“We don’t know where we are going, we don’t know what will happen, but nobody can take away from you what you put in your own mind,” said the mother of Dr. Edith Eva Eger when they were deported to the gates of Auschwitz.
The ballerina of Auschwitz, as Eger was called, was sixteen when she was taken away by the Nazis. In concentration camp Auschwitz she was forced to dance for Josef Mengele, the ‘angel of death’. She did so with her eyes closed. In her mind she wasn’t standing between the cold barracks, but in the Opera House in Budapest, and she was Juliet in the ballet Romeo and Juliet.
When the US Army liberated the camp on 4 May 1945, a soldier saw her hand move when she was left for dead among a number of dead bodies. He quickly called for medical assistance and therefore saved her life. She weighed only 32 kg at the time; her body was broken.
Two years ago I read her memoir The Choice. Sometimes I had to put it aside to catch my breath, only to pick it up again immediately and continue reading. An unforgettable book about the moving life of an extraordinary and powerful woman, who later, as a psychologist, helped veterans and soldiers with PTSD.
Here I would like to share some meaningful quotes from The Choice:
“Anti-Semitism wasn’t a Nazi invention. When I was growing up I developed a feeling of inferiority, and I became convinced that it was safer not to say that I was Jewish.”
“In Auschwitz, in Mauthausen, and during the death march, I survived by drawing on my inner world.”
“I found hope and faith in my inner life, even when surrounded by starvation, torture and death.”
“I did not yet know that nightmares do not adhere to land borders, that guilt and fear are boundless.”
“Maybe moving forward also means going back to the past.”
“We cannot choose to let the darkness disappear, but we can choose to cherish the light.”
“Every moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating, unpleasant, exhausting, painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how to respond.”
“You can take everything away from a person except one thing: the last of the human freedoms, which is to be able to choose what attitude to take in all given circumstances, to be able to choose your own path.” ~ Victor Frankl.
“I have nowhere to go to escape my discomfort; I just have to feel it.”
“By running away from the past, from my fear, I could not find freedom.”
“I turned my fear into a prison and locked it by remaining silent.”
“We can choose to be our own prison guards, or we can choose to be free.”
“Running away from the past or fighting against the pain we are experiencing now is equivalent to imprisoning ourselves.”
“Expressing yourself, i.e. self-expression, is the opposite of depression.”
“Mourning rites and rituals can be a hugely important part of grieving. I think that’s why religions and cultures contain distinct mourning rituals. There is a protected space and structure within someone begins to experience the feelings of loss.”
“To be passive is to let others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself.”
“No one can make you a victim. Only you can do that.”
“If you can’t go through a door, go through the window.”
“To heal, we must embrace the darkness.”
“To heal means to tend the wound.”
‘Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis: times change and we change with them.”
“If we start believing that it is impossible for us to be loved if we are authentic, then we run the risk of denying our true nature.”
“Your own thoughts are the biggest prison and the key is in your pocket: the willingness to take total responsibility for your life; the willingness to take risks.”