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All But My Life : Summary Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

At the beginning of November there is still no word from Arthur. Bielitz has been incorporated into the German Reich, although part of Poland, known as the Gouvernement, has not been so incorporated. Some of the Weissmanns’ friends and relatives, including Gerda’s aunt Anna, have left Bielitz for the Gouvernement, which is actually under control of the Russians. Papa decides, however, that his family must stay in Bielitz; their connection with the town is long-standing; he is unwell and cannot work, and they have little money.

Gerda hears from someone she knows that the Gestapo are looking for Mr. Pipersberg. Gerda goes to the home of his former secretary, where she thinks he may be. Finding him there, she warns him, and he goes into hiding.

Finally there is some news in connection with Arthur. He and other men were put in cattle trucks and sent to the Gouvernement, but they were turned loose in the woods and many were shot by the German SS. Thirty-six men were rumored to have been killed. There is no direct news of Arthur and Gerda fervently believes he is alive, although she is also haunted by thoughts of what may have happened to him.

All Jews in Bielitz are ordered to leave their homes, leaving their valuables behind, and report to an armory on December 2. The Weissmanns sell some of their belongings. The next day, however, they are told that the transportation of the Jews has been postponed; they are able to remain in their homes.

Analysis

Everything now is in flux for the Jews of Bielitz, and the family hears more news of Nazi atrocities. The aim of the Nazis at the time was to drive all the Polish Jews into ghettos, the better to control them. For reasons that were not known, the forced removal of the Jews from Bielitz is postponed, but they all know that their position is insecure in the extreme. 

Gerda is still only fifteen years old, and she is being presented with challenges and disruptions and dangers that no girl of that age should be asked to face. However, Gerda is very adaptive and resourceful, and she shows considerable courage, even though she is also brokenhearted about what is happening to her family.

This chapter introduces the recurring theme of the will to live. As Gerda thinks at night of Arthur’s possible fate, she feels that life is no longer worth living, and wishes she could die. But Papa seems to know what she is thinking, and tells her it is wrong. He makes her promise that she will never take her own life. In future years, she says, when death seemed the only way out, she would remember that promise given to her father. 




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