Review of The Choice
It’s hard to know how to describe this amazing book, which I’m sure will go down as one of the most important works about the Holocaust – although it is by no means only about that subject. Blending a memoir and a psychological investigation into the effects and treatments of emotional trauma, it’s very much more than an account of the author’s experiences during the Second World War.
"the sisters endured unimaginable hardship but managed to survive"
Dr Edith Eger was born in 1928 in the city of Kosice, then part of Czechoslovakia, now part of Slovakia, and once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ethnically, her family were Hungarian Jews, and she had two older sisters, Magda and Klara. Klara was a violin prodigy, and Edith was a ballet dancer and gymnast, with hopes of making it to the Olympics when the Nazis took over the city. Before long, she was thrown off the Olympic team, and then, in 1944, at the age of sixteen, she, her parents and Magda were sent to Auschwitz. Her sister Klara managed to avoid this fate as she had gone to Budapest to advance her musical career.
At Auschwitz, her parents were immediately sent to be murdered in the gas chambers by infamous Dr Josef Mengele. That very night, Mengele made Edith dance for him, to avoid being killed herself. Over the next year, the sisters endured unimaginable hardship but managed to survive. After the war, Edith married fellow survivor Bela Eger, and they eventually escaped the new communist regime in Czechoslovakia by emigrating to America in 1949, with their little daughter Marianne. There they had two more children, and Bela set up an accountancy business. But their troubles were not over.
In America, the terrible of trauma of Edith’s past made it hard for her to live a normal life, and at first she simply buried her memories and never talked about them. But then she discovered Viktor Frankl’s classic book Man’s Search For Meaning, and decided to become a psychologist, to help others come to terms with their demons while still tackling her own. She describes how she has treated soldiers whose experience in combat has resulted in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as those suffering from other psychological illnesses, such as anorexia nervosa.
Despite its dark subject matter, this is not a depressing book. On the contrary, it is remarkably uplifting. Edith shows how it’s possible not only to recover from terrible experiences and trauma, but how, in confronting your own personal trauma you can also help others cope with theirs. From the moment when Mengele forced her to dance for him, Edith made a choice – to regard him and those like him with pity, and to feel freedom inside her own mind, no matter what her circumstances. Now in her late 80s, Dr Edith Eger continues to be an inspiration to us all.
Written by Ruth, Marketing