Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss said she did not speak about her experiences enduring persecution of the Nazis until her stepfather, Otto Frank, passed away. She said that for 40 years, “I didn’t talk to my family — or to anybody for that matter.”
The 89-year-old now uses her time and energy to share her story in the hopes that people will learn from it so that such horror will never happen again.
This month, Chabad of the East Valley welcomed Schloss to speak about her experiences and family history at the Chandler Center for the Arts. Schloss, who lives in England, has been on an 18-city tour of the U.S. that has spanned the West Coast and Southwest since early February.
Since 1985, Schloss has devoted herself to Holocaust education and global peace. She has recounted her wartime experiences in more than 1,000 speaking engagements and has written three books.
Rabbi Mendy Deitsch, co-director of Chabad of the East Valley, was excited to host Schloss and thinks that having her speak is critical right now because of the rise of anti-Semitism. Deitsch’s fear is not that people would forget the Holocaust, but rather that they would become complacent about anti-Semitism today, most recently seen locally in the form of anti-Semitic fliers posted near a high school in Mesa.
“I think this is why it’s so important to have a speaker who experienced it, because she solidifies and educates the next generation, so they can understand its real impact,” he said, adding that many knew what was going on during the Holocaust and chose to do nothing.
Schloss spoke about how powerful Nazi propaganda was and how quickly it could influence others. Ironically, just a few weeks prior to her Arizona visit, Schloss spoke to a group of teens in Newport Beach, California, who attended a party where red plastic cups were shaped into a swastika. There were also photos of the teens giving the Nazi salute shared on social media.
Schloss said that the teens apologized profusely when she met with them and she believed that they had all learned a lesson.
The Chandler event included a musical performance by violinist Moshe Booksban, remarks from the vice mayor of Chandler, Terry Roe, and a short statement from talk show host Seth Leibsohn.
Shternie Deitsch, co-director of Chabad of the East Valley, moderated the event.
Schloss was born Eva Geiringer in Austria and immigrated with her family to Amsterdam in 1938. There, at 11, she met Anne, who was the same age. The two became fast friends.
In 1942, both girls’ families went into hiding from the Nazis. Schloss recounted numerous close calls from that time. After a double agent betrayed her family in 1944, they were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camps. Her father and brother did not survive Auschwitz, but she and her mother, Elfriede, were liberated in 1945 by Soviet troops.
After the war, Schloss moved to England to study photography, and met her future husband, Zvi. At the same time, her mother and Frank married and together the three worked to get Anne’s diary published.
Schloss’ talk was complemented by an exhibit in the lobby of the arts center, where there were several works by artist Helen Hana Weisman. The daughter of Holocaust survivors painted several haunting images in harsh black and white tones. A book of photographs called “Das Ghetto” inspired the paintings as well as Weisman’s artistic career.
The event was almost at full capacity with audience members who’d come from all over the Valley. Many were from different backgrounds and religions, and they all listened intently to Schloss’ story.
Deitsch was impressed by the size of the crowd, and was especially happy to see so many young students and children in the audience.
“My goal is to empower people and to recognize that through positive action, they can create positive change,” Deitsch said. “Positive actions do make a difference in this world and can change the dialogue in a healthy and fresh way.” JN