Gerda & Norbert Bikales are remarkable Holocaust Survivors, married for 72 years, with an exceptional story to tell.
Gerda and Norbert were born in Berlin, only after their survival and individual immigrations to America they eventually met, in New York.
With war looming, Norbert’s parents put him on a kindertransport to France, he was sent to the OSE, Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, an organization to help Jewish children. His parents were expelled from Germany, due to their Polish Jewish roots and went to Lviv, where they were safe until the German occupation of 1941, sadly his parents were sent to Belzec and murdered.
Norbert arrived in France with the German invasion he ran towards the French alps, which were under occupied Italian control, they’d heard that the Italian’s treated the Jews better than the Germans, they stayed there until the Italians switched sides and ran into Switzerland, where they were imprisoned and eventually let go, he made his way to Geneva and eventually after the war to the US.
Gerda’s father was a well to do man, he felt they needed to get out, so in 1938, they went to the US consul in Breslau, her father got a visa to America, the plan was, he go, secure work and visas and send for his wife and daughter. Sadly, this didn’t happen and not to dissimilar to Norbert, she escaped to France and eventually survived, her remarkable story was written by her and had been sold all around the world, an important and worthwhile read, I’ll link the book below.
After the war, they both ended up in America, they met in a shared apartment building in Brooklyn for young European Jews, and “fell in love on the third date” they married, had children, and today have grandchildren, who love and care for them deeply.
Norbert, worked whatever jobs he could to put himself through college and eventually received a PHD in chemistry, he has 26 patents to his name, and perhaps most importantly for him, helped raise funds for OSE his entire life.
Gerda studied, raised children, learnt languages, and worked as a social worker in the public health department, she also started a million member organization working with legal immigration to the US.