For a moment, everybody was silent and their faces mirrored the whirlpool of feelings inside them. Eva Schloss, childhood friend of Anne Frank, has deeply impacted her audience as she has been doing throughout the world for 13 years.
The otherwise noisy lounge of the CSU was the stage of a sweet-looking woman, a survivor of the Holocaust. Although she has published two books of her own, she is mostly known as stepsister and childhood friend of Anne Frank, author of the widely read book, The Diary of Anne Frank. This nonfiction narrative of the horrors suffered by a 13-year-old girl is 65-years-old and has been translated into 60 languages. Schloss was part of this scenario, and she decided to tell her own version of the story, speaking at universities and events.
Schloss was born in Vienna in 1929 and had a peaceful childhood until Hitler gained support of the Austrian population in 1938, obliging Schloss and her family to move to Amsterdam. There is where she met Frank, who was also 11-years-old and immediately became her friend. Schloss offers us a more intimate view of Anne, as a lively girl, who talked a lot and had the habit of collecting boyfriends despite her young age.
Their friendship was suddenly interrupted two years later, when the Nazis started arresting Jews in Amsterdam, and the Schloss family went into hiding. Ultimately, they were denounced two years later by a double-agent nurse and arrested by the Gestapo. Schloss was sent to Auschwitz, where she remained for the duration of the war.
Schloss’s story of the atrocities she lived inside that place is one of fear but, above all, of hope. Her struggle to survive makes us wonder the limits to which human beings can be pushed.
When the Russians finally came and served them food, many of the people inside the camp died simply because their bodies could not manage basic nutrition anymore.
Schloss was able to return to Amsterdam with her mother but her father and brother did not make it.
She has confessed that although she was free, she felt like she had no reason to live anymore. She did not have part of her family and her young soul had seen too many of the world’s maladies.
It was Otto Frank, Anne’s father and Schloss’s future stepfather, who gave her the courage to go on with life and learn to love people again. Otto also had lost his family but had dedicated his life to helping others.
Schloss kept her story to herself for many years, it was a hurtful memory. She thought that the world had learned a lesson but this proved to be false when she saw the brutality of the Vietnam War. She realized that people had not learned anything, and that she would have to speak up. She thinks that although there is no more Auschwitz, the world is full of discrimination of all types and that people are not yet ready to accept others.
This brave lady did not leave her cozy house in London to tell a sad memoir but rather to transmit a message of acceptance and encouragement. She explained the importance of getting to know people that are different from us, because ultimately we all want the same thing: to live with peace and dignity.
Eva Schloss is a trustee of the Anne Frank Educational Trust, and is the author of The Promise and Eva’s Story.