By JENNIFER MEIER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
With each year, there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors to tell their stories. Books and photographs and museums can certainly make an impression, but there’s nothing like a first-hand account to make an experience really come alive for the listener.
The students at Northridge Middle School will have a chance to hear, first hand, the story of one very special woman, Indiana resident, author, museum founder and Auschwitz survivor Eva Mozes Kor.
Through Martin’s Super Market’s One School at a Time $1,000 grant, the middle school will be able to bring Kor for a visit in April.
NMS Library Manager Teri Schmidt met Kor three years ago at an American Library Association Conference in Chicago.
“I was just blown away by her story — her will to survive,” Schmidt said. “She autographed her book for me.”
That book, “Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz,” tells the harrowing experience of Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, who were two of the 1,500 sets of twins used as human guinea pigs in genetic experiments under the direction of Dr. Josef Mengele.
Most of the children perished as a result, but around 200 of the twins were found alive and liberated from the camp in January of 1945.
The book was chosen as a 2012-2013 Young Hoosier Book Award winner for middle school readers.
After having met the author and having learned of the prestigious award, Schmidt knew the book would become part of the sixth-grade unit focused on the Holocaust. Bringing Kor to the school was going to be a long process for the school and the librarian — that is until Schmidt learned about the $1,000 grant.
“She (Kor) has quite a schedule,” Schmidt said. “We had high hopes. We already had booked her for a visit and were trying to raise the money through community donations and candy sales. I was thrilled when we found out we were awarded the grant money.”
Almost the entire school has read or will read the book by the April 16 date of the visit.
“It was a really good book. I might have stayed up a little later than I should have to finish it,” said seventh-grader Alexis Davis. “It was amazing she had the strength to survive something that bad. And it was cool that she got to meet other people and other twins who lived through that time.”
Seventh-grader Vicki Pooters had another perspective on the story.
“Anybody who’s going through a problem right now should read this book,” Pooters said. “If they don’t think they have anything to live for and life is horrible — she and the other twins made it through something more horrible than anyone could possibly imagine.”
Zac Maierle, also in the seventh grade, was struck by Kor’s thoughts about her experience.
“It was so horrible. I am just amazed at how she lived through this and that she actually forgave Dr. Mengele even after everything he did — all those experiments,” Maierle said.
Kor, a Terre Haute resident since the 1960s, also founded CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) in 1984. In 1995 she opened the doors to a small museum, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, in Terre Haute. Exhibits feature several artifacts from Auschwitz and documents relating to Dr. Mengele and his work.
In 2007, Kor worked with state legislators to pass an Indiana law requiring Holocaust education in secondary schools. She now is part of a grassroots campaign called IHELP, a committee that provides resources and curricular support for Indiana educators who teach units on the Holocaust.
Library Manager Teri Schmidt said the April 16 program will be open to the community.