Remembering the Holocaust

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MARCO WERMAN: Today is observed as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. There are fewer and fewer holocaust survivors around to remember, but Edith Eva Eger [PH] is still here and she remembers. She was born in Hungary. When she was 16, she was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Now she's a psychologist living in La Jolla, California, and she's traveled the world giving lectures on survival. Eger had once hoped to become a dancer. Recently, she showed The World's Jane Little she can still do the moves.

JANE LITTLE: Wow. So your knee almost touches your nose, then. That's extraordinary.

EDITH EVA EGER: I practice a lifestyle that means more life.

LITTLE: Edith Eva Eger is 81. But dressed in a green tracksuit, designer scarf around her neck, she moves like a woman half her age. It's all the more extraordinary considering her experiences as a teenager. She had dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. Then, she and her family were sent to Auschwitz. The camp's notorious Dr. Josef Mengele sent her parents to the gas chamber, but he kept her alive, to dance for him.

EGER: I closed my eyes and I pretended that I was far away from Auschwitz and the music was Tchaikovsky, and I was dancing the Romeo and Juliet in the Budapest Opera House.

LITTLE: And you chose to decide while in Auschwitz that you weren't the prisoner. How important was that?

EGER: Very important, because I was able to just look at myself more like from a third-person's position, that again, they could throw me in a gas chamber anytime, beat me up -- and they did. I was beaten with a dog leash �cause I tried to go to the bathroom and so on. But they could never break my spirit. So I had that last freedom.

LITTLE: When she was liberated in 1945, Edith had TB and multiple forms of typhoid. She ultimately recovered and moved to the United States in 1949. Two decades later, she graduated from the University of Texas and began her teaching and counseling career. She now has three children, five grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. She says that's her victory over Hitler.

EGER: Part of me is in Auschwitz � not the better part, not the bigger part, but I'm not running from it anymore. And God has given me a wonderful, wonderful gift. The gift of memory. The Jewish people have been the originals, you know? We have survived tremendous odds, and I'm very proud about having that tremendous resilience and the power to choose how I'm going to remember it. And that question comes up: how do I want to be remembered? What do I want written on my tombstone? And I'm hoping that I'm going to be remembered as someone who was very active -- a mother and a grandma and a great-grandma who gave people the strength to be survivors and never the victims of any circumstance.

LITTLE: Edith Eva Eger, thank you very much.

EGER: Jane, I thank you, my darling.