Posts Tagged ‘family’

Why I forgive the Nazis who murdered my family

January 20th, 2016

The courtroom embrace was beamed across the world and has prompted a new documentary being broadcast on Channel 4 on Saturday night. Today Eva chuckles at the memory. She did not expect to be hugged, but insists not one part of her body recoiled at Groening’s touch.

“I was a little bit stunned,” she says. “But it was a lot nicer than meeting him in Auschwitz. He would have grabbed me then for another purpose.”

She has written to Groening in prison where the 94-year-old is serving a four-year sentence to seek another meeting.

“I genuinely believed he liked me. I saw in his eyes a lot of caring, love and sadness that he was part of it.”

Her decision to forgive has been criticised by many survivors of the Holocaust and even prompted a petition signed by 49 among them. Her husband, Michael, 90, with whom she has two grown-up children and is himself a former inmate of Buchenwald concentration camp, insists he will never follow suit.

Yet speaking from her home in Terre Haute, Indiana, Eva Kor remains resolute.

“Why survive at all if you want to be is sad, angry and hurting?” she says. “That is so foreign to who I am. I don’t understand why the world is so much more willing to accept lashing out in anger rather than embracing friendship and humanity.”

Eva Kor grew up in the village of Portc, nestled in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and so small it doesn’t even warrant mention on a map. Her family owned hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness and farmland. “But what good did it do us?” she asks.

“We learnt arithmetic by being asked, ‘if you had five Jews and killed two, how many would you have left’?”

She and Miriam were six when war broke out. Hungary, initially an ally of Hitler before he invaded the country in March 1944, quickly embraced the rampant anti-Semitism of the Nazis. Eva’s father, Alexander, was told he must register every fortnight with the police and new teachers were installed at the village school.

“We learnt arithmetic by being asked, ‘if you had five Jews and killed two, how many would you have left?’” she says. “The children were taught to hate and rewarded for it. My little playmates from the village became my tormentors.”

In early 1944, Eva, her parents, Miriam and their other sisters Edith, 14, and Aliz, 10, were forced from their home and sent with whatever food, clothes and blankets they could carry to a nearby Jewish ghetto. After two months they were told they were moving again to a “labour camp” and this time would not need any possessions.

Instead they were loaded on cattle trains bound for Auschwitz, part of the Hungarian transport of more than 437,000 Jews shipped to their deaths in just eight weeks.

“The heat was unbearable and we didn’t get any food or water for four days. Whenever the train stopped we would ask the guard for water and he would say, ‘four gold watches’. Then he would take a bucket of water throw it through the window. I had my cup ready but only ever got a few drops.”

Any relief at finally disembarking was tempered by the looming brick towers of Auschwitz. The family was soon separated amid the chaos of the “selection platform” where most were hauled off unwittingly to the gas chambers before even being registered. Within minutes Eva had lost her father and two sisters (and was never to see them again). Then a guard scanning the crowds for twins for Mengele’s experiments approached her mother, Jaffa, who was holding tight to Eva and Miriam.

“We were pulled apart crying. It was brutal and unbelievable for humanity. It still is the most difficult memory.”

Early on during her captivity, Eva stumbled across bodies of children piled up in a latrine at the end of their barracks. She did not tell Miriam, but vowed then they would both survive Mengele’s gruesome experiments.

“I remember Mengele looked very proper, dressed in a shiny Nazi uniform,” she says. “He was strict, cool, calm and collected.”

“I’ve found it most difficult to forgive my parents”

Eva was injected three times a week with at least five needles each time. She still does not know to this day what the contents were, but when the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, Eva and Miriam were still alive.

She says it has taken her years to learn forgiveness, rebuilding a life first in Romania, then Israel then the US. But it is her murdered parents, not the Nazis, who have proved the hardest memory to reconcile.

“I’ve found it most difficult to forgive my parents,” she says. “They didn’t save me from a place like Auschwitz and a destiny of being an orphan. That is what I felt.”

Eva first decided to absolve her former captors after re-visiting Auschwitz during the Eighties and later meeting Dr Hans Munch, another SS physician who worked at the camp but was acquitted of war crimes. In 1995 (two years after Miriam had died from cancer) during the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camp she stood alongside Munch and announced she granted “amnesty to all Nazis”.

However Eva says only one other survivor (and Mengele twin) has since joined her – a man named Peter Greenfeld. To associate forgiveness with the Nazis is anathema to most.

Susan Pollock, an 85-year-old grandmother of six from Golders Green who in January was appointed MBE for educating young people about the Holocaust, also gave evidence at the Groening trial, but says his appeals for clemency left her cold.

“He was sentenced and found guilty and that is the important thing,” she says. “He lived a long life while more than 50 members of my family – little babies and children – were destroyed. I really can’t understand how she (Eva) could come out and say she forgives.”

Pollock was also shipped to Auschwitz on the Hungarian transport. Both her parents were killed while her brother, Laszlo, was forced to work in the Sonderkommando, moving bodies from the gas chambers to the ovens. He was the only other member of her family to survive, although remained terribly scarred from the experience.

Susan Pollock has weathered similar traumas but insists now she doesn’t carry any hatred in her heart. “I live with it by sharing and speaking,” she says.

What is most important for her is that the world always remembers. Unlike Eva Kor, she may never be able to forgive the Nazis; but insists none of us must ever forget.

The Girl who forgave the Nazis is broadcast on January 23 at 8pm on Channel 4


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Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s family attack Donald Trump over Muslim ban policy

December 18th, 2015

“As a nation, internment weakened us all. It is a tragic reminder of what happens when we allow fear and hysteria to trump our values.

“Historians and leaders across the political spectrum agree internment was a grievous mistake and a violation of basic human rights. It detracts from the amazing efforts by my grandfather to rescue our economy and build the foundation of America’s great middle class.”

American-Japanese citizens en route to a internment camp in California in April 1942

Earlier this week, Mr Trump compared his plan to Roosevelt’s classification of thousands of Japanese, Germans and Italians living in the US during the war as “enemy aliens”.

President Franklin Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan

He said Roosevelt, one of America’s greatest presidents, was “highly respected by all”, and then stated: “Take a look at presidential proclamations, what he was doing with Germans, Italians and Japanese, because he had to do it.”

FDR tried to save Jewish refugees during Second World War, book claims

The billionaire businessman made the proposal, that Muslims including would-be immigrants, students and tourists, should be blocked from entering the country, in the wake of the deadly shootings in San Bernardino, California, last week by a married couple inspired by Islamic State militants.


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Cumberbatch Enigma film unlocks code to a family secret

December 8th, 2014

Mr Harrison, who died in 2012, was head-hunted to join the codebreaking team while he was an economics student at Cambridge University.

At the time, in the early 1940s, Britain was losing the Battle of the Atlantic and faced the prospect of a German invasion. Outstanding intellects were needed to crack the cryptic code used by the Germans to communicate with their U-boat submarines.

Mr Harrison was among a team recruited to work with Alan Turing at Bletchley Park HQ in Buckinghamshire. They were bound by the Official Secrets Act and forbidden to utter a word of their mission. After the war he enjoyed a career as an accountant in London before retiring to St Andrews.

True to his word, Mr Harrison kept most of his work secret until his death at the age of 90. He revealed brief details only when Mrs Smith asked if he would speak about his war work to her class.

“I was teaching the children how to gather impartial evidence from people who had lived or witnessed historical events,” she said.

“However, dad told me he wouldn’t have had much to say about the war except he went to work at Bletchley Park in a suit and carried a briefcase every day and he’d been drafted into it after

solving a crossword. The talk to pupils never happened.”

Mrs Smith did not recognise the significance of his words until she went to see the The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

“It was only when I watched the film with my husband, Blair, last week that the final pieces of the jigsaw fell into place and we truly realised dad’s contribution to the war,” she said. “No one would ever have known or guessed his part in the Alan Turing story because dad was never one to boast or push himself forward.

“This was so typical of him and his loyalty to his country.

“Now the story is unfolding, we are prouder than ever of his contribution.”

She added: “His love of puzzles lasted till a few months before his death and dad was as sharp as a tack to the end.”


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