Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss tours the world telling her story of survival and sharing her message of tolerance. But it wasn't until the 1980s that she started talking about her experience, after keeping it bottled up for decades.
"Well, I didn’t talk for 40 years, and now I don’t stop!" Schloss said with a laugh, answering a phone call from her home in London.
On March 12, Schloss will appear at the Fox Theater for a lecture presented by the Chabad Jewish Community Center. She is expected to talk not just about her experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp but also her relationship with Anne Frank and the parallels she sees in the world today and 75 years ago.
"I thought it was extremely important for her to come to a town like Bakersfield, where most people have not met a Holocaust survivor," said Esther Schlanger of the Chabad Jewish Community Center. "It will be very powerful to hear from an actual survivor."
Schloss, who will turn 90 in May, was born in Austria to Elfriede and Erich Geiringer, also parents to Schloss' brother, Heinz. After the annexation of Austria, her family left for Belgium and, later, to Holland. There, she met Anne Frank, who was just a month younger than she was.
The Jewish Geiringer family was captured by Nazis in May 1944, when Eva was 15, and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only she and her mother survived. Returning to Amsterdam in May 1945, the family reconnected with former neighbor Otto Frank, Anne's father, whom Elfriede married in 1953.
"That was for me, quite a support, because he was quite an amazing person," Schloss said of Frank. "He had no hatred and he was a very wonderful grandfather for our three daughters. So he had quite an important part in my life."
Schloss would go on to marry Zvi Schloss, a Jewish refugee from Germany whom she met in in England where she studied photography. The two had three daughters and five grandchildren. Zvi Schloss died in 2016.
From 1972 to 1997, Schloss ran an antiques shop in London, and became more and more involved in Holocaust education since she began talking about her experience.
Schloss' talk in Bakersfield will cover her life story, she said, as well as refugees in the world today, poverty and the differences between the rich and the poor, hatred and discrimination.
"It’s not just about Auschwitz," she said of her lecture. "It is really where are we going from now on. At the time, we thought, ‘We have learned our lesson. Never again will such terrible things (be) happening,’ but it turns out we haven’t really learned, and it’s still going on."
Schloss said she sees many similarities between the world now and during the Holocaust, especially with the way the world continues to treat refugees.
"At the time, you know, when Jewish people wanted to leave their country to find somewhere safe to live, the world didn’t want any refugees," she said. "This is certainly now a big problem again in the world. There are 6 million refugees who are looking for a new home and again nobody wants to help them."
Still, Schloss believes things can change for the better.
"All over the world, people have been worried in which ways the world is going," she said. "I’ve been through one of the most horrible things in history. I am still an optimist."
The lecture here is one stop on a six-week United States tour, with 20 different visits around the country. Where others might take the international travel and work easy as they approach 90 years old, Schloss said she doesn't see an end to touring anytime soon.
"I still like doing it, because I figure it’s important," she said. "Holocaust survivors are becoming rare. … I still try to carry on as long as I can."
After her lectures, Schloss said she regularly hears from people who had family members survive the Holocaust. She also takes questions from the audience.
"It’s always very interesting to hear what people want to know and what they’re interested in," she said.
From her lecture, Schloss hopes guests walk away with the courage not to be bystanders, she said.
"I certainly tell people, especially young people, if you see injustice being done you have to help those people or speak up," she said. "You have to be interested in what goes on around you and in the world, and take part in it."