July 20, 2015 18:01 BST
Eva Kor, an 81-year-old Jewish woman who lost her parents and older sisters to gas chambers at the Nazi death camp in 1944, talks to IBTimes UK about her survival as one of the many pairs of twins subjected to gruesome experiments by Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele.
“When we were taken to Auschwitz it was one of the worst nightmares anybody can experience and unfortunately the nightmare was true”, she says.
Talking to IBTimes via Skype from the Holocaust museum she started in Indiana, Kor recalls how everyone in her family except her twin sister Miriam disappeared within 30 minutes of the familyarriving in Auschwitz and how they never saw them again.
“What I have learnt in Auschwitz, is that if you cry you could not concentrate on living,” she says.
Being only 10 years old when she was deported, Kor describes how quickly her only goal became surviving: “We had been reduced to the lowest form of human existence. How to live one more day. And I concentrated all my effort on that one thing.”
She continues to talk about the conditions they were held in in the barracks, with girls aged two to 16 being kept together, starving and with lice and rats everywhere.
Kor explains that the experiments on the twins took place six days a week. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she recalls being measured for up to eight hours a day, with the doctors comparing her measurements to charts. An experience she recalls as being “unbelievable demeaning” because she felt treated like a “living piece of meat”.
Every other day Kor was taken to the “blood lab” where many blood samples were taken from her arms and she received injections of what she believes were germs, diseases and drugs.
Kor remembers falling very ill after one of the injections and being taken to the hospital barrack with a very high fever where Josef Mengele predicted that she only had two more weeks to live after looking at her fever chart. Determined to prove him wrong and to be reunited with her twin sister, Kor fought through the fever which broke after two weeks.
“I kept telling myself: I must survive, I must survive”. When she was released from hospital another three weeks later and saw her sister again, Miriam looked gravely ill but did not want to talk about what she had been through.
Only when the sisters finally talked about their experience in Auschwitz in 1985, Miriam told Eva that she had been kept in separation while the doctors waited for Eva to die. Had Eva died, Miriam would have been killed as well so that Mengele could have examined both in an comparative autopsy to determine the effects of the disease.
Eva Kor estimates about 1,500 pairs of twins were used in Mengele’s experiments, of which only about 280 individuals survived until the liberation of Auschwitz on 27 January 1945.
Kor explains she is still trying to find out exactly what substances were injected into her and her sister, especially since it is believed that the injections Miriam received later caused kidney failure and cancer, killing her in 1993. However, unfortunately Mengele’s files with information about the experiments were never found.
In 1984, Eva and Miriam created the organization CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) with the aim of finding and connecting other victims of Mengele’s experiments. She succeeded in locating 122 other twins living in 10 countries and four continents.