Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Noemi Engel Ebenstein - July 22, 1996

Choiceless Choices

Let me ask you a question about this one.


There's an idea that one author has about something called, something he calls "choiceless choices."


That the choices that were given to people at places like Auschwitz or in Moosbierbaum were essentially "choiceless." Where there was no good choice to make.

Mm-hm. But yet, uh, I think this is a Victor Frankl, uh, idea. Some choices--granted we were not in a place like Auschwitz, but I guess there are still--people have a subjective view of what keeps them alive. And I guess for my mother it was important to keep her own human, uh, humanness, in terms of her value system. That was very important to her. Uh, I guess for her that these kinds of choices that were no choices were still making her the person that she was.

Do you think that what the woman said to her ever affected her?

She remembered it to tell me.

So she dreyed over it.

I, I think she, she thought about it and maybe she needed to justify it to herself. Because we would then argue about it later on when I was growing up, and...

What did you argue?

I said to her the woman was right. Leave it to cruelty of children. I said of course she was right, who cares, you know? Um, but she, she stood her ground even with the arguments with me. She said, "You have to understand. We could not get down or stoop to their level. I couldn't. I had to maintain my own dignity." And she was a very dignified person. And she did. So I think that part of the, her determination to survive physically, she wanted to survive spiritually and mentally. And this was one way to survive. I am not going to be the animal you want to make me. I guess that's how I see it.

So you've changed your opinion since.

I'm getting older too.

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