Questions With a Holocaust Survivor: Eva Schloss
It’s January 30th, 1933. Homes, stripped of families. Sons and daughters ripped from mothers. Sent on cattle cars like animals. Riding for days, with barely any food or water. Some give up on the journey, but little to none pull through. She pulled through.
Eva Schloss was born on May 11, 1929, in Vienna, Austria. Her family rented a flat in Amsterdam, where she met Anne Frank. After the Nazis invaded Amsterdam, she went into hiding for two years until she was freed by Soviet troops in 1945. Shortly after that, she and her mother returned to Amsterdam and reunited with Otto Frank. In 1953 her mother, Elfriede Geiringer, married Otto Frank.
“Everything you do leaves something behind; nothing gets lost. All the good you have accomplished will continue in the lives of the people you have touched. It will make a difference to someone, somewhere, sometime, and your achievements will be carried on. Everything is connected like a chain that cannot be broken.”
Tell us about Anne
“Of course as you say, she wasn’t famous, so she became just one of my playmates. And, in my experience, I had become shy, so it wasn’t in my nature, and she was very loud. They left already when Anna was 4 years old in 1933. It was Otto Frank, her father, who realized when he saw the Nazis marching through the streets, (singing) a very famous Nazi song when Jewish blood drips from our knives everything will be better, and Otto Frank said, that is not a country. He was very patriotic, he was an officer in the first world war and it was hard to suddenly leave his own country because he said, this is not a country where I want to bring up a family. So Anna was only four years old when they settled in Amsterdam, so she learned Dutch of course, immediately, and she only spoke Dutch. And, so when we met, she asked me where I came from and I said Austria and she said, oh you speak German? I will take you to my apartment to meet my dad who will speak German to you. And this is how I got to know the family, of course, never expecting how close we would become later on.
“She actually went to a Montessori school, which means that Otto must have realized that she’s not just an ordinary child, she needs a bit more attention. She hates to do maths, which some people hate. I was actually very good at that, so we were actually quite opposite. She loved writing stories and I checked it a lot. Her nickname was Mrs. Quack Quack and never could stop talking. She had to stay behind in school to write a hundred lines; she just couldn’t help it. And in that school, the Montessori school, they could do really what they liked and this suited her. And so, Otto told me later she had no ideas about addition or subtraction, she just didn’t want to learn that and she didn’t. Stories were her, that is what she really loved. Of course, later was when she got the diary, not ‘till much later. I didn’t know really that she got the diary. I just want to tell you, that she was eleven years old and was already very interested in boys.”
What happened when the Nazis arrived?
“Nothing really happened, and this is going well, this has got to be okay. They won’t do anything in the occupied countries. But then the measures against Jewish people started to come. So it was first just a nuisance. We were not allowed to go out before eight o'clock in the morning and eight o’clock in the evening. We had to give in our bicycles, we had to give in our radios, we were not allowed on public transport, we were not to go to the cinema or the theaters, swimming pools. So for us children, you know we were upset, but it was not life-threatening. But then we had to leave our schools and go to Jewish schools. You will say then what is wrong with it, and there is nothing wrong with it. All is a Nazi’s views and lots of Jewish children, and they came with trucks, and they told the children to get on the truck. And the children never were seen again. So the parents went to the police, trying to find out where are the children, when are they going to come home? Nobody gave them any information. And only after the war, we found out the three years of children missing were sent to Mauthausen, a horrific Austrian death camp, and they were just thrown down from the cliffs. You know, but just the children disappearing, that was already a terrible event. And then after two years occupation, in June 1942, ten thousand young people, I am sure there are a lot of you here, sixteen years old and a bit older, got a call-up notice to be deported to Germany. That was my brother Heinz who had just turned sixteen and Anna’s sister Margot. That is when my father called us together and said Heinz, we are not sending you, but we are going into hiding. And, you know, I couldn’t understand. To go into hiding was something I couldn’t imagine.”
“And my father explains he found some wonderful people, Dutch people, who risk their lives to take us in, in their own homes. But he didn’t find the family who could take in four people because the apartments were quite small, so we had to split up. I will go with mother and Heinz will go with him. And I started to cry. I didn’t want to be separated, I was very much attached to my father and my brother. And my father explained to me, if we’re in two different places, the chance that two of us will survive is bigger. So I realized, it might be a matter of life and death, and that is for a thirteen-year-old, or anybody, quite scary. We were in hiding for two years.”
Eva went on to talk about her worst memories and inspirational stories of overcoming her journeys throughout the years in the Nazi death camps. She and her mother were freed January of 1945, where Eva then traveled to London for her photography. Eva later met her soon to be husband, Zvi Schloss, in 195,1 who was also taking the course. After recently being proposed to from Zvi, Eva turned him down and went home due to the fact that Zvi had wanted to move away from her parents. Yet when Eva turned home solitary, she found her mother in love with Otto Frank. She then returned to London and said yes to his proposal. Zvi and Eva married in 1952, then Otto and Elfriede the year after.
Eva talks worldwide, sharing her story and teaching people of all ages and cultures the importance to accept everyone for who they are. She is an inspiration for modern day children and a role model to millions. Even still, she has dedicated more than fifty years to sharing her story worldwide. Eva’s story is sensationally difficult to imagine, yet she reminds us of the important message that life is precious, and love makes a difference. Love is what is important.