Thursday, January 05, 2012

Recently Watched: Forgiving Dr. Mengele (a documentary)

I recently watched the documentary "Forgiving Dr. Mengele". The documentary is about Eva Mozes Kor who not only survived the horrific experience of being in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust, but managed to do so despite being part of Josef Mengele's cruel experiments on twins.

In the spring of 1944, at the age of 9, Eva and her family were sent to Auschwitz where she and her sister Miriam were quickly identified as twins and separated from their mother (they had also been separated from their father and two older sisters). Despite being "saved" from the gas chambers where the rest of their family were eventually killed, the two girls were subjected to an unknown number of medical experiments. In addition to experiments involving her eyes, Eva tells of experiments done to the girls involving their kidneys. There was a time when she was near death but she willed herself to live in order to prevent Miriam from being killed (if one twin died, the other would be killed and a comparative autopsy would be performed).

The two girls managed to survive until the camp was liberated in January of 1945. The girls returned to their home country of Romania, and lived with an aunt until they immigrated to Israel in 1950. In 1960 Eva met and married her husband, who was also a Holocaust survivor. She returned to the United States with him and started a family. Even though the sisters were living in separate countries they remained close and worked together to locate other survivors of Dr. Mengele's experiments. Together they founded CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi's Deadly Lab Experiments).

Despite having survived the horrors of Auschwitz, the experiments done on Miriam ultimately led to her death in 1993. Before Miriam's death, Eva had overheard a doctor comment about how it might be beneficial if they could only know specifically what Mengele had injected into Miriam. This started Eva on her fruitless mission to find Mengele's records, but resulted in her ultimate journey to forgiveness.

When Eva publicly forgave the Nazis and Dr. Mengele, while visiting Auschwitz during the 50th anniversary of its liberation, she received mixed reactions including anger from other survivors. But, as she would explain it, she wasn't forgetting what had happened, or dismissing the Holocaust. Instead she was releasing herself from being a victim, and allowing herself to heal.

The documentary doesn't end with Eva's personal statement of forgiveness, but goes on to document her continued efforts to educate others about the Holocaust, compassion, respect, and the healing power of forgiveness.

It is Eva's act of forgiveness, the reactions others had to it, and some of the opinions about forgiveness that were stated in the documentary that have had me thinking quite a bit. Once I am able to put into words the emotions I have been having, I'll give you my own thoughts regarding forgiveness. In the meantime, I would highly watching this documentary. Some of the images are disturbing, obviously, so unless you want to have some serious discussions I wouldn't recommend it for young children. I found it on NetFlix, but it's probably available elsewhere as well.
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