A Bailarina de Auschwitz 


de Edith Eva Eger, com Esmé Schwall Weigand


Em Inglês:

The Choice – Even in Hell Hope can flowerUK

The Choice – Embrace the Possible - USA






Este livro é a autobiografia da autora que teve uma vida do arco da velha. Com 16 anos foi parar a Auschwitz, com uma das suas irmãs, mais velha e seus pais. Os seus pais foram logo mortos e elas lutaram pela vida não só em Auschwitz, mas sobretudo nas grandes marchas que os Alemães obrigaram os prisioneiros a fazer no final da guerra. Quando os Americanos as libertaram, estavam pele e osso.

Recuperadas algumas forças, casou com um conhecido com fortuna própria, para o ver preso mais tarde pelos comunistas que tomaram o poder na Checoslováquia e lhe iam confiscar todos os bens. Consegue libertar o marido, fogem os dois para o Ocidente e vão para a América.

Já depois dos 30 anos, vai para a Universidade obtém uma láurea em Psicologia e mais tarde o Doutoramento.

Especializa-se na cura de traumatismos de antigos combatentes e é convidada para proferir conferências em Universidades.

O livro demorou 10 anos a escrever e a autora teve a ajuda de Esmé Schwall Weigand.

Lê-se muito bem e com agrado.

Na minha opinião, o livro tem apenas dois “senão”: o primeiro,  possivelmente pela intervenção da co-autora, é que a linguagem deixa por vezes de ser simples para ser literata. O segundo é, na parte final, a adenda que a autora faz da descrição dos casos em que interveio como psicóloga. Até são interessantes, mas vão além da sua biografia. 

No entanto, compreende-se que, sendo este possivelmente o último livro (ela tem já 91 anos), quisesse referir tratamentos em que teve sucesso. 







Mind power in Auschwitz – and healing decades later

Anna Moore

Sun 2 Sep 2018 


Her mother’s wisdom helped Edith Eger create a happy inner life in Auschwitz – but true healing meant going back there

Edith Eger was 16 years old, crammed into a cattle truck, human cargo from Hungary headed for Auschwitz, when her mother gave her the advice that shaped her life. For most of the journey, her mother hadn’t said much, hadn’t cried or complained, but had instead gone inside herself. “That night,” says Eger, “she turned to me and said: ‘Listen. We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Just remember, no one can take away from you what you’ve put in your mind.”

For the next year, Eger’s inner life – cherished memories, favourite recipes, future fantasies – sustained her, even saved her. After liberation, though, it turned against her. Survivor’s guilt, buried memories and constant flashbacks held her hostage. A siren, a shouting man, a piece of barbed wire could hurl her back to 1944. Ultimately, Eger’s mission to understand her mind and utilise its power led her to become an acclaimed psychologist specialising in trauma. Her mother’s words have formed her life’s work.

Now 90, smiling and immaculate in vivid turquoise, she talks to me from her light-filled home office in La Jolla, California. Her next patient is due in an hour. “I do not believe in retirement,” she says in heavily accented English. “My patients are my teachers.” Life now is good. “I live in paradise with an ocean view from the front and a beautiful canyon view at the back,” she says. “I go dancing once a week. I live in the present and I think young. I’m kind of celebrating every moment.”

Eger’s book, The Choice, is an international bestseller and took 10 years to write. She began it after the birth of her first great-grandson, for her family to read. “I was hoping it would be in their living rooms, and they’d see me as a good role model,” she says. “Its reception has been the biggest miracle of my life.” But transporting herself out of her “paradise” and back to hell was not easy. “It was very difficult, but I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” she says, “because, you see, the opposite of depression is expression. I was able to put it out there and cry and cry. With every page I lost 2,000lb of emotional weight.”

Eger’s story starts in Košice, Hungary (now Slovakia) with her parents and two older sisters. Her father, a tailor, was a lover of life. Her mother was more distant, prone to disappointment. One sister, Klara, a violin prodigy, studied in Budapest, where she managed to hide throughout the war. Another, Magda, was the “jokester”, the one with the attitude. Eger was the “invisible one”. “I was a very erudite teenager,” she says. “I had my own book club and was reading Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. Why? Because my mother told me, ‘I’m glad you have brains because you have no looks!’” So an ordinary family, as imperfect as any other.

I couldn’t fight or flee in Auschwitz, but I still had choices

With the Nazi grip came curfews, yellow stars and evictions. Life tightened for Jewish families. One night in April 1944, soldiers pounded on their door and took Eger, Magda and her parents to a brick factory where they lived for a month with 12,000 other Jews. Next was Auschwitz. On arrival, Eger’s father was herded away with the men and her mother was also separated when the infamous “Angel of Death”, Dr Josef Mengele ordered anyone under 14 or over 40 to a different line. (“She’s just going to take a shower,” Mengele told Eger when she tried to follow her.) Eger never saw either parent again.

Her survival in Auschwitz is partly testament to the power of her mind. On her first night, while she was adjusting to the inconceivable, Mengele entered her barracks looking for “new talent”. He ordered Eger, a trained ballerina, to dance. Somehow, she closed her eyes and transformed the barracks into the Budapest Opera House. Somehow she earned a loaf of bread.

“In Auschwitz, we never knew from one moment to another what was going to happen,” says Eger. “I couldn’t fight or flee, but I learned how to stay in a situation and make the best of what is. I still had choices. So when we were stripped and shorn of our hair, Magda asked me, ‘How do I look?’ She looked like a mangy dog, but I told her: ‘Your eyes are so beautiful. I never noticed when you had all that hair.’ Every day, we could choose to pay attention to what we’d lost or what we still had.”

After six months, as Americans and Russians advanced, the Nazis began to evacuate the camp, and the sisters were forced to join the “death march” across Europe. When GIs finally lifted them from a pile of bodies in an Austrian forest, Eger had typhoid fever, pneumonia, pleurisy and a broken back. Healing her body took time – but in a year she was married to Béla, whom she met in hospital. (He, too, had lost his family, but survived in the mountains, joining the partisan resistance.) “At that time, all we asked was: ‘How can we be normal?’” says Eger, “and ‘normal’ meant getting married.” On her honeymoon, she became pregnant – against the advice of doctors who believed Eger too weak. Her daughter, Marianne, was a healthy 10lb baby.

But mental recovery took far longer. Neither Eger nor Magda talked about what had happened – not to each other or anyone else. Denial was their shield. “We felt that the more securely we locked it away, the safer we were.” Magda, Eger and her new family all emigrated to the US. Thousands of miles separated Eger from her past, but the memories and trauma came with her.

In The Choice, Eger describes her flashbacks – her racing heart and narrowing vision – in visceral detail. Once, in Baltimore, taking the bus to her factory job, Eger boarded the European way, taking her seat and awaiting a ticket collector. The driver yelled, “Pay or get off!” He got up and walked towards her. She fell cowering to the ground, crying and shaking.

 I felt like an imposter as I hadn’t really dealt with my past

Though Eger refused to speak of her past to her three children, her 10-year-old daughter Marianne found a history book with pictures of the skeletal corpses piled in a heap. She asked her mother what it was and Eger had to run from the room and vomit in the bathroom. Settling in El Paso, Béla and Eger built a comfortable life. Béla qualified as an accountant and in her late 30s Eger began studying psychology at the University of Texas. Slowly, cautiously, she started to talk about the Holocaust and examine her experience, intent on learning how we survive trauma and what transforms a “victim” into a “survivor”. She took an MA, a PhD, then earned her licence to practise.

Specialising in post-traumatic stress (Eger objects to calling it a “disorder” as it’s a common and natural response to trauma), Eger began working with the American military. But her true breakthrough came when she was 53 years old. “I had a white coat and it said ‘Dr Eger’, but I felt like an imposter because I did not really deal with my past,” she says. “I could not be a good guide to my patients or take them any further than I’d gone myself. For that, I had to go back to the lion’s den and look at the place where my mother was murdered, where I was so close to death every day.”

It was during this return to Auschwitz that Eger confronted a devastating truth, a memory she’d hidden even from herself. When she had arrived at Auschwitz and awaited selection, Mengele had looked at her mother’s unlined face, then turned to Eger and asked if this was her “mother” or her “sister”. Eger didn’t think about which word would protect her – she simply told him the truth. Her mother was moved to the other line – the line that led straight to the gas chamber.

“Until I returned, I was my own worst enemy,” she says. “I not only had survivor’s guilt, I had survivor’s shame. I didn’t need a Hitler out there, I had a Hitler in me telling me I was unworthy, that I didn’t deserve to survive. On that day, I allowed myself to be human – not superhuman and not subhuman. We do things the way human beings do and we make mistakes. If I had known better, I would have done better – I would have, believe me. But unless we acknowledge that we cannot change the past, we cannot really heal and live life.”

Every part of her experience has informed her work. “I studied it and I lived it,” she says. “There is a difference between all the knowledge you get from books and all the clinical experience – both of which I have – and the ‘life experience’. That’s what I use most. I help people realise that the biggest prison is in their mind – and to be free of the past means not to run from it or forget it, but to face it. I see my work as my calling. And I’m still not done.”

The Choice by Edith Eger is published by Rider Books,



The New York Times



What a Survivor of Auschwitz Learned From the Trauma of Others

By Lori Gottlieb


Embrace the Possible
By Edith Eva Eger with Esme Schwall Weigand
288 pp. Scribner.


Edith Eva Eger’s mind-blowing memoir of surviving Auschwitz doesn’t begin with the terrifying night when she is 16 years old and armed soldiers herd her Hungarian family into a wagon full of Jews. Instead, we meet Dr. Eger in an El Paso therapy room in 1980, where she is treating a catatonic young man plagued by … well, she’s not sure what.

Trauma, yes. But she has yet to discover its source. And when she does, it will bring her closer to her own.

By then, Eger will be a married mother of three, a public-school teacher turned therapist who had escaped to America after sneaking her imprisoned husband out of jail — “Yesterday’s Nazis become today’s Communists,” he said, when passing up a government post — and leaving everything they owned behind. Eventually, she will earn worldwide recognition for helping all kinds of people move past their struggles — from military personnel to cancer patients, from those who suffered abuse to couples on the brink of divorce. And at nearly 90 years old, she will write “The Choice: Embrace the Possible,” an unforgettable account of her painstaking path to emotional healing alongside that of her patients.

This wasn’t the life that Eger imagined for herself as a teenage dancer and gymnast in the early 1940s. Then she was on the Hungarian gymnastics team, preparing for the next Olympics — until, due to anti-Semitism, she was expelled. It’s the most devastating blow of her life, but she has no idea of the devastation to come.

The wagon takes Eger’s family to a brick factory, where they work before being crammed in a cattle car en route to Auschwitz. In the dark train, her mother offers a lifesaving, and later, life-changing, piece of wisdom. “Just remember,” she says, “no one can take away from you what you’ve put in your mind.”

Eger will use those words upon their arrival, when Josef Mengele sends her mother to the gas chamber and that night commands Eger to dance for him. “The barracks floor becomes a stage at the Budapest opera house,” she imagines.

Over the next year, she endures relentless atrocities and witnesses others — a woman in labor with her legs bound shut; a young boy used for target practice — only to be lifted from a pile of corpses at the end of the war, weighing 70 pounds and nearly dead herself.

She is free, but with a broken back and broken spirit. Now what? The “now what” is the crux of “The Choice.”

Eger isn’t the first Auschwitz survivor to write an account of the experience and introduce a way to move forward. In fact, it’s the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” handed to Eger by a fellow student more than two decades after liberation — at a time when Eger is still “pounded by loss” — that jump-starts her journey from “wearing a mask” to learning “how people heal.”

Frankl becomes her friend and mentor, and while their ideas overlap, Eger offers a singular perspective as both seeker and guide. She gets in the trenches with her patients (sometimes calling them “honey”) and grants readers intimate access to her parallel quest to escape from the prison of her mind. Her cases, riveting in the telling, though not always groundbreaking in technique, illustrate with a profound sense of humility that no matter how varied our experiences, we are more alike than different.

At one point, a judge sends to her for treatment a troubled 14-year-old boy who arrives spewing racist venom. But instead of condemning him, Eger looks for herself in him, for her own bigotry and hatred — and makes a choice.

“We have the capacity to hate and the capacity to love. Which one we reach for,” she writes, “is up to us.”

I can’t imagine a more important message for modern times. Eger’s book is a triumph, and should be read by all who care about both their inner freedom and the future of humanity.


Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist who writes a weekly advice column, What Your Therapist Really Thinks, for New York magazine.




'I condemned my mother to the gas chamber with one wrong word to Dr Death': There have been many heartrending Holocaust books. But few as powerful as this new memoir by a ballet dancer still haunted to this day


·         Edith Eger was just 16 when she and her family were sent to Auschwitz in 1944

·         She accidentally sentenced her mother to death by revealing she was over 40 

·         Both of her parents were murdered at the camp but miraculously she survived 

·         Edie was forced to dance for Josef Mengele, the camp's infamous officer known as the Angel of Death  

·         When their camp was liberated, she was pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive



PUBLISHED:  7 September 2017 


Music is playing as we arrive at Auschwitz. It’s a cold dawn in April 1944 and we’ve just been decanted from a cattle car, in which several people have died along the way.

But my father has just spied a big sign above the gates: ‘Arbeit macht frei,’ it says — work sets you free. He is suddenly cheerful.

‘You see,’ he says, ‘it can’t be a terrible place. We’ll only work a little, till the war’s over.’ If the platform weren’t so crowded, I swear he’d break into a dance.

Soldiers start herding the men into a separate line — maybe they are being sent on ahead, to stake out a place for their families. I wonder where we’ll sleep tonight. I wonder when we’ll eat.

My mother, my elder sister Magda and I stand in a long line of women and children, inching towards a man with cold and domineering eyes. I don’t yet know that this man is Dr Josef Mengele, the infamous Angel of Death.

As we draw near, I see a boyish flash of gapped teeth when he grins. His voice is almost kind when he asks if anyone is sick. Or over 40 or under 14. When someone says yes, he sends them to a line on the left.

My mother has grey hair but her face is as smooth and unlined as mine. She could pass for my sister. Magda and I squeeze her between us and we walk three abreast.

‘Button your coat,’ says my mother. ‘Stand tall.’ There is a purpose to her nagging. I am slim and flat-chested, and she wants me to look every day of my 16 years. Unlike me, she has realised my survival depends on it.

Our turn now. Mengele lifts his finger. ‘Is she your mother or your sister?’ he asks.

My mother, my elder sister Magda and I stand in a long line of women and children, inching towards a man with cold and domineering eyes. I don’t yet know that this man is Dr Josef Mengele, the infamous Angel of Death. 

I cling to my mother’s hand. But I don’t think about which word will protect her. I don’t think at all. ‘Mother,’ I say.

As soon as the word is out of my mouth, I want to pull it back into my throat. Too late, I have realised the significance of the question. ‘Sister, sister!’ I want to scream.

Mengele points my mother to the left. Panicking, I start to run after her but he grabs my shoulder.

‘You’ll see your mother very soon,’ he says. ‘She’s just going to take a shower.’ He pushes me to the right. Toward Magda. Towards life. My mother turns to look at me and smiles. It is a small, sad smile.

Magda and I are marched off to stand in front of some low buildings. We are surrounded by thin women in striped dresses. One reaches for the tiny coral earrings, set in gold, that have been in my ears since birth. She yanks and I feel a sharp sting.

‘Why did you do that?’ I ask. ‘I’d have given you the earrings.’

She sneers. ‘I was rotting here while you were free.’

I wonder how long she has been here and why she is so angry. ‘When will I see my mother?’ I ask her. ‘I was told I’d see her soon.’

She gives me a cold, sharp stare. There is no empathy in her eyes; just rage. She points to the smoke rising from a distant chimney.

‘Your mother is burning in there,’ she says. ‘You’d better start talking about her in the past tense.’

Just a month before, I had been a pretty ordinary teenager — but with an extraordinary ambition. I wanted to represent Hungary at the Olympics.

For years I’d done five hours of rigorous ballet practice every day after school; then I’d discovered gymnastics and joined an Olympic training team.

Recently, my teacher had taken me aside. She was crying. My team place had to go to someone else, she said, because I was Jewish.

I wasn’t the only one with a talent. My sexy and flirtatious sister Magda played the piano, and our middle sister Klara had mastered the Mendelssohn violin concerto when she was five.

She was away studying music in Budapest on the night the Germans came for us. Storming into our flat, they told us we were being resettled and had to leave now.

Despite a chill in the air, I put on a thin blue silk dress — the one I’d been wearing when my boyfriend Eric gave me my first kiss. It made me feel protected.

Daylight was breaking as we arrived at a large brick factory, where 12,000 Jews would be held for nearly a month without beds, running water or adequate rations. A girl only a little older than me tried to run away. The Nazis hanged her in the middle of the camp as an example.

All too soon we were on our way to Auschwitz, 100 of us crammed in each cattle car. For what seemed like days, my parents didn’t speak.

Then, one night, I heard my mother’s voice in the dark.

‘Listen. We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Just remember, no one can take away from you what you’ve put in your mind.’

Her words helped to save my life.

I am in shock. I can’t picture my mother being consumed by flames. I can’t fully grasp that she has gone. And I can’t even grieve. Not now. It will take all my concentration to survive the next minute, the next breath.

Night is falling when we are marched to gloomy, primitive barracks where we will sleep on tiered shelves, six to a board.

With our bunkmates, Magda and I try lying on the top tier. Then I hear the sound of woodwind and strings and think I must be imagining it. An inmate quickly explains that the camp has an orchestra.

The door rattles open. On the threshold is the uniformed officer from the selection line.

Dr Mengele, it turns out, is not only a killer but also a lover of the arts. He trawls the barracks in the evenings in search of talented inmates to entertain him.

He walks in tonight with his entourage, casting his eye over the new arrivals. The inmates already know I’m a trained ballerina and they push me forward.

‘Little dancer,’ Dr Mengele says, his eyes bulging, ‘dance for me.’

The familiar opening strains of The Blue Danube waltz filter into the room. I’m lucky. I know a routine to this. As I step, bend and twirl, he never takes his eyes off me. But he also attends to his duties as he watches. I can hear him discussing with another officer which one of the 100 girls in our barracks should be killed next.

If I do anything to displease him, it could be me.

I’m dancing in Hell. I close my eyes and hear my mother’s words again: ‘Just remember, no one can take away from you what you’ve put in your own mind.’

And as I dance, I have a piercing insight. Dr Mengele, the man who has just murdered my parents, is more pitiful than me. I’m free in my mind, which he can never be. He will always have to live with what he has done.

I close my routine by doing the splits, and pray he won’t kill me. But he must like my performance because he tosses me a loaf of bread — a gesture, it turns out, that will later save my life. When he leaves, I share the bread with all my bunkmates.

After that, I work hard at developing my inner voice. This is temporary, I tell myself. If I survive today, tomorrow I’ll be free.

One day, as I’m taking a shower with other inmates, I notice a sudden quiet. I feel a chill in my gut. The man I fear above all others is at the door, gazing right at me.

‘You!’ Dr Mengele calls. ‘My little dancer. Come.’

He leads me, naked and wet, down a hall and into an office with a desk and chair. He leans against the desk and looks me over, taking his time. I hope whatever he plans to do to me will be over quickly.

‘Come closer,’ he says, and I inch forward, shaking. I can smell menthol. His fingers are working over his coat buttons. I am naked with my mother’s killer.

Just as I’m close enough for him to touch me, a phone rings in another room. He flinches. He rebuttons his coat. ‘Don’t move,’ he orders as he opens the door.

I hear him pick up the phone in the next room, his voice neutral and curt. And I run for my life.

The next thing I know, I’m sitting beside Magda as we devour the daily ladle of weak broth, with little pieces of potato skin bobbing up like scabs. But the fear never goes away — that he’ll find me again, that he’ll finish what he started, that he’ll select me for death.

As the months go by, we starve and lose strength. In our heads, though, it’s a different story: we spend most of our time cooking.

At 4am roll-call in the freezing dark, we can smell the rich aroma of meat we have just roasted. We give each other cooking lessons; we salivate over our imaginary dishes; we fight over how much paprika you put in Hungarian chicken paprikash, or how to make the best seven-layer chocolate cake.

I try to blank out the horrors. The day SS officers tie a boy to a tree and use his limbs for target practice. The day a woman goes into labour and they tie her legs together. I have never seen such agony.

One day, an officer separates us all into two lines. It’s impossible to tell which one leads to death.

Magda and I are in different lines. Nothing matters except that I stay with my sister; even if she’s in the death line, I want to die with her.

I don’t have a plan. And then I’m suddenly doing cartwheels, hands to earth, feet to sky. I expect a bullet at any second but I can’t stop myself.

A guard raises his gun. But he doesn’t shoot; he winks at me. In the few seconds that I hold his complete attention, Magda has run across the yard into my line.

Now they are herding 100 of us towards the platform. As we stand there, waiting to climb a narrow ramp into a cattle car, the Russians are approaching Poland from one side, the Americans from the other. The Nazis have decided to evacuate Auschwitz, bit by bit.

I lose track of the time we are in motion. We end up working at a thread factory. After a few weeks, the SS come for us one morning with striped dresses to replace our grey ones. We board a train carrying ammunition. This time we are forced to sit on top of the cars — human decoys to discourage the British from bombing the train, but they do anyway.

Somehow, Magda and I survive. We get off the train and march, maybe for weeks. There are fewer of us every day. The roadside ditches run red with blood from those shot in the back or the chest — those who tried to run, those who couldn’t keep up.

We’ve gone without food for days and now we are at Mauthausen, a concentration camp at a quarry, where prisoners have to hack and carry the granite destined for Hitler’s new Berlin.

Rumours shudder down the line. They make you stand along the so-called Parachutist’s Wall, at the edge of a cliff. At gunpoint, you then have to choose: either push the inmate beside you off the cliff or be shot yourself. Magda and I agree to push each other.

Night falls and word goes round: we’ll be killed tomorrow. Have we really been marched these many hundreds of miles only to die? What has it all meant? I think of my boyfriend Eric’s voice and lips. If I die tomorrow, I’ll die a virgin.

I wonder what a man looks like naked. There are naked dead men all around me: it wouldn’t hurt their pride for me to have a look. Afterwards, I feel satisfied: at least I won’t die ignorant.

At daybreak the line starts to move. Some wail. Some pray. Everyone is being sent in the same direction. It really is the end.

And then the line stops. We are led towards a crowd of SS guards by a gate. ‘If you fall behind, you’ll be shot,’ they shout at us.

We limp on. A march of skeletons from Mauthausen to Gunskirchen. It is a relatively short distance, about 50km (31 miles) or so, but we are so weak that only 100 of the 2,000 of us will survive.

Magda and I cling to each other, determined to stay upright. Each hour, hundreds of girls fall into the ditches on either side of the road. Too weak or too ill to keep moving, they are killed on the spot.

Every part of me is in pain. I don’t realise I’ve stumbled until I feel arms lifting me. Magda and other girls have laced their fingers together to form a human chair.

‘You shared your bread,’ one of them says. A girl who shared Mengele’s loaf with me nearly a year ago has recognised me.

When we stop marching, we are crowded into huts where we sleep three deep. If someone below us dies, we don’t have the strength to haul them away.

It is now five or six months since we left Auschwitz. I can no longer walk. Although I don’t know it yet, I have a fractured spine and I’m suffering from pleurisy, typhoid fever and pneumonia.

Here, in hell, I watch a man eat human flesh. I can’t do it; I eat grass and try to stay conscious.

Once, I see Magda crawling back to me with a Red Cross can of sardines that glints in the sun. But there’s no way to open it.

One day, the SS rig the ground around us with dynamite. With my eyes closed, I wait for the explosion that will consume us in its flames.

Nothing happens. I open my eyes and see jeeps rolling slowly in through the pine forest that obscures the camp from the road. Feeble voices shout: ‘The Americans are here!’

Watching from the tangle of bodies, I see men in fatigues. I see an American handing cigarettes to inmates, who are so hungry that they eat them.

‘Are there any living here?’ the Americans call out in German. ‘Raise your hand if you’re alive.’

I try to move but I can’t. A soldier shouts something in English. They are leaving.

And then a patch of light explodes on the ground. The sun is flashing on Magda’s sardine tin. Whether on purpose or by accident, she has caught the soldiers’ attention with a tin of fish.

I feel a man touching my hand. He presses something into it. Beads. Red, brown, green, yellow.

‘Food,’ the soldier says. He helps me lift my hand to my mouth. I taste chocolate.

He pulls the dead away from me, and now Magda is beside me in the grass. She is holding her can of sardines.

We have survived the final selection. We are alive. We are together. We are free.

After recuperating, Magda and I were reunited with Klara. My boyfriend Eric had died in Auschwitz the day before liberation.

At 19 I married Bela, a Slovakian whose mother had been gassed at the camp. He wasn’t the love of my life but he made me laugh and feel protected. Later we’d have three children, divorce and marry each other again.

In 1949, my husband, Magda and I emigrated to the U.S., where she worked as a piano teacher and I did a PhD in clinical psychology, becoming an expert on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was helping others but it was years before I felt free in my own mind.

Could I have saved my mother? Maybe. I can continue blaming myself for ever for making the wrong choice — or I can accept that the more important choice is not the one I made when I was 16 and hungry and terrified, when we were surrounded by dogs and guns and uncertainty.

It’s the one I make now, to accept myself as I am: human, imperfect. The choice to stop asking why I deserved to survive. The choice to stop running from the past. 

Adapted from The Choice, by Edith Eger (Rider & Co, £14.99).