By Saeed Villanueva |Staff Writer|
Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a survivor of the Holocaust, spoke about her inspiring experiences living through one of the darkest periods in human history.
The event, “Surviving the Holocaust,” was hosted by the University Diversity Committee in the Santos Manuel Student Union Theater on May 16.
Eger captivated the crowd of over 500 people.
Eger, was only a young teen in 1944 when she and her family was captured and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
When she first arrived at the camp, she recalled meeting the infamous Auschwitz medical officer, Dr. Josef Mengele. Mengele decided which Jewish victims would be sent to the gas chamber.
“…And Dr. Mengele grabbed me—I never forget that eye contact—and he said ‘you’re going to see your mother soon, she’s just going to take a shower,” she said in “Voices of Auschwitz,” a one-hour documentary about the horrors of the Holocaust.
Neither her mother, nor some of her other family members would survive the camp.
Eger would eventually interact with the man dubbed the ‘Angel of Death’ again.
Dr. Mengele made her dance for him, and rewarded her with an extra piece of bread that she then shared with other young girl inmates.
Months later, she was saved by those same girls who saw her nearly pass out from disease and starvation during a forced death march through Austria.
“They formed a chair with their arms, and they carried me so I wouldn’t die,” she said in the documentary.
After Auschwitz, Eger was sent to Austria toward the end of the war.
Eger was on the verge of dying when a young American soldier managed to see her hand moving around amongst a pile of dead bodies, on May 4, 1945.
After the war, she moved to Czechoslovakia, where she would meet her future husband.
Eger eventually moved to the U.S. in 1949, and received her degree in psychology from the University of Texas, El Paso in 1969.
She grew up loving to dance and trained to compete for the Hungarian Olympic team as a gymnast.
However, she was told to train somewhere else because she was Jewish.
She never gave up her love for dancing. Still, at almost 90 years old, she dances with a partner every week.
Twillea Evans-Carthen, CSUSB Ombuds Officer and event host, shared some heartfelt and moving words about Eger.
“She first came to the campus back in 2009. I didn’t know this back then, but she was part of the NAACP, and actually marched with Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights Movement.”
Eger has fought for diversity and equality for many years.
She continues to speak openly about her experiences during the Holocaust, which can be very difficult to do for some survivors to do.
Eger believes that her story can help people understand that one may persevere through extreme tragedy.
“Out of darkness comes light, out of journey comes freedom,” she said.
Eger has deep love for all humankind, and truly respects humanity. She strives to spread love and positivity.
“We are born to love, and learn to hate,” she said.
She believes that people are not born with evil in their heart.
“This event is an opportunity to learn from different types of people. It’s a chance to learn from different types of diversity, social economic issues, age, gender and religion,” said Evans-Carthen.
Eger left with a roaring applause from the crowd.