All But My Life A Memoir

Gerda Weissmann Klein

Hill and Wang



Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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The basis for the HBO Academy Award-winning Best Documentary Short, One Survivor Remembers

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 was 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 conveyed great strength of spirit and faith in humanity. In the darkness of the camps, Gerda and her young friends managed 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.


Praise for All But My Life

"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

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

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
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  • Gerda Weissmann Klein

  • Gerda Weissmann Klein was born in Bielsko, Poland, in 1924. 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. Along with her husband Kurt Klein, she is the author of The Hours After: Letters of Love and Longing in War's Aftermath.




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