Eva Mozes Kor, a Holocaust survivor and educator, passed away at the age of 85 on Thursday, July 4, 2019, according to CANDLES Museum.
Eva was on an annual trip to Auschwitz at the time of her passing, said CANDLES Museum, which she founded in 1984 with help from her twin sister, Miriam Mozes Zieger. CANDLES is an acronym for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.
“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Eva Kor, Holocaust survivor, forgiveness advocate, and founder of CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center,” they wrote in a tweet. “Eva passed peacefully today, July 4th, 2019, at 7:10am local time in Krakow, Poland on the annual CANDLES trip.”
CANDLES will be closed on July 5th and 6th to mourn and honor Eva’s passing. The museum will reopen at 10:00am on Tuesday, July 9th.
“The staff and Eva’s family are grateful for those who have sent messages, memories, condolences, and strength,” they wrote.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Eva and Her Family Were Taken to Auschwitz When She Was Child
According to CANDLES, Eva was born in 1934 in the small village of Portz, Romania. The Mozes’ were the only Jewish family in the village, which was occupied by a Hungarian Nazi armed guard when the twins were six years old. When the twins were 10 years old, the Mozes family was transported to the regional ghetto in Simleu Silvaniei, and shortly thereafter packed into a cattle car and transported to the Auschwitz death camp.
“This is the last photo ever taken of my family,” Eva shared in a post on Facebook in 2015. “I am on my mother’s right side and Miriam is on her left. 71 years ago at this time, we were forced into a cattle car and taken to Auschwitz. 30 minutes after we arrived, Miriam and I were the only ones left from this picture. The photo is creased in the middle because I found it crumpled up on the bedroom floor when we returned home. That was all that was left of my family. I did not unfold this picture to look at it until 1978.”
They spent 70 hours without food or water on the train to Auschwitz. After they stepped on to the selection platform, Eva never saw her mother, father, and two older sisters again.
2. Eva and Her Twin Sister Were the Subjects of Genetic Experiments
CANDLES wrote that Eva and Miriam became part of a group of children used in genetic experiments headed by Dr. Josef Mengele. There were approximately 1,500 sets of twins, most of which died as a result of the experiments. Eva also became deathly ill, however, she was determined to perservere and ensure her sister’s survival as well. The two created CANDLES to locate other twins who survived Dr. Mengle’s experiments.
“I watched 24 little girls in front of me being tattooed,” Eva said in a post on Facebook in 2017. “I was number 25. Miriam was number 26. And I said to myself, I am not going to just let them do to me whatever they want to. So when those 24 kids were being tattooed one at a time, I was determined to give them as much trouble as a ten-year-old could when my turn came.”
Eva and Miriam were two of approximately 200 children who were found alive by the Soviet Army during the liberation of the camp on January 27, 1945. They spent nine months living in three different refugee camps before returing to Romania to live with their aunt.
“While I was happy there was no more shooting at us, my thoughts were “how do I get home?” She wrote in on the 72nd anniversary of her liberation. “I wanted to see if my family survived. But all I found when Miriam and I finally took the train back to our village nine months later was three crumpled pictures on a bedroom floor.”
Despite everything that has happened to her, the childhood she was robbed of having, Eva said she had forgiven the Nazis.
3. Eva Married Michael Kor and Had Two Children
Eva and Miriam immigrated to Israel in 1950, where Eva went on to attain the rank of Sergeant Major in the Israeli Army Engineering Corps, according to CANDLES.
While in Isreal, Eva met her husband, Michel Kor, who was also a Holocaust survivor. They married in Tel Aviv in 1960 and moved to the United States. Five years later, Eva became a citizen. The couple raised two children, Alex and Rina.
“This is one of the last photos taken of us,” Alex Kor wrote on Facebook on July 5, 2019. “Wearing my dad’s Purdue sweat shirt, perhaps, I was bringing my dad to my mom’s side for the last time. Thanks for all of the well wishes. Yesterday, I lost my best friend, my idol, my mentor, and my mom. This is really tough but I must be EVA-STRONG. I know all of my tears will not erase the pain that I am feeling. But in time, I will get back on my feet and do my best to continue my mom’s messages and efforts.”
4. Eva and Miriam Founded CANDLES
According to the museum, after seeing an NBC series titled The Holocaust in 1978, Eva started to wonder about the other children who were liberated alongside her and Miriam. She contacted Miriam, who was still in Isreal at the time, and requested her help in finding other survivors.
In 1984, Eva founded CANDLES, the only organization in the world dedicated to the memory of the twin victims and survivors of medical experimentation at Auschwitz. Miriam served as the Vice President for Israeli Survivors. According to the site, Eva liked the acronym because she wanted to shed some light on this hidden and dark chapter of the Holocaust.
“We honor and celebrate the lives of the Mengele Twins by telling their stories, to educate the world and prevent similar atrocities,” the Vision statement reads. “Our institution is not only a witness to history, but also an active voice outside the museum walls. By working to prevent genocide on a global level and transform prejudice on a local level, we aim to create a world free from hatred and genocide.”
Eva was on a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the CANDLES trip participants at the time of her passing.
5. Eva Touched the Lives of So Many People
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said the world just lost a “giant.”
“Janet & I loved and adored her,” Holcomb wrote. “Everywhere she went, Eva brought light into darkness & provided comfort to those in pain unlike anyone we’ve ever met.”
President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway J. Douglas Boles shared a photo from when he and Mario Andretti presented her with a bottle of milk two on the victory podium two years ago.
“She was remarkable, witty, & we were lucky to know her,” Boles wrote.
Digital colorist Marina Amaral said her heart is broken after the Eva’s passing.
“I am devastated to hear the news of the passing of @EvaMozesKor,” Amaral wrote. “She was one of the kindest and bravest women I’ve met in my entire life. She understood the mission behind @FacesAuschwitz and supported us so much since the beginning.”
Attorney McKay Smith said Eva was “a beacon of hope and forgiveness. Just a truly lovely person.”