Book Review: All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein

Before I begin to read the first page of a Holocaust memoir. I hold the book in my hands and ponder about this persons life that has been transcribed on page. It is almost to me a sacred moment. It is certainly a moment fraught with emotion. This person lived to tell their story. Six million did not.
When did my interest first begin in reading Holocaust memoirs? When I was a young girl. My father was in World War II, 2nd Infantry Division. He shared his impressions with me upon seeing the first camp, it was in Leipzig, Germany. When the war ended on May 8, 1945 my dad was in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia.

Gerda Weissmann Klein was born in 1924 in (Bielitz) Bielsko, Poland. Bielsko is in southern Poland and only about 20 miles from the Czechoslovakian border. She and her parents and older brother Arthur, lived in a spacious home with an orchard and beautiful garden on the "outskirts of the city." Gerda's home was her oasis. There was love and comfort and peace in her home. When the Nazi's invaded Poland there was hope that the Polish forces would be able to stop them. Then there was hope that Allied forces would stop them. Eventually the Nazi's reached their town of Bielsko. Gerda's parents were stoic during the ensuing plunge of horror under the Nazi regime. When the book begins her father is very ill with his heart. He recovers, but the serious nature of his health contributes to the anxiety of the family. Soon Gerda's brother leaves. Every day that passes there is a storm cloud of uncertainty about when they will be sent to a camp. They are thankful to be together. Gerda's parents are a bedrock of security for her.
Gerda expresses:
"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 in to 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?" page 89.
Gerda's memoir relates her life from the time the Nazi's invaded Poland, her existence in concentration camps, and until shortly after the war ended. Included is the epilogue in which she looks back at the time she wrote her story (1957,) and shares her reflections on that, and on her life since the war ended.
Gerda's story is one of the most eloquently written Holocaust memoir's I've read. I read one review that compared hers to The Diary of Anne Frank. There is at two similarities (I found,) in that both are written with deep introspection and with a continuing hope (even if that hope becomes minuscule.)

Revised Edition Published March 1995 by Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Originally published 1957
272 pages
Non-fiction/Holocaust/World War II/Memoir

Link @ publisher:

Link @ Amazon:
Paperback $10.85
Kindle $9.99

For more information:
The Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
At the above site is the interview to read, and to watch.

My Hero Project:


  1. I've been wanting to read this one for a long time. It sounds so fascinating and so sad. The quote you included in your review just breaks my heart.


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