December 4, 2010
Recently we watched a wonderful movie entitled, “Amish Grace.” It is based on the true story of the shootings of Amish school children in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in October, of 2006. Five of the children were killed and five others injured. The movie is an amazing depiction of grace and forgiveness, but also shows the struggle of real people in the valley of great loss. It shows the bitterness that is held if there is no forgiveness. It is a family movie and one I’d especially suggest at Christmas time. I cried through the entire story. I totally understood the anger, hatred, and devastation felt by those who lost children. Yet, in the end of the movie, the Amish community surrounds the wife and children of the man who murdered and injured their children. And they all forgave.
Corrie Ten Boom
Many years ago I heard Corrie ten Boom tell the story of something that happened to her regarding forgiveness. If you don’t know who Corrie (Cornelia) Ten Boom was, she was a Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during WWII. During the Second World War, the Ten Boom house was known as the “hiding place” for fugitives, Jewish people, students who refused to cooperate with the Nazis, and resistance fighters. The Ten Boom family saved 800 of these people. The Gestapo set a trap and caught them and the only survivor after the war was Corrie. Her sister Betsie died in Ravensbruck concentration camp.
It was in a church in Munich in 1947 where she had just finished a talk about how God had forgiven her sins and how we were to forgive others. People were filing out of the basement where she had given her talk when she saw him, a heavyset man, balding, with his hat in his hand. He was working his way through the crowd toward her and she saw the man in his coat one minute, and then saw a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. She remembered the huge room, the harsh lights, the pile of women’s clothing in the center of the floor and her terribly thin sister and her having to walk naked past this horrible guard.
He said to her, “You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk and I was a guard there.” He did not remember her. He went on to say, “Since that time, I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. “Fraulein,” he said as his hand came out, “will you forgive me?”
She said she stood there and it felt like hours as she saw her dear sister die in that place, saw the atrocities committed by men like him that were guards, and wrestled with the most difficult thing God had ever asked her to do. She said she stood there with coldness in her heart, but she knew that Jesus said in the perfect prayer he taught us, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” She thought, well, I can reach out my hand. Her wooden arm stretched out to him and when he grabbed it, an amazing thing happened, the forgiveness and love of God flooded through her like an electric jolt through her arms and she grasped him and said, “I forgive you brother.” She said she had never known God’s love as intensely as she did then.
Eva Moses Kor
Eva and Miriam Mozes were born in Portz in Transylvania (Hungary) in 1935. She was deported with her family in early 1944 to Auschwitz. Her parents and two older sisters died there. Eva and her twin, Miriam, survived when Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death,” selected Eva and her twin for inclusion in his horrid experiments.
After the liberation of Auschwitz, Eva lived for five years under Communism in Romania with an aunt who had survived the war. She emigrated to the new state of Israel in 1950 where she was drafted into the Israeli Army and reached the rank of sergeant major. In 1960 she married an American Holocaust survivor and moved with him to Terre Haute, Indiana.
I had the privilege of speaking to Eva for a couple hours on the phone. She is not a religious woman and she has endured persecution for being a Jew even in Terre Haute. Her Holocaust Museum has been torched and burned there. She has an organization she founded for the Mengele Twins dedicated to finding their medical records. I believe she still has a lawsuit against Bayer as they were present with Mengele as a company doing “experiments” on the prisoners.
I have her book, “Echoes from Auschwitz” about her and her sister. In the front of the book she wrote to me, “To Kelleigh Nelson: I agree that we must teach the lessons of the Holocaust, and in my opinion they are; 1) Never give up! 2) Work to eliminate hatred and prejudice from our world. 3) Forgive your worst enemy – it will heal your soul and it will set you free. Good luck in your endeavor.” Eva Moses Kor, Mengele Twin.
As I mentioned, Eva is not a religious person. She does not know the tenets of the Christian faith, nor does she observe her Jewish faith. She has however found an amazing peace in what Jehovah taught throughout the Bible in both old and new testaments.
In 2005, Eva did a short documentary entitled, “Forgiving Dr. Mengele.” I have watched it and it is surprisingly uplifting and at times light hearted. She has not only forgiven Mengele, but all Nazis. She clarifies often that she is speaking for only herself and not other survivors. Sadly this has made her persona non grata among many of her fellow Holocaust survivors.
In 1993, Eva Mozes Kor met with Doctor Hans Munch, a Nazi doctor at Auschwitz who was acquitted of war crimes at the Krakow War Crimes Trial in 1947. After this meeting, which she recorded on video, she wrote Dr. Munch a letter of forgiveness. They met again in 1995 at Auschwitz, where Dr. Munch signed a documentation of the gas chambers, and Kor issued a declaration of amnesty and forgiveness to all Nazis. Her forgiveness caused much anger from many survivors. Eva Kor has made speeches about forgiveness across the country, as well as at her museum, to school groups and organizations.
“I have personally experienced the act of forgiveness that gave me my emotional freedom. No human being can be free: emotionally free, and mentally free, without forgiving people who have wronged them,” Eva said.
Both Corrie and Eva know the freedom of forgiving their enemies. Their bitterness was eliminated in their sheer act of obedience on Corrie’s part to her faith and on Eva’s part in the knowledge that she was set free when she decided to forgive. God’s truths work for those who believe and those who do not. The tenets of God’s Word are infallible.
Every single one of us has been hurt by someone, and some of the hurts have been insurmountable obstacles to healing…not from the hurt or the loss, but because we cannot forgive the pain that has been caused. In my own heart there is unforgiveness for continuing destructive actions by the family of someone I love dearly. It is a process to forgive fully.
It is not by how we “feel,” but rather our commitment to obey the Word of God. Throughout the Old Testament, when the Israelites would fall away from God, and then lose His blessings, they would come to a point where they would turn back to Jehovah and plead for His mercy. Every time God would hear their prayers and in His loving kindness, He would forgive them their sins when they turned from their wicked ways. In the New Testament, Colossians 3:13 states, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
So, how do we obey? We pray for the one that has injured us or our loved ones. We forgive not by feelings, but by faith in obedience. Is it easy? No, and the prayers may be difficult at first, but if you continue in faith, God will change your heart and ease your burden of bitterness. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Corrie Ten Boom said, “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize that prisoner was you.” When we do forgive the Lord sets us free from anger, bitterness, resentment and hurt that previously imprisoned us.
We are/or were a Judeo-Christian culture based on the tenets of God’s Word, written entirely by God through Jewish authors. In Genesis 12:1-3 the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant is given to Abraham. It states, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house unto a land that I will show thee; And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing; And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
How true this is! Not only have the Jewish people throughout history given great contributions to society in every arena, and not only is the entire Word of God, the scriptures, given to us through Jewish men of faith, but ALL FAMILIES OF THE EARTH are blessed through the Jewish people because they gave us the Messiah, the descendant of King David. This is why we were called a Judeo Christian culture.
This month we celebrate the birth of that Messiah. He is the one that came for the entire World that our sins are forgiven if we accept Him as Savior and the King of Glory. In His death, the final sacrifice was made and He said on the cross, “It is finished.” Our sins and trespasses are many, but are forgiven.
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The Amish who lost their children, Corrie who lost her family in the Holocaust because they saved the persecuted, and Eva who was tortured by the infamous beast Mengele all chose to forgive and in doing so set themselves free.
May the joy and blessings of the Christmas season and its full meaning of true peace and love be yours through the celebration of the Messiah’s birth and throughout the coming year.
© 2010 Kelleigh Nelson - All Rights Reserved
Kelleigh Nelson has been researching the Christian right and their connections to the left, the new age, and cults since 1975. Formerly an executive producer for three different national radio talk show hosts, she was adept at finding and scheduling a variety of wonderful guests for her radio hosts. She and her husband live in Knoxville, TN, and she has owned her own wholesale commercial bakery since 1990. Prior to moving to Tennessee, Kelleigh was marketing communications and advertising manager for a fortune 100 company in Ohio. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, she was a Goldwater girl with high school classmate, Hillary Rodham, in Park Ridge, Illinois. Kelleigh is well acquainted with Chicago politics and was working in downtown Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention riots.
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