Best of Silver Anvil Finalist: Eva Seeks Healing Through Forgiveness
“Forgive your worst enemy. It will heal your soul, and it will set you free.”
Eva Mozes Kor’s words shocked people who could not believe that she had forgiven something so unforgivable. At the age of 10, she and her twin sister, Miriam, survived the sadistic experiments that Nazi doctor Josef Mengele performed on 3,000 twin children at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps in German-occupied Poland during World War II.
Mengele, known as “The Angel of Death,” was said to be seeking ways to propagate an Aryan race. According to survivor accounts, his atrocities included removing organs from children without anesthesia.
Eva and Miriam were born in the Transylvania region of Romania in 1934. The family lived on a farm where Eva remembers eating cherries off the trees. In 1944, neighboring Hungary allied with Germany and occupied her village. Soldiers came and took her family away. They were kept in a crowded cattle car for four days on their way to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The train arrived adjacent to the gas chambers. Eva’s father and two older sisters disappeared into the crowd; she never saw them again. A German soldier recognized Eva and Miriam as twins and pulled them away from their mother. The pain in her mother’s eyes is the last image that Eva has of her.
Like other children at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Eva and Miriam were injected with unknown substances. Eva became ill with a high fever. But she refused to die. In 1945, American planes began to fly over the camp, and soon Russian soldiers arrived to liberate Auschwitz-Birkenau.
As an adult, Eva married and immigrated to the United States, raising a son and daughter in Terre Haute, Ind. When Miriam suffered bad reactions to her own pregnancies, doctors discovered that her kidneys had stopped growing when she was 10 years old, the same age when Mengele had injected her with unknown chemicals. Miriam died of cancer at age 59, an illness that had originated with her kidney problems.
Eva began to share her story on television and at conferences, and to search for other twins who had survived Mengele’s experiments. In 1985, when Eva was 51, her efforts and the media attention they drew helped launch the international manhunt for Mengele. Soon afterward, his body was reportedly discovered in a grave near Sao Paulo. But Eva didn’t believe it was really him. She protested at Holocaust conferences that were dominated by politicians, her anger arousing more contempt than sympathy.
After everything she endured, perhaps the most remarkable part of Eva’s story was that in 1995, 50 years after the camps were liberated, she returned to Auschwitz and announced that she had decided to forgive the Nazis.
Her public willingness to forgive these atrocities angered many people and turned her into a pariah within the Jewish community. Eventually, however, her message of healing through forgiveness would gain a wide network of supporters, and Eva, a former outcast, would be seen in a new, more appreciated light. She was traveling the world to promote the lessons she says her experiences had taught her. Eva died this past July 4 while in Auschwitz. She was 85.
WFYI Public Media, the Public Broadcasting Service affiliate in Indianapolis, partnered with Ted Green Films to make “Eva: A-7063,” a documentary about her story narrated by the actor Ed Asner. (“A-7063” is the identifying number the Nazis tattooed on her arm at Auschwitz.) A friend had invited Green to hear Eva present a lecture in October 2015. “I knew then and there I had to tell her story,” says Green, a former journalist who produced, wrote and directed the documentary.
The film’s financial backers challenged WFYI’s in-house PR team to extend the audience for “Eva: A-7063” far beyond central Indiana. With a marketing budget of less than $20,000, the team’s goal was to have the documentary seen by millions of people around the world, and for schools across the United States to use education materials about the Holocaust that include Eva’s messages of forgiveness and hope.
Targeting an international audience for a documentary was uncharted territory for the PR team. They researched how other films with social messages had been distributed and sought out film festivals that might accept “Eva: A-7063” for entry.
To create the necessary e-commerce website, print collateral, event signs and other materials to market the film on a limited budget, the team knew that partnerships — with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and groups such as the Jewish Federation of Indianapolis and the Indiana Library Federation — would be instrumental, along with grassroots efforts, social media and earned media coverage. Partner organizations were encouraged to promote WFYI’s world-broadcast premiere of “Eva: A-7063” on Oct. 25, 2018, and to host subsequent screenings and share social media messages about the film.
WFYI’s communications team found they could build the website (www.thestoryofeva.com) in-house using a content-management system available through PBS. They also created a trailer for the film, a logo, an electronic press kit, and a variety of events and promotions.
But the team was thrown a curveball when PBS turned them down to nationally distribute the two-hour film to public television stations. Green and WFYI then pitched a shorter, 90-minute cut of “Eva: A-7063” to the syndicator American Public Television, which agreed to distribute the film to 350 stations across the country. National broadcasts began this past April. As of late May, the film has aired more than 1,000 times on 320 of the stations.
On BuzzFeed, an interview with Eva went viral, racking up more than 40 million views within a week and attracting the attention of other media organizations and film festivals. “Eva: A-7063” went on to receive several festival awards, including top prizes in Cleveland and Bristol, R.I. Green says negotiations are underway to distribute the film to international markets.
With each new viewing, Eva’s message spreads. “Anger is a seed for war,” she says. “Forgiveness is a seed for peace. … Let’s remove all hatred and prejudice from our world.”
Best of Silver Anvil Finalist
Client: WFYI Public Media/Ted Green Films
Category: Content Marketing — Associations/Government/Nonprofit Organizations