By Katie Stancombe
INDIANAPOLIS – Seventy-three years ago, Eva Mozes Kor watched as her family was ripped apart at the gates of a concentration camp, never to be seen again.
Just days before, Kor was packed into a cattle car with hundreds of other Jews, including her parents and three sisters. Her family traveled for four days before arriving at Auchswitz, where they were separated for good.
Only Kor and her twin sister Miriam survived the camp. Dr. Josef Mengele, known for performing cruel and deadly experiments on Auschwitz prisoners, used the twins as human guinea pigs.
Eva Mozes Kor accepts the 12th Sachem Award, given to honorary Hoosiers who exemplify virtue, wisdom and grace. Photo by Katie Stancombe, TheStatehouseFile.com.
“The first night in Auschswitz, I was shocked to see dead children on the floor,” Kor said. “I made a silent pledge that I would do everything in my power to make sure Miriam and I survived, and walked out of this camp alive.”
In the end, they did.
Kor was presented with the Sachem Award Thursday, an honor bestowed once a year by the Indiana governor to Hoosiers who display excellence of judgment, virtue and grace.
“She is the living embodiment of true compassion,” said Gov. Eric Holcomb, who presented Kor with the award. “Eva shows what our response should be to bigotry and hatred through her daily mission to educate people and spread messages of peace, respect and civility.”
Past recipients of the award include American basketball coach John Wooden and longtime radio host and advocate Amos Brown.
Holcomb said Kor truly embodies what the Sachem Award is all about, acknowledging her life’s devotion to advocate forgiveness.
In 1995, Kor opened CANDLES, the first museum of its kind dedicated specifically for children who endured the deadly experiments under supervision of Mengele during World War II.
Located in Terre Haute, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center was formed with a mission to prevent prejudice and hatred.
That same year, Kor did something even more remarkable.
Fifty years after Auchswitz officially closed it gates, she returned to the place that took everything from her. But instead of holding on to hate, Kor relinquished her victim status and forgave the Nazi’s.
“Often I am asked, how can anyone forgive the Nazis,” Kor said. “And I answer with a question, ‘Don’t I deserve to be free from what they have done to me?’”
She said her decision to forgive was an act of self-healing, self-liberation and self-empowerment.
Now, Kor travels the world, sharing her story and encouraging others to embrace a life free from the bondage of hate.
“Her life proves there are no bounds on forgiveness,” Holcomb said.
Katie Stancombe is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.