An Evening With Eva Schloss, Childhood Friend and Stepsister of Anne Frank
It was an experience I will never forget. I know it sounds trite to say, but it was so very humbling to sit and listen to a Holocaust survivor tell her story. All my problems seem so trivial.
I've been worried all week about my hurt toe and Dancing With the Sioux Falls Stars. Seems so dumb in comparison. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Ms. Eva Schloss is a published author, accomplished speaker, and all around awesome lady.
The event took place at The Elmen Center on Augustana's Campus. It was presented by the Chabad Jewish Center of South Dakota.
When I arrived, I was taken aback by the traffic and the line out the door. For some reason, I assumed it would be an intimate conversation in a library or something. However, I think it is amazing that this event sold out The Elmen Center. 3,500 people coming and sharing this experience.
The evening began with a musical presentation of the theme from Schindler's List then a brief welcome and introduction from Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz and Stephen Rosenthal. A young Jewish girl, Olivia Hubley, gave a brief and eloquent presentation.
Then, Eva Schloss came out with the moderator, Mr. Arnold Garson. Eva, by the way, had the cutest knee high boots on and carried her purse on stage with her. I loved her immediately.
She began her story as a child, living in Vienna, before the Nazis. The way she described it sounded like something out of The Sound of Music. Idyllic and beautiful.
Then they were forced to move to Amsterdam in a tiny apartment. Here, is when she first met Anne Frank and her family. Eventually, both families went into hiding. Eva was in hiding with her mother while her father and brother were in hiding in another apartment. They were turned into the Nazis by a double agent. A woman, claiming to be part of the resistance, offered to let Eva's brother and father hide in her apartment, but she was actually giving names to the Nazis. Her own fiance didn't know she was a Nazi.
It was the week that Eva turned 15 when the Nazis came to arrest them while they were in hiding. She said she was separated from her family and beaten and interrogated. When the Nazis were sure she didn't know anything and she didn't talk she was reunited with her family. They were then put on a train to the work camps.
Getting off the train, Eva said her father turned to her with defeat and told her he couldn't protect her anymore. This brought tears to my eyes. Eva said that her father wasn't a particularly religious man, but told her then that God will protect you. God was the only hope they had at this point.
Somewhere along the way Eva had been given a hat and coat that she did not want to wear because it was warm at the time. Her mother told her to keep it on. When they arrived at the camp, men and women were separated. Children were separated from their mothers. Most children were sent straight to the gas chambers because they couldn't work. Eva claims that wearing that hat and coat hid her age and she was able to stay with her mother. Her father and brother were at Auschwitz while she and her mother were in Birkenau.
Eventually, Eva was separated from her mother and she assumed she had died. By some miracle, they reunited much later. Her mother was very weak, but they were together again. They made it out of the camps after the war and her mother always joked that she saved Eva's life by making her wear that hat and coat.
Unfortunately, Eva's brother and father did not survive. She had gotten to see them a couple times while in the camps. One of the last times she saw her brother, he told her that while in hiding, he had taken up painting because it was quiet. He was a great musician but could no longer play because they had to be so quiet. He said he had hidden a bunch of his paintings under some floor boards with a note saying they were his property and he would be back.
Eva went back after the war and found the paintings.
After the war, Eva and her mother went back to Amsterdam where they had lived in a small apartment. Remember, this is the place where she had befriended Anne Frank. Anne's father, Otto, was also back. He was the only survivor in his family. Eventually, Eva's mother and Otto were married. Otto of course found Anne's diary and published it.
Eva eventually married Zvi Schloss and were married in 1952. They were together until his death in 2016.
Eva studied art history and photography and went on to write about her experiences and share her story in public speaking engagements. She now lives in London and serves as the trustee of the Anne Frank Educational Trust.
The biggest thing I took away from an evening with Eva Schloss was her sense of humor despite it all, her ability to forgive, and her passion for change. What an inspiring woman.