I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a photographer and an artist. I am also a clinical research professional. While the creative part of my life is what I most frequently share publicly, I have always been very passionate about the work I have been involved in, since 1988, to bring new and better medical treatments to patients. My responsibilities have always included protection of human subjects in clinical trials. This is a legal responsibility, and very importantly, an ethical responsibility.
Throughout my career, I have taught my colleagues the laws, regulations, guidance and industry standards that govern our work with human subjects. In seeking out the history of various regulations I found a transcript of a speech given by Eva Mozes Kor to medical school students. For years I incorporated Eva’s story and message into my presentations on the subject as it related to the Nuremberg Code as well as current laws. With each session, people particularly responded to Eva’s message and asked to know more.
You see, Eva is a survivor of the Holocaust who, at the age of 10, with her twin sister Miriam, was separated from the rest of the family who were all murdered, and was studied as a human “guinea pig” by Josef Mengele at Auschwitz. Subjected to horrific conditions and experiments, Eva and Miriam managed to survive the atrocities. They were photographed upon liberation leading the line of children who were imprisoned with them.
Many decades later, Eva related her experience to the work we do as clinical researchers. She explained that:
“Scientists must respect the wishes of the subjects…scientists should try to put themselves in the place of the subject and see how they would feel…scientists must never detach themselves from the humans they serve.” Eva Mozes Kor, The Mengele Twins and Human Experimentation: A Personal Account, 1992
After years of telling her story to hundreds of people, I tried to find Eva. Sure enough, I found her online and living in Indiana, and I invited her to my company. She replied immediately, and within a month she came to speak to hundreds of researchers at Amgen! The next year, I connected Eva to the Association for Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) as key note speaker addressing thousands. Though I expected to cry the entire time, Eva had us all in tears AND laughter. Many people lined up to meet and thank Eva, and she graciously took the time to greet each one.
While her list of achievements is long, I want to note a few of the extraordinary things that Eva has done. She founded the organization CANDLES (an acronym for "Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors"), through which she located 122 other living Mengele twins. She also founded CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in her hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana, to educate the public about eugenics, the Holocaust, and the power of forgiveness.
Why forgiveness? Eva FORGAVE Dr Mengele and the Nazis. Shocking as it sounds, Eva describes how she came to do this and why she advocates for forgiveness.
An important part of Eva’s efforts has been to bear witness to the holocaust and find others who would step forward with testimony of what was done. Eva found, interviewed and later also invited Dr. Hans Münch, a Nazi doctor who worked at Auschwitz, to document on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, her forgiveness of the Nazis, and Dr. Münch’s testimony that the gas chambers existed and were used to kill thousands.
“In my desperate effort to find a meaningful “thank you” gift for Dr. Münch I searched the stores, and my heart, for many months. Then the idea of a Forgiveness letter came to my mind. I knew it would be a meaningful gift, but it became a gift to myself as well, because I realized I was NOT a hopeless, powerless victim. When I asked a friend to check my spelling, she challenged me to forgive Dr. Mengele too. At first I was adamant that I could never forgive Dr Mengele but then I realised I had the power now…the power to forgive. It was my right to use it. No one could take it away.” Eva Mozes Kor
Eva Mozes Kor has spoken to countless schools, organizations and institutions, and has a message that is relevant for us all. She has authored books and tirelessly speaks, teaches and travels to tell her story, to advocate for forgiveness, and even to peacefully protest on behalf of others, such as those in Darfur, who are now suffering under genocide throughout the world. Each year in June, Eva leads an educational tour to Auschwitz…perhaps you will join her?
You may have seen Eva, now 81 years old, in the news recently. In January 2015, she attended the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviets. Wolf Blitzer featured her on CNN in the powerful Holocaust documentary VOICE OF AUSCHWITZ. HBO is currently airing the film NIGHT WILL FALL, narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, directed by André Singer (executive producer of “The Act of Killing”) and produced by Sally Angel and Brett Ratner (the “Rush Hour” series, “X Men: The Last Stand,” “Hercules”), including horrific raw footage and scenes from the 1945 documentary, insights from survivors, the soldiers who liberated them and including interviews with the filmmakers Bernstein (who later founded Granada Television), Alfred Hitchcock and director Billy Wilder. I especially recommend seeing her award winning documentary FORGIVING DOCTOR MENGELE.
What I treasure about Eva is that she is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a real estate agent, and a survivor…and that she tirelessly gives testimony to her experience and advocates for peace and forgiveness. Hers is a message of hope and encouragement that I carry with me. Her declaration at Auschwitz, twenty years ago, is a genuine hope for every person and for the world:
“Here in Auschwitz, I hope in some small way to send the world a message of forgiveness, amessage of peace, a message of hope, a message of healing. No more wars...no more experiments without informed consent...no more gas chambers...no more bombs...no more hatred...no more killing...no more Auschwitzes." Eva Mozes Kor
In May 2015 I will meet Eva again when she brings her message to Agility Clinical and hundreds more of our colleagues in clinical research. I am thankful already for how she will touch our lives and influence our work. I can’t wait to give her a big hug…and to take another picture with her!