All But My Life: A Memoir

All But My Life: A Memoir

by Gerda Weissmann Klein

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Overview

All But My Life is the unforgettable story of Gerda Weissmann Klein's six-year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty. From her comfortable home in Bielitz (present-day Bielsko) in Poland to her miraculous survival and her liberation by American troops--including the man who was to become her husband--in Volary, Czechoslovakia, in 1945, Gerda takes the reader on a terrifying journey.

Gerda's serene and idyllic childhood is shattered when Nazis march into Poland on September 3, 1939. Although the Weissmanns were permitted to live for a while in the basement of their home, they were eventually separated and sent to German labor camps. Over the next few years Gerda experienced the slow, inexorable stripping away of "all but her life." By the end of the war she had lost her parents, brother, home, possessions, and community; even the dear friends she made in the labor camps, with whom she had shared so many hardships, were dead.

Despite her horrifying experiences, Klein conveys great strength of spirit and faith in humanity. In the darkness of the camps, Gerda and her young friends manage to create a community of friendship and love. Although stripped of the essence of life, they were able to survive the barbarity of their captors. Gerda's beautifully written story gives an invaluable message to everyone. It introduces them to last century's terrible history of devastation and prejudice, yet offers them hope that the effects of hatred can be overcome.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780809016532
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 11/19/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 832,970
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.29(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

Gerda Weissmann Klein was born in Bielsko, Poland, in 1924, and now lives in Arizona with her husband, Kurt Klein, who as a U.S. Army lieutenant liberated Weissmann on May 7, 1945. The author of five books, she has received many awards and honorary degrees and has lectured throughout the country for the past forty-five years. Kurt and Gerda are the authors of The Hours After: Letters of Love and Longing in War's Aftermath. One Survivor Remembers (a production of HBO and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), winner of an Emmy Award and the Academy Award for documentary short subject, was based on All But My Life.

Read an Excerpt

All But My Life

A Memoir


By Gerda Weissmann Klein

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 1995 Gerda Weissmann Klein
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-1242-0


All But My Life
Part OneChapter 1THERE IS A WATCH LYING ON THE GREEN CARPET OF THE LIVING room of my childhood. The hands seem to stand motionless at 9:10, freezing time when it happened. There would be a past only, the future uncertain, time had stopped for the present. Morning-9:10. That is all I am able to grasp. The hands of the watch are cruel. Slowly they blur into its face.I lift my eyes to the window. Everything looks unfamiliar, as in a dream. Several motorcycles roar down the street. The cyclists wear green-gray uniforms and I hear voices. First a few, and then many, shouting something that is impossible and unreal. "Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler!" And the watch says 9:10. I did not know then that an invisible curtain had parted and that I walked on an unseen stage to play a part in a tragedy that was to last six years.It was September 3, 1939, Sunday morning. We had spent a sleepless night in the damp, chilly basement of our house while the shells and bombs fell. At one point in the evening when Papa, Mama, my brother Arthur, then nineteen, were huddled in bewildered silence, my cat Schmutzi began to meow outside in the garden and Arthur stepped outside to let her in. He had come back with a bullet hole in his trousers."A bullet?""There is shooting from the roofs, the Germans are coming!"Then, in the early gray of the morning we heard the loud rumbling of enemy tanks. Our troops were retreating from the border to Krakow, where they would make their stand. Their faces were haggard, drawn, and unshaven, and in their eyes there was panic and defeat. They had seen the enemy, had tried and failed. It had all happened so fast. Two daysbefore, on Friday morning, the first of September, the drone of a great many German planes had brought most of the people of our little town into the streets. The radio was blasting the news that the Germans had crossed our frontier at Cieszyn and that we were at war! Hastily, roadblocks had been erected. Hysteria swept over the people and large numbers left town that day.I had never seen Bielitz, my home town, frightened. It had always been so safe and secure. Nestled at the foot of the Beskide mountain range, the high peaks had seemed to shelter the gay, sparkling little town from intruders. Bielitz was charming and not without reason was it called "Little Vienna." Having been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before 1919, it still retained the flavor of that era. Almost all of Bielitz' inhabitants were bilingual; Polish as well as German was spoken in the stores. In the center of the city, among carefully tended flower beds, stood its small but excellent theater, and next to it the Schloss, the castle of the Sulkowskys, the nobility closely linked to the Imperial Hapsburgs.Nothing in my lifetime had ever disturbed the tranquility of Bielitz. Only now, when I saw people deserting it, did I realize how close, dangerously close we were to the Czechoslovakian frontier; only twenty-odd miles separated us from Cieszyn.There had been talk of war for many weeks, of course, but since mid-August our family had been preoccupied with Papa's illness. Mama and I had been away in Krynica, a summer resort, from early June until the middle of August. Papa and Arthur had been unable to accompany us, and we returned when we received a telegram from Papa, suggesting we come home because of the gravity of the international situation. It had been somewhat of a shock to see how ill Papa looked when he met us at the station. His right arm was bothering him and Mama, alarmed, had called the doctor. The doctor diagnosed the illness as a mild heart attack and Papa was put to bed immediately.The following day two specialists were summoned to Papa's bedside. That same day we received a cable from Mama'sbrother Leo, who was in Turkey. It read: "Poland's last hour has come. Dangerous for Jews to remain. Your visas waiting at Warsaw embassy. Urge you to come immediately."Mama stuck the cable in her apron pocket, saying, "Papa is ill, that is our prime concern."Papa was to be spared excitement and worry at all costs, and visitors were cautioned not to mention the possibility of war to him. Mama little realized the fate we all might have been spared had she not concealed the truth from Papa. Yet on Friday morning, September 1, when German planes roared through the sky, Papa, who had been ill for two weeks, came face to face with reality. It was a tense day. I spent most of it in my parents' bedroom and instinctively stayed close to Papa.As that first day drew to a close, nobody touched supper, no one seemed to want to go to sleep. Mama sat in a chair near Papa's bed, Arthur and I watched from the window. Horses and wagons loaded with refugees continued to roll toward the East. Here and there a rocket, like blood spouting from the wounded earth, shot into the evening sky, bathing the valley in a grotesque red. I looked at my parents. Papa appeared strange, almost lifeless. The yellow flowers on Mama's black housecoat seemed to be burning. Outside, the mountain tops were ablaze for a moment, then they resounded with a thunderous blast that made the glass in the windows rattle like teeth in a skeleton's head. Everything was burning now. I looked at Mama again. Her soft, wavy, blue-black hair clung to her face. Her large, dark eyes seemed bottomless against her pale skin. Her mobile mouth was still and alien. The red glow was reflected in each of our faces. It made hers seem strange and unfamiliar. There was Mama, burning with the strange fire of destruction, and in the street the horses and wagons, the carts and bicycles were rolling toward the unknown. There was a man carrying a goat on his back, apparently the only possession he had. On the corner several mothers were clutching their infants to their breasts, and near them an old peasant woman crossed herself. It was as if the world had come to an end in that strange red light. Then, all of a sudden, Papa spoke to me."Go, call the family and find out what they are doing."I went downstairs. I sat down next to the phone with a long list of numbers. I started at the top and worked to the bottom, but there were no answers. The telephones kept ringing and ringing. I pictured the homes that I knew so well, and with each ring a familiar object or piece of furniture seemed to tumble to the floor.I became panicky. It seemed as though we were alone in a world of the dead. I went back upstairs. My parents and Arthur apparently had been talking. They stopped abruptly."Nobody answered, isn't that right?" Papa asked. I could not speak. I nodded. There was no longer any pretense. Papa motioned me to sit down on his bed. He embraced me with his left arm."Children," he said, "the time has come when I have to say what I hoped I would never have to say. I remember as if it were yesterday the cries of the wounded and the pale faces of the dead from the last war. I didn't think it possible that the world would come to this again. You believed I could always find a solution for everything. Yet I have failed you. I feel you children should go. Mama just told me that Mr. and Mrs. Ebersohn have asked to take you with them to look for refuge in the interior of Poland. I am sick when you most need my strength. I want you to go, children. I command you to go! His voice had assumed a tone of authority that I had never heard before. I saw Arthur look up startled at the mention of his girl friend's parents. More than ever he looked like Mama, but somehow he reminded me of Papa as he stood there tall, erect, and determined.Almost without hesitation, he said, "No! We are going to stay together."My parents' eyes met. I had a feeling there was relief and pride in their faces."I hoped you would say that," Papa said brokenly, "not for my sake, but because I hate to cast out my children to complete uncertainty. I believe that God will keep us together and under the roof of our house."He dropped back exhausted on his pillows. The effort hadbeen too much for him, and sudden stillness fell over the room. Strangely, all sound ceased outside as well and we noted that the sky was no longer red. 
When I awoke the next morning everything was as peaceful as ever. The sun shone so brightly in my room. The fall flowers in our garden were in full bloom. The trees were laden with fruit. In my room everything was as it had always been, and what's more, even Papa was out of bed. His arm was in a sling, but he was up, and it seemed so wonderful I was sure the night before had all been a nightmare. No, not quite, because in my parents' faces I could read something that hadn't been there yesterday.When we met downstairs for breakfast everybody seemed cheerful. Papa was joking. Mama joined in this seemingly carefree banter. The maid had left to be with her relatives. Papa jokingly asked me whether I wanted the job. Nobody mentioned the war. I walked to the radio and turned it on. There was a sharp click, but no sound. I tried the phone, the lights, but all electricity was off. In a way that was good. There was no contact with the outside world. It was a wonderful, peaceful Saturday. But evening brought fury to the end of that last peaceful day. Sporadic shooting started from the rooftops, an attempt at delaying the enemy while our army retreated to Krakow. We looked for shelter in our cellar and sat there through the night. Toward morning the shooting stopped altogether and the vehicles of the Polish army ceased to roll. We came up from the cellar for a cup of tea in the living room. As I sat down on the couch near the window I could see the people outside in an obviously gay and festive mood, talking and laughing, carrying flowers, and everywhere the clicking of cameras."Mama, look," Arthur said. "Do you suppose-?" and he broke in the middle of the sentence, not daring to say what seemed impossible."No," Mama answered, and then Arthur pulled his watch out of his pocket, the roar of a motorcycle broke the stillness of our home, and his watch fell to the floor. It was 9:10 A.M.I looked out again. A swastika was flying from the house across the street. My God! They seemed prepared. All but us, they knew.A big truck filled with German soldiers was parked across the street. Our neighbors were serving them wine and cakes, and screaming as though drunk with joy, "Heil Hitler! Long live the Führer! We thank thee for our liberation!"I couldn't understand it. I didn't seem to be able to grasp the reality of what had happened. What are those people doing? The same people I had known all my life. They have betrayed us.The breakfast tea turned cold on the table. Papa and Mama looked down at the floor. Their faces were blank. Papa seemed so old, so gray. He had changed so much.I smelled something burning. A hot coal from the big green tile oven had fallen through the grill onto the carpet. I remembered a similar accident a year or two before and Mama had been terribly upset. Afterward she had turned the carpet so that the burned spot was under the couch. This time I wanted to shout a warning, but my throat froze when I saw my parents staring at that coal. They saw the carpet burn slowly, but they didn't seem to care. Finally, Papa got up and with his shoe carelessly shoved the coal back to the grill. Nobody spoke.I looked out the window and there was Trude, a girl I had known since childhood. She and her grandmother lived rent free in a two-room apartment in our basement in return for laundry service. Now I saw her carrying flowers from our garden, white roses of which we had been so proud because they bloomed out of season. She handed them to a soldier, breaking her tongue with the unfamiliar German, "Heil Hitler!" The soldier reached for the flowers, but somebody offered him some schnapps. He took the glass instead, the flowers tumbled to the dusty road, the boots of the soldiers trampled on them. I started sobbing, crying, releasing all my emotions and anxieties in that outburst. Arthur jumped over to me, put his hand over my mouth. "Are you crazy? Do you want to give us away?" But I did not hear him. The tears felt so good. He finally slapped me. "Think of Papa's life. Ifthey hear you crying-" I couldn't stop. He pulled me down from the couch, dragged me over the carpet, and up the stairs with Mama holding my mouth. They put me to bed, where I cried into the pillow until, exhausted, I fell asleep.Early in the afternoon the drunken, jubilant mob was still celebrating its "liberation" and hoarsely shouting "Heil Hitler." Papa and Mama smiled. Their smiles seemed more painful to me than my screams and tears, and I learned at that moment that I must not always cry when I wanted. I realized that we were outsiders, strangers in our own home, at the mercy of those who until then had been our friends. Although I was only fifteen I had a strong feeling, more instinct than reason, that our lives were no longer our own, but lay in the hands of a deadly enemy.Mama tried to maintain the pattern of our life, even on that fateful Sunday. She prepared dinner and we sat down as usual, but no one could eat and when the food was cleared away we sat in silence. Arthur got out books about the war of 1914 and looked up data about its development, but Papa said, "This is a different war. This one cannot possibly last four years. Four weeks, perhaps four months at most."Early in the evening, when the shouting of the drunken mob had died away, there was a knock at the door and a whispered, "Mrs. Weissmann." It was our neighbor Mrs. Bergmann, the mother of my friend Escia. She looked pale and shaken as she relayed the news that during the afternoon several Jews had been rounded up in the streets, locked in the Temple, and the Temple set on fire."Men had better stay out of sight," she whispered.Papa and Arthur exchanged glances. Mama's eyes widened and she pressed her lips together. But Mrs. Bergmann told us too that England and France had declared war on Germany that morning. She stayed only a few minutes. When she rose to leave, Mama saw her to the door and I followed them. Before they opened the door Mrs. Bergmann and Mama listened a while, then finally Mrs. Bergmann turned the knob and through a tiny opening glanced up and down the street before she slipped out.We sat a while longer in silence, none of us wanting to go to bed. That was the first evening in my life that I saw Mama without needlework in her hands. She just sat and stared into the fire. After a while she got up, outwardly calm and regal, and said, "Go to bed, children. We all will need rest and strength."Her words climaxed the first day under German rule. 
The next morning, I was in the kitchen with Mama when Mrs. Rösche, one of the neighbors, came in with another woman and asked for our Polish flag."The flag?" Mama asked. "What for?""To make a German one, of course. It's really simple. You leave the red stripe as it is, cut a circle out of the white, and put a black swastika on it."Mama grew pale. At first she looked for our flag in places where she knew she wouldn't find it. Finally she brought it forth, knowing that she would have to sooner or later. Mrs. Rösche asked if Mama happened to have some black ribbon. She said she didn't. The other neighbor produced a piece. She told us it was good ribbon-that it would last for many years!Those two neighbors spent all morning sewing a Nazi flag to hang from our house. Why they did it, I'll never know. Perhaps they felt that we would be inviting trouble not to display the flag.When the flag was finished, they asked, "Where's Arthur? He is big and strong. He could hang the flag."Mama sent me to call him. I found him in his room, lying in listless apathy. When I told him what was asked of him, he shouted,"Are you all out of your minds? Never! Never! I won't do it. Tell them that I am gone, tell them that I am dead, tell them anything!"And so Mrs. Rösche and the other woman struggled to fasten the flag through the little hole in the roof. I couldn't bring myself to look out of the window for days, but when I did, there was the blood-red symbol of the tragedy that had engulfed us.Copyright © 1957, 1995 by Gerda Weissmann Klein
(Continues...)

Excerpted from All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein. Copyright © 1995 Gerda Weissmann Klein. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. In her Preface, Gerda writes, "I feel at peace, at last. I have discharged a burden, and paid a debt to many nameless heroes." What burden has she discharged, what debt has she paid? What has been achieved by her relating the stories of Lotte, Erika, and others?

2. What motivations kept the Weissmanns from fleeing Poland before the Nazi invasion, as Uncle Leo suggested they should do? Did Mrs. Weissmann make a mistake in deeming her husband's health their primary concern? Why did the Weissmanns continue to hope that everything would be all right? Later, Aunt Anna urges the Weissmanns to accompany her into the Gouvernement. Why do they refuse to go? Was their decision justified?

3. Gerda couldn't understand why her neighbors made a Nazi flag to hang from the Weissmanns' house. What do you think their motivations were? Might this action have helped the Weissmanns?

4. At the ruins of the Jewish Temple in Bielitz, Arthur gives Gerda a little piece of glass. Why does Gerda keep the glass for so long? What does it come to signify to her?

5. How does Gerda's vision of her parents change during the course of the book? What words would you use to describe her feelings about them when she is a young girl at the beginning of the war; at the end of the war, after their deaths; and as an older woman, a mother herself, looking back over the years?

6. On the door of Mr. Weissmann's factory, the Nazis place a sign that says: Dogs and Jews Not Allowed to Enter (p. 26). Do you think the Nazis treated the Jewish people better, or worse, than dogs? In what ways did they consider the Jews useful to them and therefore worthy to be kept alive?

7. When the Weissmanns move into the basement of their house, Trude, who is about to move from the basement to the main part of the house, says "without malice or sarcasm" (p. 33) that she will be glad to have a nice place to spend Christmas. Do you think that Trude is really without malice? Do you think she might feel resentment for the difficult, impoverished childhood she has led? Why might she, and people like her, irrationally blame the Jewish population for their troubles?

8. What role does religion play in the lives of the Weissmann family? How do Gerda's religious beliefs evolve over the course of the book? Why, during the final march through Czechoslovakia, does Gerda stop praying?

9. Of all the Germans Gerda meets during the war, only two—the officer in Bielitz who discovered her English textbook and Frau Kügler—"behaved as though they were human" (p. 51). What can account for the fact that so many people acted with such incredible cruelty? Do you believe that the German nation should be held collectively responsible for the atrocities against the Jewish people? Or do you think that the kind of madness that overtook them is latent in all human beings?

10. How would you describe Abek's character? Can you understand Gerda's negative feelings toward him? How do their characters differ? How do their attitudes toward religion differ? Do you think that Gerda led Abek on, or that she dealt with him in the most sympathetic and humane way possible? How does Erika's letter about her love for Henek help to make Gerda understand her own feelings for Abek?

11. Reflecting upon the horrible scene in which families were separated and thrown into trucks, Gerda wonders, "Why? Why did we walk like meek sheep to the slaughterhouse? Why did we not fight back?" (p. 89). What answer does she give? Does that answer seem sufficient to you? What other reasons might you give?

12. Frau Kügler "appeared grim and forebidding," but "her harsh appearance turned out to conceal a kind heart" (p. 114). What lesson does Gerda learn about the difference between appearance and reality? What other characters in her story present a deceptive exterior? A terrible situation, especially one like war, can bring out evil and rapacious qualities in some people. Does it seem to you that it can also bring out extraordinary and unexpected qualities in others? What other examples does the book provide?

13. Gerda relates the dramatic story of her grandfather's exile in Siberia and his return home (pp. 125-126). In what ways does his story resemble that of Gerda and her family? How does this memory help her to accept her situation in the camp? To what extent, in your opinion, were the governments of Czarist Russia and Nazi Germany similar to one another? How highly did they value human life? Would you say that the word "authoritarian" describes both systems?

14. Although Gerda loses her family early in the war, she enjoys firm friendships with girls like Ilse and Suse. What does friendship come to mean to Gerda? How instrumental is it in keeping her alive and full of hope?

15. Could Gerda and her fellow prisoners be described as slaves? How do Gerda's definition of freedom, and her feelings about freedom, change over the course of her imprisonment? How does she manage, occasionally, to achieve feelings of freedom?

16. How would you describe the character of Lt. Kurt Klein? Why is he so well matched with Gerda? What does he, as an American, a Jew, and a liberator, symbolize to Gerda? How does Kurt's character differ from Abek's?

17. Gerda describes her childhood as "safe and sheltered, too sheltered perhaps for what the years ahead were to bring, but full of lovely memories from which to draw strength" (p. 24). Do you believe that Gerda's happy childhood and loving family contributed to her ability to survive where so many others did not? At the end of the book, she says that her childhood "in all probability was not as perfect as I have chosen to remember" (p. 258). Why has Gerda chosen to remember only the happy times with her parents? What other char-acteristics have helped to make Gerda a survivor?

18. Gerda writes, "Throughout my years in the camps, and against nearly insuperable odds, I knew of no one who committed suicide" (p. 250). Why do you think these people, who suffered such great loss and pain, did not resort to suicide, when many people take their lives for seemingly lesser reasons?

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All but My Life 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 102 reviews.
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the holocaust because it demonstrates how strength and love can be found in unlikely places and how hope can still exist when all else is lost. Gerda, a real holocaust survivor, writes in a way that is so personal that you feel like you are in the story with her constantly battling for life and overcoming hopelessness. When each member of Gerda's family is shipped separately to different camps and until she is liberated Gerda is constantly telling herself lies and holding the picture of her homecoming in her heart for strength by believing that she has something left to live for after the war. This really is still something I think about and how after the war she never returned to the home of her childhood because deep down she knew that her family was dead and was never coming back home. Another part that made me put down the book and think about was when Gerda had put together a play to entertain her fellow prisoners and to amuse her jailers. Gerda was glad to make them all forget about their doomed futures and make them smile. This gave all the girls hope that someday everything might be normal and reminded them that the rhythm of the work camps is not the only thing that exists in the world. Gerda finds love and kindness from an unlikely American solider to a German officer who risks everything to bring the girls notes into the camp they work at. Gerda is an extremely strong woman to overcome the slaughter of her childhood home, her family, her friends, and the loss of all but her life.
jenlizzy76 More than 1 year ago
It was one of the best inspirational books i've read in a long time. I finished this book within 2 days because i couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book immensely. The author was capaple of allowing myself,the reader, to feel what she had e ndured. I am in total awe of her strength to endure in such horrific adversity. I thoroughly loved this book. Thank you for sharing your story with the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a well written memoir. I would recommend for anyone who is interested in this subject matter. HOWEVER, I am very disappointed with the editing. I was reading along & when I turned the page it wouldn ' t make sense. Sometimes a phrase would be missing but once it must have been several sentances. I have no idea why the SS picked her out to go into the woods. The next page they were marching again. For several other books this has happened and there have been other typos. But they were free. I paid for this one. I AM VERY UNHAPPY WITH BARNES AND NOBLE
lilredrooster More than 1 year ago
Gerda is a bit different than many of the Polish Jews during the Holocaust, in that her little town was a bit fluid its German/Polish identification. As a border town, it used to be a part of Austria-Hungary, so many of its citizens spoke German as their first language (she actually admits that it was her first, and the language of her mother). So she had a fairly strong German connection, spoke the language, and was generally pretty immersed within the culture. In fact, in the beginning, when she describes the town's reaction to Hitler invading, and all the celebrations surrounding his arrival in Poland in 1939, she hints off-hand that the town was never that welcoming to Jews in general; her family and many other Jews had always had a sense of being "below" the rest of the population, and the coming of Hitler had simply allowed a physical manifestation of the already-present anti-Semitic mentality. Gerda originally penned her memoir in 1957, a little over ten years after her liberation, and then wrote an epilogue for the re-issue in 1997, a contrast which I found very illuminating. In her original memoir, her voice is very simple, very straight-forward, and somewhat immature and unpolished. She is a teenager interrupted, and her interpretations are through her own limited young perspective, without the ability to relate past her own self. Her original telling of her own reactions and thoughts are very genuine and raw, and it reflects much of her culture of quiet disbelief, yet an immense patience to simply wait for a time when things will eventually get better again, as they always have during times of historical persecution. She even mentions why she thinks the Jewish people went so quietly to their own deaths: They still had faith that humanity couldn't commit such atrocities. Her later voice, in the epilogue, is one that has seem many years since, and relates her own experiences differently. She mentions her parents, how she herself, having become a mother three times over, now knows the terror and the quiet courage that her own parents and many other must have felt, her disappointment that she couldn't relate at the time, and her immense appreciation for things and instances that most people would never be able to appreciate. It is a voice that has seen much more reflection than the voice in her original memoir, and the contrast is beautiful. The Holocaust and atrocities might have sprouted roots and gained initial momentum from the rife antisemitism and hatred in the Nazi regime, but it was only allowed to come to full fruition by the passivity and indifference from those surrounding. Individual memoirs like this, and people like Gerda who share their experiences and appreciations remind us that terrible things happen, but those that chose to do nothing are ultimately just as guilty as those that committed the crimes
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This brought me to tears many times. My grandmother was 22 months old when her family left Prague. My grandfather, 14, came alone to Canada. My family was spared. I’m so saddened for yours. Thank you for sharing.
mekenna.hooper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
All but my life All but my life is a wonderful book that made me cry at least four times. It is all about a  a girl named . She is a 15 year old girl at the beginning. She is a jewish girl who is part of the holocaust she lived in a house with her mother father and brother. She started to frequently see a boy and asked her to marry him after the war and holocaust. Her brother named Arthur he was sent away to a labor camp but escaped. Her mother was sent away to a labor camp.   She at first was sent to a transition camp. The boys family that she was seeing lived in the town that she was in. She went and had dinner with them. They were trying to get her a work card. They did but she turned it down to go with her friend to a new camp. Their she made a lot of friends  and got into contact with her uncle in turkey and her family well at least her brother. He was captured but escaped again. Her boyfriend would send her gift and her uncle would too. She was liberated in the end and married the man who saved her.This book was amazing! It was very well written and sad 6 million people died during the holocaust and the survivors have to be overjoyed that they lived but want to be with their family friends and lovers who died during the horrific time.this book should have an option of more than five stars. It mad me cry so many times. It is most definitely for 8th grade and above. Eighth grade is a little young in my thoughts. In the end this book is amazing beyond belief everyone should read it when they are the right age.
EmScape on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As someone who is not a native speaker of English, Gerda Weissmann Klein writes masterfully. Her recollections of the time she spent as a young Jewish girl under Nazi rule are vividly, heartbreakingly eloquent. Klein spent the first part of the war with her parents in their home town of Beilitz, Poland, marginalized by the German invaders and forced to live with more and more hardship before finally being separated from them and sent to a series of work camps. After being forced to march from the final camp through the wintry wilderness of Germany to Czechoslovakia, she is finally liberated. I guess I had a picture in my head of all the Jews being rounded up immediately at the start of the war, and spending the entire time in camps, which some were able to survive. I always wondered why, for the most part, they did not fight back. I realize after reading this book that this was a very inaccurate and uninformed idea. The marginalization happened so gradually and the propaganda was so overwhelming, plus people like Gerda had such a faith in humankind, thinking that people could not possibly be so cruel as to do the things they eventually ended up doing. I am ashamed that I never thought to learn more about this era prior to now. Despite the horrid atrocity of the events in her life, Gerda writes with such sunniness and vitality that her story is not unbearably depressing. It is eminently readable and highly recommended. The only thing I was bothered by while reading this was Klein's habit of telling what ended up happening to people as soon as we meet them, even though they continue to play into the story. For example, upon meeting Suse in the work camp, Gerda tells us Suse will die in the morning of the day they are liberated. Sues then continues to figure in to the story, all the while the reader knows she's doomed. This steals a little from the story, as the reader, already knowing Gerda will survive and Suse will not, has been spoiled by this knowledge.
dichosa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Came across this book by chance, or maybe fate. Amazing story of the author's life as a young girl in Poland when Germany invades through her liberation at the end of the war. She suffers the loss of her family, her freedom, and her childhood. As with Anne Frank, she discusses the struggle to live through the eyes and heart of a young girl growing into a women. This story stands apart due to her flowing writing style, her honesty of emotions, and the amazing love story! The U.S. soldier who 'liberated' her falls in love with her, and they later marry.This is not a translation-the author emigrates to U.S.A. and writes this and several other books in English. Very few books, do I read straight through, but this is one. Made a profound impression on me.
Doey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the most moving and beautiful book written by a Holocaust survivor I have ever read. Her descriptions are chilling, but the warmth and caring she holds onto through her trials are an inspiration to us all. Good can overcome evil. I have read this book thre times and I cry everytime I read this book. Her accomplishments after the war are equally powerful. Way better than anything Elie Wiesel has written. Her triumph stays with you long after the book is over. With her believe in forgiveness and her work with the Holocaust Museum and insuring that the memories of survivors are not lost, Klein provides us with a lesson on how to live our lives after tragedy, to not give in to brutality and blind ambition. She is a remarkable woman and her book will inspire you.
khooper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book about horrific events that a young girl had to go through because of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. It is a book on many families being ripped apart, and the few that remain are haunted with memories. It all started with the Nazis invading Poland and soon Jews were not allowed to do anything. Soon her brother was taken way but Gerda and her family received letters from him on occasion. After 3 month of war the family had to move to the basement of their house so the German mid that lived in the basement could have a better house. One thing that Gerda talks about a lot was her garden and how she missed it. She went with her friend and her mother to an art prison I won¿t to say where she met Abek, who soon fell in love with her. He said that once the war was over they would marry. Gerda¿s family move once again and they had to start working Gerda and her mother had to work at the factory sowing while her father had to do something else outside. They then received notice that they will be move to find more work first her Father then her and her mother. The night before her dad left she had promised him one thing to wear her ski boots on the day that she leaves. She thought he was silly but she did it any ways. Without those boots during the harsh winters, she believes she would have not survived. She moved from camp to camp throughout the years meeting very nice girls from all over. When the Russians and other Forces started to advance over 75 thousand girls were marched all over Germany and into Czechoslovakia. These marches were later called Death Marches. As she saw her friends dying from hunger and disease she surveyed but only barely. Then she meet the American solider that she would eventually marry.I love this book! But that does not sound good because of all the horrific events that are contained within the pages of this book, but I am amazed at the Hope and Faith of Gerda. I am also stunned by the horrific event that happened to her. I could not get through the book without crying several times. The best part in my opinion is how she was able to survive and find love to keep her strong. Stunning Book!
skyler.sims on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gerda Weissmann was living in Poland when WW2 started. The germans invaded Poland and destroy the Polish army. She is force to hide until the Germans force them to go to a concentration camp. Their she is force to work in the textile mills. She is transfered many times and soon finds herself marching in the frozen winter through Europe. Many people died. She lived as the war ended. She was liberated and soon fell in love with an American soldier.This is an emotional story. The book show the torture the Jews had to go through. The book is very inspirational. Gerda was very strong and went through such difficult times. The book is very good. The book is very sad and emotioal. The book is a great account of the war and the holocast. This is a good book and is very sad.
JovanH470Volny on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1942 In a polish town called Beilitz, Gerda Weissman, a teen at her prime, is faced with the reality of war, or more so the Nazi regime. So far the Nazi's have only taken her country, but more is yet to come. Her religion, Jewish automatically makes her a "threat" to the National Socialist German Workers Party. However the term "threat" ids only regarded as a mask of what significance the Jewish people represent to Hitler. Gerda and her family are smarter than most of the Jewish folk in their town, they regard the Nazis as serious adversaries to their lives and what they hold precious. While other residents are claiming liberation the Weissman family is busy preparing for the worst. Much later, after Gerda's brother left to go find a means of rebellion against the German, Gerda and her parents find themselves living in the Beilitz ghetto it is ultimately a passageway to the notorious Nazi camps where it is speculated many Jews have been killed. After only but a few days of living in the ghetto, Gerda's father has been deported by train to a camp, one of unknown sort. A few days later, Gerda and her mother face the same fate. Gerda and her mother ended up being separated due to a difference in age. Now, not knowing where her mother is, or her fate, Gerda ends up in a labor camp. At first glance Gerda expects the people in charge to be black-hearted people who have no care for Gerda¿s people, and would kill them at a tic of the clock. However Gerda learns that these people are not the cold-hearted, narcissists she once thought she learns over the span of a year, that these people are kindhearted individuals that respect the people who reside in the camp. Having moved on from her first camp, Gerda spent more than a week in another labor camp, the camp was much, much different from the previous. Working conditions were harsh, and the Nazis in charge were harsher. But her placement in this camp was a mistake; Gerda and her friend Ilse were not to be placed in this camp because they had produced enough material in their last work camp. Gerda was then transferred to a relocated version of her first camp. This is where Gerda find her admirer, Abek, who voluntarily came to the camp just to be closer to Gerda. However Gerda finds this experience very awkward. Later Gerda is forced to leave Abek to be deported to another camp. This is the last camp she must endure until she faces the greatest hardship of all. The camp that Gerda is staying at is split up into two groups. These two groups march away from the camp in the middle of winter because Auschwitz, the foremost death camp has been overrun. It is the middle of winter, and the group Gerda is in is forced to march many, many kilometers in the cold. The trip is overbearing, and many hardships are endured, and death was experienced thoroughly. At one part Gerda mention that she witnesses another girl break off her toes as if they were twigs. At the end of the journey, Gerda has lost all her friends, along the march many who were too sick or weak to go on were shot and killed. One of Gerda¿s friends Suse, died on the day they were liberated. After the Americans took the survivors to a hospital, Gerda spent many days in rejuvenation, and almost had her feet amputated. However, in her days of regaining herself, she meets the love of her life, and they happily marry in America.This book had many, features to it that could've made you cry. To imagine what this young lady, only 16 years of age, had to endure" both of her parents were taken from her and her brother as well. Most people would have been completely traumatized by her experienced, and for her being able to share what she had seen, it's unthinkable. I thought the book was very touching, it told about unimaginable things that took place during this period in time. This is one of the few books I would consider reading again; it is very interesting to read. I would not recommend this book to those of younger age, because many of th
tben7672 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the book "All But My Life", a Polish girl named Gerda at age 15 enters a life of cruily and labor. At her home in a town called Bielitz, Gerda, Arthur (her brother), and their Mama and Papa under go huge changes such as Papa lossing his job, Arthur going to the Government by order of the Nazi, and they have to live in their basement. Food became scare and the family had to sew and sell all their belongings in order to stop them from starving. Once the family is forced to live in a Jewish ghetto, she and mama work in a town 2 hours away and come back home for the night. As the Jews were forced to go to camps, Gerda is separeted from her mother and father and she never sees them again. Along with her friends Ilse, Suse, and Liesle, they work in a textile camp in Burchberg, endure the extereme work conditions of Gruneburg, and then are sent to work at another textile camp in Landeshut. To kill off the Jews, the Nazi force all the girls on a 350km death march through Germany. Out of 4000 girls, only 120 survived including Gerda. All of her friends died on the journey and Liesle and Suse died on the day of her liberation. Once in the Red Cross hospitle, she survives typus and phenomia and is able to walk again. During her recovery, Kurt Klein, a U.S solider who liberated her, visits her as much as he can and sends her letters. When Kurt wanted to take her to Buffalo, she decided to wait until sivilians are aloud to go to the states and she would marry him before they go.If I could, I would describe this story in much greater detail. It doesn't include the horrors she endured or even the rare happy times she describes. This autobiography clearly tells of the pain and suffering the Jews and other victems of the Holocast had to face head on. I don't know if even I could stand the things she faced without suiside and have the courage and bravery to do whats right. Even though her whole family was wiped out, she found happiness and love in the end just like those fairy tales. Only the only draw back is that she has to face her past the rest of her life.Everyone should read this book to have a true understanding of what she and others face during WW2. I just hope that no one has to face this kind of recless hate ever again.
samantha.nop on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is about Gerda Weissmann Klein and her life in the Holocaust. The book starts out when the Germans are invading Poland. Gerda was only 16 at the time. A few days after the Germans invaded Poland, Gerda's older brother, Arthur, was forced to leave and work. Gerda's family was afraid he wouldn't come back. Only a few days later, Gerda's family is forced to live in their own basement. After a few months, Gerda and her parents are moved to the Beilitz ghetto. Not soon after, Gerda's father is forced to work in a different camp, away from Gerda and her mother. Gerda and her mother leave the ghetto to go a transit camp. At the transit camp, Gerda and her mother are separated because of the age difference. Now Gerda is alone without any knowledge of what is to become of her family. Gerda is forced to work in labor camps, working at a weaving factory. Gerda does make some friends along the way. After two years of working in labor camps, Gerda must march during the winter. After weeks of marching, it is finally liberation day. Gerda is happy, although all her friends had died along the way. In the hospital, Gerda meets Kurt Klein, and they get married in America.This book was very upsetting. Gerda went through times nobody should go through but still do. I felt bad when she realized, her brother, mother and father were dead. After reading this book, I have a much better understanding of a Jew's life during the Holocaust. It is absolutely heartbreaking. As hard as it is, Gerda still went on living and did her best to survive and I admire her for that. Everybody should get a chance to read this book. I will never forget this book because it's something everybody should know about. It's a story that should be read and told so that the lives that were lost in WW2 are not forgotten.
Aaron.Korff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
All But My Life is memoir by Gerda Wiessmann Klein. Gerda survived the Holocaust and this is her experiences. The book first starts out when the Germans attack Poland. Gerda is Jewish and has to move to the basement. Then they take her brother away how is named Arthur. Then her, her mother, and father have to move to the ghetto. Then the father gets taken away, then the mother. Gerda has to go from camp to camp working for the Germans. Then she has to go on the death march, and all of her friends died. The one day in Volary, Czechoslovakia, they are liberated. She meets a German American how is Jewish and they fall in love. She never sees any of her family again but she starts a new one with Kurt. She now lives in Arizona with Kurt. I really liked this book because it was so interesting. I never really liked diaries or memoirs but this was a good book. The book was so sad because a lot of sad stuff happened. Probably the saddest part was when Arthur left then her father then her mother. It shows that is a couple few days. Also it is sad when the people where ran over by horses even the babies. I had to read this book for school and thought that it was going to be bad but it turned out good. The only part I did not like was the epilogue. It dragged on and on. Over all it is a great book.
Bryon.Hancock on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gerda was force to live in the basement of here better house. They sell most of there stuff to have money. Arthur go to a labor camp but then escapes to russia and gets a job. Some of the money goes to his family. Abek is a person who very loves Gerda. however gerda doesn't have the same feelings. here father is taken by the gestapos. Gerda is forced to a train to sosnowitz. they are moved to different labor camps. Abek send her clothes. Gerda also gets sick. she was forced to work. they are then moved to Marzdorf. That is where a blond woman with a bull whip. They then move to and concretration camp called landeshut. The girls are now forced to march across the snow hills. At there last camp which was aboned was liberated by a us soldier whichwould be gerda's future husband. she is sent to a hospital to get treatment.I really like this book. It tells a good view of the holocaust. I didn't like because it was torture to reads it. Man killing man is against the human nature.I am glad that I read it though. I now have a better understanding of the holocaust. I also read the cage. The all but my life is a lot better then the cage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cried reading this book. I felt I was there and this book is a must read ,to truly understand,what they went thru.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Honestly one of the most powerful books I have ever read.
rocketlivy More than 1 year ago
Absolutely outstanding.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BrandyGirl More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book for anyone who likes reading about the Holocaust. I could not put this one down. I just find it amazing how some of these people survived and love reading their stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had the opportunity to listen to her speak while attending St Cloud State University. I will never forget that day. I highly recommend this book to others.
224perweek More than 1 year ago
I cried. This was way more than I expected. Her story is so heartfelt. I could identify with many of her feelings even though I was not there at that moment in time. Her resolve to go on is inspireing. Finding the love of her life at the end was beyond dreams. I am so happy for the author.