By Bob Bloom
Eva Mozes Kor has been to hell and back — and she has the scars to prove it.
They are not wounds you can see; they mostly are inside — anger and pain that have taken decades to, if not heal, receded to a level at which she can accept and live with them.
Her story is told in Eva, a documentary written and directed by Ted Green. It chronicles Eva’s journey from her childhood in small-town Romania to her place as one of the world’s most prominent Holocaust survivors.
Her experiences in Auschwitz—Birkenau go deeper, though. Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, along with thousands of other sets of twins, were the subjects of horrific experiments by Dr. Josef Mengele, the notorious “Angel of Death,” who was obsessed with the idea that twins held the key to improving and increasing the “Master Race.”
Of the 3,000 sets of twins used in experiments, only 200 — including Eva and Miriam — survived.
Eva’s postwar journey took her back to Romania, where she and her sister lived with an aunt. In 1950, she emigrated to Israel. A few years later, Eva met an American tourist, Michael “Mickey” Kor, also a Holocaust survivor. They married and moved to Terre Haute, Ind., where Kor had relocated after World War II, and started a life and family.
The movie is starkly honest about the treatment the family received in Terre Haute. Indifference by neighbors and anti-Semitism from strangers were the norm.
In 1965, Eva became a United States citizen.
The turning point in her life came with the televising in 1978 of the NBC miniseries Holocaust. She drew inspiration from the program, and it transformed her into an activist.
Her mission was to find other twins, so they could share their story with a world that usually turned a deaf ear to them.
Unfortunately, among those ears were her husband and sister, who simply wanted to forget the horrors they endured. While Eva persisted in looking back, they continued to look forward.
In 1985, Eva founded C.A.N.D.L.E.S. —Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. She found 80 twins, many of whom were living in Israel. Her other obsession over the time was finding Mengele. Journalist Lucetta Lagnado credits Eva with waking up the world to the realization Mengele had escaped justice.
Green’s documentary does show many of the dark moments in Eva’s life. She was a thorn in the side of many Holocaust survivors who wanted to remain silent.
In 1986, she disrupted a Holocaust ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., and had to be forcibly removed.
“She was more angry than anguished,” Lagnado said.
Eva did not believe a report from Brazil that Mengele was dead, having drowned years earlier.
After the death of Miriam in 1993 from cancer associated with kidney problems she developed from the experiments performed on her as a child, Eva’s attitude softened.
She then made a radical decision that angered other Holocaust survivors and again set her apart from that community: On Jan. 27, 1995, the 50th anniversary of her liberation from Auschwitz, Eva issued a statement forgiving all Nazis.
She realized that forgiveness — while not forgetting — was a path she needed to take.
She also opened the C.A.N.D.L.E.S. Museum in Terre Haute, where she gave talks to audiences young and old. In 2003, an arson fire destroyed the museum. With the help of donations, many from people who had once shunned her, the facility was rebuilt and reopened.
Eva makes a powerful statement not only about the inhumanity of mankind but of the inner strength of people to endure, move forward and, most importantly, forgive.
Eva explains that her actions were not to comfort herself and, in doing so, she became a force who speaks out against genocide and injustice around the globe. Eva is a teacher with the world as her classroom, teaching precepts of justice and forgiveness to children and adults alike. Once a year, she returns to Auschwitz — not as a victim, but — as she says — a “victorious survivor.”
Eva is a remarkable woman, and Green’s movie captures the complexities, heart and soul of this incredible individual.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also review Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to his reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
The Heartland Film Festival takes place from Oct. 11 to Oct. 21. For a complete schedule and venues, go to www.heartlandfilm.org.