I have a small collection of first hand remembrances of survivors of the Holocaust related to World War II and the Nazi Regime. I want to know as many of them as I can, even though it is only through reading their accounts. I just finished reading the most recent addition to my collection, All But My Life. I love this book, partly because the author is not just telling her own story, but is impelled to give witness to the lives of those she knew who didn’t survive, also including those Germans who were kind.
It was written by a woman who was a pre-teen when she and her family were “relocated” by the Nazis. It is one of the best such books I’ve read and I think ranks up there with The Diary of Anne Frank. It was a devastating, and yet hopeful read. I recommend it.
From the book:
Once as I passed the shredder I thought I saw Mama’s coat. I turned away, praying, then forced myself to look again. It was just a black coat. It could have been anybody’s–hundreds of people word black coats.
And as always when in despair, I started to think of my homecoming. I placed and replaced details upon details, playing with the fragments of my dreams. Who would come home first? I always wished that I should come last– walk into the house to find them all there. At times, I thought I would reach home late at night. The house would be dark. I would not wake them. I would go to the garden and wait. I would watch the sun rise. Then I would approach the house. Mama would be wearing her flowered housecoat. No, she wouldn’t–we had given it away for a pound of margarine and a loaf of bread. Well, anyway, breakfast would be on the table. Arthur wouldn’t be there and Mama would say to me, “Go wake up Arthur, you know he never gets down in time.”
I would run up the stairs. My brother’s hair would be tousled, as it always was in the morning. “Arthur,” I would whisper. He would mutter something and turn over and pretend to go back to sleep. Then, realizing I had come back, he would sit up with wide-open eyes, stretching out his arms. It would be as it had always been, from the time when I had brought him my book of fairy tales to read. He had read them to me for years before I learned to read. And we would come downstairs together, holding hands as we had done when we were small, so I should not stumble. We would come down, and Papa and Mama would be holding hands too. We would approach Papa for benediction, as we had done as children. We both would have to bow, for we had gotten so tall. And Papa would kiss the Bible even as his father had before him when he returned from Siberia. And Papa would speak the words of Jacob: “I had not thought to see your face again, but God….”