Daily Recco, February 22: The Choice, between horror and hope
The Choice by Dr Edith Eva Eger is a horrifying account of her days in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Nazi Germany, which eventually leaves you with a sense of hope.
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One of the worst tragedies in the history of mankind is The Holocaust. Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany is estimated to have murdered some six million Jews across Europe, accounting for nearly two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population. There were very few Jewish survivors left and fewer still who survived the concentration camps. One such survivor is Edith Eva Eger, the Hungarian Jew who survived the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in 1944 as a 16-year-old. The Choice is her memoir of the days in the camp and the horrors that the author and her sister went through.
The book begins in 1980 in the USA where Dr Eger works as a psychologist specialising in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She opens with the anecdote of a solider, Captain Jason Fuller, who walked into her office ostensibly traumatised by violence. And then the author beautifully links it to the violence she herself experienced in her past that continued to haunt her.
The book is divided into four parts: Prison, Escape, Freedom, and Healing. ‘Prison’ outlines her horrors of being separated from her parents, with the certain knowledge that they were led straight to the gas chamber. The author and her sister — Magda were led to the camp. Edith was a ballerina and had nurtured the dream of making it to the Olympic Games. However, once she arrived at the concentration camp in Auschwitz, she was made to perform for Josef Mengele. This dreaded camp doctor, who was known as the “Angel of Death” was the man who is notorious for having performed deadly “experiments” on the inmates of the Auschwitz camp and the one who selected victims to be killed in the gas chambers and administered the gas.
After the dance performance, Mengele gave Edith a loaf of rye bread that she shared with her bunkmates. She had to undergo unspeakable and unthinkable torture, including being tied as a human shield atop trains loaded with ammunition. These sections of the book leave you with a sense of shocking revulsion.
Edith was eventually transferred to the infamous Mauthausen Concentration Camp before she and Magda were rescued by American soldiers from a pile of corpses, barely alive.
The last two parts of the book speak of her stopping to run from her past and how she eventually brings herself to return to Auschwitz. She goes on to deliver an address at The Berghof — Hitler's home in Obersalzberg. The last section of the book speaks of her facing her repressed emotions and embracing her past. She allows herself to heal as she helps her patients heal, finding fragments of her own trauma in that of her patients.
The Choice is the story of acute horror that leaves the reader with a sense of hope in the end. We highly recommend that you begin your week with this very powerful memoir.