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Transcript of Family
All But My Life
Summer of 1939
After learning that her father was sick and hearing more talk of the war, Gerda and her mother returned home from their vacation in Krynica.
Gerda's mother received a cable from her brother, Leo stating " Poland's last hour has come. Dangerous for Jews to remain" in Bielitz. (Klein 5)
Gerda was sent to call all of her family and friends to find out what they were doing but no one answered.
All non Jews including family friends betrayed and stopped talking to Gerda's family and all other Jew family's.
All Jew families were forced to put a German flag on their house.
Men between the ages of fifteen to sixteen were to register to "rebuild what was destroyed by the bombs," deep into Poland. (Klein 16)
Beginning of the War
Gerda and her family have to give up their house to a non Jew women and move to the basement of their house.
All Jews had to wear white armbands with a blue star which the word Jew was inscribed and all Jew rations were cut.(symbolization)
Bielitz had a population of about eight thousand Jews, but by spring 1940 there were hardly more than 300.
Money was becoming a big issue but it was solved with the knitting of her mother.
In the year 1940 "Neutrality with Russia had been violated;German troops had crossed the frontier."(Klein 46)
After being separated from her mother and father Gerda was transported to a camp called Sosnowitz.
Sosnowitz had the biggest Jewish community in all of Germany.
She was there for half a year
During this time she was to stay in a Dulag, she also visited Abek's family who offered to get her out of camp and to get her a working card but Gerda did not take the offering.
On July 2, 1942 Gerda boarded a train and left Sosnowitz only to find herself in another concentration camp called Bolkenhain.
They stayed in a factory called "Kramsta-Methner-Frahne."
There Gerda and the other girls learned how to weave.
They also had to wear three yellow stars, each with the word Jew written on it. They were to be put on your chest, one on your back, and the other on a kerchief that was tied around the head so that someone could tell who they were from every angle.
Towards the end of June mail was cut.
August 1943 Gerda and Ilse left Bolkenhain and were chosen to go to Marzdorf.
Marzdorf was terribly organized compared to the other camps.
Throughout the time that Gerda was at Marzdorf she had many different jobs like bricklaying, she had to work inside the factory, and in the factory she had to clean and oil delicate parts of machinery.
She also worked on trains late at night to unload coal.
With luck Ilse and Gerda were able to transfer to Landeshut , another concentration camp.
She was reunited with previous friends and Frau Kugler, her formal commander.
May 8th 1943 Gerda turns 20
Gerda and the other girls at camp would work from 6:00 pm to 7:00 am on the weaving mill.
She got to see Abek again after he had volunteered to go to Burgberg.
May 6th 1943 Gerda and the girls were told that they would be transferring to Grunberg, another camp.
Gerda would daydream of her and her family being reunited when she thought she could no longer go on. It gave her enough strength and hope that one day the war will come to an end and that her liberation would come soon.
" And as always when in despair, I started to think of my homecoming. Who would come home first? I always wished that I should be the last to walk into the house to find them all there." (Klein 177)
He fell in love with Gerda the first time he saw her, which was at a boy's camp formed by the SS.
He risked his life many times for Gerda.
When Abek heard that Gerda was in Landeshut he volunteered to go to Burgberg, a men's camp close to the camp where Gerda was. " I saw the dreaded Burgberg for the first time. The place spelled horror to me, from the machine gun over the entrance to the tomb like, windowless walls that housed the men." (Klein 164)
April 19th 1940 all Jews were ordered to prepare to move to a shabby remote quarter.
They lived there for about a year and a half
All Jews were to register for work
Gerda's father had to go to Sucha, while Gerda and her mother had to go to Wadowitz but they were long separated before their destination.
Gerda never saw her mother and father again.
Spring of 1940
There were about 1000 girls already there.
Girls who worked outside looked very healthy, while the girls that worked in the factory in a spinning room looked very pale, starved with bent backs, and had rotting teeth.
Gerda was unfortunately picked for the spinning room.
She had to learn how to work the machines by herself.
" I thought I would never learn to operate it,to tie the knots before the machine... Wherever I looked, the threads tore. I kept running from one break to another until I reached a point of exhaustion." (Klein 170)
The girls had to be X-rayed every two months for tuberculosis.
It was now winter and a couple of weeks before Christmas there were many air-raid alarms. The girls were told to stay inside the factory.
Christmas passes it is now the year of 1945.
In January sirens blew almost everyday.
The Germans got more and more frightened because the war was coming at an end so on January 29th 1945 the girls were put outside in the snow and told to march.
The March to Liberation
At the beginning they went four days without food.
Girls were shot because they tried to run away.
Gerda was asked to take two dead bodies into the forest.
When they were allowed to take breaks they were told to lie down in the snow and they could not move.
They came to a camp called Christianstadt where they were given something warm to eat. They were there for about three days when they had to start moving again.
By now the Russian were advancing and people were fleeing.
" The Germans are beginning to pay the penalty for their crimes."(Klein 189)
Gerda made a plan with Ilse to run away but it failed.
At nights they would sleep in barns and every two days they would be served warm soup if they were lucky.
It was so cold that a girl started to break off her toes as though they were brittle wood."(Klein 191)
They marched through Zwickay, Reichenbach, and Plauen.
They have been marching for almost two months.
There was less than 400 girls left.
They arrived at another camp called Helmbrechts. There they were put into empty barracks with a dirt floor. They all got extremely sick. They had nothing to do but to tell stories.
Gerda lost a couple of friends while at the camp.
April 13th 1945 they left Helmbrechts and marched again to the unknown.
They approached a town called Czechoslovakia.
They were put in a building when they heard a ticking of a bomb.
The SS men were coming back to shoot them because the bomb had not gone off. Gerda and two other girls hid for a couple of hours when they were liberated.
After the War
Gerda was 68 pounds at age of 21.
During her time at the hospital Gerda had to learn how to walk again because her legs and feet were copletely frozen.
For treatment she had to dip them in hot water then cold water to regain feeling in her feet.
She eventually regained feeling in her legs and feet.
She met an American Soldier named Kurt Klein who came to visit her often while she was at the hospital.
They fell in love and got married.
Gerda Weissmann Klein
By: Eugenie Barbeau/period 4