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Literary Sat Feb 27 2010

Surviving the Angel of Death

Eva Mosez Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, survived the Holocaust and the Auschwitz concentration camp, where about 70,000 people died during World War II. The girls were 10 years old when they entered the camp and spent nine months there before it was liberated. Twins, including Eva and her sister, were subject to cruel experiments, procedures and injections under the direction of Dr. Josef Mengele, also known as the Angel of Death.

Ms. Kor lives in Terre Haute, Ind., and opened CANDLES Holocaust Museum - Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.

She visited Anderson's Bookshop in Downers Grove last week to share her experiences in Auschwitz and to discuss how she overcame her pain by forgiving those responsible for the Holocaust, including Dr. Mengele. She recently wrote a book for young adults, Surviving the Angel of Death, and previously was the subject of the documentary, Forgiving Dr. Mengele.

What was different telling your story through this book then before?

The language is much simpler. It's easy flowing and it's how I would speak at that age. It's enough that it connects with everyone.

What is your message about forgiveness?

The interesting thing about forgiveness is it's not about the perpetrator. Victims [who don't forgive] are always asking "who did what to me?" "If I could only find all the pieces..."

Living under that mindset is a tragedy. Sixty-five years later, I've gotten power to myself and freed myself because I deserve to be free. The perpetrators might not, but I do.

It's a mental trap that people fall into. They get more and more involved and under the thumb of the perpetrator. Then voluntarily you are remaining the victim.

Did your sister feel that way?

No. She died before I stumbled upon that idea of forgiveness.

How did you stumble upon that idea?

I was curious to know why this Dr. Munch would meet with me. I was blown away with the respect he showed me. I asked him about the gas chamber and he explained to me how it worked. I got a Nazi to acknowledge the gas chambers and so I asked him to go back to Auschwitz with me and sign a document that acknowledged the gas chambers. This wasn't a survivor saying it, this wasn't a liberator saying it. It was a Nazi.

So I wanted to thank him for what he had done. Does anyone know how to thank a Nazi? My number one lesson is to never give up. And for 10 months I asked myself, "How do I thank a Nazi doctor?"

What I discovered about myself was an amazing thing. What I discovered was I, a little nobody, had the power of forgiveness. I had the power to forgive. No one could give me that power. No one could take it away.

So I wrote a letter of forgiveness and I knew Dr. Munch would like that.

What do you think would have happened it you hadn't met Dr. Munch?

That's the million dollar question. I don't know what would have happened.

What is the next step after forgiveness?

The world is filled with people filled with pain. Real or perceived, it doesn't matter. If we teach our kids how to forgive, we could raise a world that was much much happier.

What is the thing that is most misunderstood about forgiveness?

Forgiveness has the reputation that the perpetrator has to be sorry. The biggest misconception is that it is for the perpetrator. It's strictly a gift of freedom I give myself. It's free! You don't need an HMO. There are no side affects, and it works. It's like a miracle drug.

Instead of changing the world -- that's too big of a job -- we have to repair it one place at a time.

Was there something that surprised you about writing this book?

I worked with three writers on this book and I was a little surprised that two of them didn't get the idea that there was a soul to the story. The way that the book reads now shows the soul.

I think that many young people can relate to something that makes them feel bad and understand how to overcome that. I hope this book is put it in very school so we can teach that.

 
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By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

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Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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