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Holocaust Survivor Eva Kor Dies At 85


Eva Kor died yesterday at the age of 85. As a young Jewish girl in Romania, her family was put on a train headed for Auschwitz in 1944.


She and her twin sister Mariam were pulled aside for experiments at the hands of the so-called angel of death, Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. In a Google Talk in 2015, Kor recalled her first night at the concentration camp.


EVA KOR: In this place, children were dying. So right then and there, I made a silent pledge that I will do anything and everything within my power to make sure that Miriam and I will somehow survive and walk out of this camp alive.

CORNISH: Both of them did survive. After World War II, Eva Kor moved to Israel, then Indiana. There she founded the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center. It's reached out to survivors and even helped reconnect 122 twins in 10 countries. But Kor also reached out to those who had committed the atrocities of the Holocaust.

JESSICA MCDONALD: That was one path that worked for her to heal from the years of pain and torment that she had been trying to cope with ever since liberation from the camp.

KELLY: Jessica McDonald. She is the museum's communication coordinator. She was in eighth grade when Kor came to speak to her class.

MCDONALD: Middle schoolers are a challenging group, but whenever she was speaking, everybody was listening. I was listening. All the students were listening.

CORNISH: And she wasn't Kor's only loyal follower.

MCDONALD: We've seen an overwhelming response of people who have connected to that story because they're dealing with their own darkness, and they're looking for something to help them heal.

KELLY: Kor herself took a long time to heal.

MCDONALD: She was incredibly angry before forgiveness.

CORNISH: That began to change when she heard about a former Nazi doctor who was remorseful about his role at Auschwitz. She decided to write him a letter saying she forgave him.

MCDONALD: At that moment, she came to realize she could take her own life back.

KELLY: Four years ago, Kor even attended the trial of a former Nazi guard. She asked him how he was feeling and encouraged him to tell other former Nazis to speak out. Two old people reaching out, she tweeted that day, along with a photo of them - her hand in his.

CORNISH: Kor was active, sharp and funny on Twitter. Her last tweet the day before she died was from a McDonald's outside Auschwitz, enjoying some chicken nuggets. She wrote, that would have been wonderful 75 years ago.

KELLY: She was there to visit the Auschwitz memorial, where her final public interview was recorded.


KOR: What do I do with my past? How do I live with it? I deserve to live without pain after all the pain I endured here and after the war. The moment I have forgiven the Nazis, I felt free from Auschwitz and from all the tragedy that had occurred to me.

CORNISH: She acknowledged some people did not agree with her, but she offered advice for them, too.


KOR: No matter how difficult a life is, we should never give up our living. We should do everything within our power to stay alive or to overcome our difficulties.

KELLY: Eva Kor was in the middle of that trip when she died. She was 85.

(SOUNDBITE OF COOPER SAMS' "WHITE WAVES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.