It was a historic night for the city of Mason on May 4 as Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor spoke to a crowd of invited guests at the 1,200-seat William Mason High School Auditorium. Presented by the City of Mason, forgiveness was the overwhelming theme of the evening as Kor retold history first hand.
“Tonight we were very honored as a community to have Ms. Eva Kor. She is not only a Holocaust survivor, but a Dr. Mengele survivor, because she is a twin. Dr. Mengele did all of his experiments on twins at Auschwitz, and she and her sister, Miriam, were two of the guinea pigs that were used at this point in time,” said Mason Mayor David Nichols.
History, the mayor said, is important because you can take from it and learn from it.
“We have our bicentennial celebration this year. I did a dedication earlier this year, and spoke at that event. On the eve of our bicentennial dedication, I mentioned that it was the eve of Auschwitz being liberated 70 years ago. I said, ‘As we start this year-long celebration of Mason’s 200th birthday, it’s important to look around and understand the freedoms we have today. People had them before, but they were taken away,’” Nichols said.
As a forgiveness advocate, author of “Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz,” and an internationally recognized public speaker, Kor, 81, shared about her survival and how she went on to found CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors,) in hopes of locating other surviving “Mengele Twins.” Through her endeavors, she has been able to locate 122 living Mengele twins.
When the Soviet army liberated Auschwitz in 1945, Eva and Miriam were among about 200 children that were found alive at the camp. Kor has received worldwide attention, and shocked other Holocaust survivors, for publicly forgiving the Nazis and Dr. Mengele.
In addition to writing a book and her speaking tours, she has also shared her story in the documentary, “Forgiving Dr. Mengele.” She plays herself in the film.
“We didn’t know when we would be free. We didn’t know how liberation would happen. It was Jan. 27, 1945. A woman was running through the barracks, yelling at the top of her voice, ‘We are free, we are free.’ Those were the words, but what does it mean? Does she really know what she’s talking about? Miriam and I looked outside the second-story building, but we couldn’t see anything, so we went downstairs. It was snowing heavily, and it took me a while to adjust my eyes. Then in the distance, I could see lots of people, and they were smiling from ear-to-ear. The most important thing for me was, they didn’t look like the Nazis,” Kor said in her presentation.
We ran up to them, they gave us chocolate, cookies and hugs, and this was my first taste of freedom, Kor recalled.
At 10 years old, in 1944, Eva and Miriam, were loaded into a cattle car and taken to Auschwitz. Among other Jewish prisoners, they were soon separated from their family, never to see them again. They joined about 1,500 sets of twins that were forced to undergo cruel experimentation. In the midst of the torturous treatment, Kor silently made a vow to survive, escape and reunite with her sister.
“There are very few Holocaust survivors left in the world. I thought this would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t come,” said Ruth Justice Stafford of The Jewish Discovery Center in Mason, who attended Kor’s talk.
“This is a very important event for us. I work with members of the Jewish community. For them, remembering the Holocaust is vital to who they are. For those of us who are not of the Jewish tradition, remembering the Holocaust is something that sometimes gets forgotten, or neglected, and I think it’s important to take the time to participate in something like this, and to listen to living history,” she said.
Julia Caldwell, 15, of Mason, who attended the presentation with her mother, Yen and brother, Matthew, said she was very interested in the history of the Holocaust after reading books like “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” “Night,” and “Number the Stars.”
“I think we can learn from the past, so there won’t be another Holocaust-related situation. We can take the lessons that she spoke to us about, apply them to our lives, and try to make a difference in the world,” Caldwell said.
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