Forgiveness is the Best Revenge

/ February 27, 2018
Translated by Antonia Sâmpălean

Eva and Miriam Mozes, twin sisters, survived the monstrous experiments conducted by the “Angel of Death,” also known as Doctor Josef Mengele. They endured the experiments he oversaw in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Miriam Mozes died of cancer in 1993. At age 82, Eva Mozes continues to spread her message for forgiveness and healing – tikkun olan – as the Jews call it.

In memory of the Mozes family, five Stolpersteine (in German meaning, stone which you stumble across) lay in their home village of Port (Sălaj County). Each Stolpersteine is a cobblestone containing the Holocaust victim’s name, birth date, and year of deportation. The five Stolpersteine in the village of Port commemorate Alexander and Jaffa Mozes, Eva’s parents, and the four sisters, Aliz, Edit, Miriam and Eva. Only Miriam and Eva survived Auschwitz.

In October 2016, Eva Mozes Kor returned the school in Cluj that she and Miriam attended after their release from Auschwitz seventy years ago.

At that time, it was called “The Regina Maria School for Girls.” Today, it is the “George Coșbuc” National High School of Cluj.

The octogenarian, who currently lives in the United States, wanted to share her story with teenagers. She asked them to immunize themselves against any form of prejudice. The “cancer of the soul”, as she calls it, and to never isolate those amongst them who are less popular.

Eva Mozes Kor uses her wheelchair to relax the students before tackling the gruesome subject matter of her life. “I love speaking. It’s a good thing that I’m here to speak. Not all Romanians are good gymnasts.”

The last photograph taken of the Mozes family before their deportation.
The twins Miriam and Eva are on either side of their mother, Jaffa.

The fact that many of you have gone to Auschwitz is impressive. It would be interesting to go there with students from my former high school. Rather than talking about the ways that people were killed, we will talk about how I survived.

When I go there, I always make a point of stopping at the exact spot where I saw my family for the last time. When you lose someone dear to you, you’ll remember exactly what they looked like and where they were the last time you saw them.

I never had the chance to say goodbye to my mother. Three years ago, I wrote her a goodbye note. I also wrote one for my father. They are letters that explain who I am and the source of my strength.

Your memories become the source of your strength. Even if you forgive, it doesn’t mean you’ll forget. How could you forget something that was a part of you?

If you cut your hand, your hand will heal and you’ll be able to do the things that you did before.

But you’ll have a scar that will remind you of what happened there. But this scar should not hinder you from living the way you originally planned to live.

Every time life gets tough, we shouldn’t give up. We have to do everything we can to get through it. When you have a hard day, ask yourself how the prisoners in Auschwitz survived. They didn’t give up on their lives. Don’t ever give up on yours!

I wish that the leaders of this earth would meet in Auschwitz rather than meeting in Switzerland or in a nice European hotel. All the important meetings on this earth should take place there, especially those related to peace.

Eva Kor in a visit to Auschwitz.

“Schnell, Schnell, Schnell!”

In March 1944, Alexander and Jaffa Mozes, along with their four daughters and dozens of other Jews, were crammed into a train that normally carried livestock. After four days without any food or water, they found themselves on the selection platform in Auschwitzk-Birkenau, amongst the shouts of German soldiers repeating: “Schnell, schnell, schnell!”

Jaffa squeezed the twins’ hands vigorously. In the overwhelming chaos, their father and two sisters had been separated from them. A German officer asked the mom if the girls were twins. “Is this good or is this bad?” Jaffa inquired after having confirmed that Eva and Miriam were born on the same day.

The twins were violently pulled away from their mother. In a matter of minutes, they had become orphans. Their new family became 30 sets of twins, ranging between the ages of 2 to16.

“We were taken into a large building where they shaved our hair and undressed us. Two soldiers held me down so that I could get tattooed on my left arm. I became A-7063 and Miriam became A-7064. Then we were brought into a horse’s stable, which was located on the outskirts of the concentration camp. This became our barrack. I have never seen a place of such misery and cruelty,” recounts Eva.

Their barrack was full of rats and lice. On their first night in Auschwitz, Eva woke up screaming: “There are mice, there are mice everywhere!” An older girl immediately shut her down: “Get used to it! Yes, they are everywhere, but they aren’t mice, they are rats!”

When they went to use the bathroom for the first time, they tripped over the dead bodies of two children. They were in hell.

The Blood Laboratory

  1. The twins were awakened every morning at 5 am for roll call. The first order of business was a morning inspection conducted by the diabolical Mengele. He would slowly stroll by each of them.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the twins were kept naked in a room for up to eight hours at a time, in order to examine and measure different parts of their body. “It was absolutely humiliating,” remembers Eva. Tuesday and Thursday, they spent the day at the blood laboratory.

“They tied both our arms to limit our blood circulation. They would draw a ton of blood from our left arm and then give us five injections in our right arm. We didn’t know what they were injecting into us. It was rumored that they were injecting us with microbes, illnesses or medication.”

After a couple visits to the blood lab, Eva began feeling very sick with a high fever. She tried to hide her weakness because no child ever returned from the hospital. At a morning inspection, Mengele identified red spots all over her body and sent her to the hospital.

“The people seemed to be more dead than alive. Mengele, accompanied by four other doctors, wanted to know how high my fever was. Then, he started laughing sarcastically and said: What a shame, she has just a couple of weeks to live! I refused to accept his verdict. I wanted to prove to him wrong. I wanted to see my sister again.”

The only memory I have of the next 14 days is crawling across the barrack floor to get water. People were dying around me. I kept my mind focused on an image of Miriam and getting out of that hell. A month later, after my fever subsided, I saw my sister again. She looked like a zombie. I asked her what had happened in my absence and she told me that she could not or would never tell me about it,” recounted Eva.

“Forty years later we discovered, in the Auschwitz Museum, that if I had died, Miriam would’ve been taken to the laboratory and killed with an injection to the heart. Then, they would’ve performed a comparative autopsy.”

According to Eva, 1,500 pairs of twins were involved in Mengele’s experiments. Only 250 survived.

After their release on January 27, 1945, Miriam and Eva spent nine months in a refugee camp in Katowice, Poland. Here, they reunited with Rosalia Csengeri, a friend of their mother, whose twins were also victims of Mengele’s experiments.

Rosalia helped the two girls return to Romania in October 1945. In their family home, all that was left were three pictures in broken frames lying on the floor. This was all they had of their family’s past.

The moment when Auschwitz was liberated. Eva and Miriam Mozes in the first row.

“I discovered that I have the power to forgive”

Their father’s younger sister, who was also a Holocaust survivor, became their caregiver in Cluj. In Romania, the communist regime had just taken over.

“The Communists arrived with beautiful slogans: Fraternity, Freedom, and Equality. Wow! I wanted freedom, I wanted equality, I wanted fraternity. So I became the commander of a brigade of 30 young pioneers. On the morning of May 1, 1948, they told me to lead my brigade in a parade. I did it.

Later that afternoon, I went to a picnic and then another parade. By evening, I had had enough of parades and sent my colleagues home to study.

The next day, we were summoned to the Directorate. They asked: Where were you last night? Why were you not present at the parade? We told them we went home to study. They replied: When you’re in the communist party, you’re not supposed to think, just follow the orders. Is that clear?

I whispered to myself — I am an Auschwitz survivor, you cannot hurt me. Then I told them that I didn’t like their party anymore and resigned. They told me I would never be allowed attend high school in Cluj.

“So I applied for a visa to Israel. It took two years to get it,” explained Eva.

In Israel, the twins went to an agricultural school for Holocaust orphans from 30 different countries. In 1952, when the twins turned 18, they enrolled in the Israeli army.

Eva married another concentration camp survivor, Michael Kor. In 1960 they moved to the USA and settled down in Terre Haute, Indiana.

In the USA, Eva founded the organization called CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) as well as the CANDLES Holocaust Museum. Through these two organizations, she sought to enlighten the public on eugenics (controlled breeding of humans) and the power of forgiveness.

After the death of her sister Miriam in 1993, Eva visited Han Munch in Germany. He was a Nazi doctor who personally knew Doctor Mengele and had actively participated in the extermination of Jews in the gas chambers.

“He told me that Mengele never spoke about the experiments. They were secret. After he said this, I asked him: Doctor Munch, can you by any chance tell me anything about the gas chambers? His immediate response was: That’s my problem, it’s the nightmare that I’ve relived every single day since then.

We told the people that they were going to take a shower. The room was clean and polished. They even sprayed the chambers with perfume. When the chamber became full of people, the watertight doors were closed. The gas didn’t come from the showerheads. White granules of Zyklon B were discharged through ventilation ducts. When the granules touched the floor, they would turn into a dust that would then rise.

The people climbed on top of each other, trying to save themselves. They started to form a mountain of intertwined bodies, with the most powerful at the top. When those on top stopped moving, Dr. Munch knew that everyone else had died. He prepared a single death certificate, without any names, just the number of dead.”

Eva invited Dr. Munch to be her guest at the 1995 ceremony commemorating 50 years of freedom for the Auschwitz survivors. Before the hushed public, with Munch at her side, Eva declared that she forgave all the Nazis for the suffering they had caused her family.

“That day changed my life. I realized that I have the power to forgive. From that moment on, I felt the pain and burden that I had carried with me for the last 50 years was lifted. I was finally freed from Auschwitz. Finally freed from Mengele.

Forgiveness is the best revenge. From the minute you forgive, those who have hurt you have no more power over your life. Fury? Hitler was an angry man. Fury leads to war. I don’t believe there has ever been a war provoked by joyful people.”