"Be the best you that you can be." That is what Holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate Eva Kor expected of herself; that is what she hopes for and inspires in all of us.
Eva Mozes Kor died on July 4, 2019, at the age of 85, in Krakow, Poland. Eva spent the last days of her life on her annual summer trip to Auschwitz, with people from around the world, sharing her message and planting her seeds of peace.
Eva was born on January 31, 1934, in the small village of Portz, Romania, to parents Alexander and Jaffa Mozes. She had two older sisters, Edit and Aliz, and a twin sister named Miriam. Eva would often share her childhood memories of wearing beautiful handmade dresses, snacking on cherries from a tree in her yard, and being twirled around and around by her sister Edit. Eva adored her mother, who instilled love and kindness into each of her little girls.
Eva's childhood ended abruptly in 1944, first by being forced out of their beautiful home to a local ghetto and then by being transported via cattle car to the crowded selection platform at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Within minutes, her father and older sisters disappeared forever in the chaos. After a Nazi guard recognized Eva and Miriam as identical twins, they were torn from their mother's outstretched arms, never to see her again. The two young girls became two of 3,000 prisoners subjected to horrific medical experiments on twins, supervised by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.
Against all odds, Eva and Miriam survived and were liberated by the Soviets on January 27, 1945. It would be another nine months before Eva and Miriam would make it back home to Portz.
With help from their aunt in Romania, the twins emigrated to Israel in 1950. Eva and Miriam lived on an agricultural farm and eventually joined the Israel Defense Forces.
In 1960, Eva moved from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Terre Haute, Indiana, after marrying an American named Mickey Kor. Mickey was also a Holocaust survivor, originally from Latvia, who had been liberated by American troops. Eva and Mickey raised two children, Alexander and Rina, and seemed to lead a typical life in the small Midwestern city.
Yet Eva was not typical.
In the late 1970s, the NBC mini-series "The Holocaust" premiered, giving Eva the opportunity to share her story publicly for the first time. In the 1980s, as a response to Miriam's health concerns, Eva led an effort to locate other twin survivors around the world with the hope of discovering information about the medical experiments. Thus, she began a 40-year quest to unearth the truth about Josef Mengele's death and to teach the world about the twin experiments.
In 1993 Miriam died from health complications likely related to experiments performed in Auschwitz. As a way to honor her sister, Eva founded CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in 1995. CANDLES is an acronym for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.
Also in 1995, Eva discovered healing through the controversial decision to forgive Joseph Mengele and the Nazis. Through forgiveness, she discovered that she had regained power over her own life. The burden of victimhood that she had carried for 50 years was finally lifted.
This revelation came with both admiration and criticism. Even though Eva forgave in her name only, her message invoked shock and anger from some fellow survivors who felt resentment that Eva could forgive. However, Eva's message of forgiveness also resonated with people around the world who were struggling with abuse, addiction, and other challenges.
Throughout the years, Eva traveled across the country and around the world to share her life lessons. It was important to Eva that she urge listeners to never give up, be kind, forgive, and choose to make the world a better place every day. She wanted to impart to all people the value of kindness, perseverance, and belief in their self-worth. To the very end, she was determined that her life would mean something.
Though no longer with us, Eva's message lives on in the millions of people whose lives have been impacted by her story and life lessons. Her experiences are well documented in books, documentaries, music, digital testimonies, and exhibits. Her legacy will continue through those who have accompanied her on trips, attended her presentations, shared her story with others, and through CANDLES. CANDLES' mission is to shine the light on the story of the Holocaust and Eva Kor to create an empowered community of critical thinkers who will illuminate the world with hope, healing, respect, and responsibility. Eva would want each person to honor her story by spreading her life lessons around the world.
Eva was preceded in death by her mother, father, and three sisters. She is survived by her husband, Mickey; her son, Alex; and her daughter, Rina.
The funeral and visitation will be held at DeBaun Funeral Home in Terre Haute, IN. The visitation is scheduled for Saturday, July 13th, from 4 until 8 p.m. EDT. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. EDT on Sunday, July 14th. Interment at Highland Lawn Cemetery will follow the service at 11:30 a.m. However, due to limited seating, the family encourages the public to attend one of the two memorial services in lieu of the funeral. This will allow the funeral home to comfortably accommodate family and close friends during this particular time. Information about the public memorial services is provided below.
DeBaun Funeral Home, 85 East Springhill Drive, Terre Haute, IN 47802
Terre Haute public memorial service: Sunday, August 4th, at 2 p.m. EDT, Tilson Auditorium, Tirey Hall, 200 North 7th St., Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809
Indianapolis public memorial service: Sunday, August 18th, at 2 p.m. EDT, Clowes Memorial Hall, Butler University, 4602 Sunset Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46208
In lieu of flowers, the family would like to request donations be made to the CANDLES Eva Kor Legacy Education Fund and/or the WFYI/Ted Green Films "Eva" Education Program: https://candlesholocaustmuseum.org/contribute/how-to-give.html