The Choice —By Edith Eger

Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This story opened my eyes. Once again. We have all heard about the Holocaust, its millions of tragedies, its injustices, its suffering and pain. It does hurt to read such a detailed account of torture, even if we think we have seen and heard it all. We have not. It astonishes me that someone can suffer in this degree and still survive.

A war always start with discrimination. She was a wonderful dancer, ready to go to the Olympics, when right before the war her teacher called her apart and announced that now for being Jewish she had to leave the team. Soon after her family was taken away from their house, directly to hell. After they arrived in Auschwitz she was separated from her mother and father, whom she never saw again. How heartbreaking must be to see your mother walking to death. She did not stay alone, her sister Magda was with her at the same camp. Dr. Josef Mengele, infamously called ‘The Angel of Death’, a brutal Nazi who directed the camp and separated her from her mother, made her dance for him the same night her mother died.

She went through hunger, through illness, through desperation, to anguish. All those feelings to the maximum expression a human being can experiment. She saw people dying  of starvation, of sadness, of torture. Every day, she saw women and children fade away in the worst possible circumstances. It is incredible to me the capacity of a person to go through that. But Ms. Eger had a fire inside of her. She had this tendency to look inwards, to talk to herself, to get comfort in her memories, to hide from horror, every night inside her mind. Every day she repeated to herself ‘If I make it through today, I’ll survive”. The strength of her sister Magda was also a big help. She put all her hopes in staying alive to give her sister the willingness to live. They almost didn’t make it. They were found by American troops among a pile of death people. They both were so weak to scream for help that her sister called the soldiers attention moving a can of tuna, creating a little ray of light.

And then came the time for recovery. She was so sick after that that she ended up in a tuberculosis clinic, her benefactors thinking that she was suffering from the illness, which was not the case. It was a miscalculation that sailed part of her destiny, as there she met her husband, Bela (Albert Eger), who managed to hide in the mountains during the war and fight along with the communists. He was not the love of her life. Eric, her teenage boyfriend before the war was, but he died in the camps. Nevertheless Edith was eager for the future and her family, she loved her new home, her new daughter, until they had to scape again, as they were persecuted by the communists. The journey to United States was also full of obstacles. Bela wanted to go to Israel, but at the end, by a miracle, they were offered asylum in US and she chose to drop off her husband wishes of going to Jerusalem to join their friends. She even told her husband that she was willing to leave him and go alone, which was always a stone on the relationship. He went to US with her, but it took him years to overcome his disappointment.

Racism followed on their arrival, but they were determine to succeed, despite the baggage and the trauma that the family brought from Europe. She always hid that she was a survivor, but a classmate gave her a book from another survivor, and then her path to recovery started. She went on to study psychology and pass all the exams, hard exams, and then she got her PhD. 

The amazing thing about this book is that is not a novel about the holocaust, as this tragedy is only the introductory part. What the author meant was to teach how she survived, and not only that, how she managed to have a successful life, a beautiful family, a successful job. Everything had her up and downs, and what she did was to face the problems, deal with the matters, as a good way of healing herself. She controlled her mind. As Edith mother used to say “Be careful of what you put in your mind”

When she arrived in US she did not have a good English, much less any qualifications, but she never let go the dream, and when the opportunity came she was smart enough to catch it in the air. Her studies kept her going, while dealing with her own trauma, her guilt of being a survivor, while dealing with a divorce, while dealing with a seriously ill child.

At the end she specialized in healing others. One thing that stuck with me is that to heal a person you need not only to look at her problems, but also climb the leather to her parents, and grandparents, and look on the side to brothers and sisters. Everybody is part of the problem and of the solution. To come out of a trauma you need to go deep down on your psyche, your body, your soul. As painful as it is to face the demons, is the only way to heal.

A beautiful book, today, on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.


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