When I read the story of Louis Zamperini in Laura Hillenbrand’s terrific book, Unbroken, I was amazed by the fact that Zamperini was able to forgive his torturer in a Japanese POW camp. I would have been incapable of such an act of mercy. Now, having read the story below, I am even more astonished. I am in awe of Eva. If Judaism had saints, she would be one.
Holocaust Survivor Adopts Grandson Of Nazi Commander Who Murdered Her Family
A holocaust survivor adopted the grandson of a high-ranking Nazi Commandant who was responsible for her family’s death. He also designed and constructed gas chambers to “efficiently” exterminate as many Jews as possible.
What occurred 70 years later is an amazing story about the ultimate forgiveness between a holocaust survivor and the grandson of one of the most brutal men that ever lived.
In the Second World War, Eva Mozes Kor was sent to Auschwitz with her twin sister, Miriam, when they were 10-years-old. Their entire family was brought to the Nazi concentration camp from Romania and were killed, with the exception of Eva and Miriam. They survived despite suffering debilitating illness and torturous experiments. When she was practically dying on an experiment table, Dr. Josef Mengele – known as the SS “Angel of Death” – came to check in on her. Eva recalls him smirking and pointing at her, saying “Too bad, she’s so young and only has two more weeks to live.”
Eva decided at that point to prove Mengele wrong and longed to see her own sister again. It was that will and determination she found somewhere inside herself that made it happen. It may have had to do with the sick experiments of twin siblings that Mengele was intrigued by. If Eva died, she knew her sister would die because they did side-by-side autopsies afterwards, Eva tells Vice.
“I just kept thinking, ‘If I die, then Miriam will be murdered as well.’”
Eva was imprisoned at Auschwitz, where SS Rudolf Hoess oversaw and ordered the deaths of 1.1 million Jews. They either died in gas chambers, starvation, or disease. He ordered the death of her parents, whom she never had a chance to say goodbye to. She and Miriam were one of 200 twins out of 1,500 that survived Nazi medical experiments. Miriam died in 1993.
Rainer Hoess, 49, reached out to Eva, 80, after he rejected his own family. No one was allowed to disagree in his family. The tragedies of the holocaust were to remain quiet. He wasn’t allowed to speak out and was expected to admire his grandfather as a hero, he tells the Telegraph.
“There was a dictatorship in the house, and we weren’t allowed to disagree. I had to admire my grandfather like a hero.”
Finally, he stood up to them, unable to live the rest of his life that way with a clear conscience. Rainer’s family disowned him and he completely broke ties with his relatives. If his grandfather had a marked grave, he would “spit on it” because he “can’t forgive the burden he brought into our lives. We had to carry a very heavy cross.”
Rudolf Hoess was hanged for his war crimes in 1945 at the end of his trial in Nuremburg.
One day, Eva received an email from Rainer. The holocaust survivor thought he had to be an imposter because no relative of the Nazis would speak out against their family. She received a second email from Rudolf Hoess’ grandson, requesting to meet her. He said he wanted to give her a hug. Prior to their meeting, they were both nervous. Eva was impressed with what a nice young man Rainer was, in spite of all the evil he was raised around. He openly asked Eva if she would adopt him as her grandson and she happily agreed to. Their relationship is an “unofficial” adoption, but they both have something now neither had before. Their relationship is real and genuine, which is something Rainer never had in his life before meeting his adoptive grandmother.
Eva says forgiving the Nazis for their torment has “set her free.” She even visits Auschwitz for ceremonial occasions and dances at the former concentration camp in an effort to “reclaim” joy, since that’s where she last saw her entire family.
The holocaust survivor lives in Indiana and Rainer Hoess lives in Germany. Both speak about their experiences from the past and hope many will learn from the horrors that will never repeat themselves again.