4. There 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.
The first lines of All But My Life reflect Gerda’s belief that the Nazis stole her childhood, and that, in a way, time stopped for her when her town was invaded. Many times throughout the book, Gerda writes about feeling that her childhood ended when the Nazis first came to Bielitz, and that at that moment her life changed dramatically. From the first days of the invasion, the burden of responsibility in her family was placed on her shoulders. Jewish adults who freely walked the streets were often abducted or assaulted, so Gerda is the only member of her family who can come and go from their house unchallenged, forcing her to assume responsibility for many important decisions. Her role with her parents switches after the invasion, for she becomes the caregiver in many respects, causing her to feel that she must behave as an adult at all costs.
The idea that time stops for Gerda when the invasion occurs is a notion that she visits again in her epilogue. She says she experienced a break in her social development because she was not allowed to participate in ordinary adolescent activities during the six years of war. Her normal emotional growth was slowed. Although she had more horrifying experiences in her teenage years than most people see in a lifetime, she also had a huge gap in her social development. In a sense, time did stop for Gerda when the war started, for after she was liberated she was still a girl of fifteen in many respects. She writes that, at the age of twenty-one, she was afraid that Kurt would attempt to kiss her, much as she feared Abek’s romantic attempts as a teenager.