Holocaust survivor forgives Nazi guard

Eva Mozes Kor shaking the hand of Oskar Groening; photo from Kor's Facebook page

Eva Mozes Kor has good reason to despise Oskar Gröning. When she and her twin sister, Miriam, arrived in the Auschwitz death camp, they were met by Josef Mengele and became part of the ruthless scientist’s genetic experiments. Gröning was a junior squad leader at the camp.

While he could argue he was not directly responsible for the painful and debilitating procedures carried out on twins, nor for the mass murder of so many others, he played a critical role in the effort to exterminate Jews. He was one of the many petty functionaries who carefully logged all the money and belongings taken from prisoners. The Nazi war machine would have ground to a halt without the aid of those who kept records, supplied the death camps, guarded the ghettos, and ran the railways transporting detainees.

After the war he led an ordinary, quiet life until he became alarmed by the rise of Holocaust deniers. He went public with his role and in September 2014 was charged as an accessory to murder.

When Gröning went on trial in April 2015, Eva Mozes Kor was called as a witness. After her session, she walked straight up to the 93-year-old former Nazi and shook his hand. As she wrote on her Facebook page:

I know many people will criticize me for this photo, but so be it. It was two human beings seventy years after it happened. For the life of me I will never understand why anger is preferable to a goodwill gesture. Nothing good ever comes from anger. Any goodwill gesture in my book will win over anger any time. The energy that anger creates is a violent energy.

Eva Mozes Kor will never forget nor excuse what the Nazis did. Her two books make that clear: Surviving the Angel of Death and the earlier Echoes from Auschwitz. She has also spent her post-war years drawing attention to the Holocaust, in the hope of preventing a repeat of its horrors.

At the same time, she is dedicated to healing rather than revenge. As she wrote in another Facebook post:

Forgiving does not mean forgetting – we all want to prevent these things from ever happening again. Forgiveness is about self-healing, self-liberation, and self-empowerment….Let’s all work together to teach the world how to heal.

Survivor of one of the most horrendous experiences anyone can endure, Eva Mozes Kor is a role model for the kind of forgiveness that mends souls, a forgiveness that carries with it the responsibility to work for a world in which such horrors no longer happen.

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