Choosing Resilience

A Conversation with Dr. Edith Eger 

by Madison Spencer, Marketing Intern

 

“My great-grandchildren are my best revenge to Hitler.”

With this strong statement, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, or Edie as she likes to be called, set the stage for an impactful discussion about the trials life handed her and how she has made the most of them. Dr. Eger is a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor, psychologist, and author — who has been featured by Oprah, Brené Brown and CNN.

On Wed. March 24, Trinity Episcopal School and Congregation Agudas Achim co-hosted a discussion with Dr. Eger to discuss her journey and her work.

 

Rabbi Neil Blumofe led the conversation and Q&A session with Dr. Eger as she shared stories from her books (The Choice, The Gift) in which she describes her incredible journey of survival, strength, and resilience; and how we can change the thoughts and behaviors that keep us imprisoned to our pasts. 

The Hungary native credits her survival at Auschwitz to her strong faith, explaining that the closer she got to the darkness, the closer she got to God.

“I know that my loving God was with me in Auschwitz and guiding me to not allow them to get to me,” Dr. Eger said. “If I lived in hate, I would still be a prisoner. I hope people can liberate themselves from their own concentration camp.” 

 

One of Dr. Eger’s most inspiring points is her desire to help others survive and overcome their own feelings of pain, guilt and hate. Though she went through the unimaginable, she was able to overcome survivor's guilt and shame by recognizing the dignity and value in every human life, including her own. However, she does not think of herself as a victim.

“You can look at everything you’ve experienced that made you stronger and a survivor and not a victim. I was victimized. I am not a victim. It is not my identity,” she said.

Viji Panda, Director of Diversity and Inclusion and organizer of the event, said that learning about ourselves comes from understanding other people’s stories and perspectives.

“Dr. Eger gave us a rare opportunity to understand her story of grief, love, and resilience in hopes that others begin to embrace what is possible for their own lives,” Panda said.

A strength of Dr. Eger — one of her many —– lies in her ability to connect to every person who listens to her speak. People inside and out of the Trinity community joined the discussion and offered their support and love for the author. Some gave their own input and advice on overcoming challenges, others sharing how Dr. Eger’s words have helped them.

 

“I would love to hug and thank her for living in this world, choosing not to give up, for achieving such huge progress, leaving so many lessons, examples and advice,” said Monica, an attendee from Brazil.

“Last night was absolutely transformative,” said Trinity theater teacher Sarah Stuart. “There were several moments that were startlingly life-changing, and I will never forget this beautiful soul, who expressed herself with love and kindness. I’m so glad she came to speak, and I am filled with so much gratitude to be a part of this community.”

Dr. Eger shared these parting words of encouragement as we suffer through difficult times. 

“It’s OK to get disappointed, as long as you don’t get discouraged,” Dr. Eger said. “It’s temporary and I can survive it. The way you talk to yourself can change your whole life.”

Edith Eva Eger has a clinical practice in La Jolla, California, and holds a faculty appointment at the University of California, San Diego. Learn more about Dr. Eger and her story at drediteger.com.