Gerda was raised in a religious family in the small town of Ansbach, Germany, where her father was the Jewish butcher. She attended German schools until 1936, and then moved to Berlin to attend a Jewish school. She returned to her hometown after Kristallnacht in November 1938. Her family was then ordered to move to Munich, and in July 1939 her father left for England and then the United States. He was unable to arrange for the rest of his family to join him. Gerda moved to Berlin in 1939 to study nursing. She worked in the Jewish hospital there for two years. Her mother was deported to Riga, Latvia, and her sister, also a nurse, was transported to Auschwitz; neither survived the war. In 1943, Gerda was sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto where she continued to work as a nurse. She left on a transport to Switzerland in February 1945 and was reunited with her father in the United States in April 1946.
Let's see, he left in '39, and I saw him again in '40..., '46...in April of '46, and it was very strange. I came by boat, and I arrived, um, I think it was during the Passover, during the Pesach holidays. And my father also remained very religious. And he came to Boston to pick me up. I arrived at the Boston Harbor, and he, he couldn't travel to the boat to pick me up. He sent somebody else, and that somebody took me then to an apartment where he stayed and I saw him again. And I thought that I would see an old man because I had gone through so much. I had lived six lifetimes, you see, that to me it was like a hundred years. And I thought there would be this old, broken man full of grief, and full of sorrow and remorse. But it wasn't. There was a young, beautiful, dark haired, straight, upright man in his prime, 50 years old, who greeted me. And that, that was...I had to adjust my inner vision and my outer, and what I saw in reality. That took a little bit. And, um, it took a while for us to become comfortable with each other. I, I will have to admit that. I will have to admit that.