By Louisa Hext, North American Exhibit Co-ordinator – 4th July 2019
Louisa visited Eva at the CANDLES Holocaust Museum three weeks before her passing
Eva Kor, Holocaust survivor, forgiveness advocate, and founder of CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, passed peacefully on July 4th, 2019 in Krakow, Poland. It seems cosmically fitting that she passed during the annual CANDLES educational trip to Auschwitz, the place where she suffered and was liberated.
Eva was an incredible influence in my life. She was resilient, passionate, and dedicated. Her love for humanity, especially for our future generations, was profound. I will miss our personal connection through phone calls, texts, tweets and occasional visits. I was grateful to see Eva just three weeks before her passing.
It was our shared experience as Jewish women that drew me to her and created a natural bond. For me, it was a magnetic attraction — bonded within our shared humanity and story.
My family are from Lithuania, and Eva’s from Romania. Like so many, they met their end at Auschwitz, a place of unfathomable terror, and where Eva and her twin sister Miriam were terrorized and experimented on by Dr. Mengele.
I will never forget the speaking engagement at a synagogue in South Suburban Chicago. After hearing her story of forgiveness towards the Nazi’s, the Rabbi gave the microphone to a member of that congregation, a woman who also survived Auschwitz. “How dare you forgive the Nazis?” she screamed, aiming words like weapons towards Eva, still seated on the podium. “You cannot forgive on behalf of the Jewish people.” Everything in me wanted to control the chaos, to protect Eva, to keep tidy her message of forgiveness we had all just taken in.
Forgiveness of the Nazi’s? Anathema. Polarizing. Yet, there sat Eva, unflinching. To her fellow survivor, enraged now by a sense of betrayal, Eva simply said, “I love you. Won’t you please sit down with me?” It was a reminder that I need not do anything but listen. And a profound example of Eva’s ability to cultivate understanding through dialogue.
Eva must have said a thousand times that she did not forgive the Nazi’s for everyone’s sake; she did it for herself, for her own healing. “What I tell everybody is that you — any victim, any person hurt — you have the same power. You have the power to forgive. And what it does, forgiveness, has nothing to do with the perpetrator. It has everything to do with the way the victim feels.”
Eva loved the United States and Indiana, where she made her home. Upon her passing, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said, “The world lost a giant. Everywhere she went, Eva brought light into darkness and provided comfort to those in pain unlike anyone we’ve ever met.”
May Eva’s memory be for a blessing