“I could forgive everyone who had ever hurt me and I could have power over that pain.”
Eva Kor is a Holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate. She writes about life in Auschwitz concentration camp, where she and her twin sister were subjected to the experimentation of Dr. Mengele.
Forgiveness is the tool she uses to overcome the pain which haunted her through most of her life. This is a crucial lesson: if Eva has healed from such a hellish scenario through forgiveness, anyone who is having trouble overcoming their own pain should consider trying it themselves.
Why does forgiveness have such incredible power?
“This is what happens to human beings. When we get hurt, we have a tendency to want to reach out and hurt back. The tragedy of it is that by hurting the people who hurt us does not make our pain go away. That is what I find that is amazing. People think that by subjecting the perpetrator to pain, it will make our pain lesson.”
“I asked myself many years ago: if every single Nazi would have been killed after I had been liberated, would my life have changed one iota? The answer is no. I still would have been an orphan, suffering from illness and malnutrition.”
Eva has forgiven Mengele, the doctor who performed horrific experiments on her while she was in the concentration camp. Her forgiveness is accompanied by pity.
“I feel sorry for him. Any person who gets up in the morning and has no human understanding of what they are doing that inflicting pain on others is what they have on their mind, is not a happy human being. The Nazis were not happy people.”
Years after the Holocaust, Eva became friends with Doctor Munsch, a Nazi doctor who had worked with Doctor Mengele. Doctor Munsch provided her with insight into what things were like for Nazis who got swept up in their role in the Holocaust, and who later were haunted with deep regret.
“All the Nazi doctors got drunk at night because they could not cope with what happened during the day. He said the only other person that did not get drunk was Dr. Mengele. Mengele tried to justify what he was doing. He was telling Dr. Munsch that these kids would have been killed eventually and he was doing them a favor by keeping them alive longer.”
“Some of the other twins looked at Dr. Mengele as a father figure. I never went that far. But it was a complex relationship, and I don’t think it has been explored much.”
“Some of them liked him and said he was kind to them. He gave them chocolate and cookies. But I was always angry with him. I never got any chocolate and cookies from Mengele but I didn’t really want any. I looked at him as an enemy. However, I was emotionally and mentally aware that he would keep us alive only as long as he wanted us alive.”
Eva was resolved to survive the experimentation which made her horribly ill. “I refused to die. I made a silent pledge to stay alive.”
After escaping the Holocaust, Eva dealt with a different set of struggles. In Israel, nobody knew how to talk abut the Holocaust. For the most part, they didn’t talk about it, and Eva felt some ostracism. Then, when she first moved to the United States, she didn’t speak English.
But gradually she learned to survive. And once she learned to forgive, she thrived.
“I believe that there is a higher level of functioning on an emotional and intellectual level. I could not changed what happened to me or my sister. But I could change how I related to it.”
“I could forgive everyone who had ever hurt me, and that I could have power over that pain, power over Mengele–it was a very interesting thought.”
“Many Jews reject me because in Jewish tradition, they are saying that the perpetrator must repent and ask for forgiveness. That is giving the perpetrator power over my life, and that to me is crazy.”
“I want people to understand that we all have power over our life. If we forgive those who hurt us, then they lose the tools to hurt me.”