DON’T MISS: Different Targets, Same Story

By on August 9, 2017

Anne Frank’s stepsister, a Holocaust survivor, discusses a past and present with many parallels.

Eva Schloss

JACKSON HOLE, WY – History is perhaps society’s most powerful lesson—but only if we listen. Stepsister to Anne Frank and Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss laments that we still have much to learn.

Schloss, 88, kept her story to herself for more than 40 years. It was “too horrendous,” she told PJH, and she didn’t want to burden her family with its gravity. But in the 1980s, she recognized her history in the political climate around her. “People said, ‘When we’ve learned our lesson, the world will be at peace’ … but it isn’t, is it? People hadn’t really learned.” 

She published her first book, Eva’s Story, in 1988 and has published two more since. Sharing her story is now her life’s work. The more people know about the horrors of the Holocaust, she said, the less inclined they’ll be to repeat it. “They have to learn about the history, how it happened, why it happened,” Schloss said.

Schloss will share her story and talk about Frank’s at Snow King Ballroom Thursday, August 17, then again Sunday August 20.

Frank’s diary is among the most read books in history, Schloss said, and gives a firsthand, real-time account of a life in hiding. Schloss’s story draws many parallels, and picks up where Frank’s left off—Frank, of course, did not survive to tell the tale of her internment.

After two years in hiding, Schloss remembered the exact day she was captured and sent to Auschwitz: May 11, 1944. It was Tuesday and happened to be her 15th birthday. By Friday, she and her mother arrived at Auschwitz. “When we realized we were in Auschwitz, we thought this was the end of our lives,” Schloss said. 

With the clarity and authority of someone 70 years removed from trauma, but no less impacted by it, Schloss detailed the things she saw: illness and starvation, families divided, and constant death. “Many, many people died,” Schloss said. “Very often in the morning the person who slept next to you was dead.”

She and her mother survived the camp. Her brother and father did not. Years later, she would find a collection of oil paintings her brother Heinz painted while in hiding. “That is how he kept his sanity,” Schloss said. To this day, she regards art as one of the most powerful mechanisms of healing. After the war, she became a photographer.

“Art helps people to keep their sanity, to express themselves,” Schloss said. And in retrospect, it helps people understand experiences that would otherwise be foreign to them.

Schloss has only become more politically active with age. When someone has seen as much as she has, she said, it’s all they can do to prevent the same disasters for younger generations. But the world she lives in today, she said, looks eerily similar to the one that almost killed her.

“It’s just as bad,” she said—maybe worse. The only difference is who the targets are. Now it’s Muslims in Syria and Iraq, Schloss said.

“There are 8 million refugees, and nobody wants them. The Holocaust would never have happened … if people could have found a home somewhere else, [Hitler] wouldn’t have killed them. It’s the same now.”

Today, Schloss lives in London, but is tuned in to politics around the world. The U.S. government right now, she said, is “laughable … but not really. It’s still more or less the most powerful country, but it doesn’t seem to work.” On the one hand, Schloss said, the American government should focus more on the well-being of its own people, rather than pour money into weapons and military. Meanwhile, it can’t expect to garner support from certain countries if it isn’t “helping refugees in those countries,” she said.

“The world doesn’t really help enough,” Schloss said. The richest countries are doing the least to help people from the most disaster-struck countries, but they should be doing the most. In Europe, she said, the European Union as a whole “should help” those countries, “but they wash their hands of it. They say, ‘that’s your problem.’”

“It’s all a big mess,” Schloss said. “I don’t know how to solve that.” But she has an idea of how to start, and it’s as easy as empathy. “The main thing is to make peace,” Schloss said. And peace starts with understanding. This is why Schloss continues to share her story around the world. As dire as things seem, she still holds on to hope.

“It can’t only get worse, worse, worse,” Schloss said. “It has to get better again. I have hope for the younger generations of people who have seen what is going on.”

History isn’t linear, Schloss said. It moves up, and down, toward and away from justice. We’re in a low point, but we can’t stay there forever, she said.

“That is why people have to understand what’s happening. That’s why it’s important that I talk, and people listen, and say, ‘Yes, that’s right we have to change.’” PJH

There are three opportunities to meet Eva Schloss: doors open for her first talk 5:30 p.m.  August 17, and at 7 p.m. August 20. Tickets start at $35, and are available at JewishWyoming.com/AnneFrank. VIP brunch tickets are $1,000 for a morning of intimate conversation with Schloss. A collection of Heinz Schloss’s paintings will be on display throughout the weekend.

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