KIRSTEN ADAIR | ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
Holocaust survivor Eva Kor sent a message of resilience and forgiveness through her story on Oct. 22 in Clowes Memorial Hall.
Kor began the season of Distinguished Speakers Distinctive Voices lecture series, which is a partnership between the city of Indianapolis and Butler University as a diversity initiative that is free to the public.
Kor described her own life as tragic. She lost her mother, father and two older sisters when she was 10 years old. She and her twin sister Miriam were left to survive on their own after spending nine months as test subjects in experiments conducted by Dr. Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
Kor tried to describe what Auschwitz was like in one sentence.
“I want you to imagine little children from age 10 to 16,” she said. “The little girls huddled in filthy bunk beds crawling with lice and rats.”
When Kor entered the bathroom area in her barracks, she found the bodies of three children. She said she made a promise to herself at that moment not to end up on that floor and to make it out of Auschwitz alive with Miriam.
“We were starved for food. We were starved for human kindness and we were starved for the love of the mothers and fathers we once had,” Kor said. “We had no rights, but we had intense determination to live one more day, to survive one more experiment.”
Despite brutal testing, hunger and disease, Kor and her sister survived and were released from Auschwitz on Jan. 24, 1945.
Kor and Miriam returned to Romania, their native country. Five years later they moved to Israel. Kor attended agricultural school and became a sergeant major in the Israeli Army Engineering Corps. While in Israel, Kor met her husband Michael, an American Holocaust survivor who lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, and they were married in 1960.
Miriam began having kidney infections that resisted antibiotics, and when doctors in Israel checked her kidneys, they found they were the size of a 10-year-old child’s kidneys. It was concluded the Nazi doctors had injected Miriam with a drug that stopped her kidneys from growing. No one could find Miriam’s files or figure out what the drug was, and even a kidney transplant from Kor did not stop the problem. Miriam died on June 6, 1993.
Kor did not like carrying the weight of her past. She said being the victim made her feel helpless and out of control of her life. She founded Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, and she visits Auschwitz once every year.
Kor also said she found her burden lifted when she found forgiveness. After meeting with former Auschwitz Nazi Hans Munch for a presentation, she connected with him and wanted to forgive him. She wrote him a letter about her forgiveness, and since then Kor has advocated for using forgiveness to free people from their past hurts and grudges.
“I discovered that I had the power to forgive,” Kor said. “No one could give me that power, no one could take it away.”
She continued to explain her ability to live past the events.
“All the pain I carried around for 50 years was lifted off my shoulders. I was no longer a victim of Auschwitz, nor was I a prisoner of my tragic past. In my opinion, forgiveness has nothing to do with any perpetrator. It is an act of self-healing, self-liberation and self-empowerment.”
Butler has two different funds in honor of Kor. The first is the Eva Mozes Kor Scholarship, which will be given to a student in Butler’s peace and conflict study program who exemplifies the eradication of prejudice.
The other endowment is The Bruce and Lucy Gerstein Holocaust Education Travel Fund, which will enable a Butler student to travel to Auschwitz with Kor with a group from Kor’s museum.