Gertrude Fischer, 92, died Thursday, May 5, at Kingsway Village Independent Living apartments. She passed away with her two daughters, Ruth Clayman (Schenectady) and Ronit Fischer (Bedford Hills), at her side.
Gertrude Fischer was born in Galanta, Hungary, a small town on the border of Austria and Hungary. Born Gertrude Adler, she spoke Czech, Hungarian and German and was very comfortably middle-class. Gertrude was a quiet, studious girl who enjoyed reading and sewing.
Like every Jewish family in that part of the world, the Adler family was torn apart during World War II. At the age of 15, in September 1944, she and her entire family on both sides were rounded up by the Germans and sent to the death camps at Auschwitz in Poland. Only Gertrude, her sister Edith and her mother Aranka survived.
After enduring a forced march, during which she and her family escaped her Nazi guards by running across a field and hiding in a barn, they were liberated by the American soldiers in May of 1945. Despite losing everything she had and almost everyone in her world, she returned home determined to start her life over again. She met Peter Fischer, another survivor of Hitler’s death camps, at a tea party in Czechoslovakia. It was love at first sight and Peter proposed to her two weeks after their first meeting. The marriage lasted 68 years, until Peter’s death in 2016.
Gertrude and Peter left Europe as the Communists took over and emigrated to Israel in 1948. Their life there began modestly, in a tent, until Peter secured funds to build their prefabricated home. Gertrude quickly learned another new language, Hebrew, and used her seamstress skills to help the family build a life. In fact, she was such an expert seamstress that she could design and produce garments without using a pattern.
Her daughters, Ruth and Ronit, were born in Israel, and Gertrude continued to work, which was unusual for both the time and for the country. They remained in Israel until 1959, with Peter first coming to America to work, and sending for Gertrude and the girls six months later. The family settled in New York City, in Queens, and once again Gertrude had to learn a new language. She held a number of jobs, eventually working many years for Avis. Gertrude was known for wearing black in the early 1960 — before it was fashionable.
Eventually the family was able to move from a small apartment in Queens to a house on Long Island. They lived there until 1987, when they moved to Schenectady to be near their grandchildren. The grandchildren were the light of Gertrude’s later life. She adored them, and vice-versa. They loved her warm, caring, self-deprecating manner, and dry, sly humor. She tried to prepare her grandchildren that life could present itself with many unexpected ups and downs, but she rarely talked about her experiences during the war, being a very private woman.
Gertrude — known to the growing family, even to her two sons-in-law, as “Ima,” the Hebrew word for mother — collected miniature liquor bottles and was an expert baker, perfecting her signature dish, the flourless chocolate cake. She was a modern woman in that she left the bulk of the family cooking to her husband, who enjoyed cooking their European childhood favorite foods.
The family continued to grow, to Gertrude’s delight, as her grandchildren began to have children of their own. Gertrude’s first words in any family phone call were always, “How are the kids?” Altogether, Gertrude leaves behind seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren — including her own two daughters. Fifteen souls who would not be here had Ima not survived. Thanks, Ima.
Services and interment were held on Friday, May 7, 2021 in the Agudat Achim Cemetery in Rotterdam, New York