by Sue Ann Rybak
Eva Mozes Kor, 79, a survivor of Dr. Josef Mengele’s horrific twin experiments in Auschwitz and founder of CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) Holocaust Museum, shared her story of survival and her journey to forgive the “Angel of Death” at Chestnut Hill College on Oct. 10.
Kor recalled how her family in Romania was loaded onto a cattle car and transported to the Auschwitz Nazi Death Camp in 1944. She remembered seeing “a patch of grey sky through the barbed wire window” and stepping down onto a strip of cement that measured 85 feet long by 75 feet wide. “I don’t believe there is another strip of land anywhere on the face of the earth that witnessed so many millions of people being ripped apart from their families forever,” said Kor, who was only 10 years old at the time.
As Kor and her twin sister Miriam stepped down off the cattle car, her mother grabbed their hand. As Kor stood on the selection platform trying “to figure out what this place was,” she watched as her father Alexander Mozes and two older sisters Edith and Aliza disappeared into the crowd.
“Never again did I see them,” Kor said. “As we stood there holding onto our mother for dear life, a Nazi was running and yelling in German, ‘Twins, twins’ … and then another Nazi came and pulled my mother in one direction and we were pulled in another direction. All I remember is seeing her arms stretched out in despair as she was pulled away. I never got to say goodbye to her.”
Kor and her sister became one of 1,500 sets of twins used as human guinea pigs in gruesome genetic experiments — which included amputations, operations and injections. Later that day, Kor and her sister were taken to be processed. She said they and a group of about 30 other female twins were stripped of their clothes and given short hair cuts. Finally after being forced to sit naked for hours, Kor and her sister’s clothes were returned.
“It seemed to me like a nightmare, and somehow if I closed my eyes and opened them again, the nightmare would disappear,” Kor said. “But, it didn’t.”
Next the children were taken to be registered, a process that included tattooing their arm. She recalled how four people, two Nazis and two women prisoners, restrained her. “They heated a gadget that looked like a writing pen with a needle, and then they burned into my right arm dot by dot the capital letter A-7063,” Kor said. “My twin sister became A-7064.”
She said Auschwitz was the only Nazi Death Camp that tattooed its inmates. Kor, who said she is not a religious person, recalled being marched into their barrack, a filthy modular horse barn without windows. When Kor arrived in Auschwitz, she “was still that religious little girl who was willing to follow the Jewish law.” She recalled how she refused to eat the tiny, stale, brownish piece of bread the first night because it was not kosher. Later that night, she went to the latrine.
“There on the filthy latrine floor were the skeleton corpses of three children,” Kor said. “I had never seen anybody dead before, but it became clear to me that the children died there and that this could happen to Miriam and me unless I did something to prevent it. So right then and there I made a silent pledge that I would do everything within my power to make sure Miriam and I did not end up on the filthy latrine floor.”
She said from that moment on, she did “everything instinctively right. I never let any doubt or fear enter my mind. In my mind, I had an image of Miriam and me walking out of this terrible life. And I never let go of that image until the day we were liberated.”
Kor told the audience how on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays she was taken to the observation lab, where she was forced to stand or sit naked for eight hours a day while every inch of of her body was measured and compared to her twin’s measurements. She said on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they were taken to the blood lab, where the staff took “a lot of blood,” and Eva and her sister were given “a minimum of five injections. The content of those injections we didn’t know then, nor do I know today.”
Kor recalled how one injection made her extremely ill. She was taken to the hospital, also called “the barrack of the living dead.” She said the next day Dr. Mengele laughed and declared sarcastically that she only had two weeks to live. But Kor refused to die. “I made a second pledge to prove Dr. Mengele wrong. I would survive and be reunited with my sister.”
Kor said people taken to the barrack did not receive any food, water or medicine. She said people went there for one reason only, to die. “For the following two weeks, I have only one clear memory crawling on the barrack floor to reach a faucet with water at the other end of the barrack,” Kor said.
Miraculously, after weeks of being deathly ill, Kor recovered and was reunited with her sister. “But the happiness of our reunion was short lived,” Kor said. “She (Miriam) looked like the living dead. In my opinion, dying in Auschwitz was the easiest thing in the world. Surviving was a full-time job. Everybody got sick in Auschwitz. The only difference between those who lived and those who died was a little bit of luck and an unbelievable will to live. Miriam had given up the will to live.”
When Kor asked Miriam what had happened, she replied, “I cannot talk about it.”
“And we never ever talked about Auschwitz until 1985,” Kor said.
Kor later learned that Miriam had been placed in isolation and studied by doctors day and night during the first two weeks Kor was in the hospital. “It was the same two weeks Mengele said that I would die,” Kor said. “If I would have died, Miriam would have been rushed to Dr. Mengele’s lab and killed with an injection to the heart. And then Mengele would have done the comparative autopsies.”
PART TWO NEXT WEEK
Updated Nov. 1, 2013
An earlier version of this story errorneously reported that the children were forced to wear stripped uniforms with crosses on them. Kor’s tattoo number was also reported incorrectly.