Auschwitz was the largest of the German-run concentration camps during
World War II. It was in one of the three main camps that between 1.1 and 1.7 million
people were exterminated. Auschwitz was also the headquarters for gruesome medical
experiments overseen by Dr. Josef Mengele. When Soviet troops liberated the camps
in January 1945, someone shot footage of the prisoners marching out of the barracks.
At the head of the line are a pair of twins who were part of Mengele's nefarious
experiments. Cheri Pugh was working as an archivist at the WPA Film Library in
Chicago when she first saw the newsreel images and after searching the Internet,
astoundingly she managed to locate one of the twins -- a woman living in Terre Haute,
Indiana named Eva Mozes Kor. Pugh later joined forces with Bob Hercules to make a
documentary about Mrs. Kor -- who turned out to be quite an individual. She created a
stir by bringing a Nazi doctor named Hans Münch to the commemoration of the 50th
anniversary of the liberation of the camps. At the ceremony, Kor further shocked many
of those in attendance by reading a prepared statement that said, in part, "I, Eva Mozes
Kor, in my name only, give amnesty to all Nazis who participated directly or indirectly
in the murder of my family and millions of others. Because it's time to forgive, but
not forget."

 Needless to say, many of the other survivors object to Mrs. Kor's blanket statement
and that makes for some of the more memorable moments in the film,
. Mrs. Kor and her twin Miriam were victims of heinous acts perpetrated by
the sadistic Mengele, and she has vivid memories of what happened to her. She gives
a chilling description of being injected with some unknown agent that left her near death.
In fact, she was pronounced as having no more than days to live, but her iron will
prevailed. She knew that her twin's life was at stake as well, and she managed to defy
the odds and survive. Mrs. Kor's twin, Miriam, though, suffered permanent kidney
damage. Although  Eva Kor donated one of her own kidneys to her sister, Miriam
eventually succumbed to various illnesses. In a heartbreaking moment, Eva Kor
recounts how she could not attend her sister's funeral. Miriam died in Israel where
she was living with her husband and family and it would take Eva too long to travel from
the United States, since Jewish custom requires burial within twenty-four hours.

    And lest the audience think that Mrs. Kor is some sort of easy touch -- she extends
her forgiveness to the unidentified people who torched her Holocaust museum in
Terre Haute in 2003 (she has since rebuilt it) -- the filmmakers show her being
challenged by an Israeli professor, Dan Bar-on, about her assertions. If she can
forgive the Nazis, can she forgive the Palestinians? She counters that forgiveness isn't
possible while guns are still being fired, but she nevertheless agrees to visit the
West Bank and meet with Palestinians, but the experience clearly isn't a comfortable
one for her. She conveys her unease and has difficulty applying her beliefs in this context.

FORGIVING DR. MENGELE does have its flaws. The co-directors rely on too
many moments that have a staged feel to them. There are also repetitious shots
that undercut the power of the moment. Still, Eva Kor is a fascinating and formidable
woman. Her story clearly needs to be told (she has done so in an autobiography),
and this film will probably be the definitive word on her life.

                            Rating:                    B -
                            MPAA Rating:       None
                            Running time:        80 mins.

                            Viewed screening copy on VHS
Forgiving Dr. Mengele
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.