Edie Eger was discovered by an American soldier from the 71st division after being left for dead among the dead. Her hand moved. He saw it. Given the scene, the timing was spectacular.

She had survived Auschwitz, slavery and then Gunskirchen Lager. She was rescued at last.

With food and medical attention, her physical body began to heal. Her sister had survived with her. Edie discovered her other sister had been hidden by her music teacher and had escaped capture.

She met a Czech freedom-fighter in the hospital. They fell in love and were married. Against doctors advice, she became pregnant and began a family.

But she was left with searing memories. She had lost her parents. At seventeen, she had endured things that caused hardened soldiers to look away. She had to find a way to survive the internal wounds.

For years she pushed the experience aside and concentrated on living. Others had done the same. Some never talked about the experience again. It was overwhelming and to think about it meant going back there mentally. It meant giving the Nazis power all over again.

Then, at age forty, she felt the need to help others survive. She decided to go back to school and study psychology – which meant dealing with her past. It meant forgiving, not for their sakes but for her own.

In the end she was no longer a prisoner. She became Edith Eva Eger, Phd.

A lifetime of perspective and treating others has allowed her to distill her own experience down to seventeen thoughts. These diamonds, formed under the greatest of pressures, are powerful survival tools that also apply to daily life. This is her gift to us:

Contrary to popular belief, there are no victims in this world – only willing participants. You can’t always control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. And everyone has the power to change at any time. Here’s a sampling of some survival skills for you to think about and reflect upon:

  1. Every problem is temporary.
  2. The quality of your decisions determines the quality of your life.
  3. Dire conditions allow opportunities for inner growth.
  4. Adversity is what life is all about. You have the power to use adversity to your advantage!
  5. Blame and condemnation seldom produce positive change and almost always make things worse.
  6. Others only have as much power over you as you let them!
  7. The most obnoxious person in your life is often your best teacher.
  8. Aggression and passivity are two of the least effective behaviors to effect a solution.
  9. To find freedom we need to forgive.
  10. Forgiving is a selfish act to free yourself from being controlled by your past.
  11. Cooperation requires a lot less energy than competition or domination.
  12. Every situation can be viewed from many perspectives. Is there a pattern to the way you view most situations?
  13. Focus on seeing the world the way it could be, not the way it is.
  14. Take responsibility for the responses you make.
  15. Turn problems into challenges and crises into transitions!
  16. You may walk through the Valley of Death but don’t set up camp there.
  17. To lead full lives we need to get in touch with ourselves, discard our limiting beliefs, and shed our prejudices.

For more information you can go to Edie’s website, watch interviews here or download a PDF of her story as re-told by several different authors.

I welcome your comments . . .

The Ballerina of Auschwitz – Part One

The Ballerina of Auschwitz – Part Two

 Featured photo: Auschwitz by fedewild and Budapest Opera House interior by Roger Wollstadt via Flickr

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