The words had been prepared as a testament of survival and grace in the face of unspeakable evil.
For the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on Jan. 27, Eva Kor had prepared a speech. Kor had been taken to the camp as a child, torn from her home in Romania and, with her twin sister, subjected to the evil experimentation of Dr. Josef Mengele, known by the moniker “The Angel of Death.”
Her words recalled her feelings at seeing Soviet troops freeing them from the camp. She spoke of her fears of rising hate and anti-Semitic attitudes. She encouraged teaching why common decency and respect is so important. She advocated forgiveness.
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“I suggest that we all have the power to forgive those who have wronged us, not for the benefit of them, but because all of us finally deserve to live free in a way that allows us to share our memories without reliving the unbearable and agonizing pain of our pasts with every spoken word or shared memory,” she wrote.
Kor never had the opportunity to deliver her speech. She died on July 4, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most impactful advocates for peace and Holocaust awareness in the world.
And the world continues to honor and learn from her. Gov. Eric Holcomb has declared Monday as Eva Education Day, and over the coming weeks, Johnson County groups will be screening “Eva A-7063,” a film focused on her life.
St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church will host a screening and presentation on Feb. 8, while the Johnson County Public Library will have showings on Feb. 22 at its Clark Pleasant and White River branches.
“She had such a big impact on so many people,” said Jessica Chapman, Eva Project distribution and impact manager for WFYI. “Eva was such a big proponent and big fighter for forgiveness. She was so driven to share her message. I feel so lucky that we’re able to capture her full story in this documentary. We feel such a responsibility to share her story.”
Kor’s story is an arc of horror, anger, activism and ultimately forgiveness.
She and her family lived in a rural village in Romania when the Nazis took over the country. They were the only Jewish family in their village, and four years after occupation, the family was removed and put on a train for Auschwitz.
Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, were separated from their parents and placed in the experimentation program of Mengele. They were two of about 200 children found alive when the Soviet Army liberated the camp.
Since that time, Kor moved to Israel, married a fellow Holocaust survivor and moved to the U.S. She was motivated to locate and connect with other child survivors of Auschwitz, and in 1984 she founded CANDLES, Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. She publicly forgave the Nazis for their atrocities, and spent the rest of her life emphasizing the power of forgiveness and pushing for Holocaust education.
“That’s what people relate to the most — they see she wasn’t this perfect human. She had flaws. She got angry. But she was so relatable through those flaws that she was able to overcome all of these things and become a proponent for peace and forgiveness and teaching others how they can heal,” Chapman said.
Kor’s incredible life inspired filmmakers Ted Green and Mika Brown to partner with WFYI, Indianapolis’ public media company, to create a movie focused on her.
Green traveled with Kor more than 90,000 miles around the world, from her childhood home in Romania to Auschwitz to Israel. The film tells about Kor’s time in the concentration camp, but also advocating for the power of forgiveness and her relocating to Indiana while dealing with anti-Semitism and ignorance of the Holocaust.
A large focus is on the personal struggle that Kor dealt with throughout her life, which is a new aspect of her story, Chapman said.
“The film itself does a really good job of covering her entire life story. Sometimes when her story is covered, it focuses on just her forgiveness, or just her time at Auschwitz,” she said.
“Eva A-7063” is narrated by Ed Asner and includes interviews with people such as newscaster Wolf Blitzer, actor Elliott Gould, basketball player and member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council Ray Allen and several people who credit Eva for saving their lives.
In addition to the documentary itself, discussion guides and educational toolkits have been distributed to help students and the public at large to better understand discrimination, forgiveness and ways people can make a difference in their own communities.
“(Green) really wanted to find out who this woman is completely, and be able to present an entire picture of her life.
The world premiere of the film was in 2018, and last year, it was released on public broadcasting stations throughout the country. From that, Chapman and others involved with the film have traveled around the U.S. hosting screenings for the public.
In addition to the screenings at St. Rose on Feb. 8 and the library branches on Feb. 22, Green will do a question-and-answer session after the film. Information will be available to allow people to learn more about Kor, CANDLES and other aspects of her life.
Organizers have arranged for a virtual reality display to be set up. In it, people can use a special headset to step into Kor’s world, entering locations throughout Auschwitz. Videos help provide additional context to those scenes.
“You can sit down and put on this headset, and it feels like you’re standing on the selection platform, or in her barrack, or standing in the crematorium where she announced her forgiveness, or in the blood labs where the experiments were done to her,” Chapman said. “You can look around 360 degrees and it feels like you’re there.”
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What: A documentary film focused on the life of Eva Kor, a Holocaust survivor and advocate for peace and forgiveness.
9:30 a.m., St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 114 Lancelot Drive, Franklin; doors open at 9. Jessica Chapman from WFYI will facilitate a live discussion during the showing of the documentary at two intervals. Free and open to the public.
10 a.m. at the Clark Pleasant library, 530 Tracy Road, New Whiteland, and 1:30 p.m. at the White River library, 1664 Library Blvd., Greenwood; documentary screening and virtual reality experience. Free and open to the public.