Eva Schloss and her friend Anne Frank were happy-go-lucky children growing up in the Netherlands when they were uprooted, as many Jews were, during the German occupation of World War II. Their families went into hiding and after being discovered, were sent to concentration camps, including Auschwitz.
But while Frank died at 15 years old in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1946, Schloss, now 88, lived to tell the horrors of the Holocaust. Schloss has written three books including, “Eva's Story: A Survivor's Tale by the Step-Sister of Anne Frank,” first published in 1997, 50 years after Frank's “The Diary of a Young Girl” was first published.
Schloss speaks at the Jewish Community Center of Chabad in Redondo Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 27.
From her home in London, Schloss said she had just turned 16 when she and her mother were set free. Her father and brother did not survive and she wanted to “let the world know what terrible, terrible things people were able to do to each other.”
“I wanted people to feel sorry for me and help me to get through all of this,” recalled Schloss. “But at the time in Europe, everybody had suffered tremendously. Even people in their homes in Holland, there was starvation, many people died in their own home, there was literally no food whatsoever. People didn't really want to know about it ... we couldn't speak about it, so we suppressed it.”
In 1953, Schloss' mother Elfriede Geiringer married Anne Frank's father, Otto Frank, the only immediate Frank family member to survive the Holocaust. Schloss said the couple was really in love and they helped each other through the difficult years after the war. They were active in publishing the diary as well as assisting with the casting of the film and play based on Anne Frank's life.
“Life became more normal and what we expected of life to be,” said Schloss, adding that Otto Frank was a “wonderful grandfather” to her three daughters.
Remembering Anne Frank
Schloss was about a month older than Anne Frank. They were “enjoying life” until the occupation changed everything and they “got scared.”
“She was always quite cheerful, got interested in boys,” Schloss said. “Her parents didn't tell us how afraid they were, how terrible the situation might get. We took it all in stride. I was much more shy and wasn't strong as she was. She was outgoing and quite the little flirt ... not at all like she comes across in the diary. She became much more serious.”
Schloss said during her time in the camps she realized “you get one life on Earth,” and she “didn't want to die.”
“Life has a strong appeal to people even if it was terrible,” Schloss said. “I hoped it would end soon and what I hoped was that life would go back eventually how it used to be, that we would find our family, we would be able to go back (home). But of course it could never happen because my father and brother perished. Then I became depressed. It sounds amazing, but I felt more miserable after Auschwitz ... we would never be a family again ... in the camp I had to still be strong and try to make it, try to use all that strength to survive.”
Modern day refugee links
Schloss recently spoke at the United Nations in Geneva and is embarking on a six-week tour in the United States. During her talk in Redondo Beach she said she will link her Holocaust experience with the current refugee crises around the world.
“I bring the 'now' with what had happened before,” Schloss said. “The whole world is really very interested ... I tell it how it really was.”
Schloss' speech is Tuesday, Feb. 27 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center. VIP tickets, which include cocktails with Schloss at 6 p.m., cost $125 a ticket. The Lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. Other tickets are $50 for premiere seating, $25 for standard and $10 for students.
Jewish Community Center is located at 2108 Vail Ave. in Redondo Beach.
For more information, visit jccmb.com.