Forgotten Holocaust Stories from WW2: Remembering Eva Kor, who survived at the hands of Dr Josef Mengele
It’s a sad fact that new stories of courage and survival are coming to light all the time as Jewish Holocaust survivors come to the end of their life.
Each and every one had extraordinary stories to tell at the hands of the captors.
One by one, each flame is extinguished …
The Twins Experiment conducted by Dr Josef Mengele
The name Eva Kor, was unfamiliar to me until I read her obituary in The Times.
Eva Kor had the misfortune to be sent to Auschwitz with her twin sister and family. On arrival, she and Miriam were immediately seized and taken away to be subjected to gruesome experiments by Dr Josef Mengele, aka the Angel of Death. These frightened young girls weren’t allowed to say goodbye and never saw their parents and two older sisters again.
A Determination to Survive
How the girls survived was a miracle. For nine months they were treated like laboratory rats: after having their hair cut short and their prisoner number branded onto their arm, they were repeatedly photographed naked, body measurements taken and forced to give blood samples several times a week. On occasion they were given injections, though Eva never discovered what for. Only later did she discover that if one twin died the other would be killed so that Mengele could carry out comparative post-mortem examinations.
The reason? These experiments were part of the Nazi attempt to breed a master Aryan race. Twins were of particular interest to Mengele.
After one injection, Eva developed a raging fever, but successfully hid her illness as she knew that she would be sent to the gas chambers. Next time she went to the laboratory, she heard that Mengele had expected her to become ill and die within two weeks. Determined to prove him wrong, she made a silent pledge: “I will survive”. It must have been sheer willpower that enabled Eva and her to survive their months of torture.
Liberation by Soviet troops came on January 1945, not long before her eleventh birthday. It took half an hour for reality to set in, when loads of people, all smiling, came streaming into the camp, bearing chocolate, cookies and hugs. Eva and Miriam were placed in the care of nuns and moved to a refugee camp, before returning to their former home in Romania, but the family farm had been ransacked. They were cared for by their aunt, Irena, who survived, and, aged 16, relocated to Israel where they did military service.
A Life Devoted to Keeping her Holocaust Story Alive
Eva eventually moved to the US with her husband, Michael Kor, also a Holocaust survivor, and brought up their son and daughter after a series of miscarriages because of her ill-treatment at the hands of Mengele.
In 1984, together with her sister, she founded Children of Auschwitz -Nazis’ Deadly Lab Experiments to try to discover more about Mengele’s experiments.
Throughout her life, Eva remained active, giving lectures, guided tours, partaking of documentaries and received dozens of awards for the work she conducted in keeping the memories of Auschwitz alive.
Controversially, in 2015, she traveled to Germany to testify at the trial of former Nazi, Oskar Gröning and the two embraced. Their meeting became the subject of a Channel 4 documentary, The Girl who Forgave the Nazis, broadcast in 2016. Eva believed that forgiving others was essential to ending the wrongs they had done. She told a newspaper in Indiana: “It will heal your soul. It will set you free.”
Aged 85, Eva Kor died on July 4th 2019 in Krakow, Poland, while accompanying a Candles group on an educational trip to Auschwitz.