Remembering the Holocaust, remembering Anne Frank

Remembering the Holocaust, remembering Anne Frank

Eva Schloss — Anne’s friend and stepsister — to speak in Franklin Lakes

Eva Schloss
Eva Schloss

This year, 89-year-old Eva Schloss celebrated the High Holy Days in London, where she has lived since 1951. She couldn’t always observe the Jewish holidays, she said in a telephone interview. Indeed, there were years when she didn’t even know they were taking place.

Eva Schloss is a concentration camp survivor.

“Every day was the same,” she said. “We only knew the seasons.” And anyway it is unlikely that she would have felt much like praying during those harsh years.

“We were not a religious family as such,” she said. Still, “when the men and women were separated in the camp and my father said goodbye — not knowing if he would see me again — he said, ‘God will protect you.’ It was the only thing you could hope for, the only hope you had. God would see this and stop it. The Nazis didn’t believe in humanity. They were unbelievably cruel. When people came out of the camp, many became atheists.”

Like the iconic diarist Anne Frank, the former Eva Geiringer — now a trustee of the Anne Frank Educational Trust — hid with her family in Holland for two years after Germany annexed Austria, where she was born. Also like Anne, her family was betrayed and sent to Auschwitz. Anne’s father survived. Anne died, and so did her mother and her sister. Eva and her mother survived. Her father and brother did not.

The relationship between the two families extends well beyond these wartime similarities. After the war, Eva’s mother, Elfriede Geiringer, married Anne’s father, Otto Frank. Ultimately, then — if posthumously — Eva and Anne became stepsisters. But even more, they had been childhood friends.

“We met when we were 11,” Ms. Schloss said. “There were many little kids playing in our village and she was one of my friends. She was always sure of herself — advanced. She mixed with adults.” As the youngest in her family, “she grew up quickly, and was a chatterbox. Her teacher made her write ‘I’m not going to talk so much’ a hundred times.”

She recalled also that “Anne liked boys, even at 11.” She also cared about her hair and her clothes. “I wasn’t like that,” Ms. Schloss said. “I had a brother, so there was no mystery. She was jealous that she only had a sister.”

The world knows about Anne because of her diary, which Miep Gies, who had helped hide the Franks, found after the war. “She went there to tidy up and she found it,” Ms. Schloss said. “She kept it to give back to Otto.”

At first, the family did not know what to do with it. “He had promised not to read it” — presumably, while Anne was still alive, Ms. Schloss said — “but he read it after she died. He was proud of what she had written. He said, ‘I didn’t even know my own child.’

“He showed it to everyone. A history professor he showed it to said it was such a valuable document that he had to publish it. He was of two minds, and he came to talk with mother and me. We thought it should be published. We felt it was our duty.”

But Anne’s diary was not the only thing found posthumously.

In Eva’s last conversation with her beloved brother, Heinz — in a cattle car on the way to Auschwitz — he told her that he had put 30 of his paintings under a floorboard in the attic where he had been hiding. She was 15 then. “After going through so much loss, I forgot about it,” she said. “But when Otto said he had found something important from Anne, I thought, ‘What about Heinz’s paintings?’”

She returned to Amsterdam in 1945 to retrieve them. “I showed them to different people,” she said. She kept some for herself and her mother, and she gave the rest of them to the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam. Exhibitions were subsequently launched in other countries, including England and South Africa. She is working now to get the exhibition to America.

“Anne said in her diary that when she died, she would like to become immortal,” Ms. Schloss said. “She has become immortal. Wherever you go and mention her name, they know her. Heinz, not yet 18, was a gentle, talented musician, artistic in many ways.” Now, she said, she hopes that through his paintings, he too will become well known.

Ms. Schloss said that one of the tragedies of the Holocaust was that so few people tried to help its victims. She sees some parallels today. “It was practically impossible to get a visa to go somewhere else,” she said. “They made places impossible to live, and yet no one was trying to help us. I see it happening now. We should all get involved in what is going on around us and have the courage to speak up if we want change.”

“We were victims, not just of German brutality but of negligence, the indifference of the world.”

And not just indifference to the plight of the Jews but “to all types of groups that didn’t fit into the German society of strong healthy people,” like Gypsies, homosexuals, and the disabled.

Ms. Schloss has published two books about her experiences during the Holocaust. In addition, she is the subject of James Still’s play, “And Then They Came for Me — Remembering the World of Anne Frank.”

What kept her going during those terrible years were memories of a “wonderful life.

“Austria was a beautiful country. My father was quite well off, and we were close to my grandparents. It was idyllic. I was very happy there. In the camp I never gave up hope that I would be able to create the same sort of life. I was hoping we would survive and go back to that lovely life.”

Sadly, that never happened. After the war she went back to Holland, hoping her family would return. Hearing, instead, “the terrible news, I became very depressed and didn’t know what to do with my life.” Going back to school, “I felt like an adult; I couldn’t mix with my classmates. It was a hard life.”

She finished school and decided to go to London for one year to learn photography. There, she met her husband, “a refugee from Germany, from Palestine. He went there to study. We fell in love and I decided to stay.” That decision ultimately resulted in three daughters and five grandchildren.

Eva Schloss will speak about her experiences on October 23 at a program sponsored by Chabad of NW Bergen County in conjunction with the Holocaust and Genocide Center of Ramapo College and the Ramapo–Indian Hills Regional High School District.

Rabbi Chanoch Kaplan, the director of the Chabad center, which is based in Franklin Lakes, said that he expects a large turnout. “Every voice of the Holocaust is an important one, but I believe Eva’s voice rises above all others. That’s because most people listen to Holocaust stories from the perspective of an outsider looking in. They can’t really relate to the magnitude of the horror, pain, destruction, and loss.

“The publishing of Anne Frank’s diary — an isolated story of one human being — and its dissemination across the globe personalized the Holocaust for millions of people. When they meet Eva, Anne Frank’s friend and stepsister, it touches them in a much deeper and personal way.

“Wherever Eva speaks, hundreds and often thousands of people come out to hear her.”

Who: Eva Schloss, stepsister and friend of Anne Frank

What: Will speak about her own experiences and her memories of Anne

When: On October 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: At Ramapo High School, 331 George St., Franklin Lakes

For information or tickets, call (201) 848-0449 or go to

Ticket prices: Preferred seating, $45; general admission, $25. A Sponsor VIP package, including a pre-lecture reception with Ms. Schloss and two preferred seats, is $180.

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