All But My Life

by: Gerda Weissmann Klein

Key Facts

full title · All But My Life: A Memoir

author · Gerda Weissmann Klein

type of work · Memoir

genre · Memoir, historical nonfiction

language · English

time and place written · New York, date unknown; the epilogue was written in Arizona in 1994.

date of first publication · 1957

publisher · Hill & Wang

narrator · Gerda Weissmann Klein

point of view · Gerda writes in the first person, relating the events that she sees from her own point of view.

tone · Although Gerda writes about the Holocaust after it has taken place, her tone still conveys the sense of shock and horror she felt at the time. Overall, though, she maintains a sense of optimism and highlights the positive experiences she has during that time.

tense · Past

setting (time) · 1939–1945, during World War II. The epilogue contains information about the author’s post-war life through 1995.

setting (place) · Gerda’s story beings in her hometown of Bielitz, Poland, and follows her to a series of labor camps, including Bolkenhain, Grünberg, Märzdorf, and Landeshut, which were located in Poland (and controlled by Germany during this time), and culminates in a three-hundred–mile death march that ends in Volary, Czechoslovakia.

protagonist · Gerda

major conflict · Gerda struggles to survive in the face of Nazi persecution and to remain loyal to her friends, despite losing her family.

rising action · Gerda first loses her parents and then is sent to a series of slave labor camps.

climax · Gerda and her friends are forced onto a three-hundred–mile “death march” to Czechoslovakia.

falling action · Gerda is liberated by American troops, one of whom, Kurt Klein, will eventually become her husband.

themes · The sustaining power of hope; the importance of bearing witness; morality is a choice

motifs · The beauty of nature; home; chance; kindness

symbols · Flowers; shoes

foreshadowing · Gerda does not use foreshadowing in the traditional sense by hinting at events to come. Rather, she often relates a person’s fate as he or she is introduced to us.