When Eva Schloss was 16, she left Auschwitz-Birkenau and found out that her father and brother had died in the Nazi concentration camp.
Last year, Schloss was in California when a group of teenagers made a swastika with red plastic cups and snapped photos doing the Nazi salute.
At 16, they should have been taught about the Holocaust, Schloss said.
“They were pretty embarrassed,” Schloss said. “They said they didn’t really know what it meant. So I said, ‘Well, I’m sorry, I don’t believe that.’ ”
Holocaust education is an important part of why Schloss, 90, still travels the globe speaking about her experience.
“If you explain things to people, then they think about it and say, ‘Yes, perhaps I should be involved. We should do something. I should change my attitude because it could be me who will be me who will be prejudiced against one day,’ ” Schloss said.
Spokanites will get the chance to hear Schloss speak next month when Chabad of Spokane County hosts “An Evening with Eva Schloss” on Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Spokane Convention Center.
As the window to hear from Holocaust survivors closes, Chabad of Spokane got lucky that Schloss could come speak in Spokane, said Rabbi Yisroel Hahn.
“Holocaust survivors are not just people who went through a horrible time and incredible trauma, but they are people who managed to rebuild their life from the ashes, from the darkness, and that’s a message that we can all relate to,” Hahn said. “That’s what really inspires people.”
Schloss was born in Vienna in 1929 to Enrich and Fritzi Geiringer. The family was not extremely religious but attended synagogue on special holy days, Schloss wrote in her book “Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale by the Stepsister of Anne Frank.”
As the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933, 4-year-old Eva began to realize what being Jewish meant when the Jewish children were separated during scripture reading to learn in Hebrew.
After Germany annexed Austria, the family moved to Brussels and then Amsterdam in an attempt to evade persecution.
The family moved into the same apartment block as the Frank family, and Schloss recalls in her book playing with Anne Frank.
When conditions worsened, the family went into hiding but eventually was betrayed by the people helping to hide them from the Nazis.
The entire family was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were separated for much of their captivity. Schloss and her mother survived with the help of their cousin, Minni, who worked in the concentration camp’s hospital.
Her father and brother died in the camp, but Schloss and her mother, Fritzi, survived.
Schloss then immigrated to London, where she met and married fellow survivor Zvi Schloss.
Her mother reconnected with a friend from the time they spent in Amsterdam: Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank. The two were married, making Schloss the stepsister of Anne Frank, who died in 1945 in another Nazi concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen.
For years, Schloss didn’t talk about her experience during the Holocaust.
Then, after coaxing from friends, Schloss told her story at a gathering one evening. Three years later, Schloss’ first book was published.
“The world unfortunately has forgotten what has happened, or they never even knew what had happened. It hasn’t really changed. There’s still prejudice, discrimination and wars going on,” Schloss said. “I think if I tell people and describe the horror that happened to people – millions of people – that perhaps they might wake up and start protesting when they see this injustice going on around them.”
When Schloss reflects on the Holocaust, she firmly believes that if more people had stood up to the Nazis they “couldn’t have done this terrible thing.”
The Spokane community can gain a lot from hearing Schloss’ story, said Hahn.
“Of the utmost importance is the value of tolerance of all human beings, which in today’s day and age is more needed than perhaps ever,” Hahn said.
When speaking in the United States, Schloss notices a difference in knowledge of the Holocaust.
In most of Europe, it’s required in school that children learn about the Holocaust. But in the U.S., only 11 states currently require a form of genocide or Holocaust education.
During the 2019 legislative session, a bill that “strongly encouraged” middle, junior high and high schools in Washington to teach about the Holocaust was signed into law. However, the legislation does not require the curriculum for fear of overloading teachers.
“That should be a curriculum,” Schloss said. “Most people know about Anne Frank, as quite a few people have read her diary, but that is a good introduction. That is not the Holocaust.”
The Holocaust was much more horrid than even what Anne Frank experienced before she was betrayed, Schloss said.
“My book and other books who really tell about what happened, how organized the Nazis were, how they had no feelings for human being, how they destroyed many, many, many millions of lives – the way they did this. Those details, that is what shocks people,” Schloss said. “That is what they have to hear: the terrible details that people had to go through. And then we might change the mindset to try to work together to avoid things like this ever happening again.”
As the number of living Holocaust survivors dwindles, Schloss hopes her books, videos of her speaking and even an interactive hologram will help prevent future atrocities.
Schloss wants people to be motivated by her story to become activists.
“First of all, they have to become interested in what goes on around them in their state, in their country and even the world,” Schloss said. “You should have an opinion about what you think about it and influence the world for the better.”
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