All But My Life: A Memoir by Gerda Weissmann Klein
Gerda Weissmann Klein's writing sets her memoir, All But My Life, apart from many of the holocaust survivor stories I have read. Often, although the stories are compelling, the writing is not. I do not say this as a criticism; I am grateful that anyone who lived through such terror is willing to put their memories on paper. Every individual's story is valuable. Klein, though, writes in such a winsome manner that her experiences transcend even the nightmare through which she lived. She speaks not only of enduring and surviving, but of dreaming and hoping as only a lively young woman can dream.
Klein, who spent the war as a slave laborer in her native Poland, and survived the death march to Czechoslovakia, is surrounded not only by profound evil, but by the profound love in her friends. She encounters depravity, but also remarkable acts of sympathy. Yes, the former outnumber the latter, but she clings to the good wherever she finds it.
Throughout her book, she shares the stories of the young women whom she knew during the holocaust, the ones who did not survive. At one point, she says, "I cannot help but want to tell her story, for I might be the only one left in the world who knows it."
For me, that is the reason why I continue to read holocaust memoirs. There are so few people left who remember it. So few who survived. They deserve to be remembered - not just what they went through, but who they were: individuals with hopes and dreams, faults and foibles, just like us.