Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of Auschwitz and the death camp’s infamous doctor Josef Mengele, has passed away in Poland during a trip to the Holocaust site, sources said.
The Romanian-born Kor, who founded the Candles Museum in Indiana and devoted her life to Holocaust awareness, was 85.
“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Eva Kor, Holocaust survivor, forgiveness advocate, and founder of CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center,” the museum said on its Twitter account.
It added that Kor passed away Thursday in Krakow, southern Poland, during an annual trip organised by the museum that included a visit to Auschwitz, a former Nazi camp in the nearby town of Oswiecim.
“Only five days ago we recorded a testimony of Eva Kor, an Auschwitz survivor, for @AuschwitzMuseum Archive. Today came news about her passing away,” the Auschwitz Museum said in a tweet late Thursday.
“Broken-hearted to inform you that Ewa Kor has passed away and will be buried in the US,” Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told AFP via a text message on Friday that used the Polish spelling of her first name.
“Forgive your worst enemies,” Kor said in a video recording of her last visit to the Auschwitz Museum posted to its official Facebook page.
“The moment I forgave the Nazis, I felt free from Auschwitz and from all the tragedy that had occurred to me,” she added.
Kor also said that for her, combatting the racial prejudice that can lead to genocide is as simple as “treating each other with respect and fairness”.
“That doesn’t take big laws, that doesn’t take any government,” she added.
Kor testified in the 2015 trial of former SS officer Oskar Groening, the so-called Bookkeeper of Auschwitz, who was accused on 300,000 counts of being an “accessory to murder” of Hungarian Jews.
During the trial, Kor described her experiences at the hands of Mengele, who had a fascination for twins.
She and her twin sister, Miriam, were 10 years old and managed to survive the regular mystery injections from Mengele, who was dubbed the “Angel of Death”.
Kor recalled how, suffering a high fever, she saw Mengele at her bedside, “laugh sarcastically”.
“Too bad, she’s so young. She has only two weeks to live,” she recalled him saying.
Crawling on the floor because she was unable to walk, Kor said she went on to find her sister who had been injected with a substance to freeze the growth of her kidneys.
“If I had died, Miriam would have been killed with an injection in the heart. Mengele would have performed comparative autopsy,” she said.
On January 27, 1945, the two sisters watched as Russian soldiers liberated Auschwitz.
“They had smiles on their faces. They gave us chocolate, cookies and hugs. That was our first taste of freedom,” Kor said.
Kor’s parents and two other sisters perished at the death camp.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was built by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland. With 1 million Jews killed there between 1940 to 1945, the camp has become a symbol of Adolf Hitler’s genocide of the European Jews.
More than 100,000 other people also perished there, including non-Jewish Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and anti-Nazi resistance fighters.