On January 27th, 2015, Auschwitz commemorated the 70th anniversary of its liberation by Allied Forces. In attendance was 49 yr old Rainer Hoess.
His name sends chills down the spines of Holocaust survivors. He is the grandson of one of history’s most notorious villains—Rudolf Hoess, commandant of the Nazi’s infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was responsible for the murder of some 1.1 million Jews.
As a child, Rainer was largely shielded from his grandfather’s gruesome legacy, until he found a copy of his autobiography and read of the horrors perpetrated under his command. Rainer has now spent the past several decades trying to build a new legacy for the Hoess family name.
Rainer speaks regularly at schools and events, both public and private, decrying the evils of anti-Semitism and educating the public on the Holocaust and issues of human rights. In an effort to identify with his grandfather’s victims, he has tattooed the Star of David and the prisoner numbers of several Auschwitz survivors on his arms. He has personally sought out and requested audience with as many survivors as have been willing to meet with him, to express his support for them and his commitment to keep the memory of the Holocaust and its victims alive.
It was in that context that he sought out a meeting with Eva Mozes Kor, an Auschwitz survivor who lost her parents, two of her sisters, her grandparents, and several aunts and uncles at the hands of Rainer's grandfather. She and her twin sister, just ten years old at the time of their capture, were among only 200 sets of twins out of 1500 who survived the vicious “medical” experiments of the infamous “Angel of Death,” Dr. Josef Mengele.
Rainer had heard that Kor had long been advocating forgiveness and reconciliation. In fact, twenty years prior, at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camp, Kor was reported to have have written a letter stating, "I had the power to forgive. No one could give me the power, or take it away from me. I refused to be a victim, and now I am free."
She began corresponding with the younger Hoess and eventually agreed to meet him at Auschwitz.
They shared a common desire to educate people of the evils of the past and to help them forge a new future, sowing seeds of hope from despair. Through their interactions and meetings, they became friends, with Hoess even asking her to become his “adoptive” grandmother. Kor was only too happy to comply, joking with her own children that since they hadn’t given her any biological grandchildren of her own, she was “forced … to adopt the grandson of a Nazi."
Of the formation of this unusual “family,” Brittany Kulick (writing for the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture) observes:
Adoption is one of those things that Christians love to love. We talk about how much God loves adoption, and how biblical it is. And don't misunderstand… it is beautiful and it is absolutely biblical! One website I found listed 91 different verses about adoption. But oftentimes, when we think of adoption, we think of sweet babies and innocent children, who, through no fault of their own, do not have a mom or dad to take care of them.
But then God says he's adopted us. When we weren't cute and sweet and innocent. When our hearts looked more like the Nazi commandant than the newborn, and we wonder, what kind of God is this? One who could love past sins and flaws and says that we can "become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation'" (Philippians 2:15).
This week, when Ms. Kor stands at the platform where she lost her family, she will dance, as she always does. "That's where they took away the joy of my life and my family," she said. "This way, I reclaim it." Will you reclaim your status as an adopted child of God today? Will you trust that he is who he says he is and he loves you at your worst, bringing you close to himself and calling you his?
"Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.' And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God'" (Romans 9:25-26).
"God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure" (Ephesians 1:5, NLT).
"But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12, NLT).