First Lady Janet Holcomb with Eva Mozes Kor prior to Gov. Eric Holcomb's 2018 State of the State address. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
First Lady Janet Holcomb with Eva Mozes Kor prior to Gov. Eric Holcomb's 2018 State of the State address. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)

INDIANAPOLIS - Independence Day has brought us another historical irony with the passing of Eva Mozes Kor at age 85 in Poland. She died not far from the Auschwitz concentration camp that dramatically altered the life of her and her family. But she rose from the most searing atrocity in the history of mankind and defined her life with forgiveness, humility and education.

She had been tweeting on her last trip to Poland on July 3, saying, "Can you believe that today I can get chicken McNuggets near Auschwitz? That would have been wonderful 75 years ago. They taste the same in every country and were delicious."

She had big plans for the future as she prepared to observe the 75th anniversary of her liberation, tweeting on June 22, "If any of you want to go with me, you have a great opportunity in January 27 2020 - 75 years to the liberation of the camp. We will see you next year!"

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who honored Kor with the Sachem Award in 2017, said, “The world just lost a giant with Eva Kor’s passing. Janet and I loved and adored her. Everywhere she went, Eva brought light into darkness and provided comfort to those in pain unlike anyone we’ve ever met. From her against all odds survival as a young girl in Auschwitz to her peace spreading message based from home in Terre Haute, Indiana, her relentless and optimistic example inspired the world.

Holcomb added, "Her angelic spirit will live on in the countless souls she saved from ongoing confusion and torment. Janet and I are reminded just how blessed we are to have her as a friend. We will miss her laughter, her wisdom and her passion. We call on every Hoosier to look above on this Independence Day and say a prayer for Eva and the family and nation she leaves behind.”

Kor established the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute after immigrating to the United States. "We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Eva Kor, Holocaust survivor, forgiveness advocate, and founder of CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center," the center said in a statement. "Eva passed peacefully today, July 4th, 2019, at 7:10 a.m. local time in Krakow, Poland, on the annual CANDLES trip to Poland. Eva Kor has touched hundreds of thousands of people over her 85 years through her message of overcoming tragedy, finding forgiveness, and healing. Surviving the Holocaust at age 10 meant that Eva emerged from a childhood full of fear, loss, grief, and displacement."

Faces of Auschwitz said in a statement, "We are devastated to hear the news of the passing of @EvaMozesKor. She was one of the kindest and bravest women we have ever met, and she understood the mission behind this project and supported us since the very beginning. May her memory be a blessing." 

Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, were the sole survivors of her immediate family, losing two sisters, her mother, and father on the selection platform at Auschwitz. In addition, she and Miriam were put through the horrific and inhumane experiments by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. "But rather than allowing the darkest moments of her life to define her, she moved forward headfirst into a life of purpose," the center said.

To many Americans, the Fourth of July speaks of our independence and freedom. On July 4, 1826, the nation lost two Founding Fathers, John Adams who argued for independence in the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, and Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence that was announced to the world two days later.

To day, America has lost a Founding Mother, whose life became a tribute to everything America stands for.