KOKOMO, Ind. — At age 10, Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, lost life as they knew it during the Holocaust. Now, at age 83, Eva shares their story of survival to inspire others to spread kindness and speak forgiveness.
More than 1,000 people came to Indiana University Kokomo last week to hear Eva’s powerful message, and, for a short while, listen to this incredibly strong woman who is an important piece of the world’s history.
“At Auschwitz, dying was so easy. Surviving was a full-time job,” said Eva, who, along with her sister, endured the humiliating and inhumane experiments performed on Jewish twins by Dr. Josef Mengele.
Eva wants the audience to know the Holocaust really happened. It was traumatizing, it was demoralizing, and it ripped her family apart at the seams and it was based on pure hatred, bigotry, and prejudice. Yet, despite all of this, she travels the world dedicating her life and advocating for hope, kindness, peace, and forgiveness of even your worst of enemies.
“What I discovered was that forgiveness is not so much for the perpetrator, but for the victim. I had the power to forgive,” she said. “No one could give me this power and no one could take it away.”
From the moment they were forced onto the cattle train car that carried them away, the twins relied solely on each other.
“Because we were twins, we clung to each other. Because we were sisters, we depended on each other. Because we were family, we did not let go.”
Together, in their matching burgundy dresses, they survived countless experiments and took turns leaning on each other to make it through. Together, they ‘organized’ food from the Nazis for survival. Together, they were liberated from the camp and set free to try and pick up the pieces and move ahead.
Following their time in the death camp, they moved from an orphanage to refugee camps to an aunt’s home to Israel, where they worked on a farm.
The twins went on to accomplish great things both in their careers and their family life. They were drafted into the Israeli army where Miriam became a registered nurse and Eva became a draftsperson and achieved the rank sergeant major. Miriam married, had three children, and lived in Israel until her passing. In 1960, she married Michael Kor, an American citizen and a fellow Holocaust survivor, and joined him in the United States, moving to Terre Haute, Indiana. In 1965, Eva became a U.S. citizen, and the couple raised two children, Alex and Rina.
Years after her liberation from Auschwitz, Eva chose to forgive Dr. Mengele, the man who injected her with countless shots and chemicals with contents unknown even to this day, nearly killing her and her twin sister. Despite his vile acts, she found that forgiveness wasn’t necessarily a gift for him, it was a gift to herself.
Among the crowd, students from all different majors waited in line to get in to the event. Following her captivating and humor-filled talk, the line to meet Eva and have books signed wrapped throughout the auditorium and even out through the hallway.
Sierra Smith, a senior studying business management, was among a group of IU Kokomo students who visited Poland on a class trip and spent a day at Auschwitz, making Eva’s visit all the more meaningful: “We actually went to Auschwitz, so I think hearing her is going to piece everything together.”
For a student with a goal of teaching history to the next generation someday, hearing from a Holocaust survivor is a lifechanging, real-world learning experience.
“It’s one thing to read it and listen to it; it’s another thing to hear it from someone who was actually there,” Noah Warren, a junior studying secondary education, explained.
Eva works tirelessly to share her story with as many people as she can. She opened the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, wrote two books, appeared in documentaries, and has given countless presentations about her experience.
Her traumatic childhood helped change her into the wise, heartfelt, and inspiring speaker she is today. With all of her life experiences, she left the crowd with three life lessons: Never stop learning, have self discipline, and show kindness to everyone.
For more information about Eva’s experiences, you can visit the CANDLES museum at candlesholocaustmuseum.org, or, as Eva proudly noted, you can follow her on twitter and download her app.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.