While this week has been designated Holocaust Commemoration Week, one survivor says year-round education and awareness is crucial to preventing similar atrocities.
"I think that the awareness is probably important, because otherwise people tend to forget," said Eva Mozes Kor, Director of CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute. The original museum was destroyed by arson and recently rebuilt and reopened. "But I am doing it all year long."
U.S. Senators Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar co-authored a resolution to designate the week of May 1, 2005, to mark the 60th anniversary of the end to World War II and the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. The special designation is intended to serve as a solemn reminder of the brutality and intolerance inspired by prejudice and hatred, as well as the progress mankind is striving to make following this event. In the resolution, Bayh wrote that the Holocaust has provided people around the world with a lesson in the importance of compassion, an awareness of the dangers inherent in bigotry and racism and an understanding of the importance of diversity. The resolution aims to raise awareness and provide time for reflection on the tragedies of the Holocaust.
"The greatest tribute to the men, women and children who died during the Holocaust is ensuring that the lessons learned from such unthinkable hatred are never forgotten. Holocaust Commemoration Week will serve as a reminder to all of us to safeguard these lessons and confront hatred and bigotry wherever it is found," Bayh stated in a media release. "I urge all Hoosiers to spend this week reflecting on how we can promote tolerance and awareness to prevent similar injustices from ever happening again."
Along with her twin sister, Kor was subjected to involuntary genetic testing as part of the twin experiments of Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele at a concentration camp in Auschwitz. Tour groups and students who visit CANDLES, an acronym for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors, learn about her first-hand experiences as well as her efforts to educate the public and gain access to the medical files that identify the substances injected into the twins' bodies.
Teachers who bring their students to the museum to meet with a living example of the Holocaust are more instrumental in promoting education than many
politicians, said Kor, who often travels for speaking engagements. As the only Holocaust museum and education center in Indiana, she said it is particularly unique because unlike other museums which honor the deaths of 6 million Jews, CANDLES honors the 11 million victims that were murdered by the Nazi regime. Eleven candle-like windows are illuminated at the museum in their honor.
While she appreciates what she referred to as a government "stamp of approval" regarding Holocaust Commemoration Week, Kor said funding and recognition are more common with government endorsement of a project. Though built through funding contributed by donors, the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. is handled by the government.
"The Washington museum wouldn't be as popular if it wasn't financed by the U.S. government," she said.
Kor said she is frustrated by the lack of attention from Gov. Mitch Daniels, though she praised his predecessor Joe Kernan. While Daniels visited during his campaign, she said she is unhappy he has not sent a congratulatory letter or responded to the four invitations she sent to him. Kor said there was always an open line to the governor when Kernan was in office.
"I don't even know the telephone number now," she said. "I am really very disappointed."
In addition to being the only Holocaust museum in Indiana, she said it is also the only one to actively educate the public on the importance of diversity and elimination of hatred and discrimination while fostering understanding.
"Not that he doesn't have other problems," she said. "I would definitely like to have more recognition from this governor and acknowledgment that we exist."
In addition to her regular presentations, Kor said she will be returning to Germany for a special speaking engagement in June. She has been invited by a committee to speak in the hometown of Mengele, the man who once used her and her fellow captives as guinea pigs. She said she has no ill will toward the town and its citizens, and is "very excited about that."
While the museum honors the memories of those who perished and those who survived the Nazis, Kor said it also honors the history of the United States and the world. Veterans regularly visit the museum.
"It touches the lives of many people," she said. "I want to thank everyone in the surrounding area, the Wabash Valley, the state of Indiana and really people in the United States for all their support. But we need more money. We have to pay the mortgage."
To learn more about the CANDLES museum, persons may go to www.candles-museum.com.