Jona Laks will speak at Willamette University Monday night. (courtesy)

A Holocaust survivor will tell her story of surviving human experimentation in Auschwitz during a talk at Willamette University Monday night.

Jona Laks will discuss how notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele experimented on her and her twin sister, Miriam.

The presentation will take place at the Smith Auditorium at Willamette University on Aug. 12 at 7:00 p.m.

Laks has been featured in several documentaries and in 2015 she spoke in front of the United Nations General Assembly during a ceremony in memory of the victims of the holocaust.

During her speech she said, “There is nothing darker about the Holocaust than the role played by medical doctors – whose mission is to save lives – in executing the killings.”


The Chabad Center for Jewish Life is sponsoring the event, and Rabbi Avrohom Y. Perlstein said this is the fourth holocaust education event the group is doing in Salem.

Last year, the group brought Anne Frank’s stepsister to speak.

“The response was so incredible, and we realized the need right away,” Perlstein said.

He said every holocaust survivor has unique story. Laks was one of 3,000 twins involved in the experiments, many of which ended up dying in the process.

Perlstein said Laks is a powerhouse.

“How does somebody get up and continue to share and continue to believe in humanity,” he said.

Perlstein feels close to the holocaust himself – both his mother’s parents were survivors and he was named after a victim of the genocide.

“To me it’s very real, it’s very personal,” he said.

Perlstein said there’s a need for continued education about the holocaust, especially for lesser known aspects like the experiments.

“It’s going away and they’re dying out unfortunately,” he said of survivors, “The world is easy to forget the horrors over 70 years ago.”

Perlstein said the word Nazi is still potent, but “What it means and how it’s thrown around is absolutely belittling what took place.”

Earlier this year, Oregon passed a bill requiring public school students to learn about the holocaust.

Perlstein said visitors to Monday’s event “should come prepared to learn something, not just to hear stories.”

He said Laks had family members who were killed. She was tested on, starved and saw the worst of humanity, but was able to get out and become an advocate for other holocaust survivors.

“She has a fortitude that is beyond anything we can understand,” Perlstein said.

Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at

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