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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                       GISELA MEYER SPIELBERG

INTERVIEWER:                  SANDY BERMAN

DATE:                                  NOVEMBER 15, 1995 & DECEMBER 2, 2000

LOCATION:                         ATLANTA, GEORGIA

1995 Transcript (PDF) & 2000 Transcript (PDF)

Biography

Gisela ‘Gia’ Meyer Spielberg was born September 29, 1926 in Berlin, Germany to Jewish German World War One veteran Henrich Meyer and his wife Lieselotte Kohn. Four years later, her younger sister Erika was born. The family watched and experienced the ideological changes happening around them as Hitler and the Nazi party rose to power.

Gisela faced much discrimination in school. German girls would taunt and torment her which made her glad when she had to leave for the Jewish school after the law was passed that German and Jewish children could not attend the same schools. Gisela and her family, though, became increasingly fearful of living life in German as the situation got worse. The final straw was when her father was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp for a couple weeks. Upon his release, the family was determined to leave Germany.

Eventually, Gisela and her family were lucky enough to escape to England where they lived for a year in separate locations across the country. When their quota numbers eventually came forth for them to immigrate to the United States, they were able to get passage on one of the final ships taking passengers to the United States.

After arriving in the United States, Gisela and her family eventually settled in Atlanta, GA. Her father opened his own business while her mother worked in a candy factory. Gisela did her best to settle into high school there, beginning to build for herself a new life.

Finishing high school, Gisela attended two years of college at Agnes Scott College before transferring to the University of Iowa. After completing her bachelor degree, she married Sol Spielberg on January 9, 1949. The two were married for 63 years.

Gisela used her experiences in National Socialist Germany to educate others and was a charitable volunteer for many organizations, including the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. She died in February of 2018.

Scope of Interview

Gisela discusses her family’s life in Germany in the early days of German National Socialism. She primarily focuses on her father’s life for the majority of the interview, talking about her father’s involvement in World War One, his run in with the Gestapo, and his metal business that he ran. She peppers his story with her own recollections of life in Germany as a schoolgirl and noticing the rising antisemitism around her. Her story continues with her family’s escape to England months and weeks before the Second World War started. She also covers her family’s crossing to the United States and how they finally settled in Atlanta.

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