Ирина Говоруха
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FORGIVENESS BY AUSCHWITZ: the story of Eva Mozes Kor

FORGIVENESS BY AUSCHWITZ: the story of Eva Mozes Kor
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Photo by Luís Moura on Unsplash


It happened on the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation from the concentration camp. Eva went up to the podium, took a few deep breaths, and spoke to the public: «I forgive Josef Mengele and all the doctors who carried out the horrific experiments on me and my sister Miriam. I forgive them for killing my parents, taking away my family and childhood, and turning my life into hell…»

Eva Mozes Kor (January 31, 1934 — July 4, 2019) was a Romanian Jewish survivor of the experiments on humans in the Auschwitz concentration camp.


The train was slowing down and braking with a whistle. The sclerotic May sun shone through the carriage’s planks, providing not even a joule of warmth. Soon, the bolt rattled, the platform straightened, and the long, depressing station loomed. People started to shout and huddle together.

Several brave young men began to sort the arrivals as if they were cattle. It was as if they were throwing nuts, pumpkins, and potatoes out of the railroad cars. Children were torn away from their mothers: those who were still sucking their thumbs and those who could already count to ten.

Eva and her twin Miriam found themselves on the other side from their parents and two older sisters. The girls (as experimental subjects) were chosen by Dr. Josef Mengele, and in a moment, their closest ones entered the pseudo-showers, swallowed bitter gas, transformed into ashes, and fertilized the surrounding cornfields.

Life cracked like the earth after a drought.

The sun was completely extinguished.

This was Auschwitz-Birkenau: the most terrible place on earth. The sky seemed gelatinous throughout the year. The neighborhood was surrounded by a wire with needles sticking out, along which an electric current flowed. The observation towers were covered with old tiles. The barracks looked like stables for horses. The ground was getting muddier every day. The grass was poking through dull. Sweet smoke from the crematoria floated under the fences. It was illuminated by the glowing lanterns.

The day began with a gong. In the summer, they would get up at four in the morning; in the winter — an hour earlier. They had to get up on their feet, make their bunks, wash quickly, and drink gruel. At five, there was a roll call. They stood for several hours despite the weather. If you moved, you were dead. If you shouted your number sluggishly, you were dead too. Later, some went to work, others – to see Dr. Mengele: a tall, fit man in a white coat.

The «scientist» was only thirty-three years old, but his imagination knew no limits. The young man liked to experiment on dwarfs and twins. He stitched them together and tried to change their complexions by injecting various chemicals. He studied teeth and bone marrow: he was always looking for the causes of hereditary diseases.

He implanted rusty nails, glass, and all kinds of garbage under the skin of children and tested various methods of treatment. He injected lethal doses of tranquilizers and indifferently recorded at which stage the agony began. He amputated organs. He forced children to become donors, but he did not take one hundred or two hundred grams but bled them to the last drop. Mengele and his colleagues anatomized live babies, castrated boys and men without anesthetics, and electrocuted women to test their endurance.


Йозеф Рудольф Менгеле — немецкий офицер Ваффен-СС и врач во время Второй мировой войны. Прозванный «Ангелом смерти», он проводил смертельные эксперименты над заключенными в концентрационном лагере Аушвиц II (Биркенау)
Josef Rudolf Mengele — a German Waffen-SS officer and physician during World War II. Nicknamed the «Angel of Death», he conducted lethal experiments on prisoners in the Auschwitz II concentration camp (Birkenau) / sajr.co.za


He tested how people react to high temperatures and at what degree they die. He exposed people to large doses of X-rays. Removed genitals. Pregnant women were delivered, and then the splash of water was heard. A baby was drowned in a barrel in front of its mother and thrown to hungry rats. The most curious thing is that he was willing to experiment on babies, and at home, in his cradle, the newborn Rolf was screaming. He was kicking his legs and blowing bubbles.

The louder the children and adults shouted, the louder the camp orchestra played. The musicians sat in front of nine’s block and choked on bravura melodies four times a day. They especially often played the «Radetzky March» and the «Auschwitz Tango».

Eva received a «course of treatment» consisting of five injections every week. The girl was injected with a «cocktail» of deadly bacteria that caused fever and hallucinations. Her temperature reached forty and more. The doctor just gloated and clicked his tongue: «Oh, what a pity. So young and already almost dead. You have two weeks left at most». Eva looked through her executioner and once again vowed to survive no matter what.

In the evening, the prisoners returned to their barracks and were glad to have a short break. They could finally go to the toilet because the restroom was allowed only twice a day. They would go to sleep on the haylofts, and the guards would go back and forth to check the cleanliness of their feet. The feet had to be exposed from under the blanket with the soles up.


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Memories saved them from despair. The sisters hugged each other and recalled Transylvania. Their cozy house on a large farm. My parents were growing corn, wheat, beans, and potatoes. They kept cows and sheep, had cheese and milk. They tended a large vineyard and made wine. The garden grew apple trees, plums, peaches, and cherries of three colors: red, black, and white.

In the summer, the girls would put berries on their ears: they pretended it was earrings. Their mother ordered dresses from a real fashion designer. Among the range of colors, she chose burgundy, pale pink, and blue (the twins even arrived at the camp wearing identical burgundy coats). When they were very young, she would dress them in lace and put them on the windowsill. Passersby thought they were porcelain dolls.

Soon, the night would descend in fog or steam, and a whistle would sound. Two-story buildings made of swirling bricks and narrow, mullioned windows divided into six would appear. There had been no glass in them for ages. Fences, sharp stones, chimneys. Wooden boots, worn-out clothes, cunning rats. Children started crying; they kept calling for their dead mothers.

The torture lasted for nine months until Soviet troops entered the death camp on January 27, 1945, at about three o’clock in the afternoon. There were about seven thousand prisoners in the barracks, almost seven hundred of whom were children. They had not been given food for ten days. Eva and her sister miraculously survived.

The girls got to their feet and received cookies and chocolate from their rescuers. Since then, the taste of freedom has been associated with the taste of cocoa beans. In the evening, the Soviet soldiers drank some vodka and started dancing. The children stood aside and applauded.

Over time, the girls returned home to Romania and did not recognize the house. It was empty, robbed. They lived for a while in the town of Cluj-Napoca, emigrated to Israel, and then to the United States. It was a completely different world, where Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists co-existed perfectly, all the languages of the world were spoken, and the temperature outside the window was measured in Fahrenheit rather than in degrees Celsius.


Мириам (слева) и Ева Мозес 1949 году
Miriam (left) and Eva Mozes in 1949 / timesofisrael.com


Eva got married, had two children, and got a job as a real estate agent, but the past did not let her go. As soon as she closed her eyes, she found herself back in the barracks, waiting for her next injection. She could see a long fence ending somewhere beyond the horizon, three intertwined tracks, and arriving trains.

The platform of separations, the heavy, hazy sky, and the observation towers cemented before my eyes. In her ears, she heard the barking of guard dogs breaking off their leashes, «Radetsky March», and her mother’s frightened voice. She was looking into her dad’s face and asking: «Where are we? Where are we? Where are we?»

The nightmares came on the heels for several decades. Finally, she decided to get rid of her traumatic past once and for all through forgiveness. It happened on the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation from the concentration camp. Eva went up to the podium, took a few deep breaths, and spoke to the public: «I forgive Josef Mengele and all the doctors who carried out the horrific experiments on me and my sister Miriam. I forgive them for killing my parents, taking away my family and childhood, and turning my life into hell…»

The confession provoked condemnation. Most people could not understand how this was possible, but Eva realized that this was the only way to gain control over her own life, to free herself from the state of victimization, and to feel like a free person.

P. S. The head physician of the concentration camp, Josef Mengele, escaped from justice. At first, he was hiding in Bavaria (working on a potato farm), then he was engaged with illegal abortions in Argentina, and finally settled in Brazil on a coffee plantation. He rarely left the house, and if he did, he hid his face under a hat. In his leisure time, he re-read Goethe and listened to Strauss. According to his son Rolf, he did not regret his actions. He believed that he had not harmed anyone, he was just doing his duty.

The «Angel of Death» was searched for thirty-five years, but only his grave was found. Be that as it may, there is no return from the «realm of shadows».

And Eve lived a long and rich life and went to heaven.


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