The Nightingale from Alsace
Elisa Gérard, née Weiss (1922-2018), grew up in Alsace. As of spring, 1942, all women in occupied France who were born in 1921 or 1922 had to work for the war industry. From May 1942 to 1945, Gérard performed forced labour for Siemens in the Aircraft Manufacturing Plant in Hakenfelde in Spandau.
She worked there in 12-hour shifts six days a week. She had one 30-minute break a day, during which she was given soup with bread and water. If someone had to go to the toilet, they had to raise their hand. Gérard worked at a lathe, always producing the same small metal pieces. After work, she went directly to her assigned barracks in a forced labour camp. In its Propaganda Siemens presented the oppressive conditions there as exemplary. Gérard, who was a good singer, was sometimes called “Rossignol”, which means nightingale. She joined the camp choir, which performed for the inmates and guards. After her release in 1945, she first reached Dresden with friends from the camp. Gérard returned to her hometown in late May 1945.