On November 28, 1928, Gert Schramm was born in Erfurt, Thuringia, which was a free state in Central Germany. Gert’s parents were Jack Brankson, an African American engineer working for an American steel company, and Marianne Schramm a German woman. Gert Schramn’s mixed-race heritage will become the reason his life is filled with adversity. Despite being barred from receiving vocational training, Gert began working as a help in a car repair shop. People of mixed race were denied basic human rights and their existence was essentially illegal and punishable by death. Gert’s father, Jack Brankson’s work contract expired and he was forced to leave Germany. He did visit his son on occasion, risking his life and freedom. Jack’s last trip to Germany turned out to be tragic, he was arrested by the Nazis for being black in Germany, and shipped to Auschwitz, where it is believed he died as a captive.
Gert was 15 years old in 1944, that is the year he was arrested by the Gestapo because he was not a pure-bred Aryan, and held in protective custody in a number of prisons. Within the prisons, Gert was tortured, interrogated, and beaten, before being transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp. The number 49489 was tattooed on Gert’s left arm, marking him as a prisoner of the Nazis. For the crime of being mixed race, he was sentenced to serve no less than 15 years in the camp, but his total time of incarceration was unspecified. Gert was initially working in a stone quarry where up to 15 men died a day, he was moved to a camp with easier work filled with political prisoners. A move Gert says saved his life. White men in the concentration camp were killed without provocation, so Gert feared for his life as a black man in a concentration camp.
Gert was luckier than the average prisoner at Buchenwald, he was spared from being forced into the “death marches” by the Nazis. Being kept at the camp allowed him to survive the Nazis. Gert was freed from the concentration camp once the Nazis were defeated in WWII. He was able to return home to his mother to live his life. To support his mother, Gert found work at a uranium mine before finding work at a coal mine. He then moved to East Germany where he found work at a bus company. Gert’s next step was to further his education becoming a certified mechanic, and later a Master mechanic. He worked his way up to becoming the vehicle fleet department head for the Eberswalde civil engineering combine. Gert’s ultimate accomplishment was in 1985 when he started his own taxi company. Gert Schramm survived a Nazi concentration camp and then went on to work his way into creating his own business. He literally looked death in the eyes and survived. As he grew older, he would travel the world telling his story of survival and triumph. He also became one of the board members of the Buchenwald Memorial Foundation. This is the story of Gert Schramm. He died in 2016 having lived a complicated but remarkable life.
Click here to support the OTSOG book series
Click Here to join our mailing list