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I was born on October 8, 1915 in Vienna, Austria. Here's a picture of me as a little girl.
Gerta, age 9

My father
Josef Spiegl
had his own business
The Spiegl family home.
selling household and kitchen appliances, and he was able to acquire a building in a nice Vienna street called 30 Liechtensteinstrasse.
30 Liechtensteinstrasse, as it appears in 2012
He was lively and loving, and taught me to dance traditional Viennese dances. I had a very special relationship with him. He passed away when I was only 11.

My mother
Jeanette Pick
was a rather reluctant mother, somewhat strict and unloving, but anxious for her 4 children not to be disadvantaged in life.

Here is a picture of my parents together.

Mr. and Mrs. Spiegl
My family was musical. My father had a beautiful tenor voice. My brother Fred and sister Kate played piano, and my brother Harry played piano and cello, and I played guitar. Here is a picture of us four.
Gerta, Kate, Fred, and Harry

I met my husband Albert
Albert Freeman
when I was very young. He was stationed in Vienna for three months building radio installations, and we met through my cousin's husband. I later joined him in Prague, where (most luckily) my aunt was living! Here is a picture of me in Prague.
Gerta in Prague, telling the little boy not to harm the cat!
It was 'beschert' (predestined) that we would be together.

In 1937 and 1938, discrimination against the Jews became intolerable, and I was the first in my family to emigrate to the USA. The US government required immigrants to have a sponsor who guaranteed that the immigrant would not be a financial burden on the state. I was graciously sponsored by Al's sister. On April 30, 1938 my fiance Albert and I boarded the S.S.Britannic
S.S.Britannic (1929 - 1960). Also known as the M V Britannic
at Le Havre. Here is the ship's boarding manifest.
Ship's manifest.
Curiously, Al and I did not travel together, and communicated by tapping morse code on the cabin wall! We arrived in New York on May 8, and we then went to live in Washington D.C. in Albert's sister's home.

My first job was working for a newspaper man called Mark Sullivan of the Herald Tribune. I did things like research information at the Library of Congress. This job proved precious, because Sullivan's secretary was a sponsor for my mother's immigration to the US.

I met a lot of wonderful, kindhearted people in that period. When we were in Washington, the owner of the men's clothing store Luis and Thomas Saltz gave my brother Fred a job in his store. Fred had recently arrived in the US with his girlfriend and her brother.

We were married on February 18, 1941 in Arlington County, Virginia. Here's a picture of us in Philadelphia. Shortly after, Al enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Philadelphia.
Albert and Gerta in Yeadon, near Philadelphia.
Here we are as a happy couple.

Albert and Gerta.

My life-long interests have beem music and painting. I announce my passion for Mozart and Bach in this video!

In 1945, he was mustered out of the Marines, at age 37, and we moved to New York, and a new life began. I wanted to teach English, but my accent made me 'ineligible'. So for a while I worked at assessing diamonds at Kittay & Blitz. Eventually, I got a job at a clothing store where I worked for 35 years as a customer assistant.

Albert started working as a freelance photographer. He specialized in photographing children, and was also photographer for a political organization. Then he got a glamorous job at the Cafe Society night club, taking pictures of the clients. But it was a night-time job, and our timetables were opposed. But I did get to meet a lot of famous people like pianist Hazel Scott, guitarist Josh White, singer Lucienne Boyer and viloinist/composer Franck Pourcel.

Al eventually got back to his trade creating soundproofing for recording studios. One of his projects was to build a sound installation at a naval academy on the Hudson.

More about Al's background

Photo Gallery
Snapshots of Gerta's life

  Gerta painting "en plain air"  
  Family Portraits