Gerda Weissmann Klein's Experiences Of The Holocaust

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Gerda Weissmann Klein’s personal account of her experiences during Germany’s invasion of Poland and of the Holocaust illustrated some of the struggles of young Jewish women at the time in their endeavors to survive. Weissmann Klein’s recount of her experiences began on September 3, 1939, at her home in the town of Bielitz, Poland, just after Nazi troops began to arrive and immediately enforce their policies on Polish Jews. On that night, which had only been the beginning for her and her family, Jews within Nazi Germany had already felt the effects of Adolf Hitler’s nationalist ideals for almost five years. From 1933 until 1939, when Weissmann Klein’s experiences began, “anti-Semitism was a recurring theme in Nazism and resulted in a wave of…show more content…
She described in her memoir witnessing the changes in her town that came along with the new Nazi policies, including several examples of Jewish definition and expropriation, which played a vital role in her experience of the Holocaust. Very early on, following the invasion of the Nazis, the Jews were made to publicly identify themselves by not only having JEW stamped on their ration cards according to Weissmann Klein, but also wearing a prominent yellow Star of David with the bold lettering JEW on their clothing at all times (Weissmann Klein, 36). During this time the Jewish only received half the rations of non-Jews. Shortly following the required identifiers, several other regulations were put into place further denying Jews civil rights. The first of these instances experienced by Weissmann Klein being her family’s forced relinquishing of personal belongings and then the removal from their home into their basement. As in many other instances that Weissmann Klein had observed, a former family maid took was permitted by the SS to take up residence in the main house. The Weissmann family lived in that state of poverty and unknowing for several years, until the morning of April 19, 1942, when “all Jews were ordered to prepare to move to the shabby remote quarter of town…” (Weissmann Klein, 72), which further separated the Jewish…show more content…
According to Spielvogel, “virtually 90 percent of the Jewish populations of Poland, the Baltic countries, and Germany were exterminated” which overall was the death “of nearly two out of every three European Jews” (Spielvogel, 871). The march to the camps alone was rarely survived by many of those who marched. The death march that Weissmann Klein experienced herself lasted from late January until mid-April of 1945. As Weissmann Klein explained there were nearly four thousand girls total from surrounding labor camps, including her own, separated into two groups of two thousand. Referring to the group in which she was placed, she remarked that “out of two thousand only a hundred and twenty survived” (Weissmann Klein, 183). Conditions during the march were brutal as the weather was extremely cold and there was snow fall. Many of the girls were ill prepared having no warm clothing or shoes, which Weissmann Klein briefly recounts: “Many of the Hungarian girls had no shoes. To save their lives they stole shoes off the feet of those who slept” (Weissmann Klein 183). Luckily, early in her experiences she was advised by her father to wear her skiing shoes to which she says “Those shoes played a vital part in saving my life. They were study and strong, and when three years later they were taken off my frozen feet they were good still….” (Weissmann Klein

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