Holocaust survivor will spread message of forgiveness in Manchester
Eva Mozes Kor's experience on her first night in Auschwitz opened her eyes to the conditions she would face throughout her imprisonment.
"There were scattered naked corpses of three children. Their bodies were shriveled," Kor said in a phone interview last week. "I made a silent pledge that I am going to do everything in my power to not end up like them on the latrine floor."
Kor will speak in Manchester on Sunday to spread her message of forgiveness while helping to keep fresh stories and lessons learned from one of the worst atrocities in human history.
Her talk will be part of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust and Heroism and Remembrance Day, at Temple Israel, 66 Salmon St. The service will begin at 6:30 p.m., with Kor expected to begin her presentation at 7 p.m. Attendance is free.
Manchester resident Cora Der Koorkanian helped bring Kor to the Queen City, thanks to a close connection she had with Kor's late twin sister, Miriam Mozes.
The sisters were taken to Auschwitz at the age of 10, where Dr. Josef Mengele used them for medical experiments. Both survived, but Miriam died in 1993 when she developed cancer of the bladder as a consequence of the experiments done to her as a child.
"I was born in Romania, but I lived in Israel," said Der Koorkanian. "I met Miriam Mozes during my military service. We went to military nursing school together. I remember her twin, Eva, would come to visit her all the time. Years later, I picked up one of her books, and got in touch with her."
Der Koorkanian told Kor she knew Miriam for years, and the two became friends.
"Now we talk and Skype together," said Der Koorkanian. "I had an open house here for the Manchester Historic Association, and a reverend from Brookside Church was here and we started talking. I suggested Kor be brought here to talk about what happened."
Eva and Miriam Mozes Kor grew up in a small village in Romania in the 1940s. They were part of the only Jewish family in the region.
"My father said as long as you say your prayers, did the good deeds that God wanted you to do, the Nazis won't come here looking for six Jews," said Kor, during a phone interview last week from her home in Indiana.
But the Nazis did come, loading Eva, Miriam, her father, mother and two older sisters onto a crowded rail car bound for Auschwitz.
Kors' pledge to survive was tested throughout her captivity by Dr. Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death" of Auschwitz.
"We knew, probably in the first week we were there, that he murdered our families," said Kor. "We also knew we were alive only because he wanted us alive."
Mengele performed experiments on his victims, studying the effects of drugs and poisons on twins, using one as a human guinea pig, the other as a control specimen.
"Doctor injected us three times a week with all kinds of germs and drugs and chemicals," Kor said. "After one of those injections, I became unbelievably sick. So next morning, Dr. Mengele came in with four other doctors, and he said, 'She only has two weeks to live.' I refused to accept his verdict."
Over the next two weeks, Kor drifted in and out of consciousness, waking up on the floor, crawling to a water faucet and willing herself to survive.
"I made a pledge that I refused to die," said Kor. "I spoiled their experiment because I survived."
After nine months of experiments in captivity, Kor and her sister were liberated by Russian troops. During the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Kor made a different kind of pledge while visiting the camp — she pledged to forgive.
"As I was standing by the ruins of the gas chamber, I was remembering all the people I was forgiving. I was forgiving the Nazis. I was forgiving Mengele. I was forgiving the people that did the experiments," she said. "I was forgiving everybody because I have the power to forgive. It gave me an emotional freedom that was so exhilarating, so beneficial. I did not have to deal with who did what to me and why. Immediately, I felt all the pain I was carrying on my little shoulders lifted from me, and I was free. I was no longer a prisoner from my tragic past."
Today, Kor runs a Holocaust museum in Terra Haute, Ind., in memory of Miriam. Her message now, which she will discuss next Sunday in Manchester, is simple — forgive all, even your worst enemies.
"I have personally experienced the act of forgiveness that gave me my emotional freedom. No human being can be free — emotionally free and mentally free — without forgiving people who have wronged them," Kor said. "I want to change that old phrase from 'forgive and forget' to 'forgive and heal' because we should never forget.''
Cora Der Koorkanian hopes Kors' talk will draw a large audience.
"It's important to hear from people like Kor because they are dying," said Der Koorkanian. "This story should be passed on, to make sure it never happens again."