Not every day does a Holocaust survivor come to Chattanooga. Particularly one related to Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who was a victim of the Holocaust and who famously kept a diary during her time hiding from Nazis in Amsterdam. On Sunday, October 14, 89-year-old Eva Schloss, one of the last living Nazi death camp survivors, came to Chattanooga to share about her survival of Auschwitz.
As her website evascholss.com states, Schloss is “a Holocaust survivor, peace activist, international speaker, teacher and a humanitarian.” She has written three books and shares her story to audiences around the world to spread her message promoting love and acceptance.
A native Austrian, Schloss currently lives in London. After interviewing with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, journalist Tyler Jett wrote that she stopped in Chattanooga for a few days following visits in Ontario and Nashville. He writes that the reason she gives talks around the world is “because she wants audiences to reckon with the roots of the Holocaust: intolerance. She believes a fear of ‘the other’ explains pain all over the world.” She spreads her message of compassion, particularly for refugees fleeing hardship. As someone who fled with her family to Amsterdam when she was nine, she knows the life of an immigrant.
Schloss described to Jett that she grew up with Anne Frank. They lived in the same neighborhood after Schloss’s family immigrated to Amsterdam. “She was a big chatterbox,” Schloss said, describing how Frank, unlike Schloss, was fluent in Dutch.
When Schloss was 13, her brother, Heinz, received a letter from the Nazis demanding him to board a train for a German labor camp. Eva, Heinz, and their parents decided to go into hiding, which was about the same time as the Franks. Eva and her mother were hidden in one house while Heinz and her father were hidden in another.
“It was an idyllic life,” she said thinking back to life before the Nazi’s torture in the concentration camp. “I wanted a boyfriend. I wanted to get married. I was 15. I wasn’t ready to die.”
After a betrayal by the nurse in their home, Eva and her mother were found by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camp Auschwitz. Schloss told Jet that one day, the Nazis began fleeing the camp, which she would find out later was due to Russian soldiers coming to free them. Instead of leaving on the “death marches,” Schloss and her mother were deemed too weak to go and stayed behind. Seven days after many people embarked from the camp, the Russians arrived to liberate them. Schloss and her mother rode back to Amsterdam with Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank. Schloss and her mother, along with Otto, learned that the rest of their family had died.
Otto Frank and Schloss’s mother married in 1953 following the publishing of “The Diary of Anne Frank” in 1952. This book was hard for Schloss to receive, as Jett wrote, “she believed people weren’t ready to hear the Holocaust’s more intense stories, stories like her own.”
“I was surprised a little bit,” Schloss said about the diary. “[Anne Frank] still believed in the good of mankind. I sometimes wondered, ‘Would she still believe that if she survived?’” Thus, Schloss kept her own personal account private until 1988 when she released, “Eva’s Story.”
Mark Pace of the Chattanooga Times writes that Schloss spoke in front of two thousand people at Memorial Auditorium in the event entitled “Voices from Auschwitz.” She shared her story and called the people to compassion. She told heartwarming stories about her talented brother Heinz who wasn’t able to play the piano while in hiding, “so he learned seven languages and taught himself to paint by the age of 16.” She shared her experiences as a prisoner and her fight through depression after the war’s end.
She advocated for welcoming refugees saying, “people try to make a new life in a safer country, and again people close their doors to these people. It’s our fault we are closing our doors.” She spoke again on Tuesday, October 16 to four thousand school children before she traveled to Memphis.
As Judy Spiegel, wife of Schloss’s longtime friend and Erlanger CEO Kevin Spiegel, said, “Her message is absolutely important for people in Chattanooga and everywhere to hear.”