I listened attentively to Eva Kor seated with her feet dangling just above the floor as she concluded her talk. She switched gears from talking about her experiences in Auschwitz to life lessons. The latter came not only from her childhood experiences but her adult experiences many decades after her liberation from Auschwitz.
- Never, EVER give up. Never give up on yourself or your dreams.
- Prevent prejudice by judging people only on their actions and content of their character.
Prejudice is alive and well. It is too easy to judge others based on appearances. Try to treat people with respect and fairness. Judge people based on their merits, not appearances.
- Forgive your worst enemy – it will heal your soul and set you free.
No one can give you that power or take it away. Forgiveness creates a feeling of wholeness.
- Give your parents an extra hug and kiss for us children who had or have no parents.
- Each of us has an important part to play in repairing our world. May tikkun olam (“repairing the world” in Hebrew) begin with me!
Concentrate on being the best you that you can be. Study everything. Be kind to each other. Be generous. Like yourself (which, she admitted, can be a big project). Make the world a better place.
For each of these, Eva related stories from her personal life. The one about forgiveness was the most powerful. Eva has been public about and often publicly condemned for her forgiveness of Nazis for atrocities committed during World War II.
For decades after liberation from Auschwitz, she continued to be a victim—angry at the world and hated everyone. In the early 1990s, she met a Nazi doctor who was at Auschwitz. He freely described to her how the gas chambers worked and signed a statement about this and his role in it. She pondered for months about what to give him in return as thanks for him going public with this new information. After many months, she settled on a letter of forgiveness.
From this act came her long-awaited healing and her new focus on forgiveness. Today, she is an ambassador not only in education about the Holocaust but about the power of forgiveness. Her mission in life, at the ripe age of 82, is dual: education about the Holocaust and the healing power of forgiveness.
If you are ever in the ever in the Terre Haute area, I highly recommend stopping to hear Eva talk at the CANDLES museum (Tuesdays and Saturdays at 1). Her talk is enlightening and inspiring. Until then, visit the forgiveness section of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
And start healing.