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Holocaust Survivor Edith Eger Recounts Her Experience in New Memoir

Music is playing as we arrive at Auschwitz. It’s a cold dawn in April 1944 and we’ve just been decanted from a cattle car, in which several people have died along the way.

But my father has just spied a big sign above the gates: ‘Arbeit macht frei,’ it says — work sets you free. He is suddenly cheerful.

‘You see,’ he says, ‘it can’t be a terrible place. We’ll only work a little, till the war’s over.’ If the platform weren’t so crowded, I swear he’d break into a dance.

Soldiers start herding the men into a separate line — maybe they are being sent on ahead, to stake out a place for their families. I wonder where we’ll sleep tonight. I wonder when we’ll eat.

My mother, my elder sister Magda and I stand in a long line of women and children, inching towards a man with cold and domineering eyes. I don’t yet know that this man is Dr Josef Mengele, the infamous Angel of Death.

As we draw near, I see a boyish flash of gapped teeth when he grins. His voice is almost kind when he asks if anyone is sick. Or over 40 or under 14. When someone says yes, he sends them to a line on the left.

My mother has grey hair but her face is as smooth and unlined as mine. She could pass for my sister. Magda and I squeeze her between us and we walk three abreast.

‘Button your coat,’ says my mother. ‘Stand tall.’ There is a purpose to her nagging. I am slim and flat-chested, and she wants me to look every day of my 16 years. Unlike me, she has realised my survival depends on it.

Our turn now. Mengele lifts his finger. ‘Is she your mother or your sister?’ he asks.

My mother, my elder sister Magda and I stand in a long line of women and children, inching towards a man with cold and domineering eyes. I don’t yet know that this man is Dr Josef Mengele, the infamous Angel of Death.

I cling to my mother’s hand. But I don’t think about which word will protect her. I don’t think at all. ‘Mother,’ I say.

As soon as the word is out of my mouth, I want to pull it back into my throat. Too late, I have realised the significance of the question. ‘Sister, sister!’ I want to scream.

Mengele points my mother to the left. Panicking, I start to run after her but he grabs my shoulder.

‘You’ll see your mother very soon,’ he says. ‘She’s just going to take a shower.’ He pushes me to the right. Toward Magda. Towards life. My mother turns to look at me and smiles. It is a small, sad smile.

Magda and I are marched off to stand in front of some low buildings. We are surrounded by thin women in striped dresses. One reaches for the tiny coral earrings, set in gold, that have been in my ears since birth. She yanks and I feel a sharp sting.

‘Why did you do that?’ I ask. ‘I’d have given you the earrings.’

She sneers. ‘I was rotting here while you were free.’

I wonder how long she has been here and why she is so angry. ‘When will I see my mother?’ I ask her. ‘I was told I’d see her soon.’

She gives me a cold, sharp stare. There is no empathy in her eyes; just rage. She points to the smoke rising from a distant chimney.

‘Your mother is burning in there,’ she says. ‘You’d better start talking about her in the past tense.’

Click here to read more.
Source: Daily Mail

auschwitzEdith EgerHolocaustJosef Mengele

BCNN1 • September 8, 2017


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