After decades of silence, Anne Frank’s step-sister speaks up
The Anne Frank that Eva Schloss remembers was filled with preadolescence hope for the future.
How much of that spirit Frank would have held onto — had more than her diary survived the Holocaust — Schloss is uncertain.
“At the time, she still believed in the goodness of mankind,” Schloss said of the playmate she knew before both went into hiding in 1942. “If Anne would have survived she would have experienced life in the camp and the unbelievable cruelty of those young Nazi’s. She might still have wanted to publish it. But she probably would have changed quite a lot.”
It took Schloss four decades to recover enough from her own experience in Auschwitz to start talking about it. Once she did, she has not stopped.
“I don’t walk too well but my mind is still OK,’ Schloss said in a phone interview, pausing after a delayed flight from Chicago to Nashville where she had an appearance scheduled the next day. “As long as I can I would like to carry on with my message.”
Schloss would posthumously become Frank’s step-sister when in 1953 Schloss’ mother, Fritzi, married Otto Frank, Anne’s father.
Approaching 90, Schloss is on a 13-city American speaking tour. She is set to bring her message to the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport at 5 p.m., Sunday, October 28. The appearance is sponsored by Chabad of Fairfield,to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Sometimes referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, Kristallnacht mark a large wave of violence against Jews that broke out in Germany and Austria on November 9 to 10, 1938.
It will be Schloss’s first trip to the state, she said.
Rabbi Shalme Landa called it an honor to host Schloss.
“Eva is a courageous individual who works tirelessly to end the violence and bigotry that continues to plague our world,” said Landa. “We are honored and excited to play host to this great person.”
Schloss will tell you she was just a rather shy tom boy whose survival is rooted in stubbornness and a great deal of luck.
“I was not ready to die,” she said. “And there were incidents that occurred that gave me a chance to live another day.”
Schloss — then Eva Geiringer — was an 11 year old school girl whose family had relocated from Austria and Belgium to Amsterdam when she came to know girl on her block named Anne who was a month older in age, but much more sophisticated.
“I was withdrawn and she wasn’t,” Schloss said. “She was quite sure of herself. She wanted all of the attention.”
Schloss said Anne was a real little girl. Interested in hair styles, in clothes and in boys.
Though not best friends, Schloss said like all children in the neighborhood, they played together.
It was 1942 when both girls and their families, separately went into hiding. The Geiringer family split up. Eva went with her mother, her older brother Heinz, with her father. Two years and several hiding places later, the Geiringers were captured. It was Eva’s 15th birthday.
She would end up in Auschwitz where she faced brutality and starvation until she and her mother were liberated by the Russian army in January 1945.
Mother and daughter would reconnect with Otto Frank soon after. He had found Anne’s diary but wasn’t sure he should publish it.
“A diary is really personal,” Schloss said. “But he was very, very proud of her. “
Schloss would not read it until it was published in Dutch in 1947.
“I must admit at the time I was still full of my own loss and my own suffering.” Schloss said. “I lost my family ... Later, when my emotions had calmed down, I realized that it was more than about hiding. It was about the messages she gave the world about accepting each other. That is what is so wonderful about her diary.”
It is a message she said still needs to be told. Some of the same atrocities that occurred then, she said, are occurring now. Antisemitism is on the rise.
“You read every day that racial attacks,” she said. “It is happening. Smaller scale but we have to stop that. I was a refugee myself. I suffered. When there are wars and refugees and families persecuted — such as in Syria — we need to accommodate those people,” Schloss said. “We just cant turn a blind eye.”
After the war, Schloss married and moved to England. She had three daughters and five grand children, all of whom she said, want to change the world. Her husband of 62 years died in 2016.
The author of three books, Schloss travels often to tell her story. She was interviewed by the Steven Spielberg-founded Shoah Foundation project and participated in a hologram project sponsored by the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. The holograms answer questions posed to them.
As more and more Holocaust survivors pass away, Schloss calls her efforts important.
“I am one of the younger ones (who survived),” Schloss said. “Every day we lose some of them. It is important for me to carry on.”