Frantisek (Frank) Backer passed away at age 95 in Sandy Spring, Maryland on October 17, 2016. Frank leaves his brother, Ivan, of Hartford, Connecticut, whose recently published memoir My Train to Freedom: A Jewish Boy’s Journey from Nazi Europe to a Life of Activism provides further details about Frank’s life.
Frank was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia and left for college in England immediately after the Nazi invasion of his country. He volunteered for the armed forces in 1939 and served in a Czechoslovak regiment attached to the British army. He was with the French army in 1940 when it fell to the Germans and later was awarded the highest French military decoration, the Croix de Guerre, for bravery in escaping capture. Frank seldom spoke of this honor but wore the medal when he and close friend Tom Gibian were recognized at a special ceremony in 2013 on Czech Army Day at the Czech Embassy in Washington DC. At the end of the war Frank participated in the encirclement of Dunkirk where 15,000 Germans surrendered. He remained in Europe to guide relief convoys to Czechoslovakia. At age 26 he enrolled at Columbia University earning a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering and a Masters degree from Stevens Technical Institute. Making use of his foreign language skills he moved to Zurich and later to Hamburg to work as a research chemist. In the 1970’s Frank became Managing Director of a company manufacturing adhesives in Teheran, Iran. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 forced him to flee and eventually settle in New York City. In 2002 he moved into Friends Retirement Community in Sandy Spring. Frank continued to lead a busy life and served in volunteer positions at the Quaker facility including Chair of the Program Committee. He also headed the Nominating Committee for the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences. Frank’s kindness and loyalty to others throughout his active and committed life resulted in many enduring friendships. He will be greatly missed.