Nearly 385 North Clay Middle School students sat stunned into silence yesterday at Northview High School captivated by the story about the torture of two little 10-year-old twin girls.
Eva Mozes Kor spoke of her and her sister Miriam's horrendous experiences at the hands of the Nazis at Auschwitz concentration camp. The founder of the C.A.N.D.L.E.S. Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, which was destroyed by an arsonist last year, resurrected the nightmare of her childhood during World War II as a Jew in Transylvania, Hungary.
She told how her father and two older sisters just disappeared from the cattle car in which they were all transported to the concentration camp. She never saw them again.
She remembered the SS guard asking her mother if she and Miriam were twins. When she said yes, without warning, the little girls were grabbed by the soldier and pulled away. They saw their mother with outstretched arms calling their name. They never saw her again.
Eva and Miriam were spared because they were identical twins and were useful to Dr. Josef Mengele's genetic experiments in the Nazi attempt to develop the perfect Aryan race.
She remembered the hot needle with ink in it being jammed into her arm, forever branded as Jew number A-7063. Eva and Miriam were put in barracks with other twins or children of multiple birth ranging in age from one to 13.
The first night they walked to the latrine amongst rats, foraging for food. In the latrine they found the bodies of three little children lying dead on the floor.
They were starved and injected with various germs to see how the human body would react to different microbes. Every morning after breakfast of a small piece of bread and a cup of light brown water they called coffee, Eva, with Miriam and 29 other sets of twins, was taken to Dr. Mengele, where she was stripped naked and every part of her body was measured and compared with her sister. That part wasn't deadly but it was very demeaning. They knew they were just living pieces of meat.
She remembered getting a bath once a week and washing with a big bar of soap. Only later did she find out the soap was made of human fat, possibly from her parents' and sisters'.
Throughout her young life when Eva questioned cruel acts of prejudice of which she was the target, her parents would say, "Eva, we are Jews. You have to learn to take it.
"But I couldn't just take it," Eva said. "At ten I pledged I would do everything in my to keep me and Miriam alive... When people are reduced to the lowest form of existence, you'll do anything to survive. We'll do anything to live."
For nearly 10 months Eva lived in the concentration camp, with little food, no human compassion, used as a laboratory animal for genetic experiments and barely existing. But she did survive.
Eva said she learned four lessons from her experience and life after the Holocaust.
- Never, ever give up.
- Hate and prejudice are still with us.
- She has healed herself by forgiving everybody, even the Nazis. Forgiveness is nothing more or less than a simple act of self healing.
- Humans need hugs and kisses. Eva received no outward contact with human kindness after going to Auschwitz. Even after the war, the people who took her in were trying to survive their own losses and did not have resources left to express signs of love and kindness. To deal with memories people must first be able to cope with those memories.
Eva said there were 11 million people killed in the holocaust. Six million were Jews. But there were five million others brutally tortured and burned alive including Gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses, anyone with a political difference. Nazis viewed them as sub-human and thought they had no right to live.
After the presentation, Eva answered questions from the students. One asked where she and her sister lived and how their life was after the war ended.
She explained that they lived in several different places. At first they were placed in an orphanage. Eva wanted to go back to her village. She found an old friend from their home place and asked her to claim she was their aunt. Finally they did get to return to their old house, which was mostly burned down. There were only a very few artifacts left. Eva showed her left arm with the tattoo of A-7063.
"That's my original artifact of the holocaust," she said.