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All But My Life: A Memoir [Paperback]

Gerda Weissmann Klein
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 31 1995
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.

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"Soul searching and human . . . A moving personal testament to courage."--Herbert Mitgang, The New York Times

"An unforgettable reading experience . . . All But My Life is one of the most beautifully written human documents I have ever read. In this respect it is as sensitive and 'disturbing' a story as is The Diary of Anne Frank."--Library Journal

"Gerda Weissmann Klein moves you, and not just because the story she can tell is so horrific. It is the passion with which she looked through the horror and found a heart-felt and basic goodness in humanity . . . All But My Life is filled with wonderful acts of decency and normalcy, even as she describes three years in labor camps and three months of a forced winter march from Germany to Czechoslovakia."--Royal Ford, The Boston Globe

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, published by St. Martin's Press. One Survivor Remembers (a production of Home Box Office 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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
THERE IS A WATCH LYING ON THE GREEN CARPET OF THE LIVING room of my childhood. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! March 1 2004
By Jennie
All but my life is a memoir about a girl named Gerda Weissmann having to deal with being Jewish during the Holocaust. She grew up in Poland with her parents and brother Arthur in a small town called Bielitz. Gerda was 16 years old when the war with Germany started. She had to get used to a "not-so-normal" life. From her brother being sent to a camp to teir family having to move into the basement of their own home, Gerda has to adapt to so many new things. Finally when they get settled into their new lives they get a letter from the German government telling them they have to move to a camp. Devastated, their family packs and then settles into their new "shack" they have to call home. A few days after getting used to the shack, they found out that Gerda's father was being sent to a camp and then day later Gerda and her mother get separated from eachouther and both sent to their own camps, never to see each other again.
All her life Gerda had relied on her parents for security. She never had to worry about working because her parents were taking care of their family. How in a new camp, all alone with just her best friend and many other Jewish girls her age, they all had to do everything the Germans told them to.
Gerda is one of the stongest girls I have ever read about. She has to go through so much throighout the whole book. She has to deal with leaving everyone in her family; after having to work in a Jewish camps run by the Germans, she has to walk miles after miles to Auschwitz. During her walk, the war ends and the Jewish survivor are all set free, Gerda meets her future husband while recovering from malnutrition. When she recovers, She and her husband move to the U.S.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yet Another Moving Holocaust Memoir Oct. 26 2003
By Allyn
Gerda Weissman was born in relative luxury in a Polish town in the 1920's. Virtually until the day the Nazis invade Poland in 1920, her life is filled with ease and happiness. Then, because the family is Jewish, tragedies begin in quick succession. Gerda's older brother is taken away by the Nazis, the three remaining family members (Gerda, her mother, and her father) must give up their home and live in the ghetto, and finally, most tragically of all, Gerda is separated from her parents. Never knowing where they went or even if they are alive, Gerda must spend the next five years of her life in German labor camps.
As I read this book, one aspect of it (and this aspect is in many Jewish Holocaust memoirs) continually astounded me. While the events Gerda writes about are totally inhumane and depressing, she somehow manages to find at least the smallest good thing about every experience in the book. She not only remembers the horrors of the camps, she remembers her true friends there and the camaraderie between the women. She not only recounts the tragic leaving of her brother, she writes of the legacy of courage he left her. And when the war is finally over, Gerda's writing tells us of sorrow and loss, yet also of the exciting and promising life ahead of her. It is, as always, refreshing and inspiring to read such an honest yet optimistic memoir. Written with grace and dignity, "All But My Life" is a well-done Holcaust memoir.
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5.0 out of 5 stars All But My Life Nov. 20 2003
By Megan
All But My Life is a must-read book that every girl should read. This non-fiction story is about a young girl named Gerda Weissmann Klein, also the author, who lived during the Holocaust and World War II. She was born in Bielitz, a city in Poland. Gerda, a little girl, was sitting in her living room one day and she heard "Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler." She had never seen anyone in her town so afraid. Gerda noticed that signs started to appear everywhere. For example, No Jews or Dogs Allowed. Gerda was one of the innocent Jews that lived in her hometown.
First, the German police officers took her brother away. Then, the police officers made her mother, father, and her move into a basement. They had to gather up many things as possible and had to move down there. It was hard for them to gather up stuff because usually her dad was the strongest, but he could not pick much up. He could not pick much up because he suffered from a broken arm. Could you imagine gathering up all your life's precious things that you behold in a few minutes or you would be shot? Only the basement was the beginning.
The family was then transported to a ghetto where German soldiers ruled. There, Jews were divided into to groups of men and women. Children had to stay with their mothers if they told the SS man that they were an older age then they were. Gerda's dad went with the men to one concentration camp, while her mom and her went to another. Gerda's mom and her stayed into the same concentration camp for awhile.
From that camp, she was separated from her mom and put a cart with people her own age. One of the people on the cart she knew was her best friend. She saw mostly everything a Holocaust revisionist would deny.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Saved by her boots--and her soul July 16 2001
On the hot June day that Gerda Weissmann left her home for the last time, her father insisted that she wear her hiking boots. Gerda resisted, but an unspoken plea in her father's eye convinced her to strap them on. During a death march from January through April of 1945, those boots saved Gerda Weissmann's life. Many other women died of cold and starvation, but most fell for simple lack of footwear. Her camp sister, with whom she survived the worst horrors in several concentration and slave labor camps, died of exhaustion at a water pump minutes after American liberators freed the women from the march.
Ms. Klein's tale about her boots, screened at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, led me to her book. I wanted to know every detail--although, over the years, I have been privileged to hear many personal accounts from Holocaust survivors I know. Too many still cannot not speak about what they lived through. Millions never had the chance at all. By itself, the silence of the majority makes Ms. Klein's testimony priceless, like every other personal Holocaust chronicle. So does her reminder not to take anything for granted. So does her gem of a soul. Alyssa A. Lappen
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars simply told
The author does not engage in recrimination. Her boundless love of humanity stays with her throughout her lifetime. Read more
Published 21 days ago by C. L. Shain
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Survivor Books
I have read many books on this topic. (Probably too many for a healthy mind considering the topic.) No matter how many I read I am equally appalled each time that these events... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Theresa
5.0 out of 5 stars Original copy, copyright from 1957
When I was 13 my mother and I stayed with my aunt in British Columbia. I was allowed to browse through my aunt's bookshelves to see if there was something I could read during my... Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2011 by raven
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be high school required reading
As a Protestant with German ancestors I wish every high school would require this book. Poetically written with emotional sensitivity this far surpasses 'Lord of the Flies' and... Read more
Published on April 16 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A reader's favorite book
This book held my attention from page one, until the very end. I actually have read this book( or at least large parts of it) ten or more times. Read more
Published on April 12 2004 by Carol Raup
5.0 out of 5 stars impressive... truly.
This book was assigned by my English teacher. The first page, i thought of reading it as a chore. After that, i couldnt put it down. i read the whole thing in two days. Read more
Published on March 9 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars One womans life in the Holocaust
Gerda Weissmann is a Jew living in the part of Poland that was attached to the Austro-Hungarian Empire during WWI. Read more
Published on March 4 2004 by Courtney Rabideau
5.0 out of 5 stars My All-time Favorite Book
Although the holocaust isn't the happiest of times, the author's perseverence is inspiring to everyone. Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2003 by Anne
5.0 out of 5 stars The most moving book i've read to date
All but My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein is the most moving book i've read to date. It's such an inspirational book. Read more
Published on May 27 2003 by Emily Frey
This book tell a story of young Gerda who finds herself in consentration camps, Gettos and on a death march. Read more
Published on April 13 2003
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