By Nick BeJeaux
When you first lay eyes on Eva Mozes Kor, she doesn’t look so tough. She’s small, soft spoken and always seems to be wearing the same friendly shade of blue – but her story, one that she shares with thousands of others, towards her above the strongest man or woman.
Kor is a survivor of the industrialization of human slaughter that took place at the Auschwizt-Birkenau during WWII – one of the few. After she was liberated with her sister Miriam, the only member of her family to survive, and rebuilt her life, Kor decided to share her harrowing experience with the world and ensure that what happened to her and countless others is never forgotten. Her latest stop at the C.B. Pennington Auditorium on Thursday was part of that mission.
She wasted no time in beginning her story.
When Kor and her family arrived at the camp by cattle car and after 70 hours without food or water, she and her sister Miriam were separated from the rest of their family – their mother, father and two older sisters were gone.
“At that moment, I had no idea that I would never see them again.”
You see, Eva and Miriam were identical twins, which is why the Nazi’s kept them together. However, what was seen as a blessing turned out to be a curse. Dr. Josef Mengele, an SS officer and the camps head physician, was completely obsessed with the study of identical twins and performed unscientific and inhumane experiments to prove his theories.
“I would be strapped to a chair, naked, with tubes in my arm where they would take blood from one arm and give me injections into the other,” said Kor. “We all received the injections and we didn’t know what they were at the time.”
Those injections were diseases and experimental drugs – needless to say they made Kor very ill. Many twin children (and some adults with twins) died from similar experiments. Kor remembers that when she was in the camps infirmary with a typhus-like infection Mengele came to see her.
“When he saw my condition he said ‘Too bad. She probably won’t last the week.’ I knew he was right – but I decided to show him,” said Kor. “After a few more weeks, my fever broke. I showed him.”
After lecturing for years, Eva founded Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors, or CANDLES, in 1984 to reconnect with other survivors of Mengele’s experiments. Kor is also famous, and notorious, for very publicly forgiving the Nazi’s for her treatment in the camp. Most of her work with and through CANDLES is to encourage forgiveness, but to also educate people on the real why behind the holocaust and the idea that such a travesty could happen again.
“There are signs in the world that we need to pay attention to,” she said. “Bad economies and leaders who divide people and point fingers are dangerous. Hitler was never supposed to have control of the military – what on earth happened?”
Even in todays world, how to prevent racism and genocide seems to be “the million dollar question.” However, those who are victims of such tragedies have the power to rise above them, if they choose to.
“If a person chooses to not forgive the crimes against them, they choose to remain a victim,” said Kor. “I chose to stop being a victim – that’s why I have chosen to forgive Mengele and the Nazis.”