Guest speaker Dr. Edith Eger reflects on Auschwitz in Zoom discussion

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Hanna Hornfeld, Staff Writer

Auschwitz survivor, psychologist, and award- winning author Dr. Edith Eger and her daughter Dr. Marianne Engle participated in a Zoom discussion on Tuesday during D period. In the meeting, which is held annually by English teacher Dr. Deborah Kassel for her Man’s Search for Meaning senior English elective, Eger spoke about her life experiences and a Hungarian cookbook she is co- writing with her daughter.

Kassel’s course is focused on why good people let bad things happen by analyzing genocides through literature and lm, including Eger’s book “ e Choice,” which recounts her experiences in Auschwitz. Eger has spoken at the school for the past three years, Kassel said. “Dr. Eger has honored us for the last years by accepting our invitation to speak to our class and the larger school community,” she said.

Normally, Kassel’s class would have read “ eChoice” by the time Eger visited, but because of the transition to HM Online, they have not, class member Amiya Mehrota (12) said. Prior to meeting this year, Kassel told her class about Eger’s life, and they prepared questions to ask her about her experiences, Belle Beyer (12) said.

In the talk, Eger shared her life story and meaningful words of wisdom. On the way to Auschwitz, her mother said to her, “We don’t know what’s going to happen. Just remember nobody can take from you what you put in your mind.” ose words helped Eger to survive in the concentration camp and she has carried them with her throughout her life, she said.
When coping with survivor’s guilt, Eger avoids the word “overcome,” she said. “I did not overcome, I came to terms with it. I got through the shadow, but I didn’t get stuck there. Guilt is in the past, and I cannot change that,” Eger said.
Eger compared her experiences to the uncertainty of the current COVID-19 pandemic, because both situations induce stress of not knowing what is going to happen next, she said. “[In Auschwitz] all we had was each other. And all we have now is each other. I hope this time period is going to be considered a way to hold each other’s hands and empower each other,” Eger said.
Engle said that her mother’s experiences taught her about the negative e ects of being unkind; as a result, Eger is one of the kindest people Engle knows. In this world, love and kindness are
fundamental, Eger said. “I hope you ask yourself, before you say anything, ‘is it kind, and is it really important for me to say that?’”
Throughout the talk, Eger also stressed the importance of loving one’s self. “I hope you look in the mirror and say ‘I love you and I’m going to decide what kind of a day I’m going to have,’” she said.
Beyer found the experience very special, because although she has learned about World War II in class, she has never heard directly from a Holocaust survivor, she said. She was also warmed by the clear connection between Eger and her daughter.
Kassel hopes that students were inspired by the talk to become more proactive, forgiving, and kind, she said. Audience member Louise Kim (9) believes that this goal was achieved. “Dr. Eger’s message of self-care and self-worth really resonated with me, and her growth from her trauma was very inspirational,” Kim said.