Holocaust survivor Eva Kor shared her terrifying story Tuesday night of torture and humiliation at the Auschwitz death camp.
A packed audience listened in utter silence as Kor told of her experience as a young girl in Auschwitz under Dr. Josef Mengele, who was known as the "Angel of Death."
Kor said she doesn't have many vivid and detailed memories of Auschwitz. She does, however, remember the spring day in 1944 at age 10 when her life changed forever.
That day was the last time she saw her parents and two of her three sisters. Kor and her identical twin, Miriam Kor, were used for experimentation. Kor described how she was held down and had the identifying mark of A-7063 branded into her arm. After a couple of days in the camp, Kor made her first silent pledge – to keep her and her sister alive. She had only one objective and that was to simply survive.
Kor recalled that in early summer of 1944, she was injected with an unknown germ after a visit to Mengele's lab. She eventually became ill and was taken to a hospital and assigned to a barrack that she described as "the barrack of the living dead."
She came up with that moniker because people either die in the barrack or wait to be escorted to the gas chambers.
Kor was told that she only had two weeks to live by Mengele. That was when she made her second silent pledge, which was to get better and reunite with her sister. She also remembers being too weak to walk and having to crawl just to get to a nearby water fountain.
While Kor was in the hospital, her sister became even more ill than Kor. Kor's only objective was to "organize," or steal, food to help her sister get well. Miriam died in 1993 from a rare form of cancer caused by Mengele's experiments.
Three times a week the doctors would perform experiments that weren't harmful or deadly, but they were unbelievably demeaning and humiliating.
Onetime during a raid, Kor remembers staring down the barrel of an automatic rifle. Kor said she must have had a guardian angel looking over her because she fainted before the bullet struck her.
On Jan. 27, 1945, just 12 days before her 11th birthday, Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz.
Kor has learned many lessons, three of which help her share her story to others.
Lesson one is to never give up no matter how hard your life is. Lesson two is that hatred and prejudice still exist on earth. Lesson three is that she managed to forgive everyone who has caused her strife or harmed her. This forgiveness included her parents for not protecting from the Nazis.
"The day I forgave the Nazis is the day I forgave my parents," she said.
Kor began lecturing in 1978 about her experiences in Auschwitz. In tribute to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, Kor opened the Children of the Auschwitz Nazi Lab Experiment Survivors Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Ind. In 2003, the museum was burned to the ground because of arson.
However, Kor showed resilience once again and decided to build a new one, which will open in April.
Kor managed to add humor to an otherwise somber story. Kor's story touched members of the audience.
" I cried for a lot of it," said Andrea Lejune, a senior art education major. " It also evoked pride in the human race for me. Knowing that we can persevere through crisis."
Cady McClurg, a senior liberal arts major, feels that the speech evoked a feeling of tremendous awe in that a person can endure such trauma.
"I loved her message that we are stronger than we think we are," McClurg said. " We can survive anything as long as we commit to doing it."