To Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss, today’s society still retains some of the anti-Semitism she experienced growing up in Europe during World War II.
Two weeks ago, a photo showing students from Newport Harbor High School doing the “Heil Hitler” salute over a swastika made out of plastic red cups during a party circulated on social media. Schloss was in Los Angeles at the time the news broke out and was invited by the school to speak to the students involved.
Schloss said when she spoke to them, they seemed embarrassed and wouldn’t answer why they did it. She told the students a story of how the Nazis took disabled Jewish children away during the war, put them in school buses, sealed them off and put gas in so they would suffocate.
“I said ‘please little children, learn about the Holocaust, and realize that we must really keep a better and safer world so that incidents...like this will never happen in our world,” she said during an appearance at the Fox Theater on Tuesday.
Schloss’ appearance in Bakersfield was part of a six-week tour, with 20 different visits around the country. Besides speaking about the rise in anti-Semitism across the country in recent years, she also spoke about her experiences as a Jewish girl trying to survive during the Holocaust.
Schloss, who will turn 90 in May, was born in Austria in 1929 to Elfriede and Erich Geiringer. She didn’t stay there long, however. She and her family fled to Belgium and then Holland following Germany’s annexation of Austria in the late 1930s.
It was in Amsterdam around 1940 where she met Anne Frank and her family, who lived in an apartment complex with them. Schloss described Frank as being very chatty.
“She was known as Mrs. Quack Quack in school because she never could stop talking,” she said. “She couldn’t help it. She was just a big, big chatterbox.”
She was good friends with Frank until Schloss and her family were forced to go into hiding in 1942.
“(Holland) was fine for a while, but then people started to disappear,” she said. “The Nazis really wanted to get at the young people first, so they came to the schools, told the children to (come to) the track in the evening. The parents waited for the children to come home, but they never turned up.”
Years later after the war ended, Schloss said she learned they were taken to a death camp in Austria and thrown off the cliffs there.
After that incident, Schloss said she and her family went into hiding, but not together. For the best chance of survival, Schloss said her father decided the family should be separated, with she and her mother going one way while her father and brother took a different path.
“I started to cry. I didn’t want to be separated,” she said. “My father explained if we were in two different places, the chance we would survive would be bigger. I was 13 years old, and I realized it might be a matter of life and death. I might be killed, and for a 13-year-old, that was really very scary.”
Schloss and her mother, Elfriede, were eventually captured by Nazis in 1944 and taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. While they were able to survive, Schloss said her father and brother also ended up at the camp and died there.
In 1945, Schloss and her mother moved back to Amsterdam. Her mother eventually married Otto Frank, Anne's father.
Schloss went on to marry Zvi Schloss, a Jewish refugee from Germany whom she met in England, where she studied photography. The two had three daughters and five grandchildren. Zvi Schloss died in 2016.
Since 1985, Schloss has been involved in Holocaust education and has written two books.