The Nazis invaded Amsterdam on May 10, 1940, the day before Eva Schloss’ 11th birthday. Having fled from Austria to Amsterdam in 1938, Eva’s parents—as Jews now trapped behind Holland’s closed borders—began to fear for their family’s lives. Despite the fear and upheaval, Eva was excited to have met a new friend who could speak German, an 11-year-old neighbor with whom she could play hopscotch on the street outside her apartment. That 11-year-old girl would eventually become Eva’s stepsister. Her name was Anne Frank.
Cohosted by several Westchester Chabads at the DoubleTree in Tarrytown on October 28, Eva Schloss—today an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, educator, and memoirist—shared stories about her and Frank’s heartrending story of love, hatred, and forgiveness with award-winning CBS journalist John Metaxas.
“I remember her already writing little stories back then,” said Schloss about Frank, famous today for the diary she wrote while in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. “Unfortunately, after we went into hiding in 1942, I never saw her again.”
The Schloss and Frank families lived next-door to each other in Amsterdam before they were forced to separate and go into hiding. Like many other European Jews, the Schloss family hid wherever they could in order to avoid detection, but, in 1944, after having unknowingly taken shelter at the house of a Nazi informer, the Schloss family was captured and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where the Frank family had already been taken.
“When we saw the sign to the entrance, our hearts stopped,” said Schloss, tears in her eyes. “My father, who was not religious, took me by the hand and said ‘God will protect you.’ Those were his last words.”
After spending nine months in Auschwitz, Soviet troops sieged the concentration camp and liberated its inmates on January 27, 1945. Eva’s brother and father had died and, out of the Frank family, only Anne’s father, Otto, survived. Otto, Eva, and her mother Fritizi returned to Amsterdam in late 1945. After their return, Otto and Fritizi began to shape a relationship—fostered over many home-cooked meals, according to Eva—that would eventually lead the two Holocaust survivors to marriage.
Ever since 1985, she has traveled across the world to educate and inform people about both her own and Frank’s struggle in front of hundreds of audiences. She is also the author of three Holocaust-related books.
“The world needs Eva’s message today more than ever,” said Benjy Silverman, Rabbi of the chabad of the River Towns—one of the event’s organizers. “It is very important to remind the world about the destruction that hatred can bring.”
But despite a grave topic matter, Schloss’ words brought the audience to laughter when she recalled her stepsister as a real chatterbox that, despite her young age, was already very interested in boys. Although Schloss attended public school and Frank attended a Montessori school, Schloss remember how Frank, after school was out, would often come over to her apartment being more interested in flirting with her brother, Heinz, than in playing with her.
After the event, Schloss remained outside of the DoubleTree’s Westchester Ballroom, next to a tall pile of her own books, to sign newly bought copies and chat with whomever wished to talk to her.
“I believe in humanity and the world,” she said while, with trembling hands, signing a copy of her book The Promise. “The creation is there and we should look after what we have been given. Unfortunately, we don’t.”
Correction (11/3/14): A previous version of this article indicated Anne Frank wrote her diary after being imprisoned in Auschwitz. Her diary was written before her imprisonment.