Gerhard was born on 7 November 1920 in Berlin-Schöneberg. After Kristallnacht, he fled to the Netherlands and reported at the age of 18 in the Werkdorp on 13 February 1939. He was educated in agriculture and called a farmer and milker. His mother and younger sister stayed in Berlin. On 2 March 1943 Gerhard’s mother, together with his younger sister Ruth (1926), went on the 32nd East transport from Berlin to Auschwitz, where she was murdered immediately upon arrival.
Gerhard met his future wife Anna Chlebowski in the Werkdorp. She arrived there at the age of 19 on 14 February 1940. Anna worked in the household and in horticulture. After almost two years they decided to go through life together and got engaged on 22 December 1941 in Alkmaar. Gerhard and Anna belong to the 60 stayers who are allowed to stay after the evacuation of the Werkdorp on 20 March 1941, in order to deal with current affairs and execute the measures leading up to the final closure of the Werkdorp. Gerhard, after the definite closure of the Werkdorp on 1 August, found a workplace with the De Heer family in Middenbeemster in the De Eendracht farmstead. Anna found a place with the Leegwater family in Schermerhorn, so they live near each other, some 10 kilometres or half an hour by bike.
They still live and work there legally. This changes in April 1942. Then the occupying forces announce that the district in North Holland must be made ‘Juden-rein’. This is the signal for Gerhard and Anna to leave. They first go to Deventer, where they arrive on 9 April 1942 at 45 Papenstraat, the gathering place for Jewish refugees in search of an individual hachshara.
Gerhard and Anna, together with a number of other Werkdorp refugees, go to Almelo where they settle at Werfstraat 11 on 24 May 1942. Gerhard and Anna got married in Almelo on 24 July 1942. But they did not get to enjoy their honeymoon. On the 10th of August 1942 the mayor of Almelo issues an order to search, arrest and bring before the authorities a number of co-occupants of the Werfstraat. They had allegedly left the municipality without the required permit. This description referred to Jews who had gone into hiding.
For Gerhard this was a reason to actually go into hiding. Gerhard continued as ‘Jan van den Berg’, the family name of Nel Leegwater-van den Berg from Schermerhorn, where Anna had found a place to live after the work village had been evacuated. He first stays for a few weeks in a boarding house in Bennekom, in the Zonnebloem home.
The landlord expects guests and considers it – in view of a possible check of their guest list – too great a risk that Jan van den Berg stays with them any longer. He asks the contractor Kranen, who is working for the pension holder, whether he can take ‘Jan’ into his home.
Jan’ came the next day to talk and it clicked between ‘Jan’ and the Kranen family. He could stay with the Kranen family, which consisted of a family with five children. Father Louis Kranen was in the resistance and was part of the resistance group around Renkum. In the beginning, “Jan” still paid for his stay and later he earned some extra money by working in the contractor’s workshop (directly connected to the house).
However, Gerhard did not stay there for long either; in November 1942 he joined Anna, who had meanwhile returned to Amsterdam and had started working at the day-care centre for the Jewish Council on 16 July 1942. On the basis of this position, she was described by the Jewish Council as a seamstress and social worker, she received a sperr, and was thus for the time being protected from deportation. Gerhard also received a sperr on the basis of his wife’s function.
The Kranen family gave Gerhard the message that he and Anna were always welcome, and this took shape when Gerhard visited the Kranen family after hearing from an acquaintance in Amsterdam that father Kranen had an accident at work in which he lost his eye. Gerhard then tells him that he will soon become a father and is told by the family that they must come to Renkum when the time comes.
And in August 1943 they can go to the family in Renkum. Anna can give birth in the rest home ´t Hemeldal in Oosterbeek. The owner is Eef Zwarts, one of the pillars of the LO, the National organisation for helping people in hiding. Gerhard stayed with the Kranen family and Edith Irene was born in Oosterbeek on 27 August 1943.
The plan is to register Irene as the daughter of Dina and Louis Kranen in the municipality of Renkum. It was quite likely that Dina would have had her next child after one and a half years. But this would not happen. Within the resistance group around Renkum, betrayal had taken place and the situation within the Kranen family was no longer considered safe. Gerhard and Anna returned to Amsterdam with Irene in the beginning of September 1943.
After being placed with several host families, Anna Sperber brought her daughter Irene to a baker’s family in Drenthe, early December 1943. Via the resistance there Irene was placed with Antje and Jacob Croeze in Wierumerschouw in Groningen. They have two children and the story the family tells the neighborhood is that the girl comes from the West and needs a healthy environment because her mother has tuberculosis. The girl is said to be a niece of a good acquaintance from the city of Groningen and to be called Marianne van Dijk. Antje Croeze called her Irene but the name Ina was already established.
Gerhard and Anna went to France and joined the Westerweel group, a resistance organisation of Christians and Jews, which focused on finding and accommodating pioneers at hiding addresses, the first reception of pioneers on their way to Palestine and the search for routes via Belgium and France to Spain in order to eventually reach Palestine. The organisation of the trips to Spain is also part of the work of the Westerweel group. Gerhard and Anna joined pioneers such as Ernst Asscher in a Jewish resistance group in Paris that was led by Ernst Appenzeller. The Parisian group was part of the umbrella organisation Forces Francaises de l´Interieur (FFI). It was involved in arms transports, sabotage, raids on German institutions and the liquidation of traitors.
On 18 July 1944, Gerhard and Anna were arrested together with 10 other pioneers and locked up in the notorious ‘SicherheitsDienst’ office on Rue de la Pompe in Paris. After severe interrogations, the arrested are transferred to camp Drancy, a few weeks before the liberation of Paris.
In early August the Allies were already close to Paris and the German SS commander of camp Drancy decided to leave by train, taking 51 Jewish prisoners with him, including Gerhard. He and a few other Palestine Pioneers were transferred to Buchenwald camp and then on to Dora-Mittelbau camp, where rockets were made in underground spaces. Gerhard was transferred to Nordhausen camp and, according to the official account, died there on 20 April 1945. Ernst Asscher another Palestine pioneer who was also in Nordhausen, stated after the war that Gerhard was killed in the bombing of Nordhausen on 3 and 4 April 1944.
- Johanna Sperber-Juris * 22-11-1886 in Berlin † in 02-03-1943 in Auschwitz and
- Karl Sperber * unknown † unknown
Berlin, Neue Königstrasse 78 (Schöneberg)
Last known residences in The Netherlands
Werkdorp Wieringen, Nieuwesluizerweg 42, Slootdorp (Wieringen)
Groot Schermer with family Koning
Middenbeemster, Middenweg 196 with family De Heer
Deventer, Papenstraat 45 ( De Korenbloem)
Almelo, Werfstraat 11
Amsterdam, Tugelaweg 67-II