By Teryn Lyman
Eva Mozes Kor is an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor who, along with her twin sister, Miriam, was subjected to human experimentation under Dr. Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Students were invited to the Wildcat Theater to hear Kor tell her story yesterday at noon.
The first part of Kor’s lecture was her story from the day she stepped out of the “cattle car,” train cars used to transport people to concentration camps, as a 10-year-old and was separated from her mother, father and two older sisters, who she didn’t see again until she was liberated.
Kor shared her life lessons during the second portion of the lecture. Life Lesson No. 1 from Kor was “Never, ever give up on yourself or your dreams.” She then presented Life Lesson No. 2: “There is always hope after despair.” Life Lesson No. 3 was about prejudice.
In Auschwitz, 1,500 sets of twins between the ages of 2 and 16 were used for human experimentation. Only 200 survived to be liberated.
Kor said that when they first arrived at Auschwitz, they were stripped of all clothing and left in a dark room for about 10 hours. Soon after that, she was taken to a room where the Nazis heated a needle “over the flame of a lamp,” dipped it in ink and tattooed a number on her left arm.
“The first time I went to use the latrine at the end of the children’s barrack, I was greeted by the scattered corpses of several children laying on the ground. I had never seen anybody dead before,” Kor recalled. “I think that image will stay with me forever. It was there that I made a silent pledge, a vow to make sure that Miriam and I didn’t end up on that filthy floor.”
Mengele put Kor, her sister and other sets of twins through many brutal surgeries and experiments.
“I was given five injections. That evening I developed extremely high fever. I was trembling. My arms and legs were swollen, huge size,” Kor said. “Mengele and Dr. Konig and three other doctors came in the next morning. They looked at my fever chart, and Dr. Mengele said laughingly, ‘Too bad she is so young. She has only two weeks to live.’”
As adults, Kor and her sister Miriam had serious health problems. Kor had miscarriages and tuberculosis, and her son had cancer. Miriam’s kidneys never fully developed, and Kor donated one of her own to her, as they were a perfect match. Miriam died June 6, 1993.
Kor told of the time, 50 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, when she returned to the site. At her side was Dr. Hans Munch, a Nazi doctor who knew Mengele but did not work with him. Kor read Munch’s signed witness statement to contradict those who denied the Holocaust.
To the surprise of many, including herself, she decided to free herself from victim status and forgive Munch and the Nazis. Kor stressed that the forgiveness was for her well-being alone and was not intended to undermine the Holocaust.
“You have the power to forgive,” she said. “No one can give it to you, and no one can take it away.”
She then talked about prejudice. She said she doesn’t like the way some youth dress with “holes in their jeans” and “baggy pants,” but that people need to take the time to get to know people. She also said she does not like that young women idealize certain female role models. She said young women do not need to be “sexy” while in school.
“They should be there for one reason only, and that is to improve their mind,” Kor said.
Kor founded the CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) Holocaust Museum and Education Center in 1995. She is the author of several books on her experience and is continually giving lectures to educate the public about eugenics, the Holocaust and the power of forgiveness.
A few audience members cried as Kor spoke. At the end of her presentation, Kor received a standing ovation.