by Sue Ann Rybak
– Part Two
On January 27, 1945, Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, who spoke on Oct. 10 at Chestnut Hill College, and her twin sister Miriam walked out of Auschwitz holding hands. “The little promise to myself in the latrine became a reality,” Kor said. Only about 200 children were found alive by the Soviet Army by the time the camp was liberated.
Kor also shared with the audience three important life lessons and her personal journey to peace. The first life lesson was “never, ever give up!” The second lesson was about hate and prejudice. Kor said prejudice is one of the reasons Hitler was successful. “If you look around the world today, prejudice is rampant,” Kor said. “It might surprise you to know that I am prejudiced — against young people who have piercings and tattoos and wear baggy pants.
“I don’t understand why people would want to mutilate their bodies, and I still don’t understand why anyone would want to wear baggy pants. Why would a normal kid want to look like a bum? But I realize even I have to get to know the person and judge each person on their individual merits.”
The last life lesson was forgiveness. “If anybody would have asked me 20 years ago if I was going to forgive the Nazis, I would have told them to find a really good psychiatrist and get your head examined because you must be crazy. I was a very good victim. I was angry with the world. I didn’t like the Nazis. I hated the Germans. I hated the Hungarians. Come to think of it, I didn’t like too many people. And nothing really changed until June 6, when my sister died.”
She said Miriam died from kidney failure related to the injections she had received while used as a human guinea pig by Nazi “doctors” at Auschwitz. She said the loss of her twin sister unleashed an enormous amount of pain that at times was overwhelming. A few months after Miriam died, a professor at Boston College asked if she could bring a Nazi doctor with her when Kor came to lecture. “I said ‘Really, where on earth do you think I could find a Nazi doctor?’ The last time I looked in the Yellow Pages, they were not advertising.”
Later, Kor remembered Dr. Hans Munch, a Nazi doctor who knew Dr. Mengele, the monster behind the human experimentation. Desperately hoping to find out some information about Mengele’s experiments, she asked to meet with Munch, who agreed to meet with Kor at his home in Germany. She said that unfortunately he claimed to know nothing about Mengele’s experiments, but he verified the existence of the gas chambers.
Kor immediately asked Munch if he would be willing to sign a document confirming the existence of gas chambers at a ceremony on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp. Munch agreed. “I came home to Indiana very excited that I would have a document signed not by a Jewish survivor, not by a Christian liberator, but by a Nazi doctor who witnessed it.”
Kor wanted to give Munch a meaningful gift to thank him, but she struggled to find an appropriate gift.
“I kept asking myself how can I thank this Nazi doctor?” Kor said. “Then a simple idea came into my head. How about a letter of forgiveness from me to Dr. Munch? I knew immediately this was a meaningful gift for Dr. Munch, but what I discovered was life-changing.”
Kor asked a former English professor to correct her grammar. After reading Kor’s letter, the professor suggested she forgive Dr. Mengele also. “She said when you go home this evening, pretend you are talking to Dr. Mengele. The moment I said to Mengele ‘I forgive you,’ I said ‘Wow!’ I, the little guinea pig from Auschwitz even has the power to forgive the God of Auschwitz. And if I could forgive Dr. Mengele, the worst of the worst, I might as well forgive everybody who ever hurt me.”
After she read her letter of forgiveness, which stated that she forgave all of the Nazis, at the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp, Kor felt free of all her hurt and pain. “I was no longer a victim of Auschwitz, nor was I a prisoner of my tragic past. That is why I call forgiveness an act of self-healing, an act of self-liberation and an act of self-empowerment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could teach every victim in the world to forgive those who hurt them and heal themselves at the same time — and not pass on that vicious anger.
“Anger is a seed for war,” Kor added. “No war is ever started by happy people. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a seed for peace.”
Kor asked those in the audience to help her “sow those seeds of peace.”
To obtain Eva Kor’s book, “Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz,” visit www.amazon.com/Eva-Mozes-Kor/e/B001XSSK4Q. To see a video of Eva Kor talking about her experiences and her thoughts on forgiveness, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwvbtuIz6Hs.