Gerda Oestreicher-Laqueur
Visual biography

Gerda Margarethe was the eldest daughter of the five children of Ernst Laqueur and Margarethe Laqueur-Loewenthal. Her diaries reveal a highly observant girl, serious and considerate of her environment but hard on herself. When, she was twelve, her parents, brothers and sister moved to Amsterdam, but she remained with her maternal grandparents in Brieg, Germany (after 1919 Brzeg, Poland) to finish secondary school. Finishing her exams at the age of sixteen, she came to the Netherlands, learned Dutch, and, for the first time, attended a co-ed vocational school the Handelsschool on the Raamgracht in Amsterdam. This was no mean feat for a shy and insecure girl. After the Handelsschool she studied German at the University of Groningen.
Gerda’s diaries reveal that she was extremely fond of her father. In contrast, her mother was very critical of her. She met her future husband, Felix Oestreicher, in 1929 when he was doing research at her father’s internationally renowned laboratory in Amsterdam. They married in Amsterdam at the end of 1930 and moved into his family home in Carlsbad (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic). The eight years she spent there, during which her three daughters were born, were extremely happy.
In April 1938 the entire family fled to Amsterdam. Their attempts to immigrate to the United States or South Africa were unsuccessful. After the German invasion and occupation they had to move several times before finally being forced to live in Amsterdam by the occupying forces. The family was arrested there on November 1,1943 and interned in Westerbork transit camp before being transported to Bergen Belsen. Because I was declared ill, I was separated from my family and placed in a Jewish hospital in Amsterdam.
My strongest memory of my mother is of her voice when she sang German songs to us as we lay in bed. Afterwards my picture of her was coloured by reading her childhood diaries, edited and published by my twin sister, Maria Goudsblom-Oestreicher. They reveal that, as a schoolgirl, she had a talent for drawing and was extremely interested in paintings. Her diaries contain extensive descriptions of her visits to museums in Berlin, Breslau and Amsterdam and notations about theatre, music and literature. Her life in the concentration-camps is described in her husband’s diaries. He writes of her unhappiness but also of the care she took of him and her children.
Liberated by the Russians in Tröbitz from a train from Bergen Belsen to an unknown destination, she was able to sleep between clean sheets for a short time. From the curtains in the farm where she was stationed she made kerchiefs and three dresses for her girls. Soon after she contracted typhiod fever and died at the end of May 1945. When my sisters and I visited Tröbitz in 1990 it was with surprise and joy that we discovered that she and my father have their own graves.

Biography of Gerda Oestreicher-Laqueur 1906-1945

1906 born in Heidelberg
1918 family moves to Amsterdam, lives with her grandparents
1922 moves to Amsterdam, attends a the vocational school
1924 studies German in Groningen
1929 meets Felix Oestreicher
1930 marries Felix Oestreicher
1931-1938 lives in Carlsbad (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic)
1934 birth of daughter Anna Beate
1936 birth of twins Maria and Henriette (Helli)
1938 flees to the Netherlands with husband, children and mother-in-law
1938-1943 lives in Leiden, Katwijk, Blaricum and Amsterdam
1940 German occupation of the Netherlands
1943 arrested and interned in Westerbork transit camp
1944 transported with family to Bergen Belsen concentration camp
1945 liberated in Tröbitz
1945 dies from typhiod fever in Tröbitz on May 31