A Story of Forgiveness that’s Kicking My Ass

Nothing will eat your soul faster than unforgiveness. I’ve never met a miserable person, including myself at times, that didn’t hold multiple things against multiple people.

But there are some who will have none of it, regardless of the circumstances.

“I’m going back to the U.S. with a kiss on my cheek from a former Nazi.”

in 1944 Eva and Miriam Mozes along with their mother, father, and two other sisters climbed aboard a cattle car and were transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.  Mom, Dad, and two sisters were immediately dispatched while the 10 year old twins, Miriam and Eva were chosen to participate in Dr. Josef Mengele’s infamous medical experiments.

Eva was beaten close to death multiple times, injected with all manner of experimental things, and soon became gravely ill.  It was hoped that she would die so that post-mortem comparative studies might be performed on herself and her twin.  Had she died, her sister would have been murdered.  Somehow they both survived.

Seventy years later, Eva was asked to testify against Oskar Groening, a German SS Officer posted at Auschwitz at the time of her internment – at the time 93 and charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder.  If there’s anyone who has a right to hate this guy, seek revenge, live in unforgiveness, it’s this lady.

She went the other way.

My forgiveness … has nothing to do with the perpetrator, has nothing to do with any religion, it is my act of self-healing, self-liberation and self-empowerment.  I had no power over my life up to the time that I discovered that I could forgive, and I still do not understand why people think it’s wrong.  (from NPR “‘It’s For You to Know that You Forgive’ says Holocaust Survivor”)

After her testimony she approached Groening.  They talked, embraced, she asked if he was doing OK, then begged him to find a voice within contemporary Neo-Nazi groups – to talk from a first-hand perspective about the importance of all people.

That was her revenge.

In my almost 50 years of life I’ve been lied to, laughed at, beaten, betrayed, robbed, humiliated, etc., but nothing in my life compares to what this woman endured and forgave.  If someone like Eva Kor can forgive, who now suffers from cancer compliments of Dr. Mengele, I have to believe that it’s within my power to forgive whatever might fall in my lap.

But it ain’t easy.

Forgiveness is painful.  It forces me to remember the infraction and the hurt it caused.  It’s WAY easier to stay pissed off, play the victim, talk about the perpetrator behind their back, live in anger, etc.  And unforgiveness feels good. It allows me to imagine that I’m “right” and they’re “wrong,” or better, I’m “good” and they’re “bad.”  It’s a wonderful salve for a hurting soul and a very popular method for living a life that truly sucks.

It also feels like a grave injustice to let something go unpunished.  But don’t get me wrong, forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget what happened, or make excuses for people.  We can and should confront, ask for apologies, even mete out consequences.  But in those frequent cases where we don’t get the appropriate response, we’ll have to forgive.

If we don’t, we’ll soon learn that the greatest injustice of unforgiveness is the prison that it places us in.  We surrender so much of ourselves – our happiness, peace, hope, etc. –  so that we might hang on to the evil that was perpetrated against us.

That’s what Eva Kor refused to do, and left me without excuse.