“Forgiving Dr. Mengele” film shown in Ogle Center

Kristin Kennedy , Staff Writer

All 96 seats were occupied in the Millicent and Norman Stiefler Recital Hall. Potential audience members sat on the wooden steps after giving up their seats.
Over 100 people came to the “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” documentary screening in the Stiefler Recital Hall in the Ogle Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. The audience waits for Forgiving Dr. Mengele to start. The event was part of the 2014-15 IU Southeast Common Experience program, and it was the first event in the Common Experience series titled, “Facing the Unthinkable: Perspectives on the Holocaust.”

Michael Hutchins, Common Experience committee member and German professor, had to turn people away due to the IU Southeast fire code. Hutchins said the number of people showed the success of the event. “This is a terrific problem to have,” Hutchins said when addressing the audience before the start of the documentary. Hutchins said that anyone who did not get to see “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” could attend another screening of the documentary on Monday, Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Stiefler Recital Hall.

“Forgiving Dr. Mengele” centers on Eva Mozes Kor, who suffered near-death experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp with her twin sister, Miriam, from 1944 until Auschwitz was liberated in 1945. Dr. Joseph Mengele, a Nazi doctor and scientist, performed genetic experiments on Kor, Miriam and other twins. Kor and Miriam became ill as a result of experiments, but Kor’s determination helped her and Miriam survive. After Auschwitz was liberated, Kor and Miriam eventually moved to Israel. In 1960, Kor moved to Terre Haute, Ind. with her husband, Michael, another Holocaust survivor. The Kors had two children, Alex and Rina.

In “Forgiving Dr. Mengele,” Kor said that she did not talk about her experiences in Auschwitz until 1985, due to the haunting memories she had. This was partly due to the fact that her family experienced discrimination in Terre Haute. At times, Kor’s house was vandalized. “It was just really upsetting what those kids would do on Halloween with those swastikas on her house and everything,”

Kelsey Drane, pre-nursing sophomore, said. “It’s just really imperative to see how people would treat other (Holocaust) survivors.”
Kor returned to Auschwitz with a former Nazi doctor, Dr. Hans Münch, in 1995, the 50th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. There, Kor spoke: She chose to forgive the Nazis for the actions they engaged in during the Holocaust.
Uzma Syeda, psychology sophomore, said it was compelling to see the process of Kor’s forgiveness. “I thought it was very personal how she could forgive someone who had done so much hate toward her,”Syeda said.

After returning to Terre Haute, Kor opened CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center to educate people about the Holocaust and the importance of forgiveness. Kor also traveled to other countries to educate others. In November 2003, arson destroyed the museum, but it was rebuilt in April 2005. Since then, Kor has continued to educate people around the world about forgiveness.

Elias Lucio, communications freshman, said it was interesting to see that there are several aspects of forgiveness.
“(The documentary) just made me really think about the degrees of forgiveness and the importance, and how distinct that is for every single person,” Lucio said.
The fact that Kor had forgiven the Nazis caused the exposure of mixed reactions. Some people she met supported the idea, but others rejected it by citing the Nazis’ actions.
“One thing that comes to mind when I see this film is that, when one person forgives, it tends to put pressure on other people to forgive as well,” Hutchins said. “And that can be positive, but that can also be negative, especially for survivors of the Holocaust.”
Hutchins said that it is important for students to not only understand forgiveness, but also understand empathy.

“It’s important to note that forgiveness, especially the way that Eva Kor experiences it, is not empathy,” Hutchins said. “Because forgiveness is the giving up of a grievance that you have every right to. Empathy is coming to understand the other person’s perspective, having to identify with that, and seeing things from their side.”

Hutchins also said that forgiveness does not mean forgetting. “(Kor) doesn’t excuse the Holocaust,” Hutchins said. “She doesn’t forget the Holocaust, but she says in essence, ‘I have every right to this pain, but I’m going to of my own volition give it up.’” Hutchins led a discussion of “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” after it ended. After the discussion, the audience members could take free Common Experience T-shirts, drawstring bags, cups and pencils.

Besides the additional showing of “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” on Jan. 28, there will be two other events in the “Facing the Unthinkable: Perspectives on the Holocaust” series.
Angelika Hoelger, history and international studies professor, will present a lecture titled “Understanding the Holocaust” on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, at 6 p.m. in University Center North, room 127. Hoelger will discuss various aspects of the Holocaust, including its background, its history and its significance.
Additionally, Kor will come to IU Southeast on Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. in the Richard K. Stem Concert Hall in the Ogle Center. She will describe her experiences in Auschwitz and discuss her decision to forgive the Nazis.

After the lecture, Kor will sign copies of her book, “Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz.” The book is available for purchase in the IU Southeast bookstore, and it will also be available for purchase after Kor’s lecture.
Chancellor Ray Wallace said that he had to turn people away when Kor came to the University of Arkansas–Fort Smith, so he anticipates a large crowd will be at Kor’s lecture.
Lucio said that even though he normally does not attend Common Experience events, he might attend the upcoming events.
“I have a pretty busy schedule, but I really enjoyed this one so I might take my way out of the time and attend more,” Lucio said.

Eva Mozes Kor, Auschwitz survivor and founder of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center will speak about the Holocaust and her book, “Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz”, will be available for sale and signing Tuesday, Feb. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Stem Concert Hall in Ogle Center.