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Auschwitz survivor: 'I have power to forgive'

Posted October 6, 2009
Updated October 7, 2009

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— Eva Mozes Kor was 10 when she and her family were taken from their home in Romania to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, quickly lost their father and two older sisters in the crowd exiting the cattle car at the entrance to the Nazi camp – and they never saw their relatives again. Then, within minutes, the twins saw bodies of dead children in a nearby latrine.

Eva Mozes Kor, Holocaust survivor Web only: Holocaust survivor forgives Nazis

"I made a very solemn and silent pledge that I will do anything within my power to make sure that my twin sister and I will not end up on the filthy latrine floor," Kor said recently during a visit to the Triangle to speak to the area chapter of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals.

Kor is an advocate of research with a person's informed consent. She never had that choice, enduring daily medical experiments in Auschwitz at the hands of Dr. Josef Mengele, a notorious Nazi war criminal who sent thousands of people to their death in the camp's gas chamber.

Some of the experiments were demeaning, and others made Kor very sick. Yet, she refused to give in.

"If a person, even for one day, gave up on yourself, it was very easy to die," she said.

The Soviets liberated the prisoners in Auschwitz a year after the twins arrived. Both survived and went onto have families. Miriam Mozes Zeiger died in 1993.

Kor said that nightmares and anger ate at her for decades after she left Auschwitz.

"I wanted all the Nazis to be hanged – all the bad people – to give them the punishment they deserved," she said.

Then, after a half century, she said she had an epiphany and found a way to heal her emotional wounds.

"If every single Nazi would have been hanged, including Mengele, my life wouldn't have changed one iota," she said. "I, the little nobody, has the power to forgive."

The effort wasn't easy, Kor said, but a trip back to Auschwitz and a meeting with Dr. Hans Munch, a Nazi doctor who tried to help some of the Jews at the camp, helped jump-start the healing process. She even danced before leaving the camp for the second time, saying she knew she was finally free of the Nazi impact on her life.

She has since founded the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Indiana to locate other survivors of Mengele's experiments

Kor said many Holocaust survivors are angry with her, accusing her of betraying their cause, but she said forgiving the Nazis has left her at peace with her life. She also participates in The Forgiveness Project, a U.K.-based nonprofit that explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution through real-life experiences.

"In spite of Auschwitz, in spite of Mengele and all the evilness that was done there, I have survived, and I have thrived because I have freed myself by forgiving them," she said. "I have the power to do so, and I am free of them."

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  • kitcat718 is a college student Oct 7, 2009

    An amazing woman...she survived so much and is here to teach us the meaning behind living a great life. Go on to teach, love, and forgive. God bless her.

  • Eduardo1 Oct 6, 2009

    It is her RIGHT to forgive, but I do not think that this is the story, that should be the headline.
    As a group of swine, the Nazi's should never be held up to be anything else. This is forgiving the worst mass murders & torturers in the history of the world. As I said this VERY OLD person has that RIGHT, but should not be held up as any poster child. We have enough revisionist who are saying it never even happened. It is being taught in countries throughout the world, not only in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Mideast counties, but Europe, Latin America and probably in the United States. As more & more survivors & camp liberators pass away the FACTS get more & more twisted. I challenge WRAL to keep on writing timely articles about the Holocaust "Lest we never forgive or forget"

  • carolinamom5 Oct 6, 2009

    Wow, what a moving story and a brave lady. I have been a part of medical research with informed consent, and it was a privilege to do so. I have also refused consent with good reason, and I took it for granted that I could refuse. I'll never take that right for granted again.

  • paginasecunda Oct 6, 2009

    This is one strong woman, no question about that.

  • Adelinthe Oct 6, 2009

    Good for her.

    AMEN, AND AMEN!!!

    Holding onto the past helps no one and can seriously hurt oneself.

    God bless.

    RB

  • mycatbubba Oct 6, 2009

    Wonderful! I'm so happy she can move on with her life now.