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Oskar Groening Trial: Auschwitz Survivor Recounts Horrors of Mengele

The trial of a former Nazi guard heard harrowing testimony from an Auschwitz survivor who was submitted to the horrific experiments of Josef Mengele.
/ Source: NBC News

LUENEBURG, Germany — One of the last remaining survivors of Auschwitz confronted the death camp's so-called accountant on Wednesday, saying her forgiveness of Nazi crimes did not absolve the perpetrators from taking responsibility.

As a 10-year-old, Eva Kor became prisoner A-7063 at Auschwitz — torn from her family and subjected to horrific medical experiments at the hands of Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazis' so-called Angel of Death.

On Wednesday, the now 81-year-old was in court for the trial of 93-year-old Oskar Groening — charged as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people at Auschwitz.

“Did you know Josef Mengele?” the Hungarian native asked a fragile Groening. “Did you hear about his experiments?”

Kor took the stand as the grandson of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess looked on. She started with a statement about the deaths of 119 of her relatives and told the court how she and her twin sister, Miriam, were torn apart from their family within 30 minutes of arriving at Auschwitz.

“We were huddled in our filthy bunk beds, crawling with lice and rats, we were starved for food, starved for human kindness, and starved for the love of the mothers and fathers we once had,” she said.

And then the experiments began.

Kor said she and Miriam were one set of approximately 1,500 sets of twins subjected to Mengele’s gruesome procedures.

"On alternate days — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays — we were brought to a lab, which I call the blood lab,” she recalled. “They took blood from my left arm and gave me at least five injections into my right arm. Those were the deadly ones.”

Related: Is 'Accountant of Auschwitz' Guilty by Association?

But the young Eva Moses, as she was called at the time, told the court she had a “fierce determination to live one more day, to survive one more experiment.”

Kor recounted Mengele once looking at her medical charts and laughing sarcastically. “Too bad she’s so young,” she recalled him saying. “She has only two weeks to live.”

She said: “I knew he was right, but I refused to die.”

Groening was impassive as Kor issued her statement.

“How do you feel about my forgiving you and all the Nazis for what was done to me?” she also asked. The judge would not allow him to answer Kor's questions, citing court rules.

"My forgiveness has nothing to do with the perpetrators. It is an act of self-healing, self-liberation, and self-empowerement," she explained. “My forgiveness does not absolve the perpetrators from taking responsibility for their actions, nor does it diminish my need and right to ask questions about what happened at Auschwitz."

Her testimony on the second day of the trial followed evidence from Groening centering on the selection process for Jews arriving at Auschwitz.

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He told the court there were just three occasions when he was on the railway platforms — saying it was not his regular duty — and that he had nothing to do with deciding who would live or die. There were two doctors at the head of the lines of disembarking Jews who decided who was fit for work or not, Groening testified.

Those on board the trains "hadn't a clue” what was about to happen to them, Groening added.

The charges against Groening relate to the period between May and July 1944 when 137 trains carrying roughly 425,000 Jews from Hungary arrived in Auschwitz.

At least 300,000 of them were sent straight to the gas chambers, the indictment says. Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.