Posted by: A.R. Cherian | October 1, 2009

An Evening with Eva Kor

Last night, Ann and I attended a talk given by Eva Mozes Kor, a holocaust survivor, at the Nightingale Concert Hall on campus. I had never heard of her until yesterday, but as an ardent student of history,  I am always fascinated with different aspects of the holocaust. It was amazing to hear her stories of how she survived as a young girl in the Auschwitz concentration camp. As a twin, she was specially selected for human medical experimentation by the infamous Nazi “doctor” Joseph Mengele. She was given 2 weeks to live by the doctor after he injected her with unknown bacterial strains in lethal doses. But she said she vowed never to give in to that prognosis and survived.

It was an overflow crowd with many having to stand. I didn’t expect it to be that crowded. There were many  School of Medicine faculty and students in the audience and she specifically told them to remember that human subjects and experiments are for the sake of humanity, not science. She told them to value human life and dignity above all, and to not cross the thin line between what is theoretically possible and ethically permissible.

What is unique about this holocaust survivor is not the fact that she is only one a few remaining twins from those experiments, but that she forgave all the surviving Nazi officers in 1995 in a public letter. A documentary was made about this controversial move. Last night, she remarked on how she lived in a prison she herself created due to her hatred and anger towards the Germans and others involved for 40 years. She said forgiveness takes more courage and is more liberating to those who practice it wisely.

I am always reading about and fascinated about how the evils of the holocaust were perpetuated in the hearts and minds of those who carried it out and were aware of it. Especially puzzling is how doctors and scientists – men and women with advanced degrees (2 doctorates in the case of Mengele) – could act so uncivilized and barbarically as anyone else. Sin affects everyone. It goes to show that gaining knowledge without gaining ethics or morality is detrimental to human advancement.

Anyone in a position of power has to be very careful not to abuse it against those in lower authority. There was a lot of herd mentality and following orders without questioning its morality during those times. It’s a lot harder to have the courage and speak out or do things against obvious evil (as a few courageous souls did during the war). There was a lot of unjustified racism then, as there is today as well. It’s also important to remember that the potential for these same kinds of evils  lies within each one of us even today (not just Ahmadinejad). That’s why I believe everyone should learn from history so that we do not repeat these same horrors.

It was a fascinating talk by a charming old woman and I hope everyone who attended took something out of it like I did. I thank the holocaust studies minor program on campus and the numerous other organizations that made last night’s talk on campus possible.

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Responses

  1. i’ve met eva kor…she is a truly remarkable human being! she inspired me to start a new wordpress blog, never again!…today on that blog, i share eva’s harrowing story of survival

    • Thanks. It’s amazing how quickly we human beings tend to forget such horrible atrocities. Being aware is key. Thanks for starting the blog so that we never forget.


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