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All But My Life : Summary Chapter 7

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Chapter 7

More letters arrive from Arthur over the spring. He is working in a chemical factory in Russian-occupied Lwow, in eastern Poland. He sends the family money.

Most of the Jews in Bielitz have left the city for the Gouvernement. Before the war there were eight thousand Jews in Bielitz, but that number has now dwindled to about three hundred. A few of Gerda’s friends are left, including LlseKleinzähler.

Low on money, the family survives by making dresses, sweaters, and bonnets, and selling them in the neighborhood. People pay for them with food.

In May, Gerda celebrates her sixteenth birthday. A letter from Arthur arrives that very day, with a picture of him enclosed.

The family follows the war news gloomily as German successes continue. France falls. In September they learn that Mr. Pipersberg is living in hiding in the Gouvernement.

When 1941 dawns, Gerda is convinced that the war will end that year. In the spring comes the news that the Germans have invaded Russia, and the former Russian-controlled parts of Poland (including Lwow) are now in German hands. Gerda worries about what may happen to Arthur.

Inspired by her meeting with Ulla, a local woman in her twenties who has a PhD in English, Gerda starts to take English lessons from Ulla. One day in July she is on her way to Ulla’s for a lesson when she is stopped by a policeman, who discovers her English textbook. He takes her to the police station, since learning English is illegal. At the police station, an officer tells her that learning English is a “terrible crime.” He tells her she will be punished, but then sends her home just with a warning not to learn English anymore.

In September 1941, Gerda and Lise visit a Jewish boys’ camp that has been set up by the SS just outside Bielitz. The camp is a converted factory where art and furniture confiscated from Jews is stored and repaired if necessary. There she meets AbekFeigenblatt, who takes an interest in her and walks her home. Gerda thinks he is about thirty years old and therefore “practically an old man.”

Analysis

The officer at the police station who sends Gerda home rather than punishing her for learning English is the first of only two Germans Gerda encounters during World War II who behaves in a civilized way, as if they have human feelings.

In spite of the horrible nature of the story Gerda has to tell, the memoir is also about love and the many forms it takes in extremely difficult circumstances, including love of family and friends, and also romantic love. This chapter introduces Abek, who falls in love with Gerda and will become an important figure in her life, although her feelings for him will throughout be ambivalent. 




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