Eva Kor’s story of survival as one of the twins tortured by the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, together with her sister Miriam, is a heartbreaking but a glowing testament to the ability to overcome tragedy and turn it into a force for good.
Joe Lee’s book stands out for both its form as a graphic novel and its exceptional account of Eva’s life. Eva had a carefree childhood with her twin sister Miriam before they were both subjected to Mengele’s cruel, manipulative experiments at Auschwitz. Through both art and narrative, Lee poignantly depicts her growth into adulthood and her increasing realization of her life’s new purpose of sharing the story of her and Miriam’s lives. The illustrations are striking and evocative, revealing the characters’ emotions with precise detail. Her and Miriam’s eventual establishment of CANDLES, an organization determined to bring the lives of child survivors of the Auschwitz medical experiments to the world’s attention, is also portrayed through remarkable imagery. This is graphic nonfiction at its best.
Lee’s book is a superb example of Holocaust literature suited to readers of all ages. The narrative accompanying each image is simple but comprehensive, revealing not only Eva and Miriam’s story, but also the background ofthe Nazi party’s rise to power and the Holocaust. This is a carefully situated story, allowing the reader to grasp some of the complexity of the Holocaust in the context of World War II and its aftermath. It is also a depiction of life for the few children who survived, usually as orphans, and who struggled to find welcoming and stable homes.
Eva’s message of forgiveness, despite the most horrific experiences that she and her sister lived through, helps those who can to move forward from the devastating time of the Shoah. Forgiveness requires acceptance of the harsh realities of the Holocaust and its aftermath, and the ability to move beyond these memories to embrace the world and offer hope and meaning for those who can forgive the perpetrators.
Eva did not give in to her oppressors. She fought to survive, resisting the Nazi’s worst intentions, and she lived to share her story with future generations. As Lee, and Eva, tell, Eva’s father would have preferred a boy when his twin girls were born. Reading this book, in its powerful portrayal of Eva’s remarkable life, I imagine that any father would have been immensely proud of a daughter like Eva. Through her life’s work, ensuring that generations to follow will always remember these events, Eva stood up to the Nazis and then the world. Joe Lee’s book does superb justice to this remarkable woman, keeping Eva’s inspiring story, and spirit, alive.
Dr. Beverley Chalmers’s research focuses on the reproductive life of women in difficult circumstances. Her book Birth, Sex and Abuse: Women’s Voices under Nazi Rule was awarded a National Jewish Book Award in Women’s Studies, a Canadian National Jewish Book Award for Holocaust Literature, and a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title award.