EAGLE COUNTY — Holocaust survivor Magda Herzberger’s new book is the music and poetry of life, despair and hope.
“Midnight Musings” is Herzberger’s 12th book and in it she lays out her soul for her readers. It’s poetry, poetry set to music and a little story about some of those poems.
She wanted to be a physician when she was young.
“Now I want to be a doctor of the soul,” she said.
Like her previous books, Midnight Musings is an eclectic mix of prose, poetry, painful recollections of her time in the three Nazi death camps, her triumph in learning to live and love again, and her quest to do everything she can to make sure nothing like that ever happens again and that those who died are not forgotten.
The poems transcend from darkness to light as her nightmares give way to love and healing.
People talk about living day-to-day. In the death camps she survived – Auschwitz, Bremen and Bergen-Belsen - Magda had no choice.
“I never knew in any of the camps when I woke up in the morning if I would be alive at the end of the day,” she said. “What made me strong enough to fight for my life were my faith in God and my love for life and my family.”
If you showed any weakness, you were considered not useful and were abandoned to the gas chamber, she said.
“I choose life”
Magda is a popular and engaging speaker. It’s a story you think you know, but not like this.
A professor of clinical psychology asked her to do a presentation about ethics, both in and out of the death camps, stress management and another on depression.
About 400 people showed up.
The seminars and presentations led her to her next two books, self-help books about “Tools for Survival,” and “Depression and Survival in the Holocaust.”
“There is a depression lower than clinical depression, and that’s people walking around like zombies in the camps,” Magda said. “You talked to them and they didn’t hear or see you.”
She said she built an emotional and intellectual shield around herself, so when the SS guards beat her she could try to imagine they were beating someone else. She had times where she dug her fingernails into her arms looking for blood. When she saw it she knew she was still alive.
Finally, she had to decide whether she would live or die.
“I choose life,” Magda said proudly, adding that so many others did not.
She based it on four criteria:
1. She was too young to die. She was only 18 years old.
2. She didn’t want her body dragged into a mass grave.
3. Her parents would never know what became of her.
4. She wanted to come back and talk about this, to do everything in her power to make sure this never happens again.
She says she made a solemn vow to almighty God that she wouldn’t take her life, but that she would need strength to survive it.
“The daydream to escape saved me — the positive thoughts. If you see nothing but black you can give up,” she said.
She said she created her own spiritual survival tools. She had no weapons, but she carried a small metal can on a string and she dreamed about hitting an SS guard in the head and taking his weapon and hat.
“In my situation I had to accept that what I faced was not a nightmare, but reality,” Magda said.