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All but my life by Gerda W. Klein

All but my life (1957)

by Gerda W. Klein

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This story begins on September 3, 1939, when she is fifteen years old. Gerda Weismann lives in Bielitz, Poland. One day she watches her neighbors being friendly to the invading Nazis and Poland became completely invaded a short while after that. The family tries to hide the war from Papa, but once Poland is invaded, it's impossible to keep it a secret anymore. In October, Gerda's brother, Arthur, was taken in a transport with all the men his age. Gerda never saw him again, but receives letters from him throughout most of the war. Not long after that, the family is forced to live in the Jewish Ghetto. Gerda goes with Ilse to a camp for young men and then Gerda meets Abek. Abek falls in love with Gerda, but Gerda feels nothing but friendship and is stressed by their relationship. In 1942, Gerda is separated from her parents and is brought to the transit camp, Sosnowitz. In 1943, the girls from Sosnowitz are divided and brought to two different camps. Gerda and Ilse get to go to Mardorf together but Gerda is punished there and has to work day and night shifts. Ilse gets them both transferred to a weaving camp, Landeshut. Gerda hears that Abek is in a neighboring camp and that he voluntarily went there to be closer to Gerda. In 1944, the girls are being transferred again to Grunberg. In 1945, they find out that Germany is being invaded by allies. The girls are forced to walk the death marches to a concentration camp. The next month, they are forced to march again and they go to a factory building. Germany is still being invaded and the Nazis want to cover their tracks. They set off a bomb to go off inside the factory building to kill all of the girls, but somehow, the bomb doesn't go off and Czechs unlock the factory doors. The girls that survived are taken to a red cross hospital. Gerda is paired with an American soldier named Kurt Klein. Before Kurt goes back to America, he asks Gerda to marry him and she accepts.

I like this book a lot. Although it is very sad, and gives off very specific details, Gerda writes about having hope. This book is very inspiring and I liked reading it. I started to lose hope at the end of the book because I wasn't sure whether Gerda was going to stay alive and hopeful, but she did. I was very sad when Ilse died because the war was almost over. But Ilse's story was a lot like many other's, including Anne Frank. I don't think we as Americans are taught enough about the Holocaust and we need to be more educated about it. This book was a powerful representation of what hope and love are and I'm glad to have read it. ( )
  ClaireC.B3 | May 30, 2016 |
'All But My Life' is a Memoir told through the perspective of Gerda Weismann Klein, who was 16 Jew when WW2 begins. As her once normal life turns into a world where survival of the fittest takes place, she learns how to keep going when others cannot. She must depart her family, her home, everything she knew, as she is forced to go work at the first camp she'll see. Gerda makes many new friends, and as they continue their stories together, sadly, some must come to an end. Gerda shows her struggles, hopes, pains and joys throughout this autobiography as if she wrote it during each actual painstaking moment. As Gerda survives the horrors of a three-month Death March, placed in a factory that is supposed to explode, escape, and wait several hours in a large, metal, cylinder tube, the miracle her family had hoped for so long ago arrives. At the age of 21, she hears those almost unreal real words, "If any one is there, come on out! Come out, the war is over!"
This is the first autobiography I've ever read before, and I am speechless. It's so, so difficult for my mind to comprehend the fact that this, all of this, happened. The way Gerda words her emotions, thoughts, feelings, experiences...it's like I'm watching it all happen from somewhere up above. Her story of survival is absolutely incredible. The strength she possessed to keep pushing on is just too remarkable for words. Several times, this memoir made me tear up as it was told. This is even happened in class, when we were allowed free-reading. Gerda Weismann Klein is just an absolute incredible person. I truly, truly hope her story is remembered, that this memoir is kept, and that several generations in the future can have the chance to read such a heart-wrenching story. :) ( )
  JessicaS.B4 | May 25, 2016 |
This memoir by Gerda Weissmann Klein provides readers with a first hand account of Nazi Germany and the holocaust. Gerda Weissmann Klein is a remarkable woman who has been telling her story so that we never forget and continue the fight against genocide anywhere it rears its ugly head. Her story was turned in to a documentary that won both and Emmy and the Academy Award. This story of survival and the fight between good and evil will keep the interest of all students.
  PikeH | Jul 31, 2015 |
Shows Judaism to be a diverse religion, describing individuals from Biblical times to the twentieth century who have defined Judaism in different ways, and discussing the religion in the wake of the Holocaust.
  EmanuelofTempe | Jun 15, 2015 |
Gerda shares her wonderful, comfortable childhood / teenage years growing up in Bielitz with her parents and older brother, friends, neighbors and beauty of "Little Vienna."

Everything changes once the nazis* invade. Her beloved brother, Arthur, must leave, breaking the hearts of Gerda and her parents. Their fur factory is taken over by the nazis. They are forced to live in the cold, moldy basement, often go hungry because of food rationing, and eventually forced to perform hard work in factories for little or no pay. But to make Beilitz Jew-free, the remaining Jews are sent to camps or factories as slave labor. Gerda is separated from her parents and never sees them again.

She suffers demeaning hardships in the many camps and factories she is sent to but is determined to survive. Memories of her loving family, a positive outlook, her friends, and a few kind Germans help her find strength countless times to tolerate hunger, beatings, back-breaking labor, and worry over her brother and parents. She dreams of returning home to her family throughout the dark years. As the tide turns against Germany the nazis step up their brutality, killing more and more of the remaining Jews.

When the war ends, Gerda has lost too much. It will take someone special to understand her loss, and soon her new life begins.

*Not capitalizing this word is by personal choice. I know it doesn't change anything but doing so makes me FEEL as though I've reduced the power of the nazis. ( )
  Bookish59 | Mar 5, 2015 |
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I dedicate this book --to the memory of my children's grandparents Julius and Helene Weissmann / Ludwig and Alice Klein --to the men of the Fifth U.S. Infantry Division who fought for the ideals I believe in and --to my husband with all my love. G. W. K.
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Preface: As I finish the last chapter of my book, I feel at peace, at last.
Chapter 1: There is a watch lying on the green carpet of the living room of my childhood.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809015803, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:28 -0400)

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A Polish Jew records her experiences and struggle for survival in Nazi work camps and during a thousand-mile forced march.

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