An inside look at the story of a Holocaust survivor and friend to Anne Frank

02/11/14 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: Holocaust survivor, Anne Frank, Eva Schloss


Holocaust survivor and childhood friend of Anne Frank, Eva Schloss tells her story of loss and survival during World War I.

photo by Janelle Irwin

Moist eyes filled the Palladium Theater in downtown St. Pete Monday night as Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss spent more than an hour telling her story. Schloss, the childhood friend and step-sister of Anne Frank, retold her experience from her pre-occupation days in Holland through the liberation of Auschwitz where she and her mother survived several close calls.

“And people waited there – there were low barracks with pipes going and they looked up, but nothing happened, no water came. They waited, they felt faint, they couldn’t breathe properly and within about ten minutes everybody had collapsed because there was no water, but poisonous gas was coming in. And they told us that so can you imagine a mother who had just given up her child? So then we went in to shower, of course I clang to my mother and I thought, that’s it, but water came.”

That’s Schloss’ memory of the time she found out Jewish people were being systematically killed in gas chambers at Auschwitz. She didn’t know that concentration camps across Europe were doing the same thing. Or that the factories young boys and able girls were sent to to work for the Germans were actually murdering those children. But she found out much later.

“It was a horrific death camp. There were stone cliffs and those young people were just thrown down from the cliffs.”

She’s referring to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp where her own brother and Anne Frank’s older sister likely would have been sent had the two families not decided to seek refuge with non-Jews who were part of the German resistance.

“It was very, very frightening because a hiding place was good, but not 100% safe. If they really would have looked properly they could have found people. There [were] rumors going, for instance, they always came at night. In another apartment, they felt the beds which were still warm so they realized people were hiding there. So, they demolished the whole apartment until they found the people and everybody was arrested not just the Jewish people, the people who helped Jews. So, people became scared and said, ‘well, you have to move.’ So, we moved about 6, 7 times.”

It was Schloss’ 15th birthday that her family was captured. They had moved in with a young nurse who turned out to be a spy for the Nazi’s. Her family was sent to a camp where they were immediately put on a list to be transported to a concentration camp. That decision, Schloss barely managed, was made by other Jews.

“The Germans would say on a Wednesday, ‘I need a list from you on Friday with 2,000 names on it for people who are going to be sent on transport. So, these men had to pick out people who he know he was going to send to their deaths. Can you imagine what a horrific job that is?”

That train ride crammed into a tiny box car shoulder to shoulder with other frightened Jews, was the last time Eva Schloss saw her father or brother who were later killed in Auschwitz.

“My father who was a wonderful family man, cried and apologized that from now on, he can’t protect us anymore. He said, ‘I helped you get out of Austria, found you a hiding place, kept you safe for two years, but now you’ll be on your own.’ That was, for him, a terrible thing to admit and to say.”

But even before the German occupation, before the arm bands with the yellow Star of David, things had gotten bad for Jewish families. Schloss’ best friend, before meeting Anne Frank, was a young Catholic girl whom she met in school.

“As soon as the Nazis came I carried on going to her home. When the mother saw me, she said, ‘you are not welcome here anymore.’ She slammed the door in my face. I was nine years old. I went home. I cried. I said to my mother, ‘I don’t understand, we didn’t have a quarrel, why is this?’ And my mother said, ‘well, this is how life for Jewish people will be from now on.’”

It was two years later that Schloss would find a friend in Anne Frank. The girls lived in apartments across the street from one another.

“We skipped together and she always wanted to have a lot of people around her; she was a bit of a showoff. She wanted to tell stories. At school she was called Mrs. Quack Quack because she never stopped talking. Very often she had to stay behind to write lines – I’m not going to talk so much in class – but it didn’t really help.”

The two families were reunited following the Russian liberation of Auschwitz. Eva survived along with her mother. Otto Frank was the sole survivor of his family. He stayed close to Eva and – eventually marrying her mother. Eva Schloss has co-authored several books including The Promise and Eva’s Story.

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