A Holocaust survivor has written a beautiful answer to why she chose to shake the hand of a former Nazi who is now on trial in Germany for his crimes.
Eva Mozes Kor explained her decision to shake Oskar Groening's hand on Quora.
Kor, 81, had traveled from the U.S., where she lives, to Germany to witness Groening's trial for accessory to murder in the deaths of 300,000 people.
Groening was known as the "Accountant of Auschwitz" because he worked as a bookkeeper at the infamous concentration camp.
Kor wrote that she actually tried twice to speak with Groening, but the first time didn't go so well.
On the first day of the trial, I introduced myself and reached out to shake his hand. The strangest thing happened. He was trying to say something as he was sitting sideways in his chair. He turned white and fell backwards, not saying a word. He was holding onto my arm so he did not hit the floor. At that moment he was not a Nazi but an old man who fainted and I was trying to save him from falling. I screamed, "He is falling and I can't hold onto him — he is a big old guy!" This was not the interaction I was hoping for. I knocked out an old Nazi.
Kor said that she tried again, because she wanted to see how he would respond to meeting a Holocaust survivor.
She wrote that she approached Groening again, but insisted he stay seated to avoid "a repetition of last time."
She then addressed him.
I appreciate the fact that you are willing to come here and face us. But I would like you to appeal to the old Nazis who are still alive to come forward and address the problem of neo-Nazis in Germany today. Because these young misguided Germans who want Hitler and fascism to come back — they will not listen to Eva Kor or any other survivor. You can tell them you were in Auschwitz, you were involved with the Nazi party, and it was a terrible thing.
Kor said Groening then surprised her by grabbing her and kissing her on the cheek.
"Well I probably wouldn't have gone that far, but I guess it is better than what he would have done to me 70 years ago," she quipped.
Kor said that she knows some people may be angered by pictures of her shaking Groening's hand, but "so be it."
"For the life of me I will never understand why anger is preferable to a goodwill gesture," she wrote. "Nothing good ever comes from anger. Any goodwill gesture in my book will win over anger any time. The energy that anger creates is a violent energy."
Kor said she believes that the only way to make a better future is for perpetrators and survivors to come together and have a dialogue.
"I know how society looks at it, but as I look at society, I do not think it is working very well," she wrote. "So what I am saying is, maybe we ought to try something else. And my idea is for people from the victims' side and people from the perpetrators' side to come together, face the truth, try to heal, and work together to prevent it from ever happening again."
As for Groening, Kor said that he has already admitted to being a Nazi.
"I don't think we should raise a statue in his honor, but he can serve as a good example to young people that what he participated in was terrible, that it was wrong, and that he is sorry that he was part of it," she wrote. "Now there is a message that has some usefulness for society."
Stephanie McNeal is a social news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Stephanie McNeal at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.