INDIANAPOLIS -- For years, Eva Mozes Kor has preached forgiveness with her story. She was captured by the Nazis and entered Auschwitz in 1944 as a 10-year-old, along with others who were used as “human Guinea pigs.”
On Thursday, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb recognized Kor by giving her the Sachem Award, the state’s highest award.
At Thursday’s ceremony at the Indiana War Memorial, she told her story.
“The first night in Auschwitz, I was shocked to see dead children on the latrine floor,” Kor said. “I made a silent pledge that I would do everything in my power to make sure Miriam (Kor’s sister) and I survived and walked out of the camp alive.”
Of her family, only Eva and Miriam survived the concentration camp.
“In Auschwitz, in our barracks, we were huddling in our filthy bunk beds, crawling with lice and rats. We were starved for food, starved for human kindness and starved for the love of our mothers and fathers we once had. We had no rights. But we had a fierce determination to survive one more day. To survive one more experiment. I was used six days a week in experiments. After one of those injections, I became very ill. I had a very high fever. My arms and legs were swollen and painful. I was covered with red spots. On the next visit, they measured my fever and I was sent to the hospital. [Infamous Nazi Dr. Josef] Mengele never examined me, but looked at my fever chart and said ‘Too bad she’s so young! She has two weeks to live.’ I refused to die and I made a second solemn pledge that I would do everything in my power to prove Mengele wrong, to survive and be reunited with my sister. All I have is one clear memory. I was crawling on the barracks floor – because I no longer could walk. I was crawling to the water faucets in the barracks. I kept fading in and out of consciousness. Even in a semi-conscious state of mind, I kept telling myself, ‘I must survive. I must survive.’ And I did.”
Kor eventually moved to Terre Haute, Indiana after serving in the Israeli army. She received her American citizenship in 1965.
‘I came from Tel Aviv [Israel] to Terre Haute,” she said. “That’s a pretty big jump.”
In 1995, Kor forgave the Nazis for what happened to her.
“Often, I am asked, ‘How can anyone forgive the Nazis?’” she said. “I always answer with a question: ‘Do I deserve to be free from what they have done to me?’ Of course, is the answer. My forgiveness is an act of self-healing, self-liberation and self-empowerment.”
Eva is the living embodiment of true compassion. Her life proves there are no bounds on forgiveness and human decency.
— Eric Holcomb (@GovHolcomb) April 13, 2017
In a lighter moment for the ceremony, she asked Governor Holcomb to help her contact the United States Congress.
“I would like to tell them we all must stop fighting with each other and try to help one another,” Kor said, to a room full of applause. “If they keep fighting, they cannot help the Americans.”
She challenged every member of Congress to come back from their “Spring Break” with one idea to get along and help the people of the United States.
At the ceremony, Holcomb also announced Kor would be the Grand Marshal for the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade.