All But My Life

April 23 is World Book Day and while my goal is to always encourage you to read a book, I am taking this opportunity and a world holiday to say it a little louder for the people in the back.

Texarkana is a treasure trove of interesting people and one of my new friends suggested I read her grandmother’s memoir about surviving the Holocaust and falling in love with the soldier who liberated her. Your grandma did what? My mind was blown. I was in close proximity to someone whose grandmother had survived the Holocaust and gone on to write about it. That book was then turned into a documentary which won an Academy Award—Talk about famous in your hometown!   

I bought it right away and took a huge deep breath. I have found Holocaust books are resoundingly heavy to me and almost paralyze me with anxiety while I’m reading. But it is a hard-to-put-down kind of heavy. Let’s face it, history is heavy, but is always worth revisiting and remembering.

The memoir, All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein, while not without its heavy moments, is a different kind of heavy. I was at lunch recently with a few ladies and we were trying to put our finger on the feelings this book evokes. It is beautiful in a harrowing, but also tender, sense. Her words usher you through the unwavering love of her family, the strength that is necessary to survive and the hope to overcome the darkest of nights. Her words were so eloquent and masterful, I felt them in my bones. All But My Life is a global treasure that should be required reading.   

“They faced what the morning would bring with the only weapon they had–their love for each other. Love is great, love is the foundation of nobility, it conquers obstacles and is a deep well of truth and strength.”
—Gerda Weissmann Klein, All But My Life: A Memoir

“After the lights were turned out, I heard girls toss and turn and here and there weep quietly. The night was starry and beautiful. From my bunk I could see the hills through a window. Slowly, the full moon rose. I spoke dreamily to her. I asked her if she saw Papa and Mama. It seemed as if she said yes. In the years to come, the moon became my loyal friend, my only friend that was free. Each month I counted the days until she returned, and often when she hid behind clouds of thought that she was avoiding the horror on earth.”
—Gerda Weissmann Klein, All But My Life: A Memoir

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that Mrs. Klein passed from this earth on April 3 of this year. Her words and memories will remain, and I find warmth in the thought that she is reunited with her parents, brother and her beloved Kurt. Her enormous legacy lives on through her family, and I feel lucky to call one of her granddaughters my friend.

I leave you with this. Upon accepting her Academy Award for Best Documentary, Mrs. Klein said, “I have been in a place for six incredible years where winning meant a crust of bread and to live another day. Since the blessed day of my liberation, I have asked the question, why am I here? I am no better. In my mind’s eye, I see those years and days and those who never lived to see the magic of a boring evening at home. On their behalf, I wish to thank you for honoring their memory, and you cannot do it in any better way than when you return to your homes tonight to realize that each of you who knows the joy of freedom are winners. Thank you on their behalf with all my heart.”

Rest in love, Mrs. Klein. May we all live our life finding the magic in a boring evening at home.


 

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