Holocaust survivor speaks of forgiveness

by Ashlea Alley | Online Editor
Published: Last Updated on

Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor, 81, came to the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 3 to deliver the Interfaith Lecture “Remembering the Holocaust.” This event was offered to the public, students and faculty. According to Co-Chaplain Lang Brownlee, about 550 people attended the lecture in UIndy Hall.

Kor divided her lecture into three parts. She started by talking about her experiences during the Holocaust and what had happened to her and her sister. At the age of only 10, her family was taken on a cattle car to Auschwitz concentration camp. After the cattle car arrived, it took only 15 minutes and her family was gone without a goodbye. Kor then heard the guards yelling, “Zwillinge! Zwillinge!” Zwillinge is the German word for twins.

Eva Mozes Kor, Holocaust survivor and guest speaker, spoke at the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 3 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in UIndy Hall. The main theme of her speech was forgiveness and how she learned to forgive her captors after the war. Photo contributed by Todd Moore

Eva Mozes Kor, Holocaust survivor and guest speaker, spoke at the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 3 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in UIndy Hall. The main theme of her speech was forgiveness and how she learned to forgive her captors after the war. Photo contributed by Todd Moore

Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, were taken to an experimental room where they were injected with unknown poisons. Kor and Miriam were a part of the Josef Mengele experiments. Kor said she repeated every day she was in the camp, “I must survive.”

The Russians liberated the camp on Jan. 27, 1945, and the twins were taken to three orphanages before returning to Romania, their home country, to live with their aunt. In 1950, Kor and Miriam immigrated to Israel. Within the next 10 years, Kor received an education and reached the rank of Sergeant Major in the Israeli Army Engineering Corps. She ended up in Terre Haute, Ind., with her husband, Michael Kor. Michael was an American tourist from Indiana and a holocaust survivor himself.

While in the United States, she had an urge to find other survivors of Mengele’s experiments. In 1984, she founded CANDLES. CANDLES is an acronym for “Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.”

“The reason I liked CANDLES and the reason I’m still sticking with it—it’s an acronym,” Kor said. “If you realize that it is really important to me…to illuminate what [we can do] with the past because everybody has a past. … If you bury it, you’re hurting alone…. [If you share it] you can use it as a source of strength. Because most of you have overcome something in your life and that should be—instead of a burden on your life—it should be a source of your strength.”

In 1987, Miriam’s kidneys failed, so Eva donated one of hers, to save her sister for a little longer.  In 1993, Miriam died of cancer.

The second part of Kor’s lecture was her three life lessons. Her first was not to give up on yourself or your dreams. Her second  was to stop judging people without knowing them. And her third was to learn to forgive others. Twenty years ago Kor said she was angry at the world, and hated everyone, but that has since changed.

“I’m not even sure you need any strength for forgiveness.… It’s a realization that I have power over my own life, and that came in an interesting way,” Kor said. “All of you young people don’t realize that you have power over your today and your tomorrow. Your destiny is not decided by somebody else. It’s decided by you.”

Freshman history major Glenn Saylor said the most important thing he heard during the night was “to forgive people who have done you wrong.” Saylor said, “If Eva can do it, then anyone can.”

The third and final part of Kor’s lecture was a question-and-answer period, which allowed guests to come up to the microphone and ask Kor questions about her experience and her stances on world issues.

After the lecture concluded, she was available to sign her books, “Echoes from Auschwitz: Dr. Mengele’s Twins: The Story of Eva and Miriam Mozes” and “Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz.” All of the proceeds went directly to the CANDLES museum.

“Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself,” Kor said. “Once you feel that you are free and unchangeable… the feeling of liberation and exhilaration takes over. It’s a tremendous and wonderful feeling.”

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