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New Children’s Novel Tells a Survivor’s Story of Tolerance and Forgiveness

“I Will Protect You” book cover (left). Eva Mozes Kor (right).

I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz is the account of co-writer, Holocaust survivor and educator Eva Moses Kor, who died in 2019 at age 85.

CHildren’s author Danica Davidson had authored more than a dozen books when she experienced hatred as a journalist for a major cable media outlet in 2015 because she was Jewish.

“I had an editor who lectured to me that it was no big deal to refer to Jewish people as Nazis,” said Davidson, who lives in Kalamazoo. “I was told that, overall, the Jews didn’t have it that bad and only suffered a few bad years in the 1940s. It was then I realized the gravity of the Holocaust was becoming trivialized, and there was a widespread ignorance about the history of the events leading up to and during the Holocaust.”

Davidson is author of the new children’s novel I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz (Little, Brown, April 5, 2022). It is the account of co-writer, Holocaust survivor and educator Eva Moses Kor, who died in 2019 at age 85.

Danica Davidson
Danica Davidson

A native of Burbank, Calif., Davidson remembers hearing stories of hatred toward Jews from her own family stories; her great-grandparents of her immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe to escape pogroms.

Growing up, her father provided her with books about the Holocaust, she attended an eighth-grade public school field trip to the museum of tolerance and read the play based on The Diary of Anne Frank.

By high school, Davidson’s family moved to Sturgis, Mich., where she discovered she was one of the only Jewish students in her school.

“I went to school and used Yiddish phrases I just assumed everyone knew,” Davidson recalled. “I remember bringing matzah to school for lunch during Passover and the kids around me did not understand why I was eating it.”

Davidson also assumed everyone around her was well read about the Holocaust. Now, well into her adulthood in her 30s, she is alarmed at statistics that reveal a growing number of adults under 40 had never even heard of the term “Holocaust.”

After her unpleasant brush with antisemitism in the workplace, Davidson delved further into learning about the history of discrimination and persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust when, in 2018, she met Kor, who was giving a talk at Western Michigan University.

It was right there when Davidson presented turning Kor’s story into a children’s book; Kor met the idea with great enthusiasm. They got to work, through a series of in-person and telephone interviews, developing the manuscript.

“She told me she wanted [her story] to be accessible to elementary school students but not to sugarcoat the facts,” Davidson said. “Seeing how little facts adults have about the Holocaust, it is evident we are not doing enough for Holocaust education, and it must begin at a younger age than high school.

“This book addresses that challenge because it’s accessible for upper elementary school and middle school, and it is something children and adults can read together.”

The 240-page book chronicles Kor’s life: her birth in 1934 in the village of Portz, Romania, the siege of the town under Nazi occupation and her eventual deportation to Auschwitz at age 10. Like thousands of other twins who arrived at Auschwitz, she and her twin sister, Miriam, were subjected to inhumane experiments by the infamous Josef Mengele.

Of the 3,000 twins who Mengele experimented on, only 160 children survived and were liberated when the camp was liberated in 1945.

Kor survived with Miriam. After the Soviets liberated the camp, they eventually made it back to Portz to their empty home to learn their parents, two other sisters and extended family did not survive.

The book continues Kor’s life journey from being a refugee, to settling in Indiana, and to learning how to overcome her childhood trauma and unshackling herself from victimhood status by practicing the act of forgiveness.

In 1995, Eva Mozes Kor opened the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, with a mission to prevent prejudice and hatred through education about the Holocaust. In 2007, Kor worked with Indiana state legislators to pass a law mandating Holocaust education at the high school level.

Many times, she traveled with groups back to Auschwitz to bear witness. She died on one of those last trips in the summer of 2019.

Davidson said the book, a legacy to Kor’s life, is meant to teach children in upper elementary school grades the lessons of tolerance and the consequences of what happens when hatred goes unchecked.

Davidson said Kor was known to use forgiveness — even, controversially, to the Nazis who tormented her and her sister and murdered her family — as a way to heal and move forward with a life where she refused to forever be looked upon as a victim.

Offering her forgiveness healed Eva, but it did not mean she would forget what happened.

“In the later chapters of the book, we discussed Eva’s forgiveness process,” Davidson said. Forgiveness meant letting go of hatred. It did not mean Eva believed the Nazis should not have been punished or should have been excused for what they did.

“For her, if she still found herself hating the Nazis long after they physically hurt her, all it did was cause her further pain. Only after the trauma was over could she bring herself to forgiveness. For Eva, forgiveness meant finding the self-confidence in oneself that no one could ever bring her down again.”

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