By Stacy Gallin
On July 4, 2018, I said goodbye to Eva Mozes Kor, Holocaust survivor, Mengele twin, my friend, mentor and inspiration, in the Krakow airport for what would be the final time. We had just concluded a life-changing journey to Auschwitz with the Davidson College men’s basketball team, an idea that was formulated in 2017 after a colleague and I met Eva and witnessed her powerful message of survival, forgiveness and hope when she spoke to a full auditorium at Misericordia University, a Catholic University in Dallas, Pennsylvania. She helped us launch the Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Health and the Holocaust, where I currently serve as the director. That first night I met her, I promised to do everything I could to help share her message. Eva told me that I was a “firecracker,” and that she had no doubt I would make good on my promise. It was one of the best compliments I have ever received.
Over the next several months, Eva and I spoke frequently about how best to share her message with the world. Through the nonprofit organization that I founded, the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, and the nonprofit organization that Eva founded, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, we were able to organize this trip with the Davidson basketball team in an effort to educate a new generation of leaders and influencers about the anti-Semitism and human rights violations that took place during the Holocaust. Our goal was to inspire these young men to use their platform to become active agents of social change. The team spent four harrowing days touring Auschwitz-Birkenau and hearing Eva’s testimony. They witnessed the remnants of evil as they walked through the gas chambers. Those moments will remain with all of us forever and have already inspired many of the players to actively promote Holocaust education and the promotion of human dignity for all.
But there was more to our trip that we will remember as well. When the players and coaches first arrived at our hotel, she challenged them to try and make a basket…by shooting a ball into the seat of her walker. She fist-bumped each and every of them. She took selfies with the players because she thought the difference in height—two feet between her and some of them—was absolutely amazing. Knowing the circumstances of her early life, it’s hard for most people to understand this, but she was, quite simply, joy and hope personified.
Eva was a true inspiration. Sharing the story of her time in Auschwitz to teach people the power of forgiveness was not an easy thing to do, nor did it always make her popular among her peers. She didn’t care about that. She knew that her experience could help other people, and that was all that mattered to her. I don’t think it was a coincidence that she passed away at the end of her annual trip to Krakow, where she would take 100 people each year to show them the tragedy of the Holocaust juxtaposed with her story of survival, strength and hope. It was, quite simply, Eva’s way. If you knew Eva, you knew there was no way she was going to let anything stop her from sharing her message one final time.
On July 4, one year to the day after I last saw Eva Mozes Kor in Krakow, I received a text message telling me about her passing. The message read simply, “Rest in Peace, Eva. Such an inspiration and an amazing person.” It was sent from one of the Davidson basketball players. That speaks volumes about Eva’s impact and her legacy. I have been fortunate in my career to meet many wonderful people with amazing stories to share. However, I have never been more fortunate than the day I was blessed to meet Eva Mozes Kor. Getting to know Eva was—and will always be—one of the great privileges of my life.
Eva, I hope you know how much you meant to so many of us and how much good you did for the world. I promise to keep fighting the good fight and keep sharing your story, just as I did on that first night I was lucky enough to meet you.
Baruch Dayan Emet. May Eva’s memory be a blessing to us all.