Non-Fiction Fridays: SURVIVING THE ANGEL OF DEATH by Eva Mozes Kor

Eva Mozes Kor was only ten years old when she stood on the sorting platform of Auschwitz, holding hands with her twin Miriam. Their mother’s habit of dressing them in matching clothes saved their lives, as a sharp-eyed SS Officer spotted them and asked her if they were identical twins. Their mother’s answer tore my heart, “Is that a good thing?” Those were the last words she would ever hear her mother say.

Eva and Miriam were inducted into the experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele, also called The Angel of Death. Mengele’s “scientific” experiments on what he called “his children” varied from involuntary surgeries to change their sex to unknown injections intended to alter the color of their eyes. Some children were purposefully exposed to horrible illnesses while their twin was not. Eva was one of these.

Horrific tales weave through the narrative, but the main message is one of courage, survival, and the tentative bonds that formed between children who never knew if their friends would be alive the next day. Small strong hands bravely stole bread from the kitchens to feed those less well off, even under threat of death. Stories of unexpected kindnesses from some of the German nurses and villagers who would throw food and supplies over the fences of Auschwitz also provide a stark contrast to the cruelties that jolt the reader.

Even more striking, there are photographs included that many students of the Holocaust would recognize, such as the image of Jewish children being liberated from Auschwitz. Leading the line are Eva and Miriam, hand in hand. To put names to these faces and know their story lends a depth to the book that goes beyond shock factor, and puts a face and name on the victim.

SURVIVING THE ANGEL OF DEATH will be available March 13, 2012 from Tanglewood Press. It is appropriate for middle schoolers upward.