Eva Mozes Kor is a 4-foot-9-inch woman, 83 years young and dresses head to toe in her favorite color — blue. She has a magnetic energy that instantly drew me to her when I first heard of her story last fall. Within a few months, I traveled to Poland to hear her tell it herself. She made me laugh, then cry, then laugh once again. My life will never be the same.
At 9 years old, Eva was a headstrong girl living with her parents, two older sisters and twin sister, Miriam, on a farm in Romania. By 10 years old, her parents and two older sisters were dead, and Eva was living in a dirty barrack with her twin sister, kept alive only to be used for medical experiments. This was 1944 in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Her family was identified, captured, herded into a cattle car and ripped apart on the platform at Birkenau in a matter of days. After being stripped of her possessions, her hair was shaved and she was branded — “A-7063.” She was no longer a human being, a little girl meant to play and laugh and love; she was a test subject.
She slept on a wooden bunk, was provided with little food and water, and forced to submit to the orders of her captors and other prisoners put in positions of “privilege.” Three days a week, she walked to a nearby barrack to have blood drawn and to be injected with unknown chemicals. On alternate days, she was marched with the other twins of Birkenau to Auschwitz, a trip that would take up to an hour one way by foot, to undergo tests and experiments. For more than 240 days, Eva thought of only one thing — survival, for her and her sister.
Her strength to survive is only matched by the strength she found to forgive. To hear Eva’s message of peace and forgiveness is a stark contrast to the ruins of gas chambers, cremation buildings and barracks in Birkenau but is an emotional message of the power we all have to be a positive influence on the world. She challenges us to find our way to forgive those who have wronged us because holding on to anger and resentment only causes more hurt. How many of us carry around the grudges, pain and suffering from past experiences? I know I am guilty. And if Eva can forgive Nazi doctors, can’t we find our way to forgive others, too?
The challenge Eva leaves us with is to replace anger with peace. As an adult, she spent four months writing a letter that she would never send, expressing her own feelings of hurt but concluding with three words: “I forgive you.” And she meant it. With those three words, she discovered no one could give her the power to forgive, and no one could take it away.