On March 6, with a sold-out auditorium in attendance, Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and childhood friend of Anne Frank’s, took the stage at Memorial Hall of Chapman University with Rabbi Eliezer of the Chabad to tell her story.
Schloss first described her childhood in Austria, where she spent the first 11 years of her life with her brother and two parents. Throughout her stories, she recalled her experiences with her brother in Austria and her Jewish education fondly. She described her brother as a “clever boy” with quite a bit of artistic talent. She says that, while he painted and wrote poems, she was more “sporty.”
Schloss also detailed her move to Belgium after the German occupation of Austria – a difficult and illegal relocation. Before this, she and her brother had been moved to Jewish schools and her parents had been isolated from all of their non-Jewish friends. This, she said, was when they knew it was time to leave Austria. Schloss explained feeling like an outsider in Belgium, as she spoke no French and had little in common with Belgian children. But, her family was then moved to Amsterdam, where she met Anne Frank.
Schloss continued on to describe Anne Frank, who she played hopscotch and attended school with, in Amsterdam, as a “chatterbox” and a “flirt.” She claimed that, when Anne found out that Schloss had a brother, she immediately asked to meet him. The Franks had moved to Amsterdam a number of years before Schloss’s family, but both spoke German and therefore got along quite well. Schloss described the shift from acceptance of Jews to acceptance of Nazi ideology in Amsterdam as well, which is when both the Frank family and Schloss’s family went into hiding. While Anne Frank’s family went into hiding together, the Schloss family was split up. They were forced to move from hiding place to hiding place in Amsterdam, as those harboring them became too overwhelmed with the possibility of being arrested if they were found out. In one instance, her father was blackmailed into paying more money for their hiding places, but could not pay. Instead, her father attempted to obtain a hiding place with a Dutch nurse. But, the nurse ended up being a Nazi official and turned the entire family in.
Schloss went on to describe her capture, where she was questioned and beaten for information about the location of other Jews. She did not know, nor would she speak. Then, her family was put onto a train to Auschwitz. She spoke of her father’s despair when he told his family, “I can no longer protect you.” Schloss recalled that her brother had hidden a painting before their capture and of her promise to go back and get it after the war. At this point in her story, there was not a dry eye in the audience.
She then explained the separation process and how the Nazis split up her family, as well as the selection of those who would be moved into death camps and those who would die immediately. This was the last time she saw her brother and father. She detailed her painful experience at Auschwitz, where her mother was chosen to be killed, but miraculously was saved before execution. Schloss told of the loss of hope and faith that spread throughout the camps, as well as her strong belief that everything would get better. Later, Schloss and her mother would be liberated by Russian soldiers, as would Otto Frank. But, Schloss’s father and brother, along with the rest of the Frank family, would be lost.
Lastly, Schloss told of her life after the war. She described her experience finding her mother again and living in Amsterdam, where she would recover her brother’s artwork and work through years of post-war depression. She also recounted her reconnection with Otto Frank, who showed her Anne Frank’s journal and later ended up marrying her mother. She described Otto Frank as a “great man and grandfather to my children,” as she quickly adopted him as a father figure after the war. She recalled that Otto Frank had given her his camera, claiming that he had no other children to give it to, and told her to pursue photography. She did, for a little while, before meeting her husband, Zvi Schloss – who told her he was Israeli but was actually a German refugee. Schloss convinced her husband to stay in Europe so that she would be near her mother and they ended up having three children and five grandchildren. She expressed to the audience that she did not talk about the war with her husband or children until the 1980s when she started advocating for Holocaust education and acceptance.
Schloss ended her story with a message for today’s youth—if you do not speak up about injustice, you are a “coward.” She said that she had seen far too many suffer because the German people and those living in countries the Nazis occupied did not speak up. She explained that education and acceptance was the most important thing so that her story and stories like hers could live on in future generations.
“It was amazing to see it come to life,” said Gabrielle Dromy, the president of the Chabad at Chapman and co-coordinator of the event. “This was brought to us quite a few months ago and I’m glad we could take advantage of the opportunity. You hear about these things, but it’s always different when you’re sitting in front of somebody who lived it,” Dromy told Fresh Ink for Teens.
Dromy put it beautifully: Schloss was truly inspiring and seeing her speak was an eye-opening experience for the Jews and non-Jews in the audience. It was clear that her message and experiences resonated with everyone in attendance.
Victoria Dozer is a junior at Orange Country School of the Arts in Santa Ana, Calif. She is a member of Fresh Ink for Teens’ Editorial Board.
Fresh Ink for Teens is an online magazine written by, and for, Jewish students from high schools around the world.