Anne Frank’s Stepsister Eva Schloss on Holocaust Horrors and How Trump Reminds Her of Hitler

Ingo Wagner / AP
"It's very cold here," murmurs Eva Schloss with her thick Austrian accent.
The 91-year-old writer and activist is hiding in her home in London, where she spent the past year riding out the coronavirus pandemic. Although Schloss receives both doses of the vaccine, it is actually trapped - with the city still tightly closed - and becoming "very impatient". After all, several years of her life have already been stolen from her.
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As a child, the von Schloss family fled Vienna when the Nazis took over. After a stopover in Belgium, they ended up in Amsterdam and lived in the same block as Anne Frank, who was two years younger than Eva. The two became friends - that is, until the Nazis forced their two families to go into hiding. In 1944 Eva, her parents and her brother Heinz were revealed to the Nazis by a Dutch double agent and transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious concentration camps. When Russian troops arrived in January 1945 to liberate the camps, only Eva and her mother remained among the living.
They returned to Amsterdam, where Eva's mother eventually married Otto Frank, Anne's father, and made them step-sisters (Anne died of typhus in 1945 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp). In the years since, Eva married and raised a family, co-founded The Anne Frank Trust UK to preserve the memory of her diary writer and stepsister, and taught college students around the world about the horrors of the Holocaust.
"I heard in America that Asians were suddenly being attacked," she tells me. "We have to teach people that we are all human. It doesn't matter what color or religion we are. We are all human and must be treated equally."
The Nazi hunter against Mark Zuckerberg
In honor of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, I spoke to Eva Schloss about her incredible survival story, Trump's neo-Nazi dog whistles and much more.
You have seen and been through so much. How was the past year for you?
At first I didn't mind that much, you know? But now I'm getting very impatient because I traveled to the United States four months a year and spoke to thousands of people on each trip. It was very rewarding because people were very interested and I felt like I was doing something very positive to try to change people's attitudes.
I recently saw a number of Republicans compare vaccination cards to the stars Jews were required to wear during the Holocaust, which seems especially insane.
[Laughs] That's silly.
I wanted to discuss your story a little.
I was born in Vienna - Austria - and my family had lived there for generations. When the Nazis came, my father realized that we couldn't stay there, and so we finally got off, first to Belgium and then we settled in Amsterdam. And then of course Hitler followed us. After only three months there, Holland was attacked too. We tried to escape to England, but it was too late. Germany had to find a scapegoat for why they lost World War I, and it became the Jewish people. It is always the fault of the Jewish people when something goes wrong.
Why do you think Jews are always scapegoats?
Well it's amazing. I always tell children: we are only 16 million Jews spread across the world. This is nothing. And yet we are everywhere. We invent things - have ideas in medicine, science and everything. Through religion, starting with the Talmud, people are very astute and very educated because the Jews value education very much. Even if they start very poor in Poland or Russia, they can achieve wonderful things. Throughout history we have always been persecuted - from the beginning we have been persecuted because we believed in a God. People ask, how can you live with this anti-Semitism in London? I say yes, there is anti-Semitism. It's in the language and even Shakespeare used it, but I've seen worse.
A young Eva Schloss
You are one of a small group of people who have spent time with Anne Frank. What was she like as a person and why do you think it is so important to preserve her memory?
We were both 11 years old when I met her - she was only a month younger than me - and she went to another school, a Montessori school, and her sister didn't. I later asked Otto why she left and he said, “She was indeed a difficult child. She was very stubborn - she knew what she wanted. She always wanted to get people's attention, she loved telling stories, and at school she was called “Mrs. Quack-Quack "and she always had to lag behind because she kept talking in class. She was very confident and knew which way to go, even at the age of 11. And of course she had later than us We hid a bad relationship with her mother - I don't know why - but she adored her father.In hiding Otto read with her, from Dickens to all of Greek mythology, and since I knew Otto very well - he was 27 years married to my mother and the grandfather of my children - I can see Otto in Anna's writing. Women's rights, equality and everything that Otto was and Anna definitely inherited that. She was hiding and it was scary, but she was enjoying it, time to spend with her beloved father.
What was the atmosphere like in the run-up to the Holocaust, when the anti-Semitic temperature rose rapidly?
People disappeared. People were arrested. And then, after two years, in 1942, around 10,000 young people were drafted to be deported to Germany. At this point the concentration and death camps already existed and the world knew about them. They pretended not to know. I think the world was pretty happy with what Hitler did - to get rid of the Jews. In Germany, the posters said that Jews all had good jobs and introduced Jews with big bags of money, so people believed that. The neighbors knew when the Jewish people were being taken away, and they very quickly went into these apartments and took things out. Suddenly these people had valuable possessions and when their apartments were empty they could move into them. They didn't care.
How was the experience in Auschwitz-Birkenau? I can't even imagine.
We weren't treated like humans. We were not given proper water to drink, no hygiene, and you could go to a toilet in a separate block once in the morning or once in the evening. If you had to go [to the bathroom] at night, you would have to walk ten minutes in the dark during the freezing cold of the year. We were treated like animals. They even tattooed us and said, “You are now stamped like a sheep or a cow. Forget that you have a name. “And they really, really wanted to kill everyone. Birkenau was the women's camp that was built much later.
What was it like to be separated from your family?
We were separated on arrival because the women in Birkenau and the men in Auschwitz were a few miles apart. At the first pick, when the men left, we didn't even know if my father and brother survived or if they were immediately taken to the gas chambers. We never had a wash. Once a week we showered and were deloused because we were full of lice. And our clothes - a piece of clothing, not underwear - were also taken and deloused. We'd be naked in front of [Dr. Josef] Mengele, and he would do an inspection. We got there in May and then my mother was selected in October. Those were the hardest times for me because I thought I had lost my mother and I had no idea whether my father or my brother were still alive. It got winter and there was snow and sometimes I would lose my shoes in the snow because you had no shoelaces. My toes were open and rats would try to suck the blood from my toes at night. I thought, "I can't go on." I was almost about to give up.
And then a miracle happened. I was working and one of the supervisors said, "Someone wants you outside." And I went outside and there my father was standing next to an SS man. We hugged each other and I asked: "Where is Heinz? Is he okay?" and then he asked me: "And where is mom?" - my mother. And I burst into tears. I said to him, “She was chosen. She was gassed. "I've never seen my father in such a state before, but he told me I have to hold on and we'll be together again. That gave me a bit of hope. We didn't know the Russians were approaching. We just knew that whole barracks were empty and people would disappear. We would later find out that these were called death marches. One day some people came from a Dutch transport company to look for friends. I saw them, they saw me and they said, " Eva, I'm glad you're still alive. I saw your mother. "I said," I know ... she was gassed. " They said, “No! Go to this barracks. “I went there and actually she was there.
Your mother was still alive.
There is another story. I had a typhoid attack and my mother said I needed to be taken to the hospital. And Mengele operated on women in the hospital in Birkenau. He would take out organs with no antiseptic and all sorts of horrible things. It was called a "hospital" but there were no cures there, they were only used as an experiment. But we didn't know that. We go there and a woman comes out and my mom stops and they just hug each other. It was my mother's cousin, and her husband was a dermatologist who worked as a doctor treating the Nazis. He told them his wife was his nurse, so she got a job there and she could give me medicine. Later, when my mother was selected, I took a huge risk and slipped past a security guard with a searchlight and told my cousin that my mother, Mutti, was chosen by Mengele. Please see if you can save her. In the morning she went to Mengele and said that her cousin was chosen by him, but she is actually very strong. So see if you can watch them again. And he did. He went to this barracks where about 40 naked women were waiting to be gassed. He called her number because we were only known by our numbers and said, "Okay, you can go back and keep working." [Starts crying] It's very emotional for me to say that.
A photo of women who are considered fit for work and were taken in May 1944 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Oswiecim after the camp's absorption process.
I understand completely.
We were very weak and sick - and had to leave the barracks and prepare for the march. Then there was an air strike so they sent us back. My mother was very weak and said, "If you call us again, I can't go. I just have to stay here." We fell asleep from being exhausted and woke up in the morning and the Nazis were gone. a few days later, the Russians came. We got wonderful greasy cabbage soup that went right through us. I've never spent so much time with a bucket because we couldn't digest food. In the morning a lot of people died because their bodies didn't have the strength to digest food, then the Russians were gone and I decided to go to Auschwitz at night to see if I could find my father and brother, of the thousands there were about 500 people left I came across a man who looked a little familiar, I looked at him and said, “I think I know you.” And he said, “I'm Otto Frank, Anne's father. Have you seen my girls or my wife "I said no." Did you see my father and Heinz? "He said:" They were here ... but they left with the Nazis three weeks ago. They were taken on a death march to Mauthausen and then to Ebensee.
I can't even fathom that level of evil. I know there is no comparison to the Holocaust camps, but I wanted to ask how you feel about the border detention camps in the US where immigrant families are detained. We should be a lot better.
Sure. But after the war the motto was: “Never again, Auschwitz. We learned our lesson. "And people wanted to create a better world. When we returned to Holland, they said:" There will be no more discrimination. "But we were not looked after. We had to do it on our own again. Finally we found out from the Red Cross that mine Father and brother had died and then I got extremely depressed - more depressed when I was in the camp because I didn't want to die there in the camp, so I kept saying, "I'll make it, I'll make it." When I realized that we would never be family again because we had no relatives in Holland and my mother had never worked before, I realized that it would never be normal. I really wanted to commit suicide. I found a little note in who I said, "Life is over. My brother and father are gone. I would like to kill myself." I obviously didn't, but I toyed with the idea. I've been unhappy for many, many years. For forty years I didn't talk [about the Holocaust] - not to my children, not to anyone. It was too hard. I had nightmares for many years.
Eva Schloss and her mother Elfriede
There has been a noticeable increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes during the Trump administration. And there was a president in Trump who described neo-Nazis singing "Jews will not replace us" as "very good people".
Trump wasn't just against the Jews - he was against the Mexicans and many others. He was a racist. Period, he was a racist. His son-in-law is Jewish and his daughter converted to Judaism. You know, he said so many stupid things. I compared him to Hitler. I even heard that he studied Hitler's speeches and the like, so obviously he admired Hitler and just copied him with his anti-Semitism. The Muslims are also hated. This is what is so wrong in our society - white supremacy. We should all treat each other equally. We are just one human race - different colors, different religions, different opinions, but all people who have the same opportunities and should be measured equally.
What worried me is that there are two prominent members of Congress in the United States who have dealt with anti-Semitism. There's Madison Cawthorn, who attended Hitler's Nazi retreat while on vacation and said free things about it, and then Marjorie Taylor Greene, who promoted a number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. She even claimed that the Jews used a space laser to control the weather.
Anti-Semitism is nothing new and I fear it will always be there. I don't know why, but the fact is - since the Jewish people became one people, there has been prejudice. We have to be vigilant and try to get the message across that it is wrong. But blacks also suffer. We have to shake hands with anyone who is racist against anyone and try to change people's attitudes. But the internet is dangerous - not just against Jews. There are a lot of terrible, false messages being given and people no longer know what is true and what is wrong.
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In this article:
Eva Castle
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