This is a serious prose speech that I copied the words from a YouTube video.
“We got down from the cattle car. People were selected to live or to die. People crying, pushing, shoving, dogs barking, and I actually turned around in trying to figure out what is the place? And as I turned around, I realized that my father and my two older sisters were gone. Never saw them again. We were holding onto Mother for dear life.
A Nazi was running in the middle of that selection platform yelling in German, ‘Twins, twins.’ He noticed us and demanded to know if we were twins. And my mother asked, ‘Is that good?’ And the Nazi said, ‘Yes.’ My mother said yes. At that moment, another Nazi came, pulled my mother to the right, we were pulled to the left, we were crying, she was crying. And all I ever remember is seeing my mother’s arms stretched out in despair as she was pulled away. I never even said goodbye to her, but I did not understand that this would be the last time that we would see her, and all that took 30 minutes from the time we got down from the cattle car and my whole family was gone. Only Miriam and I were left, holding hands and crying.
We were Mengele twins, which we found out later on what that meant.”
Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister Miriam were born in Transylvania, Romania in 1934. In May 1944, she and her family arrived at Auschwitz. Towards the end of her video, which is available to see on YouTube, Eva says that she discovers the power of forgiveness. Many Holocaust survivors felt guilty after the war was over, feeling like they didn’t deserve to live while so many others died. Some were consumed by hate, hating survivors that forgave Nazis, hating the Nazis, hating their god for bringing all this hardship upon them. But as Helen Waterford said, “I had learned only too well that hate is a boomerang that only destroys the sender.” Forgiveness is truly an incredible power.
“Mengele would count us every morning. I was used in two types of experiments. Monday, Wednesday, Friday they would put me naked in a room with my twin sister and many other twins, up to eight hours a day. They would measure every part of my body, compare it to my twin sister, and then compare it to charts. On alternate days, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, they would take us to a blood lab. They would tie both my arms to restrict the blood flow, take a lot of blood from my left arm, and give me a minimum of five injections in the right arm. The content of those injections, we didn’t know then, nor do we know today. After one of those injections, I became very ill with a very high fever. My legs and arms were swollen and very painful. I was trembling as the August sun was burning my skin. And I had huge red spots covering my body. The next visit to the blood lab, they didn’t tie my arms. Instead of that, measure my fever. And I was immediately taken to the hospital. The hospital was another barrack, but it was filled with people who looked to me more dead than alive. Next morning, Mengele came in with four other doctors. Never, ever examined me, looked at my fever chart, and then he declared, ‘Too bad. She’s so young. She has only two weeks to live.’
For the following two weeks, I have only one clear memory. Crawling on the barracks floor, because I no longer could walk. And crawling to reach a faucet with water at the other end of the barrack, and as I was crawling, I would fade out, in and out of consciousness, telling myself I must survive, I must survive. After two weeks, my fever broke. It took me another three weeks before my fever charts showed normal. Miriam . . . When I got back she was sitting on the bed, staring into space. When I ask her, ‘What happened to you?’ she said ‘I cannot talk about it. I will not talk about it.’ And we didn’t talk about Auschwitz until 1985.”
“When I ask her in 1985, ‘Miriam, what happened to you while I was in the hospital?’ She said, ‘I was under Nazi doctor supervision 24 hours a day.’ It was the same two weeks that Mengele said I would die.
So I said to her, ‘What happened to you after the two weeks were up?’ She said she was taken back to the labs, injected with many injections that made her feel very sick. As we found out years later, when she grew up, got married in Israel, expected her first child, she developed severe kidney infections that did not respond to any antibiotic. Second pregnancy in ‘63, the infection got so bad that the Israeli doctor studied her, and they found out that Miriam’s kidneys never grew larger than the size of a 10-year-old child’s. So I begged Miriam not to have any more children, because every pregnancy was a life crisis. But she had a third child, and after the third child was born, her kidneys started to deteriorate, and by 1987, they failed. At which time I donated my left kidney. I had two kidneys and one sister, so it was an easy choice. But a year later, she developed cancerous polyps in the bladder.
The doctors kept asking me to find our Auschwitz files. We never found our files. We never found out what was injected into our bodies, and Miriam died June 6, 1993.
Months after Miriam died, I received a telephone call from a professor at Boston, who said he had heard me speak and he would like me to go to Boston and speak. And when I came there, it would be nice if I could bring a Nazi doctor. I was stunned at such a question, and then I thought about it, I remembered that the last project that Miriam and I worked together before she died was in 1992. It was a documentary done by a German television about the Mengele twins, and in that documentary, there was a Nazi doctor from Auschwitz. And I figured if he was alive in ‘92, he might be alive in ‘93. So I got his telephone number, I called him and invited him to Boston. He told me he was not willing to go to Boston, but he was willing to meet with me at his house in Germany.”
“ I didn’t plan to ask him any of these questions, but suddenly, I am asking him, ‘You were in Auschwitz. Did you ever walk by a gas chamber? Did you ever go inside the gas chamber? Do you know how the gas chamber operated?’ He said, ‘Mm-hm, mm-hm.’
He said, ‘This is the nightmare that I live with every single day of my life.’ And went on describing the operation of the gas chamber. He was stationed outside, looking through a peephole while the gas was coming down and people were dying. When everybody was dead, and nobody moved, he knew that they were dead, and he signed one death certificate. No names, just the number of people that were murdered.
I asked him to go with me to Auschwitz in 1995, when we would observe 50 years since the liberation of the camp. Because I wanted him to sign a document, just what he told me, but I wanted it signed at the ruins of the gas chamber in Auschwitz. He agreed immediately. I will have an original document signed by a Nazi. And if I ever met a revisionist who said the Holocaust didn’t happen, I could take that document and shove it in their face.
I wanted to thank this Nazi doctor for his willingness to document the gas chamber operation. I didn’t know how to thank a Nazi. I didn’t tell anybody about it, because even to me it sounded strange. I didn’t want anybody to change my mind. After 10 months, one morning I woke up. And the following simple idea popped into my head. How about a letter of forgiveness from me to Dr. Munch? I knew immediately that he would like it, and that was a meaningful gift. An Auschwitz survivor gives him a letter of forgiveness, to a Nazi doctor. But what I discovered for myself was life-changing. I discovered that I had the power to forgive. No one could give me that power, no one could take it away. It was all mine to use in any way I wished. And that became an interesting thing, because as a victim of almost 50 years, I never thought that I had any power over my life.
Now, I began writing a letter, and I didn’t know how to write a letter of forgiveness. And it took me four months to write it. And then I thought somebody might read it, for my diction in English is good, but my spelling is not. I wanted my former English professor to correct my spelling, so I called her. We met three times. And the third time, she said to me, ‘Now, Eve, very nice. You forgive this Dr. Munch. Your problem is not with Dr. Munch. Your problem is with Dr. Mengele.’ I was not quite ready to forgive Mengele. She said to me, ‘Okay. I have been meeting with you, correcting your letters. Now I want you to do me a favor. When you go home tonight, pretend that Mengele is in the room, and you are telling him that you forgive him. Cause I want to find out how would it make you feel if you could do that.’ Interesting idea, I thought.
And when I got home, actually, I did something else. I picked up a dictionary and wrote down 20 nasty words, which I read clear and loud to that make-believe Mengele in the room. And at the end I said, ‘In spite of all that, I forgive you.’ Made me feel very good. That I, the little guinea pig of 50 years, even had the power over the Angel of Death of Auschwitz.
So that was the way we arrived in Auschwitz. Dr. Munch came with his son, daughter, and granddaughter. I took my son and my daughter. I read my declaration of amnesty. And I signed it. Dr. Munch signed his document. I felt, free, free from Auschwitz, free from Mengele.
So now that I have forgiven him, I knew that most of the survivors denounced me, and they denounce me today also. But what is my forgiveness? I like it. It is an act of self-healing, self-liberation, self-empowerment. All victims all hurt, feel hopeless, feel helpless, feel powerless. I want everybody to remember that we cannot change what happened. That is the tragic part. But we can change how we relate to it.