Gerard’s family had lived for centuries in Germany, originally from Baden in Southern Germany, and moving to Frankfurt in the late 19th century. Originally merchants, they became bankers and Gerard’s maternal grandfather was elected President of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Gerard’s father, Otto, obtained a doctorate in pharmacology and owned a pharmacy in the West End of Frankfurt. Martha, Gerard’s mother, managed the family household. Gerard was the younger of two children, with seven years separating him from Helmut, his older brother.
By the time Gerard became a young man, the situation in Germany had deteriorated with the ascendancy of the Nazi regime. As a Jew, he was not allowed to go to University, and was removed from his clerical job with the government due to the Nuremberg Laws. The Wertheimer family sent Gerard to Italy to learn to become a haberdasher (hat maker) – but he hated the work. In 1935 he was sponsored by a family friend to emigrate to the United States, where he arrived in New York City to find his future – on Wall Street. Gerard worked initially for a brokerage firm, owned by German immigrants as a “runner” (messenger) who hired a number of refugees to help give them a start.
Separated from his family, Gerard did what he could to support them. His older brother, Helmut was working in industry in the 1930s and realizing that he should not stay in Germany, he looked abroad for positions, moving with his new wife to Buenos Aires in 1937. His parents however were not as fortunate. They “sold” their business in 1936, a forced sale which simply gave the business to a non-Jew. Gerard’s father was taken into custody on Kristallnacht but was ultimately released because he was over 65. Looking to leave the country, they looked to both the US and Argentina. They had just received a visa to go to Buenos Aires, as there were no. visas available in the US. Upon his release from the Gestapo. Gerard’s parents hired a driver to get them to Cologne, where they boarded a train to Oostende. There they took a ferry to England and stayed until they could board a ship for Buenos Aires. They went from London to Boulogne, France to board their ship, and arrived in Argentina in early 1939. Gerard didn’t see them again until 1947.
Gerard helped other extended family members, who had left Germany but were still in Europe, immigrate to the US during the war. One of those relatives invited him to dinner, just as he was drafted into the US Army and also invited another young German immigrant, Eva Schiff. Gerard and Eva corresponded throughout the war and married in 1945, eventually moving from New York City to the suburbs to raise their family.
After the war Gerard pursued his career on Wall Street, becoming a Securities Analyst, and partner in a Wall Street firm. The family was active members of their reform synagogue but did not speak of their early experiences until the late 1970s. They continued to help support both sets of their parents throughout their lifetime.