The Choice

The inscription on the cover of my copy of The Choice (which is different than what is printed on the most recent edition) reads: The Choice is a gift to humanity. One of those rare and eternal stories that you don’t want to end and that leave you forever changed.”  This description is no exaggeration.

Dr. Edith Eger writes about her Holocaust experiences in a memoir that takes the reader on a journey with her. Dr. Eger’s explains that her will to live through the horrors and to rebuild after liberation, was fueled by the one thing she would not allow the Nazis’ to take from her – her mind.

Dr. Eger was a trained ballet dancer and gymnast before being sent to Auschwitz. In one passage she writes:

Dr. Mengele studies me…I don’t know where to put my eyes…The orchestra is assembled just outside. They are silent, awaiting orders…Am I like Salome, made to dance for her stepfather Herod… Does the dance give her power, or does the dance strip it away?… “Little dancer,” Dr. Mengele says, “dance for me.” He directs the musician to begin playing…Mengele’s eyes bulge at me. My limbs are heavy, as in a nightmare when there’s danger and you can’t run away. “Dance!” he commands again, and I feel my body start to move…

First the high kick. Then the pirouette and turn. The splits…I focus on my routine, on my years of training…my heart races…I hear my mother’s words come back to me, as though she is there in the barren room, whispering below the music – Just remember, no one can take away from you what you’ve put in your own mind. Dr. Mengele, my fellow starved-to-the-bone inmates, the defiant who will survive and the soon to be dead disappear, and the only world that exists is the one inside my head. The barracks floor becomes a stage at the Budapest opera house. I dance for my fans in the audience. I dance within the glow of hot lights. I dance for love. I dance for life. As I dance, I discover a piece of wisdom that I have 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 am free in my mind.

Dr. Eger is a psychologist in private practice as well as a college professor and a consultant for the U.S. Army and Navy in resilience training and the treatment of PTSD. She has helped hundreds of people heal and rebuild their lives.

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