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.