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Auschwitz survivor adopts Nazi commandant’s grandson

Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of the Holocaust at Auschwitz and Dr Mengele himself, and Rainer Hoess, the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz, speak about the movie Hitler's Children at the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana (Credit: Bob Schwab via Youtube)

{source}<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #C0C0C0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/VqVyH6jbivE?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}It’s an unlikely pairing, for sure. The grandson of Auschwitz’s camp commandant, Rudolf Hoess, and an Auschwitz survivor who lost her parents, two older sisters, two grandparents, and eight aunts and uncles at his grandfather’s hands. But as unlikely as it is, Eva Mozes Kor has unofficially adopted Rainer Hoess.

Eva and her twin sister Miriam arrived at Auschwitz at 10 years old and became one of 1,500 sets of twins routinely tortured through the experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele—the SS “Angel of Death.”  When the camp was liberated, they were one of 200 surviving sets of twins. Together, the sisters founded CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) to spread the message of hope after despair. On the 50th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation in 1995, Ms. Kor wrote a letter giving her forgiveness to the Nazis for their crimes. She stated, “I had the power to forgive. No one could give me the power, or take it away from me. I refused to be a victim, and now I am free.”

Rainer Hoess learned the truth about his grandfather when he came across Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoess’s autobiography, in the family library. “The book is scary,” Mr. Hoess says. “He sent thousands of kids to the gas chamber, and then he came home, hugged and kissed his family—’How was your day?'” Mr. Hoess struggled with his identity as the grandson of “one of the worst war criminals of all time,” but when his 14-year-old son’s Jewish teacher asked him to speak to their class, he agreed, not long after he began promoting an anti-Nazi agenda full-time. His last name used to be a weapon of fear, torture, and evil. Today, Hoess hopes to use his last name as a weapon against extremism. “I know my heritage. I can’t change it,” says Mr. Hoess. “It’s more effective to use the name and show that the idea that evil is in the blood—these things the Nazis said—is wrong.”

Last year, Mr. Hoess reached out to Ms. Kor, and when she responded favorably, he replied that he wanted to hug her. Her response? “I said, ‘Good Grief, Charlie Brown,’ I said, ‘The grandson of a Nazi wants to give me a hug?’ The Nazis were not known for being good huggers. I wanted to be diplomatic, so I said, ‘OK, I will hug you, too.'”

In another email, he asked Ms. Kor to become his adoptive grandmother, and after their first meeting at Auschwitz last summer, she accepted, saying that “people from different places who call each other grandma and grandson can give a sign of hope.” Even though his grandfather took so much from her, she is building a relationship with the grandson, joking with her own children “that they did not produce any grandchildren, so they forced me to adopt the grandson of a Nazi.”

Adoption is one of those things that Christians love to love. We talk about how much God loves adoption, and how biblical it is. And don’t misunderstand… it is beautiful and it is absolutely biblical! One website I found listed 91 different verses about adoption. But oftentimes, when we think of adoption, we think of sweet babies and innocent children, who, through no fault of their own, do not have a mom or dad to take care of them.

But then God says he’s adopted us. When we weren’t cute and sweet and innocent. When our hearts looked more like the Nazi commandant than the newborn, and we wonder, what kind of God is this? One who could love past sins and flaws and says that we can “become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation'” (Philippians 2:15).

This week, when Ms. Kor stands at the platform where she lost her family, she will dance, as she always does. “That’s where they took away the joy of my life and my family,” she said. “This way, I reclaim it.” Will you reclaim your status as an adopted child of God today? Will you trust that he is who he says he is and he loves you at your worst, bringing you close to himself and calling you his?

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’
And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God'” (Romans 9:25-26).