INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor of Terre Haute will receive the state’s top honor.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Friday that the 83-year-old Kor will be given the 2017 Sachem Award.
Kor founded the Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors museum in Terre Haute in 1985. An arsonist later torched the museum, but it was reopened in 2005.
The Jewish native of Romania was sent in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where most of her family was killed. Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, survived, but were subjected to inhumane medical experiments under Nazi doctor Josef Mengele before their liberation in 1945.
Holcomb says Kor is a “living embodiment of true compassion” who has fought against bigotry and hatred by educating the public.
The Sachem Award, as it’s known today, has been given out since 2005. One award a year is given to Hoosiers who have brought credit and honor to the state.
Governor Holcomb told the crowd it was what Kor did after surviving Auschwitz that makes her remarkable.
“Eva shows what our response should be to acts of bigotry and hatred through her daily mission,” he said.
That mission? Forgiving the seemingly unforgivable.
“How can anyone forgive the Nazis,” Kor asked the crowd.
73-years ago she and her family arrived in Auschwitz. Within 30 minutes 10-year old Kor and her twin sister Miriam were ripped apart from her parents and older sister. She never saw them again. The twins were then starved, like most in death camps. They were also used lab experiments and injected with unknown substances. After one injection in particular, Kor became deathly ill. Dr. Mengele gave her two weeks to live.
“I was crawling to reach a faucet with water at the other end of the barrack. As I was crawling, I kept fading in and out of consciousness,” she recalled.
But somehow, she and Miriam survived. After about eight months of being in the concentration camp, they were liberated in 1945.
15-years later Kor married and moved to Terre Haute. Over the years she took trips back to Auschwitz; free to come and go. But although she was free physically, she did’t feel free mentally.
“It took some time and I took some trips to Auschwitz. In 1995, I forgave the Nazis,” she told the crowd.
The same year, Kor opened CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute. An arsonist set fire to the building in 2003. But, by then, she had mastered her mission of forgiveness.
It’s a mission that not only landed her in 170 speaking engagements across the country and in more than five countries in 2016 alone, but it’s also landed her a top honor.
“We are all much better because of your example and your courage, and your inspiration,” Holcomb said.
For Kor however, it’s not about the award. It’s about furthering her mission.
“I like the idea that forgiveness gets another platform of being presented to the world,” she said.
At the end of the ceremony, Holcomb surprise Kor by naming her Grand Marshal in the 500 Festival Parade.