Who is the character Tusia in Gerda Weissmann Klein's memoir All but My Life?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The book All but My life is a memoir written by Gerda Weissman Klien and details her story of surviving the Holocaust as a Polish Jew at the age of 18. The book gives an account of Gerda surviving being transferred from work camp to work camp until finally set free on Liberation Day, May 7, 1945. While in the work camps, she lost three dear friends as well as all of her family members, but she herself managed to survive and stay strong.

The girl named Tusia is one friend that Gerda met in one of the concentration camps. Gerda describes Tusia as a "giraffe-necked girl" and someone she had met in the Bolkenhain camp. She further describes Tusia as someone she respected for her wisdom but who also "irritated" her. Tusia declares that she had felt hurt by Gerda because Gerda had been ignoring her since they left Bolkenhain, but, regardless, Tusia admires Gerda for her "spark," saying that Gerda gave her "belief in humanity" (Ch. 13). Tusia did not survive the camps, but one thing she taught Gerda is to appreciate the fact that Gerda has the ability to make people happy. Tusia also pointed out to Gerda that, to her, "life still means beauty," and advised her to "continue to go through mud without dirtying [her] feet" (Ch. 5). In other words, Tusia wisely counseled Gerda to continue to appreciate life despite all of its atrocities. She likens the atrocities of life to "mud" and philosophizes on Gerda's ability to endure the atrocities without "dirtying [her] feet," meaning being severely affected. Hence, all in all, even though Tusia was not a person that Gerda liked particularly, Tusia taught Gerda to continue to hold on to the idea that life has beauty.

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