Born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1940, Andre Kessler was not yet three when his father, Ladislas, was deported to a labor camp in Transnistria. Kessler and his mother, Olga, went into hiding from the Nazis in their own apartment. They were aided by the building’s superintendent, Gheorghiu Popescu. For sixteen months, Kessler and his mother stayed in the apartment. She taught him languages and fed him with mamaliga or Romanian porridge.
After the war Kessler's father returned home, but he had lost over 100 pounds in the camp. Ladislas took back control of two shirt factories he had run before the war. When Romania became Communist in 1947, Ladislas blew up his factories rather than hand them over to the government. He also arranged for his wife and son to escape the country. Kessler, who would not see his father again for many years, crossed the border into Austria with his mother in the middle of the night. They soon made their way to Paris, where they lived until their immigration papers were approved.
In 1951 Kessler and his mother arrived in New York City. Kessler entered the Navy after high school and became a paratrooper medic. Because he stood well over six feet tall, Kessler was chosen to be part of a White House honor guard in 1958. He was the only Jew out of 82 men chosen for this honor. In 1960 New York University recruited Kessler to play basketball, and when he graduated he was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors. Kessler played alongside teammate Wilt Chamberlain for two years before retiring. After taking a job as a salesman with a textile company, Kessler transferred to Atlanta to manage the company’s southern district in the late 1960s. He met and married Marsha Tenenbaum and had two children. They live in Marietta, Georgia.