Gisella lived with her parents, grandparents, uncle, and older sister, Inge, in Lechenich, a small village outside of Cologne. The Bergs were an observant Jewish family. Gisella's grandfather was the president of the local synagogue association and her uncle was the cantor. Her father, Josef was a respected cattle dealer, who had many business and personal contacts with their Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors.
1933–39: Gisella was born several months after the Nazis came to power. Her parents feared for her safety and did not permit her to play on the street with other children. On November 9, 1938, the Nazis carried out a nationwide pogrom against Germany's Jews, known as Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass”). Alerted to the danger by a family friend, the Bergs fled to Cologne. That night, local Nazis ransacked their home in Lechenich, damaging or destroying many of the family's possessions. In May 1939, the Bergs left for Kenya.
1940–45: In Kenya, then part of British East Africa, the family lived on a farm in the highlands, raising cattle and pyrethrum—a flowering plant used to make insecticide. From her home, Gisella could see the distant peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya as well as many exotic animals. The Bergs, like other former German citizens, found themselves classified by the British as “enemy aliens” during World War II. They faced certain restrictions, but Gisella and Inge were able to continue their education.
In 1947, the Bergs came to the United States, and eventually purchased a chicken farm and dairy business in Vineland, New Jersey. Gisella completed her high school education and graduated from a business college. In 1957, she married Kurt Pauly, a fellow refugee from Nazi Germany.
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