Gertrud Pfiel was born in present day Croatia, the daughter of an engineer and inventor. A strikingly beautiful blonde with high cheekbones and expressive blue eyes, she grew up in Vienna where she was trained as a singer and dancer, embarking on a theatrical career by the age of fifteen. Until 1944, 'Gertraud' regularly performed at various theatres in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna. During a performance, she came to the attention of the director Fritz Lang, who became instantly enamored with her. Without an audition, Lang gave her a starring role as a defecting Russian spy in Spies (1928), the success of which led to further back-to-back leads in Woman in the Moon (1929) and Treason (1929).
Lang eventually left his wife and long-time collaborator, the screenwriter Thea von Harbou, while Gerda Maurus went onto marry another prolific director, Robert A. Stemmle, who directed her in Daphne and the Diplomat (1937). During the sound era, Gerda was intermittently given further opportunities to shine, including opposite Hans Albers (Dope (1932)) and Paul Hörbiger (Prinzessin Sissy (1939)), but she seemed somehow unable to repeat the success of her earlier (silent) films. Her association, however tenuous, with Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels tainted her career during the immediate post-war period. While her acting ban was eventually lifted, she rarely again graced the screen, but for several more years continued on as a stage actress in Munich and Düsseldorf.