Anger, disbelief and astonishment are among the reactions of a group of Holocaust survivors who recently screened “Forgiving Dr. Mengele,” the documentary about Eva Kor’s decision to forgive the Nazis.
“I can’t forgive and forget,” says Celia Feldman, who was sent to Auschwitz in 1944. “And I thank God I’m not a twin.”
“I can’t forgive and I won’t forget,” says Annie Blyberg. “They [Nazis] were involved in the annihilation of Jews and fought a war that killed 20 million people.” These comments follow a special screening of the documentary for survivors at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove, made possible by the distributor, First Run Features. Most of the survivors disagreed with Kor’s action; some questioned her motives, implying that she was seeking the attention that her unique act garners.
“[Kor] survived a horror and she is entitled to her opinion,” says Inge Gurevich.
Stephanie Seifert says she understands Kor’s decision: “She gets rid of the feelings all survivors carry. We get angry and upset and traumatized by these feelings.
Nevertheless, Seifert adds: “For me, there is no way of forgiving. I’d like to ask her whether we are going to forgive Osama Bin Laden and Hitler and every evil in the world. It’s not right or just.”
“Eva is really screwed up,” says Zoli Stern. “Listening to her — she never expressed any feelings. She didn’t express any emotion.
”Edward Weinstein says the movie reminded him of a conversation he had with a student after speaking to a class about his experiences in the Holocaust.
“A girl asked, ‘Do you forgive the Nazis?’ and I said, ‘If someone killed your mother and brother, would you forgive them?’ She said no. I said, ‘You have your answer.’”
Werner Reich says he too was at Auschwitz, where he saw Mengele “laughing” as the doctor decided which Jews were to live and which were to die.
“To this day this is one vision I can’t forget,” Reich says. “The word forgive does not enter my vocabulary. … She is doing more harm than good. She is making it difficult for us to speak at schools.”
David Wertzman says Kor’s act of unilateral forgiveness might undermine the message survivors are trying to communicate to future generations. “The lesson we want to give is that it should not be repeated.”
Kurt Goldberg, president of the Kindertransport Association (the group of nearly 10,000 Jewish children sent to Britain to escape Nazi-occupied Europe nine months before the outbreak of World War II), tried to downplay the attention Kor has received.
“Too much is being made of her,” he says. “When I went to Germany, they said ‘We can’t ask you to forgive us.’”