A Life Devoted to Holocaust Education and World Peace

Schloss: discrimination, antisemitism and racism around the world “is completely inhuman."

(photo credit: MARCH OF THE LIVING)
Eva Schloss, the late Otto Frank’s 88-year-old stepdaughter, moved slowly but purposefully onto the huge stage at The Los Angeles Theater and lit a candle in front of 1,100 people who had packed the downtown venue to hear her story.
“The way that we, the Jewish people, have responded to adversity and atrocity is by doubling, tripling and quadrupling down on who we are. We have sought to elevate the condition by kindling light,” said Rabbi Moshe Greenwald.
Greenwald, the Chabad rabbi of Downtown Los Angeles organized the event that flew Schloss in from London on the 70th anniversary of the publication of The Diary of Anne Frank.
Since 1986, Schloss (née Geiringer), has been traveling the world sharing her Holocaust survival story. After lighting the candle, Schloss settled into a chair center stage to chat with Erin Grunwell, who created the “Freedom Writers” project.
You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium as Schloss spoke of her and her family’s personal connection to Anne Frank. While the Franks fled Germany for Holland in 1933, Schloss’s family fled Vienna and headed to Amsterdam in 1938.
“My father took an apartment in an open square in Amsterdam,” Schloss recalled. “There was nowhere in the area for children to play, so after school all the children would come and play in that square. One day a little girl came and introduced herself and said her name was Anne Frank.”
Over the next two years, Schloss and Anne became firm friends. They were only a month apart in age: Schloss was born on May 11, 1929, and Anne on June 12. She remembered Anne as a person who was very sure of herself.
“She wanted the attention of all the other children and she was called Mrs. Quack-Quack at school because she never stopped talking.”
Schloss recalled those years fondly, saying they played regular childhood games – “skipping and hopscotch, but today you all walk around with your mobile phones,” she quipped. But when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, things changed quickly.
In the summer of 1942, both the Frank and the Geiringer families went into hiding. While the Franks managed to stay together and in one place until they were captured, Schloss’s family would move six times, and right from the start Schloss and her mother went with one family while her father and her 16-year-old brother stayed with another family.
Nonetheless, there were some extraordinary parallels in Anne and Eva’s lives. Both families were ultimately betrayed: Eva’s family in May 1944 and the Franks in August of the same year. Both were ultimately sent to Westerbork transit camp and then on to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, although Anne and Eva never saw each other.
Anne and her sister, Margot, were among those who were moved from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen less than six months before the war ended and died of typhus, just weeks before the camps were liberated. By some miracle, Eva and her mother were never moved, nor were they forced to go on a death march and were liberated from Auschwitz.
“If Anne had managed to stay in Auschwitz she would be alive today,” Schloss said.
liberation in 1945, it took almost six months for Schloss and her mother to return to Holland, where they eventually reconnected with Otto Frank. She learned her father and brother had perished at Mauthausen. When he heard his daughters had died, Schloss said, “He was 57 and he looked ashen. He was a really beaten man.”
Schloss said she was still deeply depressed and full of hate at losing her father and brother, and Otto Frank would come regularly to visit Schloss and her mother.
“He said, ‘If you hate you’ll become a miserable person. They won’t suffer, but you will.’”
Several days after learning of Anne’s death, Schloss said Frank arrived with a small parcel in his hand. It was, of course, Anne’s diary. “Otto started to read a few sentences,” Schloss said, “but he would just burst into tears. It took him three weeks to read it.”
Schloss said she initially didn’t want to read Anne’s diary. “It was published in Dutch in 1947, but at that time I was too preoccupied with my own sorrow. It was only much later that I read it and realized how much wisdom she had, even though she was so young. She writes about women’s rights and humanity and different religions. It could have been written by a 30-year-old person.”
Schloss said it was clear Frank was lonely and that her mother was lonely. He would come to their home and talk with Schloss’s mother about getting Anne’s diary published.
“I was a difficult teenager with a lot of problems,” Schloss said. “My mother and I didn’t talk about what we went through, even though we were close.”
It was Frank who convinced Schloss to go to school even though she didn’t want to.
“He said, ‘A good education is the only thing that nobody can take away from you.’” It was also Frank who felt Schloss could become a photographer and gave her his Leica camera and sent her to London to work in a photographic studio.
In London, Schloss met, Zvi, the man who would become her husband. Initially she turned down his marriage proposal, because he wanted to move to Israel and she didn’t want to be so far away from her mother. It was only when she learned that her mother and Frank had fallen in love that she returned to her suitor and said, “Okay, you can marry me now.”
The Schloss’s were married for 62 years and raised three daughters in London. Otto Frank and Eva’s mother were married for 27 years. “He was 17 years older than my mother,” Schloss said, “but I’d never seen a happier marriage.”
Schloss continues to travel the world devoting herself to Holocaust education and global peace. She has written two books and has had a play written about her life. Asked about the current plight of the planet, Schloss said, discrimination, antisemitism and racism around the world “is completely inhuman. My husband used to say, ‘there is only one race, the human race.’ War is the most terrible thing, it ruins people’s lives.”
Asked what people can do today to make the world a better place, Schloss said, “Start with yourself, with your own family. The family is the most important link to a decent world.”