Remembering History: Holocaust Survivor and Anne Frank’s Stepsister Eva Schloss Speaks In Medford
This past summer, I traveled to Amsterdam with my daughters, and on our first day visited Anne Frank’s house. My girls are 11 and 13 years old, the same ages that Anne Frank was when her family first hid from Nazis and then when she was discovered and taken to a concentration camp.
The house itself has been consumed by a massive, modern museum, but is still intact.
The tour walks through the attic rooms where the Frank family lived for two years. The space is largely untouched by time, and even small details remain. I was most struck by a series of colored push pins in the wall near a door frame. They were, apparently, left there by Anne’s father, Otto Frank. In the summer of 1944—75 years ago—Otto received intermittent reports about how Allied Forces were advancing across northern Europe, and liberating cities from Nazi control. As the troops moved closer, the pins neared the door frame, which essentially represented Amsterdam—and the Frank’s freedom. Of course, that never happened, as the family were discovered and sent to concentrations camps, where Anne, her sister and mother died. Otto Frank survived, and helped publicize his daughter’s diary which he famously discovered.
For me, those pins were small but powerful reminders about a future that could have been—where Allied troops reached the family in time and the 13-year old Anne was saved and survived. I looked across the room to see my two daughters, and felt a chill run through my body and a lump form in my throat.
It is, of course, not a novel emotion or response, as Anne Frank has captured an important moment in history and served as an enduring reminder about evil overpowering innocence—and as the tour guide pointed out, a particularly keen reminder during a contemporary political era in Europe and America that is particularly cruel to refuges who are trying to flee persecution.
Equally so, Anne’s stepsister Eva Schloss will speak in Medford on November 11, somewhat fittingly on Veteran Day. Schloss both served as a witness to the fear and to hope—and, she has spent the past few decades sharing that history and, at 90 years old, is going strong.
Schloss was a childhood friend with Anne Frank, living just a block away in Amsterdam. In 1942, her family, like the Franks, went into hiding—and remained undetected by the Nazis for two years before a double-agent revealed their location and they were sent to the notorious Auschwitz. The Frank family also was discovered in 1944, and Anne also was shipped to Auschwitz before being transferred to Bergen concentration camp where she died.
Eva’s father and brother did not survive—a somewhat reverse image of survival for the Frank family, who famously lost Anne, her sister and her mother in the concentration camps.
The surviving members from both families returned to Amsterdam, where drawn together by grief and love, Eva’s mom married Anna’s father—and posthumously Eva became Anne’s stepsister. In many ways, the two girls/women’s lives can be seen as parallel universes, as Eva has lived seven-plus more decades, answering so many “what if” questions.
Like Anne Frank, Eva’s life also has been defined by those years—of hiding, of persecution and survival—although Eva did not speak publicly about her experiences until after Otto Frank’s death in 1980.
Since then, she has become a torchbearer for those memories, including a recent interview that was turned into a holographic display and a recent book. Schloss has been direct and candid about her experiences—and relating those to current social and political issues; earlier this year, she addressed high school students in California after social media showed them playing a game of beer pong in which the cups were arranged in the shape of a swastika and they were giving straight-arm Nazi salutes.
6:30 pm, Monday, November 11, Medford Armory, $18 – $90.