Eva Kor and her twin sister Miriam were only 10 years old when they were subjected to experiments by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele
Eva Kor, a Holocaust survivor who endured the atrocities of twin experiments at Auschwitz, has died at 85 years old.
In a statement from CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which Eva founded, she was said to have died “peacefully” on July 4 at 7:10 a.m. local time in Krakow, Poland, on the annual CANDLES trip.
“Eva Kor has touched hundreds of thousands of people over her 85 years through her message of overcoming tragedy, finding forgiveness, and healing,” the statement read. “Surviving the Holocaust at age 10 meant that Eva emerged from a childhood full of fear, loss, grief, and displacement.”
At 10 years old, Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, were subjected to “horrific and inhumane” experiments conducted on twins by doctor Josef Mengele, one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals who was nicknamed the “Angel of Death.”
She and Miriam were liberated by the Soviet army on Jan. 27, 1945, but were the only survivors in their family. Their two sisters, mother, and father were all killed at Auschwitz.
But Eva did not allow the atrocities she faced to prohibit her life accomplishments. She turned her grief into strength, beginning with her eight years in the Israeli army.
Eva found love with another Holocaust survivor. The two married and moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, despite both being unable to speak English.
They became fluent in the language, raised two children, and Eva pursued a career in real estate for 34 years. Upon viewing the 1978 NBC miniseries The Holocaust, Eva decided to use her past to pave the way for her future.
According to the museum’s statement, she began searching for Dr. Mengele’s files, which allowed for his experiments to be brought into the spotlight. She followed those findings up with speaking arrangements across the world to help educate those on the atrocities of the Holocaust, as well as in documentaries, where she detailed the suffering she and Miriam endured.
“Miriam and I were part of a group of children who were alive for one reason only — to be used as human guinea pigs,” she wrote in a remembrance piece for the Forgiveness Project, according to The New York Times. “Three times a week we’d be placed naked in a room, for six to eight hours, to be measured and studied.”
“They took blood from one arm and gave us injections in the other,” she added. “After one such injection I became very ill and was taken to the hospital. If I had died, Mengele would have given Miriam a lethal injection in order to do a double autopsy. When I didn’t die, he carried on experimenting with us and as a result Miriam’s kidneys stopped growing. They remained the size of a child’s all her life.”
Her sister Miriam lived until 1993.
According to the Times, Eva traveled to Germany in 1993 and met with a former doctor at Auschwitz, Hans Münch, who had been acquitted of war crimes. She returned to Auschwitz and signed a document acknowledging the existence of the camp’s gas chambers.
On the 50th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, Eva and Münch stood together before the charred ruins of its crematoriums.
Eva composed a letter to Dr. Münch, expressing her belief in forgiving the Holocaust tormentors, which sparked Surviving The Angel of Death, her memoir in which she details her Holocaust experience, but also explains her decision to publicly forgive the Nazis for their crimes.
“Dr. Münch signed his document about the operation of the gas chambers while I read my document of forgiveness and signed it,” she recalled, according to the Times. “As I did that, I felt a burden of pain was lifted from me.”
In 1995, Eva helped found the CANDLE Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, which, according to its website, was opened “with a mission to prevent prejudice and hatred through education about the Holocaust.”
The museum was burnt down by arsonists in 2003, but was rebuilt two years later, with the same message that Eva bestowed upon it.
“The themes of Eva’s life are apparent,” the CANDLE statement added of its late founder. “We can overcome hardship and tragedy. Forgiveness can help us to heal. And everyone has the power and responsibility to make this world a better place.”
CANDLE Holocaust Museum and Education Center is closed until July 9 at 10:00 a.m. EST in honor of Eva.