You could hear a pin drop Friday afternoon, as holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor shared her dramatic experiences with the students gathered in the Hannibal High School auditorium.

You could hear a pin drop Friday afternoon, as holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor shared her dramatic experiences with the students gathered in the Hannibal High School auditorium.

Kor’s family was captured in 1944 by the Nazis when she was 10 years old. After sharing heart-breaking details of her time spent at Auschwitz concentration camp, Kor told the students she recommends forgiveness for anyone who has harmed them in any way. This was one of the “Life Lessons” she shares.

Kor forgave the doctors who had harmed both her and her twin sister, Miriam, before they were freed by the Soviet Army on Jan. 27, 1945.

“Every single one of you has that power,” Kor said. “It took me four months (to write a letter to a Nazi doctor, forgiving him). … I had the power to forgive him,” which she did in 1995.

“Then I was free of Auschwitz,” she continued. “I call forgiveness an act of self-healing because the perpetrator has no more power over the victim’s life. … Anger is a seed for war and forgiveness is a seed for peace.”

In response to a student’s question about how she lives her life now, Kor said, “I am 80 years young” and she tries to be healthy as she gives her lectures. She formerly sold real estate and she lives in Terre Haute, Ind.

She invited the students to follow her on Twitter, where her name is evamozeskor.

When Kor was introduced, a student announced that the HHS History Club had met her during a trip to Washington, D.C., but had not heard her speak.


Being a twin

saved her life


Kor began with memories of her family being taken prisoners by the Germans in 1944. Her parents and older sisters, ages 14 and 12, were separated from Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, who were 10 years old. When the Germans learned they were twins, they were taken to a barracks housing other twins.

Seeing children’s corpses on the floor in the latrine made her determined to live. “I had an image of me and Miriam, walking out alive,” she said.

The only good food was brown bread served in the evening, and she tried to save some for the next morning, but at times rats ate it during the night.

Three days a week the twins were taken for medical experiments, she said, where “they took a lot of blood and gave me injections.” One injection left her with a high fever. She was taken to the hospital barracks, which she named “barracks of the living dead,” because of the patients’ appearance.

After hearing a doctor say she had only two weeks to live, “I made a pledge to survive,” Kor said.

Several weeks later she was out of the hospital barracks and returned to her sister, but by then her sister looked very ill. Later they learned if one had died, the other would have been killed. Of the 1,500 sets of twins in the experiments, she was told an estimated 200 people survived.


Experiments led

to sister’s death


Her sister later married and had three children, but had kidney problems with each pregnancy, Kor said. Because of the experiments, “her kidneys were the size of a 10-year-old child.” When Miriam needed a kidney transplant in 1987, Kor donated a kidney. However, Miriam continued to have problems and had bladder cancer before her death on June 6, 1993.

Returning to her Auschwitz memories, Kor said at age 10 she believed all children lived like she did, “and the whole world was in concentration camps.”

In August 1944, Kor saw the first American airplane fly over, very low. “It was my first real realization someone was trying to free us,” she said. “It gave me hope, and by the end of September we had two air raids a day.”

American air raids increased, and in early January the Nazis said they were “taking everybody out of the barracks to Germany.” She and Miriam survived by hiding. “I had a guardian angel,” Kor said.

Later the Nazis returned and pointed guns at the people still there, including her. Kor fainted and was buried alive under the people who were killed.

When she awoke she realized she was still alive, Kor said. The Nazis had returned to “eliminate the evidence” of Auschwitz, she said. “They burned everything.” Then the Nazis disappeared, she said, and “We could hear firing for the next nine days.”

On Jan. 27, a woman ran into the barracks yelling, “We are free!” Next she saw people smiling “from ear to ear.”

They were freed when the Soviet troops arrived on Jan. 27, 1945.

“I had my first taste of freedom,” Kor said. “I realized Miriam and I were alive. It was an unbelievable experience.”

Kor’s first life lesson shared with the students was “Never ever give up on yourself and your dreams. If you give up, nothing will happen.”

Another life lesson involves the economy, Kor said. “The bad economy” is the reason Hitler rose to power. “Bad economies are the seeds of genocides. Hitler rose to power because he promised his fellow Germans he was going to solve their problems” (prior to deciding to eliminate minorities).

Next Kor told the students she is prejudiced. “If I ruled the world I would put you all in uniforms.” The students were dressed for a picnic, she said, adding her disapproval of revealing blouses on girls and baggy pants on boys. After sharing an amusing sight involving baggy pants, she got a big applause from the students.

Before concluding with her “life lesson” on forgiveness, Kor said when her sister Miriam died, she was too far away to return in time for the burial and she cried for months. Later she was asked to lecture doctors at Boston College, and was encouraged to contact one of the Nazi doctors who had worked at Auschwitz.

This doctor was not involved in her medical experiments, she said, but he was forced to watch the people die in gas chambers. He described how they were in shower rooms and canisters of gas were dropped on the floor. As the gas began to rise, the victims tried to climb away from it, and the strongest ended up on top of the others. When the ones on top no longer moved, he knew all were dead. The doctor signed a document about witnessing this.

Later Kor was encouraged to forgive him and she did a few months later, by writing the letter described in the beginning of this article.