As many of us know first hand, hate takes a lot more energy than forgiveness, and yet for so many of us it’s hard to let go of the rage. It’s comfortable in a way because it doesn’t ask us to change, it doesn’t ask us to look deeper inside ourselves, it doesn’t ask us to consider the fragility of the other person, an enemy, someone we despise.
Eva Kor and her twin sister Miriam were among the 1,500 twins (amounting to 3,000 children) Dr. Josef Mengele experimented on in Auschwitz. After 50 years of carrying the weight of insurmountable hatred for Mengele, often called the “Angel of Death,” Eva forgave him. That was in 1995, two years after Miriam died of bladder cancer at age 59, a direct result of being one of Mengele’s human guinea-pigs. “Miriam’s kidneys stopped growing,” says Eva on The Forgiveness Project website. “They remained the size of a child’s all her life.”
Eva and Miriam were 10 years old when they arrived in Auschwitz. Mengele used them for many of his cruel genetic experiments, injecting them with potentially lethal strains of bacteria and not giving treatment. Mengele killed some of his twins immediately so he could dissect their bodies for research. Only 100 pairs (total of 200 children) survived his death lab. Eva and Miriam survived, if barely. There was a point when Mengele stood over a very ill Eva and said she’d be dead in two weeks.
Eva speaks eloquently about her decision to grant amnesty to Dr. Mengele: “Forgiveness is really nothing more than an act of self-healing and self-empowerment. I call it a miracle medicine. It is free, it works and has no side effects.
“I believe with every fiber of my being that every human being has the right to live without the pain of the past. For most people there is a big obstacle to forgiveness because society expects revenge. It seems we need to honor our victims but I always wonder if my dead loved ones would want me to live with pain and anger until the end of my life. Some survivors do not want to let go of the pain. They call me a traitor and accuse me of talking in their name. I have never done this. Forgiveness is as personal as chemotherapy – I do it for myself.”
If you want to learn more, watch this five-minute trailer for Forgiving Dr. Mengele, a 2006 documentary about Eva. Her dissenters, among them other surviving Mengele twins, are very vocal and given equal camera time to voice their outrage and opposition.