Gina Gerson was born Gina Bauer in Vienna in 1924. She came from a typical middle class Jewish family. She has a half sister from her mother’s first marriage. She never wanted for anything and was a very cherished and over protected only child of her mother’s second marriage. Her parents were both Austrian citizens, born in Austria and her father was actually born in Przemysl, a small town in Poland, part of the Austrian empire. Her mother was second generation of the Viennese Jews and considered herself Viennese then Austrian. Though she was aware of it, being Jewish didn’t play a very big part in our lives. The family was very assimilated.
I find myself towards the end of my life, being very frightened again, very worried. Not just for my family but for the world. I shall go to my grave not understanding that people can look down or up to anyone else. I can only acknowledge one race, and that is the human race.
I had a ticket from Vienna via Ostend to Dover to London where my sister was going to meet me. I had very little money because we were not allowed to take any money. Towards the Belgian frontier, a town called Aachen, the train stopped and all the Jews had to get out. We all got out and everyone’s luggage was minutely examined. Then for a reason that I can’t fathom to this day, everyone else was allowed back onto the train except me.
I joined the Toynbee Theatre in the east end of London - the Toynbee Players. We learnt speech, elocution, fencing, dancing. There were teachers there who were particularly helpful to me knowing perhaps my background. There was Marion Graham. She taught later on at the Old Vic Drama School and was particularly helpful.
I became a fully-fledged actress- Used to go to these interviews, and, ‘yes dear, we’ll get in touch’- Until somehow or other it came up that I was bilingual. They took a greater interest in me and I ended up doing quite a lot of work for the BBC as a foreign actress. I had to relearn my accent… Playing an Austrian refugee in a play called Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, my leading man was no less than Michael Hordern.
I remember after we had been chucked out of our flat [after the November Pogrom / Kristallnacht] my parents realised they'd forgotten an important document. They tried to get back into their own flat, their own flat if you please, but there was a tiny paper seal with a swastika over the lock on our door. To open the door, of course, they would have to pierce that paper seal with the key, & no way would they do that. I mean, no way, they were law-abiding citizens & that would have been against the law. So whatever it was they were after they had to leave behind.