Sat | Jul 20, 2019

Eva Schloss shares intriguing story of surviving the Holocaust

Published:Thursday | March 28, 2019 | 12:31 AMPaul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer
Eva Schloss

Eva Geiringer was born in Vienna, Austria, on May 11, 1929 in a Jewish family. Nine years later, on March 12, Nazi Germany annexed Austria. This annexation came to be known as the Anschluss.

On September 1, 1939, World War II started when the Nazis invaded Poland. Many other countries were subsequently occupied, and the persecution of Jews in these countries was a major platform for the Nazis. In 1940, Eva Geiringer and her family fled to Belgium en route to The Netherlands to escape the Nazis.

There, she lived in the same apartment as Anne Frank in Amsterdam. “We were great friends and playmates from the age of 11-13. We were one month apart,” she told The Gleaner recently. She also conceded that Frank was much more grown up and mature than she was. But who was Anne Frank?

She gained posthumous fame with the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl, in which she documents her life in hiding from 1942-1944, during the German occupation of The Netherlands. Her story has also been told by many TV movies and miniseries.

Born Annelies Marie Frank in Germany into a Jewish family, like Eva and her family, Frank’s family fled to The Netherlands to avoid persecution by the Nazis. That was how she and Eva, coming from two different places, met.

“We cycled, skipped, played hopscotch, and gossiped about boys,” Eva told The Gleaner, “I was more of a tomboy, and she was more of a sophisticated little girl.” Yet, the fun was over when the Nazis invaded The Netherlands.

In 1942, Eva, Anne and their families were forced to go into hiding to avoid being captured by the Nazis.

In July of that year, Anne and her family went to hide in some concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne’s father, Otto, worked.

Eva and her mother, Elfriede, separated from her father and brother, hid with another family until a fateful day.

Unforgettable birthday

My 15th birthday – May 11, 1944, is forever etched in my memory – was the day my mother and I … were discovered. We were arrested, and later sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau,” she recalled.

They were betrayed by a Dutch nurse, who happened to be a double agent working for the Nazis. Her father, Erich, and brother, Heinz, were also arrested and sent to Auschwitz and later died in Mauthausen concentration camp.

For the two years she was in hiding, Anne kept a regular diary of her life. The Franks were eventually arrested by the Gestapo (Nazi official secret police) in August 1944, three months after Eva and her family.

They were transported to concentration camps. About November, Anne and her sister, Margot, were transferred from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died a few months later. So, how did Anne get to be Eva’s stepsister?

Freed by Russians

Eva, her mother, and thousands of others were freed by Russian troops in 1945 when the Allies overcame the Germans. They returned to Amsterdam, where they rekindled their friendship with Otto Frank, who was the one who found Anne’s diary, and the rest is history.

In November 1953, Eva’s mother married Otto Frank, thus making Eva Anne’s stepsister, posthumously. From The Netherlands, Eva moved to England, where she married Zvi Schloss, a Jewish refugee from Germany. Together, they had three daughters. Schloss was a studio photographer and operated an antique shop.

Since 1985, she has been travelling the world educating people about the Holocaust and advocating for world peace. A recipient of an MBE, Eva Schloss has written four books, and a play was written about her life. On Tuesday, April 2, at 7:30 p.m., Eva Schloss, on the invitation of Chabad of Jamaica Cultural Centre, will be telling her story inside the Grand Jamaica Suite of The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in St Andrew under the theme: ‘Learning from the past; Living the present; Looking to the future’.