Gerda was born to a Jewish middle-class family in Bielsko, Poland, a town noted for its textile industry. She began her education in Polish public school, but later entered a Catholic girls school. A rabbi was permitted to come into the school and instruct the Jewish students in religious studies.
1933-39: On Friday, September 1, 1939, German fighter planes appeared overhead, causing many people to flee the city. My family remained and lived through the intense shelling that followed on Sunday evening. In the morning we heard a tremendous roar. Two German soldiers raced up the street on a motorcycle. We heard people shouting "Heil Hitler" and a black, white and red swastika flag suddenly fluttered from a window across the street.
1940-45: After being moved to Bielsko's ghetto, I was deported in 1942 to work in a textile mill in Bolkenhain, Silesia. Despite the hunger and backbreaking labor, there was caring among the inmates. A German supervisor, Mrs. Kugler, even saved my life. I'd fallen ill and gone to the camp hospital. Mrs. Kugler knew that an SS man was inspecting and that the sick would be gassed. She dragged me back to the factory, started my loom and set me in front of it. I was delirious from fever, but I passed the inspection.
Gerda was later sent to slave-labor camps in Marzdorf, Landshut, and Gruenberg. She was liberated by the American army in May 1945, and emigrated to the United States in 1946.