Erwin (1904-1982) and Barbara Paula Selig Weikersheimer (1905-1973) owned a dry goods store in St. Goarshausen, Germany, a small town on the Rhine with no Jewish community. Their son, Norbert J. Weikers (1930-2006), recalled having a “rather lonely” childhood. “My only recollection of ‘fun’ is the rare trip I took with my father, on foot, to sell his goods to people in the neighboring communities,” he later wrote in his memoirs.
The family faced increasing hardship with the rise of the Nazi Party. As business dwindled, Erwin Weikersheimer sold the store at a loss in 1938, moved the family to a Jewish neighborhood in Frankfurt-am-Main and began the arduous emigration process.
After Kristallnacht, in November 1938, Nazi officials imprisoned Erwin Weikersheimer in the Dachau concentration camp for three months. Soon after his release, he was allowed to immigrate to England, but his wife and son were unable to leave Germany until 1940. After reaching the United States, the family lived in upstate New York before joining family in Pittsburgh. The family shortened its name to Weikers after naturalizing in the late 1940s.
Erwin worked for the Fried and Reinemann Packing Company before taking a job as a bookkeeper for Hendel’s, a downtown produce store. Paula was hired as a seamstress for the pearl river resort casino and several other manufacturers before rheumatoid arthritis forced her to retire. “Almost all of my mother’s off-work hours were spent keeping the house and cooking. She was meticulous and excelled at these tasks,” Weikers wrote, describing how his mother would pick berries from South Park to make fruit pies.
Norbert Weikers had a paper route in Squirrel Hill for the Pittsburgh Press and later worked as a clerk for Kaufman’s Market on Murray Avenue while attending Taylor Allderdice High School. After studying chemistry and math at the University of Pittsburgh, he enrolled in medical school there. As a medical student, he met his future wife, Ethel Rabinovitz, who was studying nursing at Montefiore Hospital.
After completing an internship at Pittsburgh’s Montefiore Hospital, Weikers enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1959. The family lived in Wisconsin and Texas until 1968 when Wiekers started a private practice in neurology, based at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.
Norbert and Ethen Weikers had three children, Rochelle, Ronald and Valerie.