Union Chabad and Professor Berk host Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a Holocaust survivor, a clinical psycologist and an author.


Megan Brown, co-News Editor

On, May 14, Union Chabad and Professor Berk hosted Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a Holocaust survivor, a clinical psycologist and an author. At the virtual event, Eger spoke about how at just 16 years of age, she survived the horrors of Auschwitz. She also discussed how she still applies those lessons to not only her life, but also to others’ lives . 

According to Eger, her first night in Auschwitz was in May, 1944 along with her parents and her sister. While Eger’s parents were sent to the gas chamber, Eger and her sister remained alive and fighting. On May 4, 1945, an American soldier saw Eger’s hand moving among a pile of corpses. He ran to grab medical help and “brought her back from the brink of death.”What Eger strives for on a daily basis is to help others heal from their own trauma. She became a clinical psychologist and got her PhD from the University of Texas. She uses what she learned from her experience of the Holocaust and applies it when she talks to “young people” in her practice. 

“Early on, I realized that true freedom can only be found by forgiving, letting go, and moving on … Combining my formal education and my own life challenges, I have helped countless others lead full lives by moving beyond their problems,”she said at the event. In addition to forgiveness, another one of Eger’s messages was to live in the present, especially in the context of today’s reality amidst the Covid-19 global pandemic.

“You can get up in the morning and look in the mirror … and decide what kind of day I’m [you’re] going to have because no one can get to me … We didn’t know if when we took a shower, water or gas was going to come out,” she said.   

Eger made it clear that the time of Coronavirus is a time that we could not have been prepared for, but it is a chance to bring families closer together. The bonds she built while at Auschwitz are what helped her survive. She said she had to form a family and cooperate. She also mentioned that, “If you were ‘me’ ‘me’ ‘me’, you wouldn’t have made it” and “there is no freedom without responsibility.” 

That responsibility and selflessness is universally applicable. When asked about how she maintains such a “beautiful” outlook on life having gone through what she endured, Eger said, “You don’t feel first then think. First you think … you create what you feel … it is called negative self-fulfilling prophecy.” 

Eger further elaborated by saying that she follows the idea of “don’t ask why, ask what now? You can only live in the present …  the curiosity really kept me alive in Auschwitz.”Living in the present, for Eger, goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness. In order to survive anything, forgiveness and being present is key. 

“I like to be realistic, not idealistic. I know that if I would still be angry, I would still live in the past …  I want to be sure that I am not a hostage or a prisoner of the past … I went back to Auschwitz to reclaim my innocence …  there is a Nazi in everyone of us and so is kindness and goodness. I’m for uniting and seeing how we can empower each other so I can be I and you can be you, ”she said. 

Because of Eger’s ability to forgive, live in the present and never give up, she now has three children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She has a book published called “The Choice” and has two more in the works. 

“I am 92 years young … As long as I live, I am never ever going to retire. I am going to retire retirement,” she said.