There are many who teach about the Holocaust, but few get to learn about it from someone who experienced it firsthand. Vicky Knickerbocker, who has been teaching a Holocaust course at Inver Hills Community College for the past four years, had that rare opportunity. She was awarded a scholarship, not only to see the historical ruins of the Auschwitz concentration camp, but also to travel with Eva Kor, a Holocaust survivor, who told her many stories about the camp. Kor and her twin, Miriam, were both survivors of the brutal twin studies experiments of Dr. Mengele, the Angel of Death.
Kor has kept the memory of the Mengele Twins alive by establishing and maintaining the Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors (CANDLES) Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, for the past 17 years. Knickerbocker was one of 12 Holocaust educators chosen nationally by the CANDLES Museum for this scholarship. Knickerbocker accompanied 100 other Holocaust educators and their families from the United States, Scotland, and Canada on a “Seed of Forgiveness” tour led by Kor.
Knickerbocker reported that during the tour, Kor identified many significant historical artifacts and ruins in Auschwitz that Kor remembered from her time as a child inmate of this death camp from May 1944 to January 1945. “It was an inspirational pilgrimage as Eva emphasized the importance of not dwelling in the past, but looking ahead,” Knickerbocker said. “Eva wants to be remembered, not as a victim, but as a survivor who has three very important life lessons to pass on: Never give up on yourself, never judge others unfairly, and always forgive those who have caused you personal harm.”
Knickerbocker plans to enrich and fortify her teaching curriculum in the course by incorporating the videotapes, personal narratives, and pictures she and other educators recorded and produced while touring in Auschwitz. “The video documentation will help students gain a more empathetic understanding of the pain and suffering Eva and her family members experienced, because they will be able to intimately see and hear her personal perspectives about what she experienced in Auschwitz,” Knickerbocker said “This was an incredible learning experience which greatly broadened my knowledge of Eva’s experiences and will help me better authenticate the life lessons that college students can learn from studying the Holocaust.”
Knickerbocker believes that Kor’s eyewitness testimonials will be valuable teaching resources in her future Holocaust courses as they will greatly personalize her students’ readings of the two books Kor has written, Echoes From Auschwitz: Dr. Mengele's Twins: The story of Eva and Miriam Mozes and Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz.
After Knickerbocker returned, she was very eager to share Kor’s story. She and several Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) educators made it possible for Kor to present her unique Holocaust experiences and words of hope and forgiveness to a larger public audience. During her three-day visit to Minnesota in September 2012, Kor was a guest lecturer at St. Cloud State University, the College of St. Catherine's, Normandale Community, and Inver Hills Community College. Knickerbocker was very pleased that Kor's Holocaust presentation at Inver Hills Community College was well attended. Over 300 people, including many students, teachers, and community members, filled the theatre to capacity.
Knickerbocker is currently on sabbatical to obtain a master’s degree from St. Cloud State. She is very excited to share what she has learned when she goes back to teaching. “It can be a very rewarding and inspirational experience as the study of the Holocaust involves the teaching of important life lessons that enhance students' appreciation of and respect for cultural differences,” Knickerbocker said.
Knickerbocker graduated from the University of Minnesota, Duluth in June 1978 with a Bachelor of Art degree in Sociology and Criminology. She obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in August 1991. She has been employed as a Human Services and Sociology Instructor at Inver Hills Community College for the past eight years.