Elsa Frankl was born in Berlin on August 29, 1879. Elsa studied art in Paris, and then shared a studio with the painter Kathe Kollwitz in Berlin. In 1938, due to her Jewish background, she and her daughter Susi were on their way to Denmark. Elsa stayed in Denmark for seven months and was then allowed to join her son who had fled Italy for England in 1938. In 1943, Elsa took a boat to America, where she was reunited with her husband Paul, who had arrived in 1938 to look for a job. Eventually she and her family settled in Princeton, New Jersey.