Muncie Voice-Easter Sunday-April 20th, 2014
Photograph: Top photo courtesy of Candles Museum. Bottom photo of Auschwitz Holocaust Eva Mozes-Kor Tells Muncie “To Forgive”; photographer, Aimee Fant, Muncie Voice.
On Thursday April, 3rd 2014- Eva Mozes-Kor, 80, former Auschwitz Holocaust survivor/Menegele Twin of Nazi Germany, and current resident of Terre Haute Indiana, shared her story of survival and forgiveness against impossible odds, with Muncie, at packed house in Emens Auditorium/Ball State University.
Mayor Dennis Tyler announced that April 3rd would be named “Eva Mozes-Kor Day” in Muncie, Indiana.
Kor has shared her story many times through her book, in other auditoriums and on the world stage. She is a precise narrator. She is fearless. She finds gritty humor in the darkest of places.
As many around the world are celebrating the Easter holiday, we consider forgiveness. Believers and non-believers alike are reminded of Christ’s spoken words of forgiveness on the cross, for those who he knew would betray him. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. ” Luke 23;34 . He forgave those who took his life before they took it.
We are also reminded of living in a world in which the rules can change instantly and upon the heels of the chilling news that black-masked pro-Russian militants handed out leaflets- demanding that all Jews over the age of 16 living in Donetsk, a city in Eastern Ukraine, register themselves and their property, pay a fee of $50 or be deported- We learn that organized antisemitism remains.
Derek Stoffel, This is not a joke. You know how this starts but you don’t know how it could be finished.“– Pinchas Vyshetsky, chief rabbi of Donetsk. The Jewish people, including Jesus Christ, have been murdered, hated, feared, persecuted, forced into slavery and/or driven out of their homeland for over 2,000 years. Jews have not only been persecuted for the pre-determined crucifixion of Christ by “the West” (Historically by Catholics and Protestants alike); but also for the scripture that indicates that Jews are “the Chosen People”. Hitler and the Nazis successfully scapegoated the economic failings of Germany (and those of the rest of the world) onto the Jews, citing Germany’s 38% unemployment rate parallel to the Great Depression. Each of these groups have called for the extermination and/or punishment of ethnic Jews for the actions if their ancestors, long ago. Former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly declared the Holocaust a “myth” and that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”“
In America, antisemitism was recently displayed through the murders carried out by anti-government fascist Neo-Nazi and former KKK leader Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. Sunday, April 13th, 2014. 7 decades post-World War II and after the Holocaust (of which an alarming proportion of the world deny and dismiss) anti-Semitism remains a very real threat.
Eva Mozes-Kor’s story of forgiveness is immediate and universally necessary. Especially now.
Kor makes her own case for forgiveness.
On this stage at Emens, a table and a single chair awaited her entrance.
Photograph: Emens Auditorium April 3rd, 2014- Eva Mozes-Kor-Aimee Fant, Muncie Voice
What many are surprised to learn is that at the root of the unspeakable tragedy, crimes against humanity that she has experienced and witnessed being a prisoner and Mengele twin at Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi Germany, is her amnesty and forgiveness; For all of it. Many do not realize she has harsh words for those who choose to (in her own words) be very “good victims”. “Good victims stay angry at the world.” Good victims choose anger over understanding.” Kor says. The way to heal? Kor says….”Forgive your worst enemy.” Many other Holocaust survivors have respectfully (and not so respectfully) disagreed. She says: “Forgiveness is nothing more and nothing less than an act of self-healing.”
Yes. Eva Mozes-Kor forgives the Nazis. -For hating. For killing 6 million of her people. For the starting a war that claimed the lives of 11 million people. For having torn her family apart when she and her sister were only 10 years old. For having treated her worse than an animal. For having tortured and having killed her siblings and both her parents in concentration camps. For having inflicted degradation, terrible pain, sickness and a lifetime of nightmares upon she and her twin sister in the experiments performed upon them by German doctor- Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” who along with other Nazi doctors, was given free rein by the Nazi government to conduct experiments free of regulations and ethics, in a race to become the most successful medical researcher in the world. Kor said of Dr. Mengele – that he was “brilliant, ruthless and drunk with the possibilities.”
“There’s no other place in the world that as seen more families ripped apart.”
Eva and Miriam Kor, age 9, prior to Auschwitz- Image: Courtesy of the Fundamentalist
In 1944, in Nazi-occupied Romania, her family was forced into dark and cold cattle car with dozens of other Jewish families, with the only light being a small patch of grey sky from above. When this trip ended, her new and lasting suffering had just only begun. They entered Auschwitz. They walked to a 87/75 sq. ft Auschwitz-Birkenau platform in which Kor says “There’s no other place in the world that as seen more families ripped apart.”
After having studied the Mozes sisters’ faces, the Nazi asked Eva’s mother if she and her sister Miriam were twins. Her mother Jaffa Mozes, replied by asking: “Is this good?” (For them to be twins.) The Nazi responded: “Yes”. So her mother was pulled to the left with outward-stretched arms, pleading- and they were pulled to the right. She never saw her mother again. She and her twin sister Miriam never had the chance to say goodbye. Their entire family vanished into the sea of Jewish prisoners, all of whom were being taken away- most of them, forever.
“I gave them hell. I spoiled their experiment.”
Shortly after her arrival on this first day, she was forced to strip naked. She closed her eyes, then opened them; hoping it was a just a nightmare, but it was only just the beginning of a living nightmare, where- in Kor’s own words: she and her sister existed between life and (probable) death. Eva counted 3 corpses of children and 5 rats among them, in the filthy space to which she was now a prisoner. She instinctively knew that she would NOT die there. She had a vision of she and Miriam walking out alive.
She knew she had to fight for her sister and that she was the stronger of the two. Her fight began when it took 4 people just to restrain her (as a Nazi tattooed her arm with the prisoner number (A-7063). She was raised to be a nice girl, she says- but her sister Miriam recalls that Eva actually bit the Nazi that inked Miriam’s prisoner number (A-7064) into her arm.
Eva and Miriam just 10 years old- were among hundreds of sets of female twins, ages 2-16 years of age; A total of 3,000 twins. At Auschwitz, everyday for breakfast they were given a blackish/brownish liquid called “coffee” (she says it was NOT coffee) and white gooey “stuff” that resembled “Cream of Wheat” (but was not-Kor said it was inedible). For dinner, they were given bread. She, her sister and the other twin prisoners were lice-infested, starved of food, of human-kindness and of the love of their parents and siblings who would soon perish separately in neighboring camps. She was deprived of all rights, but had a fierce determination to live.
Dr. Mengele’s experiments were torturous, brutal, painful, inhumane, degrading and usually deadly. Much of her time being monitored, evaluated and measured by Dr. Mengele’s team of Nazi physicians, along with the other twins, she was forced to be completely naked.
Eva recalls becoming deathly ill after being injected with multiple substances (chemical and bacterial/viral); Her arms and legs had become swollen and she had developed a high fever. She tried to hide her illness; she knew if she went to the “hospital” she would likely not come back, as was the fate of so many others. But she was taken anyway. Most of the ill prisoners in the hospital one by one were becoming ghosts before her very eyes. Dr. Mengele said with a smirk of Eva as she lay in her bed, close to death after two weeks- “As expected. Such a shame. She is so young.”
But what Dr. Mengele could never know was that Eva was listening. He could never know of her ingenuity and fierce determination to live. She was in the infirmary fighting what was to be a calculated and certain death, her fever chart thoroughly examined, as the doctors repeatedly and anxiously waited for something to happen. She secretly crawled across the floor, fading in and out of consciousness to a small faucet where she was able to obtain the water she needed to stay alive; she did just that. She survived their injections and deprivation. She says of this experience: “I gave them hell. I spoiled their experiment. I survived.”
Photograph: Film/Documentary footage “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” of Eva and Miriam Mozes (the two girls in the front) walking out of Auschwitz alive (a staged liberation event.) Aimee Fant, Muncie Voice
She said the of days leading up to the liberation, that “One day, we slept past role-call to find the Nazis were all gone.” She saw American planes flying over head and it filled her with hope. She and the prisoners stormed the pantries for food. But a few days later, a jeep appeared and out of it came Nazis with machine guns, spraying bullets into as many prisoners as possible and setting fire to the gas chamber to get rid of their evidence trail. Amid the firing machine guns, she became unconscious. She awoke to find most of the prisoners had been killed by the gunfire and that she must have escaped harm because she fainted and they thought she was dead. She attributes this to the work of a guardian angel.
Just 200 of Dr. Mengele’s 3,000 twins survived. Eva and Miriam were among them.
The day of her liberation came the blurry white shadows of soldiers through the heavy snow, who brought them chocolate, cookies and hugs. “I had not been hugged in a very, very long time.” Kor said.
Surviving Auschwitz after Auschwitz; The Long and Winding Road to Forgiveness
Eva Mozes-Kor spent much of her life, after having survived Auschwitz- hating the Nazis. She says that “She hated them in her guts.” After Auschwitz was liberated, Eva and Miriam were taken from fascist, right-extremist, nationalist Germany to communist left-extremist Romania to live with an Aunt and Uncle. In Romania, she came to know (and despise) communism. Jews were often arrested for speaking out against it. She said of Stalin’s communism: “The rich exploited the poor. The communist party preached of brotherhood, equality and freedom. But there was none.
Miriam and Eva Mozes, Age 14- 1949
Eva and Miriam moved to Israel at the age of 16. She spent 8 years in Israel and served in the Israeli army where she met another Holocaust survivor Michael Kor, who she later married. The couple left to America and settled in Terre Haute, Indiana where they had and raised two children. Eva’s sister Miriam, stayed in Israel and had a family of her own. Shortly after having given birth to her second child, Miriam began experiencing tremendous kidney problems and renal failure. After extensive testing, doctors concluded that Miriam’s kidneys had not grown since the age of 10 (which was when she and Eva were both injected with different chemicals and toxins for Dr. Mengele’s experiments.) Eva eventually donated Miriam one of her kidneys. This extended her life by 6 years, but Eva’s twin sister Miriam died in 1995. Eva was notified in a voicemail message and was not given the opportunity to attend Miriam’s funeral; in Eva’s own words, using gritty, dark humor to make sense of the experience, she said: “I didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to my kidney, either.”
Eva’s children said- when describing their mother and their experiences growing up, that their home was frequently vandalized and people would gawk at her (and them). They said she would sometimes embarrass them by running around, chasing people off. Eva said there is some anti-Semitism in town. After all, Terre Haute is housed within Indiana, and Indiana is home to the roots and origins of the KKK. The KKK began in Indiana and has managed to survive the Civil Rights Movement. Though Eva faced antisemitism regularly and anger did quell within her, but Miriam’s passing inspired Eva to construct CANDLES- a holocaust museum in Terre Haute, Indiana in January 1995, devoted to educating the public about the Holocaust. It was then, that she signed a “Declaration of Amnesty” in which she forgave the Nazis. Consistent with the hate mail she received and swastikas painted upon her home in Terre Haute, CANDLES was also burned to the ground in an act of Arson in November of 2003. Eva was devastated. “So much love and care.” Kor said. “Very, very sad.”
The museum’s education director said of the arson:
“Someone wrote (spray-painted) ‘Remember Timmy McVeigh’ on the outside wall. As a teacher, I find this very peculiar, because he has always been referred to in the media as ‘Timothy.’ It was as if the arsonist or arsonists personally knew him.” The arsonists are said to be white supremacists and supporters of right-wing extremist/domestic terrorist, Timothy McVeigh- who was convicted in the 1995 of the Oklahoma City bombing. He was executed at the federal prison near Terre Haute in 2001.
CANDLES was restored in 2005.
The final and most important signpost on the path to forgiveness was being asked by a Boston University professor to tell her story at a physicians’ summit, held in Boston, but with the request that she also appear in the presence of a Nazi doctor. “Where and how in the world might I get a Nazi doctor to speak to me and why would he agree to come here?” She asked. This task seemed impossible for a myriad of reasons to Kor. Kor’s desire was to have the validation of the existence of the gas chambers- for which there was denial after denial. She was able to locate a living and free former Nazi doctor by the name of “Dr. Heinz Mutz. The two met at his home. She asked of Dr. Mengele’s research and he said he had no access to any of the data gathered as a result of all the experiments. Dr. Mutz indicated that Dr. Mengele kept everything, himself when he escaped war crimes persecution. As they spoke they found themselves saying to one another “How is this possible? You are supposed to be my enemy. But I like you.” Both Eva and Dr. Mutz experienced nightmares since their time at Auschwitz/Birkenau, and after Eva convinced Dr. Mutz to come back with her to this summit, to sign a document acknowledging the existence of gas chambers (and the use of them) Eva’s nightmares vanished.
To thank Dr. Mutz, Kor said she went to the card section of the grocery store and stood for 2 and a half hours trying to find one. She gave up and wrote a “Letter of Forgiveness” instead.
Dr. Mutz served as a vessel of forgiveness and healing. And through him, Kor was able to forgive Dr. Mengele- the “Angel of Death” who haunted her at her very core.
What Eva Mozes-Kor had to say to Muncie in a Q & A session about forgiveness, survival and in her words “The Spoiled Brats getting Holocaust tattoos.”
Kor allowed an opportunity for members of the audience to ask questions. Among the questions:
Q- A female BSU student asked the first question: “What do you think we, as a society take for granted”
A-(Kor): “Freedom. People don’t even go out to vote. How can you stay a free society if you don’t take the time to vote?”
Q- A ten-year old girl in the audience asked Kor: “How did you survive without your mother?”
A-(Kor): “It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But I never cried in Auschwitz. If you were crying, you weren’t surviving. Be the best little girl you can and give your parents extra hugs and kisses.”
Q-A college-aged young woman asked: “How do you feel about today’s Jewish youth getting Holocaust tattoos?”
A-(Kor): “I don’t have a problem with them doing something in remembrance of the Holocaust. But tattoos? It’s a crazy, stupid fad. They are spoiled brats.”
Q- Young men; BSU students: “Did you face prejudice when you were in Romania? And did the Russian liberators treat the Jewish prisoners equally as terrible as the Nazis?”
A- (Kor): “Yes. There was a rumor upon the arrival of the Jewish refugees that there was a “Jewish vampire”. There was a distrust (paraphrased) and prejudice did not end when WWII did. And the Russian troops did not behave as the Nazis in refugee camps. They were decent and humane.”
Among all the lessons Kor shared, lamenting today’s celebrities’ fashion choices, saying of Miley Cyrus “I would not flash my boobs. Why don’t they just wear decent clothes?” the most important were those of prejudice and forgiveness. She said to “Take the time to get to know someone before you make a judgment (before dismissing them as a part of a group you don’t like). Judge people on merits, one person at a time.” And on forgiveness, she says “I have forgiven the Nazis and everyone (else) who has hurt me.” I was a very good victim. People who yell a lot, people who are angry- they are all very good victims. Revenge is for victims. Forgiveness is the best revenge.”
On this day- this Easter- it must be asked: If Christ could forgive the Romans and Jews who were crucifying him and if Eva Mozes-Kor was able to forgive the Nazis, how might we also find the strength to forgive?
This event was made possible by many leaders, businesses and organizations within the Muncie community; Central to the organization and inception, is Steve Robert, the BSU Jewish Studies Program (Frank Felsenstien) and Emens Auditorium. Funding was provided by: The Ball Brothers Foundation, Provost Office, Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County, and Dr. George and Linda Branam.
If you attended this event or would like to give feedback on bringing forth more empowering events to Muncie in the future, please contact: the Committee for a Positive Influence @ email@example.com
To learn more about Eva Mozes-Kor and to contact her directly, please visit CANDLES.