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I read a Holocaust memoir this week that really gripped me. I could hardly put it down. All But My Life is the memoir of Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Polish Jewess who lived through the Holocaust.
When Hitler invaded Poland Gerda had just turned fifteen. Her father was part-owner of a fur factory, and their family had a comfortable life. She had one brother, Arthur, a few years older than her.
Slowly, slowly the life they had known was eroded. Little by little their freedoms were taken away until they were reduced to living in the moldy basement of their home while their maid enjoyed the rest of the house.
Even then they were content because except for Arthur whom the Germans had taken away for slave labour they were together. Arthur escaped to Russian-held Poland and was safe until Germany invaded Russia, and Arthur was captured again.
Abek, a Jewish boy, desperately loved Gerda. Although she didn’t return his love they had a friendship that provided a distraction for both of them from the horror that surrounded them.
Eventually Gerda and her family were moved to a small ghetto for a short while. From there all three members were sent in different directions by the Germans, and Gerda was bereft of her parents.
Through all of the labour camps, loss of friends, starvation, death marches and privations, Gerda never gave up hope that the war would end, and she would go home.
The end of the war came, and though Gerda had lost all but her life, there is a sweet ending.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough for you to read. Just be sure to have some tissues handy because you will cry – particularly at the end if you have an ounce of romantic blood in you. ☺