<p>Gerda was an only child of Jewish parents. They lived in Breslau, a large industrial city on the Oder River. Before World War II, Breslau's Jewish community was the third largest in Germany. Her father worked as a salesman for a large hardware and building materials company. Gerda attended public school until age 9 when she was admitted to a Catholic girls' school.</p>
<p>1933-39: I walked through the city to see the aftermath of a <a href="/narrative/3487/en">pogrom</a>. The windows of Jewish shops had been shattered. A torched synagogue continued to smolder. I begged my parents to leave Germany. Months later, they decided we should flee. We got visas to Cuba and left from Hamburg aboard the ship <a href="/narrative/4719/en">St. Louis</a> on May 13, 1939. Arriving in Cuba on the 27th, we were told our visas were invalid. Denied entry, we had to <a href="/narrative/5063/en">return to Europe</a>.</p>
<p>1940-44: Disguised as farm women, my mother and I drove a hay wagon past the German border patrol to a farm on the French-Swiss border. We walked down a small ravine, crossed a stream and then slipped under a barbed-wire fence that marked the official border. But we were apprehended by Swiss border guards and held overnight. The next day, we were put on a train with other refugees. No one told us where we were going or what was going to happen to us.</p>
<p>Gerda was interned in a refugee camp in Switzerland for two years, and then worked in Bern in a blouse factory until the end of the war. She immigrated to the United States in 1949.</p>


St. Louis