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My Path to Healing

My twin sister and I were used as human guinea pigs in medical experiments in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Fifty-seven years ago my twin sister and I were used as human guinea pigs in medical experiments in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. In the last 20 years I have made contact with many of the other survivors of these experiments. I care deeply for the Mengele Twins, but I am not their spokesperson, I speak only for myself.

It was the dawn of an early spring day in 1944 when I arrived in Auschwitz, in a cattle-car train, with my father, aged 44, my mother, aged 38, my older sisters Edit, 14, and Aliz, 12, and my twin, Miriam. We were 10 years old.

As soon as we stepped down onto the cement platform, my mother grabbed Miriam and me by the hand, hoping somehow to protect us. I suddenly realized my father and two older sisters were gone - I never saw any of them again.

An SS officer stopped to look at Miriam and me because we looked very much alike.

'Are they twins?' he asked.

'Is that good?' asked my mother.

'Yes,' nodded the SS.

'Yes, they are twins,' said my mother.

Without any warning, he grabbed us away from our mother. Our screaming and pleading fell on deaf ears. I looked back and saw my mother's arms stretched out in despair as she was pulled in the opposite direction. That was the last time I saw her.

Miriam and I were taken to a huge building, with 16 other sets of twins. We were ordered to sit naked on plank seats, while our clothes were taken away to have a big red cross painted on their backs. Then our processing began.

When my turn came, I decided to fight back. Four people had to restrain me while they heated a pen-like gadget to red-hot, dipped it in ink and then burned into my flesh, dot by dot, the number A-7063.

We were taken to a barrack filled with girls, all twins, aged 1 to 13. Two other girls showed us around. They explained to us about the huge smoking chimneys and what had happened to the two groups of people we had seen on the selection platform. We learned we were alive only because Dr Mengele wanted to use us in his experiments.

That night, when we went to the latrine at the end of the barrack, we found the corpses of three children lying on the filthy floor. I realized that the same could happen to Miriam and me unless I did something to prevent it. From that moment on, I concentrated all my efforts, all my talents and all my being on survival.

Some 1,500 sets of children were used as human guinea pigs by Josef Mengele. It is estimated that fewer than 200 children survived.

We were starved for food, starved for human kindness and starved for the love of the mothers we once had. During the whole time we were in Auschwitz, Miriam and I talked very little. It took every ounce of my energy to survive one more day, to live through one more experiment. We did not cry because we knew there was no help.

I had a big decision to make every night when we received our daily ration of about two and a half inches of bread. I would ask myself, 'Should I eat the bread tonight? If I do, I will have a whole day tomorrow without any food.' It was logical that I should save the bread for the next day. But if I put it under my head, by next morning it was gone - either stolen or eaten by rats.

All this was done to us because we were born Jewish. We did not understand why this was a crime.

I became very ill after an injection in Mengele's lab and was taken to the hospital. The rumour was that anyone taken there never came back.

The next day Dr Mengele and four doctors looked at my fever chart and then declared, 'Too bad, she is so young. She has only two weeks to live.'

I was all alone. The doctors did not want to heal me. They wanted me dead. I made a second silent pledge, 'I will do anything I can to get well and be reunited with my sister.'

In the hospital we received no food and no medication. People were brought there to die or to wait for a place in the gas chamber.

After two weeks, my fever broke and I began to feel stronger. I devised a plan that would show a gradual improvement in my condition. When the so-called nurse came in to take my temperature, I would wait until she had left the room, take the thermometer out, and shake it down a little. Then I would stick it back under my arm.

After three weeks my fever showed normal and I was reunited with Miriam. If I had died, Mengele would have killed her with an injection to the heart and performed comparative autopsies on our bodies.

The experiments lasted six to eight hours. We had to sit naked while every part of our bodies were measured, poked and compared to charts and photographs. Every movement was noted. I felt like an animal in a cage. Three times a week we went to the blood lab where we were injected with germs and chemicals and they took a lot of blood from us.

When one pair of twins was lost in the experiments, another pair would come in on the next transport to replace them.

On a white snowy day, 27 January 1945, four days before my 11th birthday, Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviets and we were free. We were alive. We had survived. We had triumphed over unbelievable evil.

The fact that we are here today in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, which was in charge of Dr Mengele's experiments, shows how much progress has been made in the last six decades.

Those of you who are physicians and scientists are to be congratulated. You have chosen a wonderful and difficult profession - wonderful because you can alleviate human suffering but difficult because you are walking a very narrow line. I appeal to you to make a moral commitment that you will never violate anyone's human rights and that you will treat your patients with the same respect that you would want in their place. Remember that if you are doing your research solely for the sake of science and not for the benefit of mankind, you are heading in the direction of the Nazi doctors.

We meet here as former adversaries. I hope we can part as friends.

There is a lot of pain that we, the Jewish people, and you, German people, carry around. It does not help anyone to carry the burden of the past. We must learn to heal ourselves from the tragedies of the Holocaust. I realize that many of my fellow survivors will not share, support or understand my way of healing. But this is the way I healed myself - and I dare hope it might work for other people.

I have forgiven the Nazis. I have forgiven everybody.

In 1992, Miriam and I were co-consultants on a documentary on the Mengele Twins produced by a German TV company. In the documentary they interviewed a Nazi doctor named Hans M MGBPnch. In 1993, after Miriam died, I contacted the TV company and asked for his address and phone number, and a friend called him and asked if he would see me.

That August, I arrived at Dr MGBPnch's house. I was very nervous, but he treated me with the utmost respect. As we sat down to talk, I said to him, 'Here you are - a Nazi doctor from Auschwitz - and here I am - a survivor from Auschwitz - and I like you, and that sounds strange to me.'

We talked about many things. I asked him if he knew anything about the operation of the gas chambers. He said, 'This is the nightmare I live with.' He proceeded to tell me how the gas chambers were operated and how, when the bodies were dead, he had signed the death certificates.

I asked him to come with me to Auschwitz in January 1995, to observe the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and to sign a document at the ruins of the gas chambers and in the presence of witnesses about what he had told me. He said yes. I went home delighted that I was going to have a document which would help me combat the Revisionists who say that there were no gas chambers.

I tried to think of a way to thank Dr M GBPnch. Then, one day, I thought, 'How about a letter of forgiveness?' I immediately realized that he would like it. I also realized that I had the power to forgive. No one could give me this power and no one could take it away.

Friends who spell better than I do helped me to correct the letter. One of them threw a question at me: 'Would you be willing to forgive Dr Mengele?' I decided that I could. And if I forgave him, I might as well forgive everybody.

In January 1995, we all arrived in Auschwitz - my children, Alex and Rina, and my friends and I, and Dr M GBPnch and his children and grandchildren. On 27 January, by the ruins of one of the gas chambers, Dr M GBPnch's document was read and he signed it. I read my Declaration of Amnesty and then signed it.

A burden of pain was lifted from my shoulders. I was no longer a victim of Auschwitz. I was no longer a prisoner of my tragic past. I was finally free. So I say to everybody, 'Forgive your worst enemy. It will heal your soul and set you free.'

The day I forgave the Nazis I forgave my parents because they did not save me, and I also forgave myself for hating my parents.

As I understand it, most governments and world leaders bear a heavy burden in trying to keep the world at peace. In my opinion, they have failed miserably by not advocating, encouraging and facilitating survivors of tragedies such as the Holocaust to forgive their enemies, which is an act of self-healing.

How can we build a healthy, peaceful world while all these painful legacies are festering under the surface?

I see a world where leaders will advocate and support with legislation the act of forgiveness, amnesty and reconciliation rather than justice and vindictiveness.

by Eva Mozes Kor, founder and President of CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz-Nazis' Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors).

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