Eva Kor’s Legacy

Al and Joyce with Eva Kor at CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors–www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org);
1532 South Third Street, Terre Haute, IN

Thursday, July 4, 2019, just a few miles and minutes from the former Nazi concentration camp near Krakow, Poland, Eva Mozes Kor passed away at 85. She had just led a group tour through Auschwitz—an ironic yet fitting last activity for Eva, an American advocate for forgiveness.

I met Eva 20 years ago at Greenwood Middle School where she, along with my army veteran father, explained their World War II experiences to the student body. When teaching the Holocaust in March 1999, I was finishing seven consecutive years of teaching 8th grade language arts with my favorite lesson plan, The Diary of Anne Frank. Can you believe this is no longer offered in the curriculum? Neither can I.

My father and my mother, also named Eva, had forged a close relationship with the woman who had along with her sister Miriam, survived Dr. Mengele’s cruel medical procedures focusing on twins. They encouraged her when she opened CANDLES, a Holocaust Museum and Education Center. I knew a lot about Eva Kor before I ever met her.

When in Poland during spring break 2003, I felt firsthand the evil aura of Auschwitz,  where Dr. Mengele conducted horrific experiments while attempting to develop the perfect Ayran race. There Eva and her sister Miriam, separated from their parents forever, became specimens to be pricked and probed. Only by God’s providence and the girls’ sheer determination were they able to survive.

Display at CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center

For years Eva carried the heaviness of her past. That changed after Miriam Mozes’ death from kidney cancer in 1993. Eva knew she needed to overcome her emotional scars and embrace forgiveness to honor her sister’s memory and release personal bitterness. Two years later, CANDLES was founded.

Through this and her extensive speaking circuit, Eva Mozes Kor left behind an amazing legacy, one that teaches all of us to overcome evil through forgiveness.

Fencing at the Nazi Concentration Camp Auschwitz

*************************************************************************************************************************************You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.  – Jesus, Matthew 5:43-45, NLT

An Eyewitness

In this era of fake news, history told by an eyewitness—someone who lived during a treacherous time—stimulates our minds and tugs at our hearts. Last week we experienced the 1930s and 1940s made relevant and alive when 97-year-old Walter Sommers shared his story. Al and I, along with our friends Anne and Larry, visited Terre Haute’s CANDLES Holocaust Museum where Walter is the docent on Wednesdays and Fridays (www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org).

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1920, Walter saw firsthand how Adolf Hitler rose to power. His parents witnessed their rights as citizens and business owners implode as the Nazis destroyed Jewish-owned businesses and homes November 9,1938, during the “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after which his father was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

According to Walter, Hitler had developed his hatred for Jews during his teen years when a few Jewish youth were accepted into a Vienna art school while he was denied admission. Even though young Adolf didn’t have a high school diploma, which the school required, he still despised his Jewish counterparts for being admitted. That hatred grew as he did.

A month after his father was imprisoned, he was released with the condition his family would sell their businesses to the government and leave Germany. And so they did in January 1939, sailing to America guarded by Nazis. Ironically a few years later Walter would serve in the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry.

Besides learning more about Holocaust history, I came home with a broader principle. An eyewitness verifies truth. Hearsay can easily become fake news. Because he experienced it, Walter’s story painted the truth about Kristallnacht.

Truth can be verified when it’s lived.

I’m asking myself what that looks like when being a witness for Jesus Christ.

 “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT