Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors


Forgiving Mengele and Finding True Liberation

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Forgiveness is hard. Both seeking it and granting it are complicated for most people most of the time. Yet we all have things for which we should be seeking forgiveness and almost as certainly those we need to forgive. Told by Toby Axelrod, the story of Eva Kor, a survivor of Nazi doctor-torturer, Josef Mengele contains important lessons in both seeking and granting forgiveness.

Kor says she has forgiven Josef Mengele, who conducted experiments on her and her twin sister, Miriam, at the Auschwitz concentration camp….”Here I am, this little guinea pig from Auschwitz, and I have the power to forgive Josef Mengele! And he can’t do anything about it,” the diminutive, energetic woman who will turn 76 on Saturday said this week at Auschwitz. “I stopped being a victim, and that makes me a very powerful person.”

Not surprisingly, other survivors object strenuously to Kor’s offering forgiveness. In 2007, the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors called it “abhorrent to forgive this monster, Josef Mengele,” and the group’s president said other Mengele twins were very upset with Kor for talking about forgiveness.
Kor’s response is interesting because it holds the key to what I believe are the limits of forgiveness i.e. our own readiness and the fact that we can only forgive what which was done to us.


Kor admits that if others do not want to forgive, “It’s their choice”, but says that she would feel like an eternal victim if she did not forgive Mengele.
Kor is a master of forgiveness, neither insisting that others follow her path, but showing us how forgiveness can accomplish far more the one who offers it than for the one who receives it. Especially in this case, since Mengele is dead! And the fact that he is, seems to be central to her ability to forgive him.
When it comes to the living terrorists who blow up cafes in Israel, but who have not actually harmed her, Eva says that she cannot forgive and neither should others. Ironically, she ends up sounding like those who castigate her for forging Dr. Mengele. And that is another forgiveness lesson to emerge from the story: when we start dictating about the forgiveness practices of others, we seem to lose our spiritual generosity.
So perhaps we need to admit that in the same way that we can only forgive what was done to us, we ought not to comment on the propriety of others forgiving what was done to them.
Ultimately, forgiveness is a remarkably intimate act. It is neither the eternally correct posture which New Age spiritualists tell us, nor does it always dilute accountability and diminish memory as so many others seem to fear. Forgiveness is a gift and because it is, it can never be compelled and should never be scorned.



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Gil

posted February 3, 2010 at 11:23 am


I cannot forgive the Nazi Germans who killed with a “slide rule.” The German handbook of military conduct which was written in the 1880′s and incorporated into the United States handbook of military conduct stipulated that a German soldier had the right of refusing an order given by a superior officer to shoot an unarmed civilian. What the Nazis did was sheer, unmitigated Evil. Forgiveness is not granted to a mere mortal, but is left up to God. Perhaps this victim gets a psychological “lift” to “forgive” this monster who “toyed” with God’s creation. You don’t get metaphysical or existential “brownie points” by forgiving the devil incarnate. It is ludicrous and shameful.



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Lucy

posted February 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm


Kor has forgiven Mengele because it allows her to have a certain power:she is no longer a victim and by gosh, that just might be really upsetting to the “doctor”…if he were alive. She benefits from forgiving him and that is all that matters. She is not requiring anyone else to do the same. (Personally, I do not think I could forgive him. I think I would better enjoy a little self-righteous hatred but, how can I really know, since I have never experienced anything remotely like the horrors Kor has lived through. I would guess that her reason that no one should forgive the terrorists is that they, (or their brethren) are still around to perpetrate violence on more helpless victims. I see her point but forgiveness is personal. If a particular victim wants to forgive the terrorist who harmed him, that is his right. Of course, that victim cannot forgive the terrorist for anyone else who was harmed.



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Gil

posted February 3, 2010 at 5:11 pm


Typo error correction – The sentence should read – Forgiveness is not granted by a mere mortal – not to. Mass murder on the scale of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and others throughout history cannot be forgiven by man. Mengele is in this category. “Turn thy other cheek” is not applicable in our world, for the wanton and evil destruction of societies perpetrated by these monstrosities.



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Jordan Hirsch

posted February 4, 2010 at 10:22 am


I think you hit the nail on the head when you spoke of forgiveness being an intimate act. And that is the clue to understanding both sides in this discussion. It may be too much to ask a community of victims, like the child survivors, to offer “forgiveness”, as that would create a misunderstanding about the real historical forces at play in the discussion of evil and it’s role in the Nazi actions. But individuals have to be able to have the freedom to choose how they will interact with the memory of their experiences, including whether or not to forgive their oppressors. It is up to them to determine the tools they need to find their own peace. Perhaps Kors would take a different approach to the issue of terrorists were that conflict laid to rest. I pray one day we can decide whether or not we want to forgive the perpetrators of terror who have come to live in peace with their former victims.



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Carole C.

posted February 4, 2010 at 10:59 am


I find it difficult to forgive anyone who has taken an innocent person’s life. By forgiving we are helping condone this over and over again. My best friend was murdered, in cold blood, last week in NYC, should I forgive the man who did this? The departed was kind, caring, a believer.. He took away a friend father, grand-father, and husband. Does any of this make sense? To comment on the aforementioned, Jordan Hirsch, I see his point however until it affects those left behind I personally feel these fanatics and murderers deserve no forgiveness.



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St Paul Mike

posted February 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm


In short, no. For sins committed against G-d, G-d must be asked to forgive. For sins, committed against people, those people must forgive. Eva Kor can forgive. I cannot. The question for those not sinned against is: Do we seek vengeance in the name of the murdered innocents to balance the score? I do not.



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Your Name

posted February 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm


Why is the concept of forgivness so relevant in the religious form? Maybe so that the cycle of revenge (in its many forms) would or could be broken.? It is still a good thing as a path or road to self healing if properly understood. The forgiveness of another does the other “no” good, only yourself, unless the other has seen his errors or departures from the human race. He may also return to wholeness if he does. Is there a depature of “no return”, call it condemnation, hell, deathrow, judgement by man, war as justified murder, then and now, colateral damage etc.? Every man dies a slow death from the day he was born. Who aids to life and who aids to death.? What are the lessons to be learned, really?



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Dr Ronald Csillag

posted February 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm


While forgiveness may be beneficial in many situations, in this one it is NOT. This piece of excrement murdered tens of thousands of OUR brothers and sisters. May he rot forever and his name be blotted out. Yemoch Shemoh Vizickroh.
The mere thought to forgive him is a sign of sickness.



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G. Mo

posted February 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm


Only those who suffered have the right to forgive.



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Cully

posted February 4, 2010 at 2:15 pm


I think Eva is right on target – “I stopped being a victim, and that makes me a very powerful person.”
When you forgive someone it doesn’t mean you forget. If you forgive and forget then you will keep having the same “stuff” happen to you (and probably by the same person or people just like them).



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Your Name

posted February 4, 2010 at 2:47 pm


I AGREE WITH THE BELIEF THAT TO FORGIVE IS SETTING YOURSELF FREE FROM
THE BONDAGE OF HATRED TOWARDS THE PERSON WHO COMMITTED SIN.I FORGIVE,I DO NOT FORGET,BUT I WILL MOVE ON.
“TO ERROR IS HUMAN,TO FORGIVE IS DEVINE”



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Your Name

posted February 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm


Dr. Ronald, not meaning to be disrespectful, but if you hang on to your hate,(noticeable in your statement) you may very well become the person you hate. Choose life, and hate what and where you can do so something about constructively “today”. You don’t have to forgive Mengele, nor are those who choose to forgive for their own peace of mind sick. Between your choice of forever hate,(it’s misreable and sick too) I would choose what ever helps me in “LIFE” among the living. Which is the greater sickness?



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Linda

posted February 4, 2010 at 5:32 pm


As a member of the U.S. military in the early 1960′s, I was stationed at a former concentration camp in Germany. It became an extremely emotional experience, and changed my life forever. I have now converted to a Jew.
Should Joseph Mengle be forgiven? NEVER, NEVER, NEVER !!!



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windbender

posted February 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm


Eva Kor’s willingness to forgive, on behalf of herself alone, is an expression of strength which reflects the core value of Judaism – personal responsibility. This is a very different thing than suggesting that what was done to her was not wrong or saying that it merits forgiveness. That distinction is part of what give it such value.



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European

posted February 4, 2010 at 8:56 pm


Windbender,
thank you, you made a very good point and distinction that is often overlooked when one hears the word of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean or say it was OK what one has done to another. Mengele, Hitler, the Turkish masacare before that, the masacares in Tibet, in all parts of the world cruelties were committed, by moslems, by Russia, about 6 million women burned at the stake in the course of a few hundered years in the middle ages, the tenthousand or more of Baptists tortures and drownings by the Lutherans, cruelties committed by the catholics, everywhere cruelties being committed, in Africa, in Bosnia, in the jewish diaspora, also 6 million none jews ended up in the gas chambers in Nazi Germany etc.,it is all recorded in history and none is forgotten. What I notice though, is that of all the people in the world, there is no other people that want to relive, or keep this evil alive in their minds and in their culture so much in present day, as do the Jewish People. Most cultures are embarrased by their past and have moved on. Are Jews never embarrassed about their past, whether the Torah is part fiction or part History, or pick and choose.? It does not appear to me to be without horrendous crimes.



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g

posted February 5, 2010 at 1:02 am


I am no Psychiatrist nor am I a therapist, but I do observe certain behaviors over time. One behavior I observe is that frequently, people viciously victimized by some one like Mengele, they feel absolutely powerless over the situation. I have noticed that when there is no recourse to Justice as in this case, the victims frequently turn to ‘forgiveness’ . Albeit, I never heard anyone truly define how this form of forgiveness really works or how it is defined. Is it just a’ It’s ok that you hacked me up and were brutally sadistic to me, I forgive you,, let bygones be bygones” ?? Is that it?? I don’t know. remember, if Joseph M was still alive he would laugh at your forgiveness as weak and meaningless and would assure you that he would be happy to do it all over again.
So forgiveness seems to have little meaning here if it has any meaning at all.
Justice, really is a better path , but now that he is dead there can beno justice.
SAD.



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Expat111

posted February 5, 2010 at 2:23 am


“g” and “European” both make very valid points. I ask myself always what is “forgiveness” and how is it performed? As all of us that have been harmed or hurt and also done the hurting to others, it is extremely hard to perform the act of forgiveness. As the High Holidays/Days of Awe approach, we are asked to reflect on our sins and ask for forgiveness directly from the person we have harmed. It is also important to go to those people that have hurt us and give them the opportunity to ask for forgiveness from us.
This means that forgiveness is a personal experience! Eva Kor has the right to forgive Mengele in her own way. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting! If it helps her to sleep at night and live the remaining days of her painful life in peace than who am I to tell her how to live or forgive? I for one have no answers to life’s mysteries and certainly need a few lessons in forgiveness to help with my own healing.



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Silvio Saidemberg

posted February 6, 2010 at 8:07 am


Moving away from your role as victim and releasing the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life is the essence of forgiveness. You stop defining your life by how you’ve been hurt. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s full responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. The person that is being forgiven does will always have to respond fully for bad actions and memories that they were created, however is deprived of any power to go on obsessing and haunting the life of former victims. Forgiving is taking away the power of the fear from one’s life.



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Silvio Saidemberg

posted February 6, 2010 at 8:12 am


Moving away from your role as victim and releasing the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life is the essence of forgiveness. You stop defining your life by how you’ve been hurt. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s full responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. The person that is being forgiven does will always have to respond fully for bad actions and memories that they were created, however is deprived of any power to go on obsessing and haunting the life of former victims. Forgiving is taking away the power of the fear from one’s life.



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