother, neé Levi, came from the nearby town of Hechingen. She was the sister of Paul Levi, a close friend and lawyer of Rosa Luxemburg. After Luxemburg´s murder in 1919, Paul Levi was head of the German Communist Party until he criticized Lenin in public, and in 1921 was expelled from the party. Levi later became a leading figure of the Social Democrats being a member of the German parliament (the Reichstag). He was also one of the best known political lawyers of the Weimar Republic. Paul Levi died an untimely death in 1930. Frank Herz studied law at the Universities of Tübingen, Heidelberg, and Berlin. In Berlin, he would meet his famous uncle whom he admired and with whom he shared liberal political ideas. When Paul Levi fell out of a window in 1930, this was a great tragedy for the whole family.
In 1933, when Hitler came to power, Frank was a lawyer and temporarily worked in Toulouse, France. His mother early on made the decision for the whole family to leave Germany, and was able to transfer some money via Switzerland to the United States. They all arrived in New York in 1935. In the US, Frank and his brother both worked in the family owned business of leather goods “Herz Speciality Products”. In 1940, Frank Herz married Susanne Simon, a German Jewish emigrant from Berlin, and in 1946 their son, David was born. During the Second World War, Frank Herz served his new country and worked for the military service in Washington, D.C. Frank Herz never quite felt like a business man, and would have preferred to be a lawyer. But unfortunately, the law he had been trained for in Germany did not apply to the American system. Frank always was interested in history and philosophy. When he retired, he became devoted to humanism, especially Renaissance humanism.
He focused on the life and thoughts of Johannes Reuchlin, the famous German Humanist who in the early 16th century with his epoch-making “De rudimentis hebraicis" (1506), introduced the study of Hebrew to Germany. Frank Herz read Reuchlin in Latin, and was particularly interested in the question of how Reuchlin defended Jewish rights, and fought against anti-Semitism of the Christian church. Herz also wrote a whole book manuscript on the subject which is now in the possession of the Leo Baeck Institute, New York. Frank Herz was a book lover, and a passionate collector of books from the Renaissance. He was very well educated, had a classical “Bildung”, and was highly interested in art history. He and his wife loved to travel all over Europe – especially Italy and France, where they would visit churches and museums. They also went back to Germany several times, kept in touch with German friends, and were interested in the development of a democratic society in their former home country. Frank Herz, whose wife Susanne had passed away in 1994, is survived by his son David Herz, his daughter in law Janet Stahl, who is a great granddaughter of Heinrich Stahl, and two grandchildren, Jay and Dana Stahl-Herz.
From the guide to the Frank L. Herz Collection, Undated, 1960 - circa 1998, (Leo Baeck Institute)