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Holocaust survivor speaks at Robinwood

April 30, 2001

Holocaust survivor speaks at Robinwood



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

Dr. Edith EgerPhoto: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Concentration camp survivor Edith Eva Eger lost her parents and childhood to Adolf Hitler but never let him have her spirit, she said.

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"He could never take away what was inside of me," she said.

That spirit is what helped her stay alive, said Eger during an address on the power of forgiveness to about 110 people at Robinwood Medical Center Sunday afternoon.

For her, surviving World War II was a matter of choice, she said.

"I've never said, 'Why me?' I say, 'What now?'" said Eger.

After the war, Eger said she felt guilty for having lived while so many others died. For years she never talked about the war, internalizing her grief and pain until she learned to forgive herself.

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"I tried not to concentrate on what I lost, but on what was here," said Eger who counsels cancer patients and the abused.

A former dancer, Eger was called upon at Auschwitz to perform for Dr. Josef Mengele, the man who ordered her mother to die.

She said she was able to dance and stay alive by transcending her surroundings and picturing herself performing somewhere else.

"I had to see the world not as it was, but as it could be," she said.

The Nazi death camps brought out the best and worst in their prisoners, she said.

There were those who saved Eger's life by carrying her when she could no longer walk on a death march. She declined to be among those who chose to resort to cannibalism to fend off hunger, she said. Instead, she filled her empty stomach with grass clutched from the ground.

Eger was in Auschwitz from 1944 to 1945 with her sister Magda - another sister, Clara, escaped Hitler's grasp with the help of her music teacher.

Eger believes she lived so that she might take care of her Magda at the camps, she said.

When the camp was liberated, Eger was found unconscious. She was discovered on top of a stack of dead bodies by an American soldier.

"He saw my hand move," she said.

She still looks for that soldier to thank him, she said.

"Your message is so profound, so universal. Everybody has tremendous pain of one sort or another," said audience member Dee Mayberry during a question and answer period following Eger's talk.

When Austin Sabine-Prosser, 10, of Williamsport asked, "Have you forgiven Hitler?" Eger didn't answer his question directly. Instead she described her weakened physical condition following war.

"I was 40 pounds, my teeth were separated from my gums," she said.

She said she chose "not to give Hitler a victory" by releasing the pain of her past.

"I don't want to waste time hating. When I hate, I suffer," she said.

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