In the novel All But My Life, Gerda Weissmann faces many ways of oppression. In Bielitz, their town was invaded by the Germans, and that was when all of the heinous crimes against Jews were committed. Before they were deported to concentration camps, their rations were very, VERY strictly cut. They were given arm bands with a star of David, and those human beings with names and families were simply labeled JEW. They were forced to sell all of their precious belongings and move to the basement of their house.
Gerda’s brother, Arthur, was sent to the military front, where he would never return. She, herself, was split from her parents and never saw them again. In the concentration camp, Gerda and her friends were treated like nothing more than dirt. They were forced to weave cloth for the very country that was killing her loved ones, as well. The camp that she was in, Marzdorf, was worse than the others. She had to do unimaginable things day and night, with hardly any sleep. Later, she was forced on a 4 month-long death march through Europe, in the middle of the winter.
Throughout her teenage and early adult years, Gerda was treated very poorly by the Germans and even her own neighbors during the war. In Bielitz, their town was invaded by the Germans. Their rations were very strictly cut. They hardly had any food to live by. “Our rations were less than half the rations of non-Jews. ” In addition to that, they were forced to wear yellow arm bands that indicated that they were Jewish. ”There he stood, already beyond my reach, my father, the center of my life, just labeled JEW. Gerda and her family were going to be moved to a ghetto, so they began to sell all of their belongings. One man looked to buy a wine glass set, and he picked up the glass, threw it on the ground, and then said, “I would like this set, but I must pay you less for its missing an item. ” Gerda was then moved to a ghetto, where she was confronted by a Gestapo looking for her father, which he said, “What are you? A bastard? All Jews are bastards. ” He then threatened to shoot Gerda if she didn’t reveal where her father was. This just shows the amount of respect given to Jews, which is none.
Finally, she was separated from her parents, and she was sent to a camp where she weaved cloth for Germany. While they were in the camp, called Bolenhain, they were treated better. They were given a warm soup and hunks of well-baked bread upon arrival, and they were given a warm shower once a week. Although Gerda had to work most of the day, she was surrounded by her friends the entire time in that camp. The fact that she was still confined to that camp was oppression. After that, she was sent to Marzdorf, which was much worse than Bolkenhain. She had to carry pounds of bricks, and flax, which dug into her arms.
She had some type of an argument with the supervisor in the camp, and he had the power to give her flax detail every day, and shoveling coal every night. She was later moved to Landeshut, where she met up with all of her old friends from Bolkenhain. They were treated better, but their rations were cut more and there was less and less heat as the war progressed. In Grunberg, the camp that she was in after Landeshut, girls, including Gerda, were beaten mercilessly by the SS guards. Finally, they were in the death march. This would be the last stage of any type of oppression that Gerda Weissmann would have to endure.
In the march, they were constantly whipped and shot at. The SS troops killed so many girls without a second thought. ”One girl spotted milk can leaning against a tree. She ran out of line to see if there was any milk in it…I saw her turn, petrified, when he took the rifle from his shoulder. ” They were all filthy, they hadn’t showered in months. When Ilse was dying, and all she wanted was water, the SS man didn’t care at all. In fact, he kicked the poor girl. All of the girls in that group were treated worse than animals. With little food and little water, the terrible SS men and women expected them to march across Europe.
All of this shows that Gerda was treated so terribly during the war, it’s difficult to imagine. At first, she was to live in the basement with her family, having strictly cut rations, with a curfew and cruel SS troops on patrol all day and night. Then, she had to endure a work camp in which she weaved cloth for the very country that killed her family, and then she had to march across Europe, with sick and dead girls thrown about all over. Despite all of this oppression that Gerda had to deal with, she found salvation and liberation in the end. She married Kurt Klein, the American soldier that liberated her and her friends.