One reason why I wanted to shake oskar Gröning’s hand (1921-2018) is that our first meeting was not entirely perfect.On the first day of the Trial of the Lüneburg Auschwitz Trial in 2015, I introduced myself to him and extended my hand to him as a greeting.As a result, something very unusual happened. Sitting sideways in his chair, he wanted to reciprocate something to me. He became chalky white and fell backwards without saying a word. He held on to my arm so he didn’t fall to the ground. At that moment he was not a Nazi, but an old man who fainted, and I tried to save him from falling. I yelled, “He’s falling to the ground. I can’t support him – he’s a great old man!” I had not been prepared for such an encounter. I had “overturned” an old Nazi.
The second reason for our encounter is that I wanted to see how it happens when one from the victim’s side meets one from the perpetrator’s side.
The outcome cannot be predicted. So today [on April 24, 2015, after the trial ended] I approached Oskar Gröning. He wanted to stand up, but I stopped him: “Please don’t get up so that it doesn’t happen the same thing as last time.” I just shook his hand and said, “I appreciate that you are ready to come here and face us victims. I would like you to gather the old Nazis who are still alive so that they can take a public stand on the problem of neo-Nazis in today’s Germany. Since these young misguided Germans want Hitler and fascism to return, they will not listen to Eva Kor (*1934) or other survivors.You can tell them that you were the administrator of the Nazi DaP at Auschwitz at the time, and that it was a terrible thing.”
As I spoke to him, he grabbed me and pressed a kiss on my cheek.Well, I probably wouldn’t have gone that far, but it was better than what he could have done to me 70 years ago.
I think he did all that he was accused of.I forgave the Nazis and all those who hurt me. I also told him that my forgiveness does not prevent me from accusing him or of taking responsibility for his actions.And I told the press that he was a small cog in a large killing factory, but it wouldn’t have worked without the little cogs. Obviously, he’s a human being. His reaction to me is exactly what I said above: you can’t predict what will happen if someone from the victim’s side meets with someone from the perpetrator’s side in the spirit of humanity.
I know that I am criticized by many people for this photo.
Be it. Two people have met seventy years after the tragedy. For the sake of my life, I will never understand why some prefer to be angry than to show goodwill. Nothing good has ever come of anger. In my view, every sign of goodwill will in any case triumph over wrath. Anger energy generates a violent force.
I ask: what do we want to do in the future?Do we want to continue pointing fingers? And the defendants sit in one corner and the accusers in the other without approaching each other? Where does that take us? Look at the world – that’s not how it works. Today we have angry people who maraud and do nonsensical things.
When tragic crimes happen, do we have to sit down and consider what opportunities there are for the victims and the perpetrators?Most people have only travelled to Lüneburg to accuse him of his behaviour, which he had already admitted, in court. And what now? We should not place an honorary monument on him. At best, he can serve as a good example for young people and confirm that his share [of Nazi crimes] was terrible, that he was wrong and regrets having contributed to it. That would be the message that offers some benefit to the general public.
If it were up to me, the dialogue between the survivors and the perpetrators would have begun a long time ago.This, in turn, would have helped the survivors to cope better with themselves and possibly heal, but most importantly, not to pass on their pain to their children.
I am aware that my thoughts about life are rather unusual.I belong to a minority – I may be the only one. I know how society thinks about it, but if I just look at society, I’m not convinced it’s not going round. That is why I am arguing for a different way to go. I imagine people from the victim and perpetrator sides meeting, facing the truth, seeking healing and working together to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.
The forgiveness activist, lecturer and author Eva Mozes Kor (*1934) is a Romanian twin survivor who, at the age of 10, fell victim to Josef Mengele’s barbaric twin experiments in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Since she gave her Mishandlers of the Nazi era monolateral,that is, let go, has refused to talk to her, contrary to the Jewish bilateral concept of forgiveness of the Jewish faith.However, she asks for a direct, personal exchange with her critics. Ms. Kor was ostensibly not about healing the perpetrators, but about rediscovering their own peace of mind.
In their encounters with elderly Nazis, however, they also made demands for confirmation and public relations.
See Eva Kor’s Explanation What does Eva Kor think of the other Holocaust survivors who are critical of how she forgave Oskar Groening?
I listened to Eva Kor’s 2006 congress speech and then thanked her for her healing work and shook her hand.(Congress “Collective Intelligence” – 3. International Conference, in Würzburg, 28.-30. April 2006)
Fixation on perpetrator-caused suffering and self-forgiveness
- “On the day I passed away from the Nazis, I forgave my parents, who I hated all my life, because they did not save me from Auschwitz.
Children expect their parents to protect them, mine couldn’t. And then I forgave myself that I hated my parents. [Unilateral forgiveness is actually nothing more than an act of self-healing and self-empowerment.I call it miracle medicine. It costs nothing and is effective, without side effects.”
Eva Kor (Poland), presented by The Forgiveness Project, 29 March 2010
Monolateral (one-sided) forgiveness [detachment as a cure pathway
- “ Healing,the [more accurate word is healing, not just forgiveness).
There may be another way survivors of trauma and tragedies can heal themselves.I have found a way and am ready to listen to the healing path of others. No man has yet healed to take revenge.”
Eva Mozes Kor, trailer for the American documentary Forgiving Dr. Mengele, produced by Cheri Pugh, Bob Hercules on behalf of the Media Process Group, minute 4:53, 5:15 minutes duration, 1985, released as DVD January 2006
See also: Trailer of the TV documentary Holocaust Twins’ SurvivalStory, presented by the American evangelical Christian television channel CBN, The 700 Club Podcast, 6:44 minutes duration, broadcast April 21, 2009
References to my previous Quora contribution (which made waves) What forgiveness myths are you aware of?