Edith Eger (2017) The Choice.
Posted by celticman on Sun, 23 Sep 2018
No surprise that Edith Eger’s The Choice has on the cover that overused marketing phrase ‘The International Bestseller’. That epitaph is a tombstone for many unremarkable texts, but this is a book that reads like a thriller, beautifully written, full of compassion and wisdom and can take its place among the greats of Holocaust memoirs alongside luminaries such as Viktor E Frankel’s who acted as a mentor for Eger and whose book Man’s Search for Meaning – has a Nietzchean theme: That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
Frankel paraphrases: ‘He who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW.’ Eger’s The Choice is structured in a way that reflects that circularity, beginning with ‘Prison’ moving on to ‘Escape’, ‘Freedom’ and the final part ‘Healing’.
A life’s journey and a life’s understanding are made of choices. Sixteen-year old Edith, for example, meets Dr Mengele at selection in Auschwitz.
‘Little dancer,’ Dr Mengele says, ‘dance for me’. He directed the musicians to begin playing. The familiar opening strain of the ‘The Blue Danube’ waltz filters into the dark, close room…
…As I dance I discover a piece of wisdom that I’ve never forgotten. I will never know what miracle of grace allows me this insight. It will save my life many times, even after the horror is over. I can see that Dr Mengele the seasoned killer, who has just that morning killed my mother, is even more pitiful than me. I am free in my mind, which he can never be. He will always have to live what he has done.’
Eger is liberated by American soldiers who drag her near dead body from underneath a pile of corpses. But an American soldier almost rapes her while she is recovering, but he has a choice to make – and doesn’t. She remains a virgin until she marries Bela.
And it is America rather than Israel where Eger’s rehabilitation takes root. But really it’s based on a lie. Edith’s body is broken. She met her husband Bela in a TB sanatorium. This disqualifies them for applying for citizenship. Bela gets his friend, whose chest is clear to take the X-ray, in his stead, and the counterfeit plate attached to their application. Nazi profiling and racial logic is making a comeback. In Trump’s America that is ground for deportation of Eger and his family.
Eger an expert through her own experience and flashback in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has worked with the military in their hospitals. This is where the book begins, Captain Jason Fuller, a veteran, pointing a gun at his therapist, Eger’s chest. Her message is there is a way back, but we need to do the work of healing ourselves in the choices we make. It was her job in the family to ask as peacemaker and ask the four questions from the Haggadah: ‘why is this night different from all other nights?’
The answer is up to us. This is book of hope and light, but from what I see, let’s just say, I’m pessimistic and not overly optimistic. That’s my choice. I see the darkness gathering. Read on.