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All But My Life & Beloved

In the stories of blacks who have survived the oppressively dehumanizing institution of slavery, we find many similarities to stories of Jews who survived the equally oppressively dehumanizing institution of Hitler’s concentration camps. What is life-affirming about both kinds of stories is that there are those who survived both institutions and were able to retain their life spirit. Even more remarkable, considering the two institutions were quite different in nature, is the fact that survivor’s of both often used many of the same internal and external resources to survive with their life, humanity and spirit in tow. Two such stories are revealed to us in Beloved, by Toni Morrison, and All But My Life, by Greta Weissman Klein. In Beloved, the main character is a former slave who has her freedom, Sethe. Sethe is unable to live happily in the present because she is haunted by memories of her murdered child, Beloved, the baby she killed instead of subjecting the child to the tortures of slavery. In All But My Life, a non-fictional account of survival, the main character is Klein herself. The book is a chronicle of how she endured the horrors of losing her entire family and suffered the tortures of Nazi Germany, only to survive and rediscover warmth, love and humanity. Neither character loses her human spirit or will to live, but instead finds new hope and meaning in life, not to mention hidden reservoirs of strength that allow them to appreciate life’s smallest blessings.

When she was a teenager, Gerda Weissman Klein was stripped of her family and possessions in Nazi conquered Poland. The tortures she experienced during her time in a concentration camp, barracks and factory were nearly worse. She suffered a slave’s existence in a work camp, saw people murdered in cold blood, had to survive on rotten food and suffered a host of other tortures during her experiences in the Holocaust. Guilt, depression, cynicism toward...

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All But My Life & Beloved. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:52, November 29, 2021, from