Eva Mozes Kor, a Holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate, died on Thursday while on an annual trip to Poland to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp. The 85-year-old was sent there in 1944 with her twin sister.
The two survived — despite undergoing dangerous medical experiments conducted by the notorious Josef Mengele — though most of her family did not. The Candles Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which Kor founded in Terre Haute, Indiana, released a statement announcing her “peaceful” passing.
Kor was born Jan. 31, 1934 in Port, Romania and spent nearly a year at Auschwitz before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops. “Surviving the Holocaust at age 10 meant that Eva emerged from a childhood full of fear, loss, grief, and displacement,” The Candles Museum said in a statement to CBS News. “But rather than allowing the darkest moments of her life to define her, she moved forward headfirst into a life of purpose.”
The museum credits the NBC special “The Holocaust,” a four-part miniseries that aired in 1978, for spurring Kor into action.
“This newfound visibility and understanding led to a path filled with searching for Dr. Mengele’s files, speaking all over the world, helping individuals in search of their own healing and founding a museum that continues to grow every year. Eva blazed trails for Holocaust education and brought the story of the Mengele twins and Dr. Mengele’s experiments into the international spotlight.”
In 1993, Kor met with Hans Munch, a Nazi doctor who was the only person during the Krakow War Crimes Trial to be acquitted in 1947. Munch was credited with saving the lives of many Jewish prisoners by coming up with elaborate schemes to keep them from the gas chambers. Kor wrote a letter of forgiveness to Munch after their meeting and, two years later, Munch signed a letter acknowledging the gas chambers at concentration camps.
Kor was a plaintiff in a 2015 case against former SS Sgt. Oskar Groening, who was being tried on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. She shared photos of embracing Groening at the time and penned an impassioned op-ed for The Times of London on “why forgiveness is the best revenge of all.”
“We hope Eva’s story continues to change the lives of those who hear it for many years to come,” the museum said. The museum will be closed July 9 in observation of Kor’s death. Details regarding a public memorial service are forthcoming.
According to CBS Indianapolis, Kor was lauded in Indiana, receiving an honorary degree last year from DePauw University. She was set to receive a “living legends” honor from the Indiana Historical Society this summer.