Book 66 of my 2014 Reading Challenge
All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein
Summary (excerpted from the book jacket)When Gerda's father told her to wear her ski boots to the work camp in June, he could hardly know that they would help in her desperate fight for survival. Three years later, one of the two hundred slave girls remaining from the four thousand who were forced on a thousand-mile winter march, she took them off her frozen feet and extracted the family photographs which she had hidden in her soles. The Nazis had taken from her indeed all but her life. Every member of her family, every friend, died in the concentration camps. Gerda tells of many courageous people, lost now but for her story, and of her own unbelievable struggle, through the darkest hours of her people's history, to survive by hope alone. Despite incredible experiences, and the complete destruction of the world she knew and loved, she was able to begin a new life based on her compassion, love, and faith.
As a note, the edition I read had a copyright of 1957, not listed on Goodreads.
The stories about World War II have always been heartbreaking but now that I'm a mom it adds another layer. Yet I continue to read them...it hurts like hell but these people need to be honored and remembered.
The book for me was more about the feelings it left me with than actual points I can sum up in a review. Since I can't quote the entire book, I don't have much more to say.
I highly recommend this book.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"As I finish the last chapter of my book, I feel at peace, at last. I have discharged a burden, and paid a debt to many nameless heroes, resting in their unmarked graves. For I am haunted by the thought that I might be the only one left to tell their story."
This poignant exchange, after her brother Arthur left she and her mother went to visit her grandmother's grave. Her mother talked to the grave...
"I saw Mama put her head on the stone, as she must have put her head against her mother's breast many times as a child. Completely engrossed, she muttered, "My child...my child...oh mother!" and started to cry bitterly. I could not catch all she said. It was a strange, quiet, soliloquy, yet I felt that a voice was screaming within her, "Oh God, bring him back to me."
Then Mama stood upright and addressed the stone in a different manner.
'You are lucky, mother. If only I could be certain that someday my children would be standing on my grave'."
"Why? Why did we walk like meek sheep to the slaughterhouse? Why did we not fight back? What had we to lose? Nothing but our lives. Why did we not run away and hide? We might have had a chance to survive. Why did we walk deliberately and obediently into their clutches?
I know why. Because we had faith in humanity. Because we did not really think that human beings were capable of committing such crimes."
"In the years to come the moon became my loyal friend, my only friend that was free. Each month I counted the days until she returned, and often when she hid behind clouds I thought that she was avoiding the horror on earth."