Rocky Erickson: Nazi Death Camp Survivor Mickey Kor’s Footprint Included Basketball Coaching Legend | 406mtsports

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BILLINGS – When I have the honor of speaking on a high school graduation day, I always make sure to tell students that I have depression. And what am I doing about it? I read books on the Holocaust and visited former Nazi death camps in Poland.

Why do you ask? Because their survival stories and what they went through instantly put my little problems in a very different perspective.

On two occasions, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Washington, DC, with Billings West football coach Rob Stanton and students from his exciting genocide class as we toured the Memorial Museum of the Holocaust of the United States. I also had the chance to travel with Rob and his group to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

What made this trip so memorable was that Holocaust survivor Eva Kor accompanied us. Eva, who has been to Montana several times, survived the horrific experiments with twins at the Auschwitz extermination camp. The story of Eva’s forgiveness is something everyone needs to hear.

Eva died two years ago in Krakow, Poland, near the site of the former death camp.

My favorite story from Eva is when we visited her museum in Terre Haute, Indiana. I texted her a picture of our visit and told her that when I grow up I want to be a tour guide in her candle museum. Well, Eva, 84, texted me back to tell me that when she grows up she wants to be the voice of basketball in Montana.

Today I want to share the remarkable story of Eva’s husband Mickey Kor, another Holocaust survivor.

For four years starting in December 1941, Mickey was detained in labor and concentration camps in Germany. Like Eva, Mickey was a survivor – resistant to repeated beatings at either side.

Then, as World War II drew to a close, German troops continued to move prisoners from camp to camp. Many of those who walked did not survive. Teenager Mickey Kor knew he was on his way to death, so he waited for the right moment and ran away.

The Nazis shot him, but missed him.

For three days, Mickey hid in an isolated cabin with no food or water. Then hearing American troops nearby, Mickey did what he thought was his only choice and surrendered.

An American GI gave Mickey a bottle of Coca-Cola, and it would become his favorite drink for life.

After meeting Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Nehf of Terre Haute, over the following months Mickey became the company’s German translator. Mickey loved the officer so much that he told Nehf that one day he would like to live in Indiana.

Nehf worked hard to find a family who would adopt Mickey Mouse, and eventually did.

Mickey attended Indiana State University to become a pharmacist. One day in 1947, he walked into a campus gymnasium to do his homework. A young basketball coach quickly informed Mickey that the practice was closed to visitors, but while speaking, the coach discovered that Mickey was a Holocaust survivor and the two quickly became friends.

It was a friendship that lasted for decades. The coach even taught Mickey how to pull a hook.

Who was this young coach? None other than John Wooden, who would ultimately lead UCLA to 10 national titles.

Mickey Kor died on October 19 at the age of 95. But just like Eva, her legacy will live on forever.

Veteran Montana sports broadcaster Rocky Erickson of Billings owns Rocky Erickson Sports LLC.


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