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All But My Life : Summary Chapter 6

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Chapter 6

The Weissmanns are forced by the Germans to move into their basement, which had formerly been occupied by a girl named Trude and her grandmother, who did laundry for the Weissmanns. Trude and her grandmother, who are not Jews, are now to live upstairs.

On Christmas Eve, Gerda goes to visit Niania, an old Austrian woman who for many years had lived with the Weissmanns. They exchange gifts.

The Jews’ rations are cut and they are forced to wear white armbands with a blue star and the word JEW on them. Shortly after that they are told they must wear a yellow star with a black inscription, which is easier to see against the snow.

Letters arrive from Arthur’s girlfriend Gisa, who with her family is safe in Krakow, a Polish town about fifty miles from Bielitz. She has news about Arthur, saying he is alive and in Russia. In February 1940, Peter, a friend of Arthur and of Gisa, arrives, but he confides in Gerda that Gisa knows nothing of Arthur’s whereabouts; she invented a story to make his parents feel better. Gerda does not inform her parents of this.

Gerda has not been able to attend school, so Papa starts to give her lessons at home, including mathematics, chemistry, and medicine.

In March, a letter from Arthur arrives. He and David are both safe in Russia. The family rejoices, reading and rereading the letter.

Analysis

Apart from the fact that they are unjustly forced to live in their basement, there is almost a sense of normalcy regarding family life in this chapter. Although Gerda cannot attend school, she is tutored by her father. News arrives from Arthur.  Ominous developments continue, however, with material deprivation, including a cut in food rations, and the fact that they are also forced to wear the identifying yellow star, which singles them out as a people apart. The Nazis forced all Jews in Poland to wear this Judenstern (Jewish Star of David), throughout Poland, beginning in November 1939.




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