From Tragedy to Triumph: Holocaust Survivor Edith Lucas Pagelson

Edith wrote Against All Odds: A Miracle of Holocaust Survival for her children and grandchildren. She put the unthinkable into words, focusing on the power to persevere and underscoring that even when life looks bleak “you can overcome any challenge that life may present, and know that when there is life there is hope.”

edith lucas pagelsonThrough a series of what she refers to as “miracles,” Edith and her mother survived the Holocaust, enduring the most horrific challenges imaginable. Transferred from death camp to concentration camp to labor camp, their determination to stay together and stay alive kept these two Holocaust survivors from succumbing to the degrading treatment and conditions they faced for more than three years. Strong-willed and high-spirited, they met every challenge put to them and found themselves benefiting from “miracle” after “miracle.”

Edith has masterfully told her tale of tragedy and triumph. She has drawn the perfect balance between telling enough of her story to draw us in without telling such a devastating story that we turn away – no easy task when recounting the story of being displaced from her home by the Nazis for three years and five months. Her loss was great – the death of her father, the loss of her childhood, separation from family, friends, and home. But her gratitude was equally great – she was with her mother every step of the way for those three years and five months.

Edith and her mother drew strength from one another as they fought for their lives. At one point finding herself face to face with Dr. Josef Mengele, Edith realized the only way to save her mother’s life was to convince him that her mother was strong, healthy, and a good worker. Mission accomplished, and the mother-daughter team remained together and returned to what was left of their homeland together.

Edith’s life continued to be filled with a mix of tragedy and triumph after she and her mother traveled to the United States. She has “rebuilt [her] life surrounded by love” through two wonderful marriages, two children, and ten grandchildren. At 88 years of age Edith lives in Southern Maine close to her daughter and continues to share her story when invited to speak at schools, church groups, and community organizations. The proceeds of her book are donated to the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine. While Edith wrote this book for her children and grandchildren, it is a beautiful gift for the rest of us as well.

About Deb

Deb Nelson, principal of deb nelson consulting, is a creative storyteller. She designs and implements communication plans that leverage strategic partnerships and provide innovative solutions for her clients. You can find her on twitter at @nelliedeb.


  1. Touching and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing about her. My sister’s significant other is a Holocaust survivor, writer and internationally-known educator. Irving Roth wrote his story in a book called Bondi’s Brother which is used in Yeshivas and Holocaust school programs. At 85 he constantly travels throughout the country speaking, often to Christian groups. A very accomplished man in many fields. Recently saw him engage a few writers and educators and in 10 minutes they were mesmerized by him. They forgot they were at a wedding to dance.

  2. How wonderful that you shared this beautiful story of perseverance and will with us, Deb. The strength that Edith and her mother called on to survive, is a testament to the power of the human spirit. Regardless of the circumstances life confronts us with, human beings have incredible resilience and can survive even the unimaginable when necessary. It is truly a testament to the power of love that Edith now shares her story to empower others. Thanks for your lovely tribute to Edith and her story and for sharing it with us all!
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  3. From adversary comes strength. I think that the stories told by survivors of the holocaust help put into perspective the so called daily “troubles and issues” we all face. That people went through such adversity and yet kept their faith, dignity and even hope is a testament to the power of the human spirit. It is a tragedy that this happened and that so many did not make it through, but the stories told by those who did give hope to future generations.
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    • I agree, Ian – these survivor stories definitely change the shape of our day-to-day problems. Every time I hear what Holocaust survivors went through, I shudder and try to put my inconveniences in perspective. We’re a lucky bunch to live in the world we’re in.

  4. Thank you for sharing this powerful survivor story. It is important to remember not only the struggle but also the perseverance. It reminds us how strong we really are.
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  5. Hi Deb!
    I always hold back the tears and get a tinge in my throat, so much I feel sad about these difficult adversities in a brutal world. But I do appreciate you sharing this important story of survival, strength, and deep family connection. Very beautiful really!
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  6. Beautiful synopsis. Reading about holocaust survivors always has a way of putting life in perspective.
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  7. Hi Deb,
    I am a huge fan of inspirational stories. This story is a great example of strength, courage and resilience.
    Thank you for sharing!

  8. Hi Deb,
    Thank you for sharing the story. It’s very inspirational and makes me appreciate what I have today. Thanks Deb!
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  9. Hi Deb 🙂
    Stories like this always make me sad, but inspired by them as well 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!!! Great post!
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