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Thursday, November 27, 2003

Kol hakavod to Eva Mozes Kor

Auschwitz Survivor Vows to Rebuild Torched Holocaust Museum in Indiana

Eva Kor talks before the start of a candlelight vigil for the CANDLES
Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute, Ind., Thursday, Nov. 20, 2003. Kor,
who is an Auschwitz survivor, founded the museum that was destroyed
by fire earlier in the week. Kor said she hopes to rebuild the museum
with tighter security.(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

New York Times: TERRE HAUTE, Ind., Nov. 22 — An Auschwitz survivor has vowed to rebuild a Holocaust museum here that was destroyed by a suspicious fire early last Tuesday.

"We'll at least open as good as it was before, but I think it will be even better," said the owner, Eva Mozes Kor. "Even if it takes the last pennies in my account, it will open."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the case as domestic terrorism and a possible hate crime because "Remember Timmy McVeigh" was found scrawled on a wall of the museum, said Doug Garrison, spokesman for the bureau's Indianapolis office.

Timothy J. McVeigh, executed in Terre Haute in 2001 for his involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing, was "the quintessential domestic terrorist," Mr. Garrison said.

The Anti-Defamation League is offering $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. "Without a doubt, we view this as a hate crime," Richard Hirschhaut, the league's Midwest director, said. "We believe this was a deliberate act of hate and those who committed it were hellbent on destroying a place of enlightenment and virtue."

On Saturday, Ms. Kor, a 69-year-old twin who was used in a number of painful experiments by the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, sifted through the blackened remains of the museum, which honors children who survived the Holocaust. Most of the memorabilia were ruined. Hundreds of copies of Ms. Kor's book, "Echoes From Auschwitz," were charred and soggy, but she did recover a gift from schoolchildren who had visited the museum: an angel holding a banner that read "Peace."

Ms. Kor, who bears a blurred number A-7063 on her arm, said she had forgiven the Nazis and her next task was to forgive those who had destroyed the tiny museum. "I am working on it," she said. "As long as I am holding on to that pain, I am not free from it."

Since the museum opened eight years ago, roughly 5,000 people a year have visited the 3,600-square-foot site, called Candles (Children of Auschwitz-Nazi's Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors).

When Ms. Kor learned of the fire, she said her first thought was, Why me? "But immediately after that," she said, "I thought I have only two choices when I see anything tragic: be destroyed by it or rise above it."

Two vigils have been held in her honor, and supporters have sent a few thousand dollars by mail.

Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said 12 such groups were active in Indiana. "Hard-line sympathizers of mass murderers like Tim McVeigh are very much alive and well in this country," Mr. Potok said. "With all of this attention paid to foreign terrorism post-9/11, people tend to have forgotten that there is a real subculture of people in this country who believe that Jews need killing and who see Tim McVeigh as having entered the pantheon of great Aryan heroes."

Ms. Kor, who is from Transylvania, was deported with her family to Auschwitz in 1944. Her mother, father and two of her sisters died there.

But Ms. Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, survived and were subjected to painful tests and experiments performed by Dr. Mengele for nearly a year. Ms. Kor recalls sitting naked, arms tied to a bench, for six to eight hours while every part of her body was examined, measured and compared with charts in lengthy, demeaning observations several times a week. She said both she and her sister had suffered life-threatening illnesses as a result of Dr. Mengele's experiments.

"We were his guinea pigs," she said, adding that he came in every morning to count his test subjects.

Ms. Kor established the museum to help bring attention to the child survivors of the Holocaust, especially those who endured Dr. Mengele's experiments.

Now, as her museum sits in ruins, display cases destroyed, electronic equipment melted, posters covered in a layer of soot, Ms. Kor is hopeful. The arsonist, she said, was not entirely successful.

"As strange as it might sound, the world has learned about our little museum," she said. "If he was trying to destroy the message we were trying to teach, he has accomplished exactly the opposite."
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