|Today's post covers our visit to the CANDLES Museum in Terra Haute, Indiana last Friday. CANDLES is an acronym for the words "Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors." The Museum was founded in 1995 by Eva Mozes Kor who, as a twin, survived the genetic experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. As you can probably surmise, this museum is very different from many of the other Holocaust museums around the country. We didn't know anything about the treatment of twins during Hitler's regime and found this to be very interesting. The CANDLES Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Holocaust and the stories of the Auschwitz twins.
CANDLES is a very small museum, well done and very informative. There is no admission charge, although donations are very welcome. We were fortunate to arrive while 93 years young docent Walter Sommers was speaking and teaching today. Walter was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1920. After living through the 1938 Nazi-orchestrated Kristallnacht attacks he escaped to America, where he joined the US Army and fought in World War II. Walter eventually found his way to Terre Haute in 1948 where he married Louise Levite, who had also emigrated from Germany. Though Walter and Louise escaped the horrors of Nazi Germany, many of their family did not. Walter lost eleven members of his family in the Holocaust. Fifteen members of Louise's family perished. He was so interesting and sharp as a tack! Amazing...Walter remembers things from 70+ years ago as well as I remember what I did yesterday!!!
During Walter's talk we learned that beginning the fall of 1943, twins were carefully culled from the arriving groups at Auschwitz and were used in experiments which were under the direction of Dr. Josef Mengele. Approximately 1500 sets of twins or 3000 children were used as human guinea pigs in the experiments. On January 27, 1945, when Auschwitz was liberated by the advancing soviet army, only about 200 children were found alive. Most of these children were Mengele twins. What they did to these children is nothing short of sickening! Once in the camp, the twins were housed together in barracks, girls 1-13, boys 1-13. Three days a week, the children were taken to a lab in Birkenau where blood was drawn and they received injections of many unknown germs. One twin was the "guinea pig"; the other the control. If one twin died, the control twin was killed with an injection into the heart and comparative autopsies were done. Three days a week they were marched to Auschwitz I, placed in a large room, and forced to stand or sit naked for six to eight hours. Every part of their bodies were measured, compared to charts and each other. It's almost too hard to believe that this could possibly have happened.
On a good note, on a white snowy day, January 27, 1945, four days before Eva's 11th birthday, Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviets and they were free. They were alive. They had survived. They had triumphed over unbelievable evil. Their story needed to be told.
In 1978, after the "Holocaust" show aired on NBC, Eva Mozes Kor began to wonder what had happened to the children in the liberation pictures. How did their lives turn out? How has the trauma of Auschwitz and the experiments affected their lives? She searched for six long years. With the help of her sister, Miriam Mozes Zeiger, who lived in Israel and now deceased. Kor founded CANDLES in 1984. The Mozes twins located 122 individual survivors of Dr. Mengele's experiments, living in ten countries, and four continents. Wow, what a story. I've included a link at the bottom of this post if you'd like to learn more about CANDLES & Eva Mozes Kor. I think you'll find it interesting enough to want to read more. And, by the way...To this day, the Mengele Twins are still searching for their Auschwitz files. I hope one day they find them, and they & their families, finally get a small bit of closure....