Thursday, September 29, 2011

All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein

Why does Holocaust literature draw me in so much?  This is the author’s story.  Greda grew up in a loving family in a small town in Poland.  We watch the progression of the infiltration of the Nazis.  First, her brother has to leave, and then they are made to sell their belongings and move to the basement of their family home.  Then they are moved to the ghetto. Then the fateful day comes when they are rounded up and sent to the ‘camps’.  At this point Gerda is separated from her parents and they are sent to three separate camps.  Gerda goes to a labor camp that is not too horrible and likes to imagine that her parents are in the same sort of place, all the while knowing that that is probably not so. 

Gerda reflects, “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.”

I have thought quite a bit over the years as I read many books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the Holocaust and what we need to learn from this episode in history.  Certainly there are the lessons of tolerance and humanity, but I personally feel an obligation to these people to not let this happen to me or anyone within my reach.  We cannot let someone else take control of our very existence.  We must be aware and fight against the first little offenses and not let them become greater until we have given up our freedom to others.

Loved the book.

5 stars (Rated PG for horrendous cruelty)

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