Holo­caust sur­vivor shares the tale of her jour­ney

Sur­vivor of Auschwitz con­cen­tra­tion camp shares the tale of her jour­ney

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY LISA DENTON STAFF WRITER

AU.S. speak­ing tour will bring Holo­caust sur­vivor Eva Schloss to Memo­rial Au­di­to­rium tonight. If her name is not fa­mil­iar, you’ve surely heard of her step­sis­ter, Anne Frank.

Frank’s death is one of the most poignant ca­su­al­ties of the Holo­caust. For two years dur­ing World War II, she and her par­ents, Otto and Edith, her older sis­ter, Mar­got, and four other Ger­man Jews re­mained in hid­ing dur­ing the Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion of the Nether­lands, where the Franks had fled af­ter the Nazis came to power in Ger­many.

Anne had just turned 13 when her fam­ily’s cap­tiv­ity be­gan. Among her birth­day gifts was a di­ary, which she wrote in reg­u­larly while in hid­ing. The last en­try comes just be­fore their ar­rest by the Gestapo in Au­gust 1944. The fam­ily mem­bers were sep­a­rated, with Anne and Mar­got trans­ported to the Ber­genBelsen con­cen­tra­tion camp, where they died of ty­phus in early 1945.

Otto, the only sur­vivor of the Franks, re­turned to Am­s­ter­dam af­ter the war to find that Anne’s di­ary had been saved by his sec­re­tary. His ef­forts led to its pub­li­ca­tion in 1947 as “The Di­ary of a Young Girl,” an ac­count that has been read by tens of mil­lions.

Sev­enty-three years later, the me­mory of her post­hu­mous step­sis­ter still looms large for Schloss, 89. The two girls lived in the same apart­ment block and were oc­ca­sional play­mates be­fore their fam­i­lies went into hid­ing. Schloss’ mother, El­friede Geiringer, mar­ried Otto Frank in 1953 af­ter both were wid­owed in the Holo­caust.

For some 40 years, Schloss did not speak of the atroc­i­ties she ex­pe­ri­enced in the war, nor of her sui­ci­dal de­pres­sion that fol­lowed. She has said she wasn’t greatly im­pressed by Anne’s di­ary early on.

“I could see its ap­peal, though,” she told Bri­tish news­pa­per The Guardian in a 2013 in­ter­view. “In the ’50s and ’60s, peo­ple were start­ing to show in­ter­est in what had hap­pened in the war but didn’t want to be re­minded of the full hor­rors. Anne’s book wasn’t about the Holo­caust at all. It was about hid­ing away. That was noth­ing new to me. I had hid­den away in the war too be­fore we were cap­tured. But no­body wanted to hear my story.”

Ac­cord­ing to news ac­counts, it was only af­ter her step­fa­ther’s death in 1980 that she felt com­pelled to take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of keep­ing Anne Frank’s name alive.

Since 1986, the Lon­don res­i­dent has trav­eled widely, giv­ing talks, vis­it­ing schools and writ­ing books: “Eva’s Story” in 1988, “The Prom­ise” in 2006 and “Af­ter Auschwitz” in 2013. In 2017, she was the sub­ject of the doc­u­men­tary “116 Cam­eras,” in which she re­counts her ex­pe­ri­ences for an in­ter­ac­tive holo­gram that will pre­serve her story for gen­er­a­tions to come.

De­spite her early re­luc­tance to share her ex­pe­ri­ences, she now feels com­pelled to speak out on the moral lessons of geno­cide — es­pe­cially on how the hor­rors laid bare in the daily news — from the plight of refugees to re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion — can be so eas­ily met with in­dif­fer­ence.

“I talk about it and tell peo­ple, this is what Ger­many was,” she told The Wash­ing­ton Post be­fore a Fe­bru­ary ap­pear­ance at Ge­orge Ma­son Uni­ver­sity in Fair­fax, Vir­ginia. “Not ev­ery­body was — by no means — anti-Semitic or sup­ported Hitler. They had good Jewish friends, but they took the easy way out and looked the other way.

“It is the dan­ger of the by­stander,” she said. “This is what we have to teach young peo­ple — not to be in­dif­fer­ent, but take part; if you see in­jus­tice be­ing done, speak out.”

It’s a mes­sage Rabbi Shaul Perl­stein of Chab­bad Jewish Cen­ter of Chat­tanooga says all should take to heart. He has heard Schloss speak twice now and was in­stru­men­tal in sched­ul­ing the Chat­tanooga ap­pear­ance. Ini­tially, or­ga­niz­ers were told it would take years to book Schloss, but then they dis­cov­ered she is friends with Er­langer CEO Kevin Spiegel and his wife, Judy.

“Two days later, I got the call that Eva de­manded a stop in Chat­tanooga to visit her friends, so we [could] book for this year,” he says.

Perl­stein says the parts of Schloss’ mes­sage that have most res­onated with him are her cau­tions about how quickly so­cial norms can change.

“As a so­ci­ety we have to fo­cus and strive on be­ing more re­spect­ful and ac­cept­ing of one an­other,” he says. “It is not enough to let neg­a­tiv­ity slide by. By the time we turn around, it can turn into a mon­ster. Rather we must be ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in mak­ing our sur­round­ings and com­mu­ni­ties more peace­ful.

“In to­day’s po­lit­i­cal strife, I think this mes­sage is all the more im­por­tant. Re­gard­less of one’s color, race, be­liefs, pol­i­tics or reli­gion, we must work on cre­at­ing a lov­ing en­vi­ron­ment for all peo­ple.”


Josephine Mairzadeh, right, uses a mi­cro­phone to pose a ques­tion to a vir­tual pre­sen­ta­tion of Holo­caust sur­vivor Eva Schloss, left, fea­tured in a tes­ti­mo­nial in­ter­ac­tive in­stal­la­tion called New Di­men­sions in Tes­ti­mony at the Mu­seum of Jewish Her­itage in New York. The ex­hibit is giv­ing vis­i­tors a chance to in­ter­act with vir­tual ver­sions of Holo­caust sur­vivors Pin­chas Gut­ter and Schloss on video mon­i­tors, as they pro­vide an­swers to ques­tions based on many hours of recorded in­ter­views.


Holo­caust sur­vivor Eva Schloss re­counts her story at the In­ter­na­tional Day of Com­mem­o­ra­tion in Me­mory of the Vic­tims of the Holo­caust.


New York Coun­cil­man Rory Lanc­man, left, lis­tens to a vir­tual re­sponse to his ques­tion from Holo­caust sur­vivor Pin­chas Gut­ter, right, fea­tured in a tes­ti­mo­nial in­ter­ac­tive in­stal­la­tion called New Di­men­sions in Tes­ti­mony at the Mu­seum of Jewish Her­itage.

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