Gerda's serene and idyllic childhood is shattered when Nazis march into Poland on September 3, 1939. Although the Weissmanns were permitted to live for a while in the basement of their home, they were eventually separated and sent to German labor camps. Over the next few years Gerda experienced the slow, inexorable stripping away of "all but her life." By the end of the war she had lost her parents, brother, home, possessions, and community; even the dear friends she made in the labor camps, with whom she had shared so many hardships, were dead.
Despite her horrifying experiences, Klein conveys great strength of spirit and faith in humanity. In the darkness of the camps, Gerda and her young friends manage to create a community of friendship and love. Although stripped of the essence of life, they were able to survive the barbarity of their captors. Gerda's beautifully written story gives an invaluable message to everyone. It introduces them to last century's terrible history of devastation and prejudice, yet offers them hope that the effects of hatred can be overcome.
Over fifty years ago, Gerda Weissmann was barely alive at the end of a 350-mile death march that took her from a slave labor camp in Germany to the Czech border. On May 7, 1945, the American military stormed the area, and the first soldier to approach Gerda was Kurt Klein. She guided him to her fellow prisoners who lay sick and dying on the ground, and quoted Goethe: "Noble be man, merciful and good." Perhaps it was her irony, her composure, her evident compassion in the face of tragedy, that struck Kurt Klein. A great love had begun. Forced to separate just weeks after liberation and hours after their engagement, Gerda and Kurt began a correspondence that lasted until their reunion and wedding in Paris a year later. Their poignant letters reflect upon the horrors of war and genocide, but above all, upon the rapture and salvation of true love.