Eva Mozes Kor is a survivor of the Holocaust, forgiveness advocate, and public speaker. Powered by a never-give-up attitude, Eva has emerged from a trauma-filled childhood as a brilliant example of the human spirit's power to overcome. She is a community leader, champion of human rights, and tireless educator.
Eva Mozes was born in 1934 in the tiny village of Portz, Romania. Through the first four years of Eva's education, she and Miriam attended a one-room schoolhouse. Eva's father, Alexander and mother, Jaffa had four girls: Edit, Aliz, and the twins Eva and Miriam. Though the Mozes family enjoyed a comfortable if rustic living as landowners and farmers, the family lived under the spectre of the Nazi takeover of Germany and the everyday experience of prejudice against the Jews.
When Eva and Miriam were six, their village was occupied by a Hungarian Nazi armed guard. The Mozes family was the only Jewish family in the village. In 1944, after four years' occupation, the family was transported to the regional ghetto in Simleu Silvaniei. Just a few weeks later, they were packed into a cattle car and transported to the Auschwitz death camp.
After 70 hours without food or water, Eva and her family emerged onto the selection platform at Auschwitz. Eva believes no other strip of land in the world has seen as many families ripped apart.
Eva soon realized her father and two older sisters were gone. She never saw them again. Soon after, the girls were forcibly taken from their mother, whom they also never saw again. Eva and Miriam became part of a group of children used as human guinea pigs in genetic experiments under the direction of Dr. Josef Mengele. Approximately 1500 sets of twins—3000 children—were abused, and most died as a result of these experiments. Eva herself became deathly ill, but through sheer determination, she stayed alive and helped Miriam survive.
Approximately 200 children were found alive by the Soviet Army at the liberation of the camp on January 27, 1945. The majority of the children were Mengele twins. Eva and Miriam Mozes were among them. Eva and Miriam no longer had anyone in the world except each other. They were in three different refugee camps over the next nine months before returning to live with their aunt in Romania. Although free from Auschwitz, Eva struggled to feel free as Communists took over Romania.
It wasn't until immigrating to Israel in 1950 that Eva and Miriam became unafraid of persecution because they were Jews. Over the next 10 years, Eva received a good education from an agricultural school, and went on to attain the rank of Sergeant Major in the Israeli Army Engineering Corps. She met Michael Kor, a Holocaust survivor and American tourist. In 1960, the couple was married in Tel Aviv and Eva joined Mickey in the United States.
In 1965, Eva became a US citizen, and the couple raised two children, Alex and Rina. In 1978, after NBC's miniseries The Holocaust aired, Eva began to wonder what had happened to the children after the liberation. Where had they gone? What had they done? How had the trauma of Auschwitz and the experiments affected their lives? These questions motivated her to search for surviving Auschwitz twins.
Eva enlisted the help of Miriam, who was still living in Israel. Together they began locating other survivors of Dr. Mengele's deadly experiments. In 1984, Eva founded CANDLES, Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors, and named her sister Vice President for Israeli Survivors. Eva liked the acronym CANDLES because she wanted to shed some light on this hidden and dark chapter of the Holocaust.
For nearly forty years, the now infamous experiments had not been a topic of Holocaust conversations, so little was known about them. On January 27, 1985, six Mengele twins met at Auschwitz II-Birkenau to observe the 40th anniversary of the camp's liberation. They continued on to Jerusalem for a mock trial for Mengele, where 80 twins participated. The Auschwitz observance and mock trial generated worldwide publicity and helped locate even more Mengele Twins. The US Congress even passed a resolution to begin a search for Mengele. As a result of the Mozes twins' efforts in the early years, CANDLES reconnected 122 individual twins living across ten countries and four continents.
Fifty years after the liberation of Auschwitz, Eva returned to the site and stood where so many were tragically murdered. At her side was Dr. Hans Münch, a Nazi doctor who knew Dr. Mengele, but did not work with him in Auschwitz. Eva read Dr. Münch's signed witness statement to contradict those who denied the Holocaust. To the surprise of many, she then freed herself from her victim status and announced to the world that—in her name alone–she forgave the Nazis. An incredible weight of suffering was lifted and she felt strong. Offering her forgiveness healed Eva, but it did not mean she would forget or that it changed what happened.
Forgiving the Nazis drew mixed reactions and controversy. Throughout each subsequent conversation about forgiveness, Eva remained insistent that the act was for her well-being alone and not intended to dismiss the Holocaust. Eva's forgiveness was the catalyst that broadened CANDLES' focus to include peace on both a personal and societal level.
In 1995, Eva opened a small museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, her home since 1960. With the purpose of educating, the museum housed various artifacts from Auschwitz and documents relating to Dr. Mengele. Thousands of people, mostly school-aged children, have visited the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center since then.
Eva and the work of CANDLES was interrupted by a devastating arson in November of 2003. Though the museum was destroyed, CANDLES was not. Surviving the camps taught Eva "to never, ever give up." The need for CANDLES and its message of peace and forgiveness was made even more evident by this act of hatred.
Through the generosity of countless local and national supporters, CANDLES rose from the ashes and erected a new building. By April of 2005, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center was reopened to the public. Instead of destroying CANDLES, the attack strengthened the organization's resolve and brought it into the public eye. CANDLES established a board of directors to assist with the administration of the new facility and help communicate its important messages.
Over twenty-five years later, Eva remains an integral part of the organization. Her lectures and guided tours are key elements of CANDLES' educational mission. She has returned to Auschwitz on numerous occasions, often accompanied by friends and members of the community (particularly educators) so that they can share what they have learned with their students and future generations.
In 2007, Eva worked with state legislators Clyde Kersey and Tim Skinner to gain passage of an Indiana law requiring Holocaust education in secondary schools. In the summer of 2009, Eva taught a course at Indiana State University on the value and philosophy of overcoming adversity in life using the Holocaust as an example.
Today, Holocaust education, the story of the Mengele Twins, and personal forgiveness form the foundation of CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Through an ever-broadening vision, we teach its visitors the importance of respect, equality, and peace.
1. When and where was Eva born?
Eva Mozes and her twin sister, Miriam, were born on January 31, 1934, in Portz, Romania. They were the youngest of four daughters born to Alexander and Jaffa Mozes. Oldest sister, Edit, was born in 1930; Aliz was born in 1932.
2. Did her family members survive Auschwitz?
Eva and Miriam were the only members of their immediate family to survive. Their father and two sisters were separated from them in the noise, confusion, and bewilderment of the selection platform at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Eva and Miriam were torn from Jaffa’s grasp after the SS guards noticed they were twins. Eva and Miriam never saw their family again.
3. When did Eva move to Terre Haute?
After the war, Mickey Kor, a survivor of four labor camps, chose to emigrate to the United States. He settled in Terre Haute, Indiana—the hometown of the commander of the U.S. battalion that liberated him. In the meantime, in 1950 Eva and Miriam received exit visas to emigrate to Israel. In 1960, when Mickey was visiting his brother in Israel, he met Eva. They soon married, and Eva returned to the United States with her new husband to make a home in Terre Haute.
4. Does Eva have children?
Eva has a son and daughter.
5. Why did Eva found CANDLES?
In 1984, Eva and Miriam created the organization CANDLES as a means to help them locate Mengele twins. They located 122 twins living in 10 countries and on four continents. CANDLES also became a support group that helped twins deal with special issues they faced as survivors of Mengele’s experiments. In 1995, Eva founded CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in memory of Miriam, who died of cancer in 1993. CANDLES’ mission is to shine a light on the story of the Holocaust and Eva Kor, to create an empowered community of critical thinkers who will illuminate the world with hope, healing, respect, and responsibility.
6. What does the acronym “CANDLES” stand for?
“CANDLES” is the acronym for “Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.” Eva chose the word “CANDLES” because she seeks to shed light on this chapter of the Holocaust.
7. Does Eva know what Mengele injected into her and other twins?
Although Eva and other Mengele twins have searched for records of the experiments and injections, none have been found.
8. When did Eva first return to Auschwitz?
Eva first returned to Auschwitz in 1985 to mark the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Accompanying her were six other Mengele twins. The group continued on to Jerusalem for a mock trial for Josef Mengele, where 80 twins participated. The Auschwitz observance and mock trial generated worldwide publicity and helped locate even more Mengele twins.
9. What happened to Eva’s twin sister, Miriam?
Miriam also survived Auschwitz. As decades passed, Miriam developed problems with her kidneys as a consequence of the injections she had received at Auschwitz. Tests revealed that her kidneys had never grown beyond the size of a 10-year-old’s. By 1987, her kidneys were failing, so Eva donated her left kidney to save her sister’s life. This extended Miriam’s life until June 6, 1993, when she died of cancer.
10. Why did Eva choose to forgive Dr. Mengele?
For decades, Eva carried the pain of victimhood and hatred toward Mengele and the Nazis with her — as she emigrated to Israel with Miriam; as she married Mickey Kor and raised a family in Terre Haute. Then, in 1993, an invitation to speak at a medical conference in Boston came with an unusual request: could she help locate a former Nazi doctor who would talk about his experiences? Eva’s responded, “Where am I going to find a Nazi doctor? The last I checked, they weren't advertising in the Yellow Pages." But through connections in Germany, she was able to contact Dr. Hans Münch, who had witnessed the gas chamber executions and signed death certificates at Auschwitz. He agreed to record a video about what he had seen. Two years later, at the 50th anniversary of the liberation, Eva, with her children, and Munch, with his children, met at Auschwitz. The former Nazi doctor read and signed a statement about his role at the death camp. Eva read a statement of forgiveness. "As I did that I felt a burden of pain was lifted from me. I was no longer in the grip of pain and hate," Eva would say later. "I was finally free."
11. What does “forgiveness” mean to Eva?
Eva describes forgiveness as an act of self-healing meant to free the victim from the baggage of victimhood. To Eva, forgiveness does not stem from religious beliefs. It does not depend on the perpetrator seeking it. According to Eva, the perpetrator does not deserve it, but the victim deserves to be free from the pain that was imposed upon him or her. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the perpetrator. It is about the survivor’s right to heal; Eva’s way of healing was to forgive. “I call forgiveness the best revenge,” she said, “because from the time you forgive, the perpetrator no longer has the power to control you. Or we could call it the greatest gift one can give oneself: the gift of healing, freedom, and self-empowerment.”
Eva’s Definition of Forgiveness Forgiveness is a way of healing oneself from pain, trauma, and/or tragedy. It is a means of self-liberation and self-empowerment. Forgiveness is not forgetting. It is in many cases impossible to forget events that deeply affect us. They shape our lives for better or worse. In the case of the Holocaust, it is important to remember and educate so it cannot happen again. Forgiveness does not mean we condone the evil deeds of the Nazis and/or other perpetrators, nor does it mean we wish them to be granted amnesty or political asylum. The question of justice is separate from the issue of forgiveness. This concept of forgiveness has nothing to do with the perpetrators. It has everything to do with the need of victims to be free from the pain inflicted upon them. This concept of forgiveness has nothing to do with any religion. All people yearn to live free of the pain and burden of the past. If it is confined to one religion, or any religion, then some people will not be able to access it. Each person can forgive only in his or her own name. One cannot forgive in the name of all Holocaust survivors, nor can one forgive someone for something he or she did to someone else. One can only forgive for what was done to him or her. It is a personal act. Forgiveness is not a way to counteract violence, to provide safety in the midst of violence, or to advocate nonviolence necessarily. When we feel our lives are in danger, most people will do everything they can to maintain them. Forgiveness is something to consider after the trauma has occurred. Forgiveness is more than “letting go.” It is proactive rather than passive. We become victims involuntarily when a person or entity with power takes away our power to use our mind and body in the way we choose. Something was done to us that put us in a position of feeling powerless. Thus the conscious choice to forgive provides healing, liberation, and reclamation of this power.
12. When was the museum firebombed? Was the arsonist identified and arrested?
Devastating arson interrupted the work of Eva and the work of CANDLES in November 2003. Though the museum was destroyed, CANDLES was not. Surviving the camps taught Eva "to never, ever give up." The need for CANDLES and its message of peace and forgiveness was made even more evident by this act of hatred. Through the generosity of countless local and national supporters, CANDLES rose from the ashes and erected a new building. By April 2005, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center was reopened to the public. Instead of destroying CANDLES, the attack strengthened the organization's resolve and brought its message into the public eye. The arsonist was never identified.
13. Does Eva share her story with other groups?
Each year, thousands of visitors, many of them school groups, visit CANDLES to hear Eva’s story and learn from our exhibits and programs. Moreover, Eva travels around the world to share her story of survival and forgiveness with students, community groups, and medical professionals.
14. What programs does the museum offer the community?
CANDLES hosts a monthly “Be the Change” film and speaker series that is free and open to the public. In addition, each summer Eva leads a group to Poland to tour Auschwitz-Birkenau. To learn about museum programs, please visit our website, www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org.
Auschwitz survivor and Mengele Twin Eva Mozes Kor can be contacted for interview requests by calling the museum at 812-234-7881 or by emailing email@example.com.
STUDENTS: Eva receives many requests for interviews. Before attempting to contact her, please read about her on our website or in the books Echoes from Auschwitz and Surviving the Angel of Death, or watch the DVD Forgiving Dr. Mengele. Many basic questions can be answered through these materials, which will help save Eva's time and energy.
Get up-to-the-minute news about Eva by following her on Twitter @evamozeskor. You may also want to follow CANDLES @candlesmuseum and Executive Director Kiel Majewski @kielmajewski.
Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor will be speaking in the following cities soon. Check our website regularly for updates, and keep in mind that Eva speaks every Saturday (unless she is out of town) at the museum starting at 1 pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to bring Eva Kor to your city!
January 5 & 6, 2015 - Natona County High School, Casper, Wyoming
February 10, 2015 - Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, Indiana
March 23, 2015 - Billings, Montana
March 31, 2015 - Hastings Middle School, Upper Arlington, Ohio
April 2015 - Anti-Defamation League, Denver, Colorado
May 1, 2015 - Chicago, Illinois
May 4, 2015 - Mason, Ohio
May 8, 2015 - Mahomet, Iliinois
May 13, 2015 - San Diego, California
May 15, 2015 - Ann Arbor, Michigan
May 26, 2015 - Bolingbrook, IL
June 9, 2015 - East Lansing, MI
August 14, 2015 - Evansville, IN
August 19, 2015 - Rensselear, IN
August 31, 2015 - Hope, IN
September 8-11, 2015 - San Jose/San Francisco, CA
September 18, 2015 - Boise, ID
October 1, 2015 - Louisville, KY
October 8, 2015 - New York, NY
October 22, 2015 - Indianapolis, IN
October 24, 2015 - Bloomington, IN
October 27, 2015 - London, Ontario, Canada
November 3, 2015 - Indianapolis, IN
November 9, 2015 - Sarasota, FL
November 12, 2015 - Franklin, IN
November 15, 2015 - Chicago, IL
November 17, 2015 - Lynchburg, VA
November 23, 2015 - Fort Myers, FL
January 26, 2016 - Birmingham, AL
February 2, 2016 - Richmond, IN
February 18, 2016 - Harrin, IL
February 26, 2016 - Indianapolis, IN
April 6, 2016 - Sioux City, IA
April 11, 2016 - Albion, PA
April 28, 2016 - Lake Charles, LA
May 16, 2016 - Santa Barbara, CA
1985: News Woman of the Year voted by the Israeli Press.
1985: Jewish Activism Award by News & Views, a Jewish radio station in New York.
1991: Emmy Award (regional) for co-producing the video, "CANDLES."
1995: Woman of Valor by the Terre Haute Jewish Community.
2004: January, Martin Luther King Spirit of Justice Award.
2004: January, Gibault Exellence Award, Education Sector.
2004: April, Americanism Award by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
2005: January, Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Joe Kernan.
2005: November, Keeper of the Light, a Woman Torch Bearer Award.
2006: Hoosier Heroes Award by Indiana Dollars for Scholars.
2008: May, Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.
2008: August, Forgiveness Hero Award, Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance.
2010: June, Education Outreach and Service Award
2012: February, Ambassador of Goodwill, Arkansas Traveler.
2012: November, Distinguished Hoosier, State of Indiana Office of Governor Mitch Daniels.
2013: May, Honorary Doctor of Public Service, Christian Theological Seminary.
2015: April, United Way of the Wabash Valley Woman of Influence